From 60 Kgs to 120Kgs, I loved my body at every stage but the world constantly reminded me why I shouldn’t

Being on a heavy side is not easy mentally as well as physically. Sonal shares her how being body-positive impacted her mental and emotional health.
body positivity
It is important to strike a balance between emotional and mental health. Image courtesy: Maninder Photography Studio
Sonal Mahendru Updated: 15 May 2021, 23:29 pm IST
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It’s terrible to be fat in a world that hates fat people! While it’s considered indecent to refer to a blind as blind or bald as bald, it’s accepted in almost every household in India to call names like “moti“, “fatso” and many more taunts, addressing fat girls. We have been sold to the idea of being “fit” and look a certain way. Fitness isn’t about how aesthetic your body is or how much you can lift! It’s also about your mental well-being and physical strength to tolerate other situations.

I was never a lean girl. I weighed 60kgs when I was in my 12th standard. I was chubby and desirable. Although there were a few who would call me names, mostly it was about being famous, always in the limelight and being surrounded by boys trying their luck to impress me.

Things changed drastically when I moved to another city. My work shifts, stress levels, and hormonal imbalances led to PCOD and I gained over 20kgs in a couple of years. I remember going back to my hometown and not being able to fit into my old clothes. Everyone I would meet would remind me of how much weight I have gained.

It all started impacting my mental health
It was mental torture to know what my neighbors approaching me on the streets were going to say. I could see the words forming on their mouth as their facial expressions changed. I grew frustrated with the repetitive taunts, remarks and unwanted suggestions from the society. I didn’t want to be told what I could see in a mirror. A friend of mine once told me “I would have stopped eating at all, had I gained so much weight.” What could I say? To my escape, I started avoiding such people from my past. I felt more confident with people who saw me at my now 85kgs heavy body and started afresh.

body positivity
Image courtesy: Maninder Photography Studio

Being thin shouldn’t be a requirement to love and respect someone. I was constantly being told by certain people if only I would lose some weight, I would look so pretty. Random people, random places and random comments. Stress eating came easy with increasing taunts and no one to share my feelings with. My friends and family would always ask me to avoid such negativity and comments and make peace with it.

Every time I entered a cafe, I would perform the mental Jenga of choosing which seat can accommodate me well. Although at this stage, I still felt fitter than most people. I could exhaust myself to work, travel for days, cook for my family and juggle between my shoots effortlessly.

My life came crashing to me when I lost my mom. I spent a few months in hospitals trying to care of her and running errands back at home. Rather than losing weight, I retorted to binge eating in whatever little time I could gather for myself at night to have one peaceful meal per day. I started gaining more weight and went up to 100 kgs. By this time I understood, gaining weight and stress levels are a dependable vicious cycle and I had to break it. I tried a few diets, some workouts, and some healthy habits. Things got slightly better with a timely sleep pattern, but my weight was stuck at 100 kgs.

From dusk to dawn, I would have to swallow so many indignities—sometimes from family, at times from friends and most of the time, from society.

In our society, lean people enjoy the privilege of dignity by default, and fat people must prove themselves to earn that. You’ll be insulted as long as you accept those insults. At first, I would only post selfies, or pictures of my face on social media to look thinner. But it only added to more sarcastic comments when I met those friends in real life.

body positivity
Image courtesy: Maninder Photography Studio

Here’s when it all changed for good
There was a time when I started posting about the hidden gems I would find in Delhi. I was comfortable posting only the food pictures and enjoying the indulgence without any harsh comments. It was only when I posted a picture of me having breakfast in bed at a hotel; I got so many compliments of how I should be posting more of my picture. There were many girls who would DM asking me about the whereabouts of the places I went to and the dresses I wore. A few pictures became hundreds and now a whooping 800+ posts on my Instagram feed. Of course, there are days when I feel low, but posting my pictures made me realise that there were people who liked me for being me. In fact, there was beauty in inspiring others to dress well, eat well and think well.

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Many brands started approaching me to try their garments, I even walked the ramp for India Fashion Week 2019 and finally, I signed off many projects professionally as a plus-size model. Things haven’t been the same since then. I feel much empowered as a body-positive influencer. But what I loved the most is that those who would call me “moti” before started referring to me as a “model” to boast their friendship with me amongst their circle.

I have buried my sobbing face to sleep due to such comments. Keep your circle positive and selective since their impact on your emotional well-being is pretty high. When I started experimenting with my looks, it was my friends who praised me the most. I started getting DMs from random girls too, telling me how inspired they felt. I am not afraid to meet anyone now. In fact, I am so glad to see people from my past following me and liking my pictures for spreading awareness on body positivity. I now feel relieved of the burden this society would shackle me with owing to their expectations.

Self-love is what kept me going
I dated a fitness professional and being the exact opposites, we respected our individuality. If someone loves you, they would still be the same even if you gain 20 pounds, lose 60 pounds or go bald. Liking someone’s physical attributes doesn’t count as love. Invest yourself in a meaningful relationship that can motivate you to take care of your health and not abuse your body. Loving someone else becomes easier when you love yourself first. Self-love is very important.

Also, listen:

Motivated in the right way, I lost about 10 kgs in a year. No, it wasn’t easy. Working out in a body so huge requires continuous observation of postures. One wrong squat and I got bedridden for a month. I didn’t give up though. Soon after the recovery, I stood up, my legs kept shaking with pain and fear, the treadmill kept whirring beneath my feet, but I held onto my strength and kept it on.

Like the song suggests “Kuch toh log kahengey”—stop getting bothered by the perception people have of you. Experiment with your looks, eat well, stay hydrated. And, be the best version of yourself.

To any guy who would reject you stating “You are fat”, reject him first. Be with someone that not just impresses your eyes, but captivates your heart forever. Love yourself; it helps others love you more.

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About the Author

Sonal Mahendru is a plus-size model and a body positivity advocate. She has walked the ramp for India Fashion Week and has worked with over 12 major plus size brands. On her Instagram channel, She openly talks about the less discussed topics from struggles of PCOS, being wrecked emotionally, transformation and never giving up. ...Read More

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