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Cosmetic Obsession to Positive Body Image: A Journey

by Preeti Thanigaivel   ·  3 years ago   ·  

The path to a positive body image is nothing short of a roller-coaster ride. This is my journey from embarrassment to love.


Q. Body Image?

A. Pear-shaped. Apple-shaped. Hourglass-shaped. Mesomorph. Ectomorph. Endomorph. Rectangle. Square. Fat. Thin. Skinny. Size Zero.

Those are the terms that come to mind when we hear these two (dreaded) words – BODY SHAPE. The variations of these words are body type, body size, body image, and so on.

It began with an obsession

I too was obsessed with the right body shape, wishing something was less or something more, being a constant critic of the reflection in the mirror. For the longest period of my life I didn’t understand the meaning of ‘positive body image’. It was more outward, external, superficial, my understanding of a positive body image, when it should have been internal.

When people would generally talk about body types and shapes, often while discussing someone else or a celebrity, I would squirm in my mind. I would secretly pray – ‘Oh God Please, let this discussion steer away from me.’

I would be safe at times, but I would often be the victim of comments and unsolicited advice, from family, friends, and colleagues. But these conversations and comments were always accompanied by feelings of nervousness, negativity, anxiety, inadequacy, or insecurity. My embarrassment meter’s needle would align with how emotionally low I felt.

Some comments on my body shape and size were well intentioned and some hurtful, I hated them all.

I would wear baggy clothes to hide my perceived physical flaws. When some comments were directed at me I became defensive and hurtful. And worst or all, I would feel hateful, towards others and myself. 

Why wasn’t I blessed with the perfect body with the perfect curves and edges, the right muscle ratio, the right fat ratio? Why was I so big built, big boned, fat and ugly?

I felt poor and my confidence took a big hit.

But here’s the thing: It’s MY body.

So, I can’t hold others responsible for the way I feel. I am responsible for the way I feel in my skin.

Understanding My Body Image

When I was a child and growing up too, I was skinny, and I mean skeletal skinny. Then when I turned fifteen, I developed an athletic build. It was because I would play sports every opportunity I got. I was obsessed about remaining the perfect weight proportional to my height.

But in my early twenties, I developed sciatica which was because I was actually underweight. When I had a chat with my doctor, he told me that there is no one perfect weight for all body types and it’s this cosmetic obsession that does more damage than good. 

So, I did my set of exercises and ate better to gain weight to get back my health. I remember being my healthiest, and happiest when I reached this goal. It was all feel good moments waking up fresh in the morning and feeling healthy and full of energy all day long. 

I understood how I should FEEL and NOT LOOK.
It was the beginning my understanding of positive body image.
I learned to listen to my body.

The Downturn

I began working full time at the age of 25. It was mostly sedentary and the corporate lifestyle was just beginning. 

It comprised of:

  • Sitting long hours
  • Eating unhealthily
  • Not moving much
  • Poor sleep routines
  • Not drinking enough water

I did have a field job that required me to travel around the city, and I would take the train to work that required some degree of running to the right train platform. So, I got some amount of movement into my routine. But I would skip meals only to hog on junk food when I was famished. 

I remained healthy-ish but over 4 years of a sedentary lifestyle, decreased movement and almost zero exercise, I not only became chubby but my aches and pains were slowly returning. The gradual slowdown of metabolism with age was not helping either. 

I was getting out of tune with my body. And I was not feeling that positive body image vibe. Far from it actually.

The Fat Phase

After another couple of years, in 2013 I was a young mother with baby weight, a job after a long break that required me to work long hours 6 days a week with almost no exercise, poor eating habits, depression from certain events in my life. 

I was round and my heaviest in my life. Looking back at old photographs made it difficult to believe I was the same person. 

I tried exercising, fad diets, but I couldn’t commit. 

I felt like a failure because I just couldn’t control my weight, like many other things out of control in my life at the time. 

And with this phase I got the very many comments, most of them nasty, and a lot of unsolicited advice. 

I felt the worst. 

The physical aches, pains, digestive problems, were a constant companion. I felt anxious, negative, TERRIBLE about myself.

Along with the world, I began being unkind to myself as well. I learned about the many terrible terms out there on the internet – Muffin Top, Saddle Bags, Bat Wings, Thunder Thighs, Back Rolls…

It was like the human body was reduced to a bunch of parts and pieces. And so was mine. I have an inherited body type with a heavier bottom. This would make me unhappy with myself and I hated my DNA. 

I wanted to act on it but didn’t know how, or from where to start. It felt so overwhelming – the job, the kid, the life challenges, the time, the food, the journey of reaching my ideal weight. I felt so small standing all the feet of all my troubles. 

This went on for a good 7 years. 

The First Steps

Then the lockdown came with the pandemic in 2020. The first month I just whiled away with no exercise at home for about a month, just doing my work from home, binge watching and feeling miserable.

The next month, I got bored of it all. I have a stationary exercise bike, I just got it out, dusted it and decided to cycle. Just for 15 minutes. I couldn’t do more than 5 due to poor stamina. I thought to myself, I should try and get to the cycling goal of 15 minutes. In a week’s time I reached 15 minutes and the next week I reached 30 minutes.

Then I decided to get a bit more exercise into my routine. Thanks to YouTube, I started doing some home walking, cardio and floor exercises. Little by little, one 10-15 minute video at a time I felt my strength returning.

After a month I began maintaining a log book. It just had some measurements of my arms, legs and torso along with my weight and the date. I noted down all the exercises and durations each day. And began eating more healthy foods. 

I had stopped counting my steps and measuring my calories, and began exercising and moving more. 

Month 3, month 4 and month 5 passed and I felt so good, so positive and healthy with the way I was, physically and mentally. I began to have a positive body image in my mind.

I set small goals and conquered them while documenting my journey along the way so I could look back at my efforts and KNOW that I have worked hard to get where I am and appreciate my efforts.

My View on my Body Image has Evolved

I had to make peace with my body to improve my perception of it. I had to become a friend to myself. The journey from skinny to fit to body negativity to the journey back to a healthy wholesome lifestyle for my body and mind has been a rollercoaster of emotions, denials, acceptance and endurance. 

Our paths to body positivity may be very different but the goal is the same – feeling confident, beautiful, and healthy in our own skin, no matter what.

One does not have to reach the goal to feel good. Just setting out on the path to body positivity will provide several Feel Good Moments, guaranteed.

So, set out on your path if you haven’t yet. And if you have, we wish you many ‘feel good’ moments along the way.


Author : Preeti Thanigaivel

A professional with over 15 years of experience in the corporate world, Preeti writes about her experiences when it comes to career and productivity hacks. She started her career in real estate - transitioning from sales to marketing to copy-writing. As the co-founder of a content and marketing agency and the blog The Feel Good Moments, she writes on mental health, self-love, embracing body positivity and motivation. A mother to a little girl, she loves exploring and documenting the world through the eyes of her daughter and capturing feel-good moments a parent would cherish forever.

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