Subhana Ahmed: Hungry

Subhana reflects on her struggles with body image, and describes how she forged her own path to self-discipline, confidence, and good health.     

Ten more minutes until sunset. The lingering aroma of the crispy naan bread and chicken curry encompassed the air. The clock finally struck eight o’clock and the adhan called to prayer. I chugged my mother’s homemade mango lassi and stuffed my face with carbs, thinking I could get away with it. I was fasting everyday during the month of Ramadan for sixteen hours. Apparently, that would compensate for the thousands of calories I consumed.

Growing up in a Pakistani household, having a healthy diet was inevitable for me, especially since my mother was a fantastic cook. Little did I know that I would become fifty pounds overweight. I had issues with my weight and body image since I was in preschool. It became a trend to call me fat to my face or behind my back. The one incident I will never forget was during gym. A student shouted, “You’re so fat that when you jump, there is an earthquake.” At first, I shrugged it off, thinking of it as just another fat joke targeted at me. Suddenly, the boy I liked roared with laughter, condoning the student’s behavior. I laughed along with tears threatening to escape my glassy eyes. That day I got a taste of humiliation and heartbreak.

The built up frustration was released when I glanced at a mirror in my room. I threw a centerpiece at it and it shattered to pieces. As I wiped the tears away, I pondered upon the idea of starving myself. I ate under a hundred calories for a week and became dizzy and agitated. Eventually I binged on high caloric snacks and failed to satisfy my insatiable appetite. I noted that my physical and mental health was deteriorating. I signed up for the gym and religiously exercised everyday. Originally, I had the goal of losing weight just for my cousin’s wedding ceremony because I wanted to fit into my dress. Within six months, the gym became my second home and I lost forty pounds.

My diet also flourished because I learned to control my cravings and ate in moderate portions. I discerned the essence of patience and self-discipline. I gained confidence and my health thrived. Establishing a healthy lifestyle made a positive impact on my personality because of the various virtues I grasped throughout the process. My relationship with my health included loyalty, commitment, responsibility, and trust. I was loyal to my diet, committed to my exercise schedule, responsible with my eating choices, and trusted the process.

I am not skinny, but I am content. I do not need to be thin to be beautiful or happy. Although I was beautiful when I was overweight, the bullying took its toll on me and I had severely poor eating habits. I wish that society would eliminate fat shaming and bullying overall. It destroys a person’s body image and outlook. I utilized the tormenting as motivation and took out my anger through exercising. It was a therapeutic activity that improved my mental state. My weight does not define me, but the journey and its abiding effects makes me who I am today.