BY Shefa Ali
It all started when I was 18 years old, I left home to go to University in London. I knew how to boil an egg and make a mean pasta salmon dish, but to be honest in your first year of University, being in the kitchen to cook dinner was the furthest thing from my mind. I was busy socializing, getting to know my roomies and discovering all kinds of cool places to eat in the city; from the best Lebanese shawarma to the cutest Japanese canteens. I sure didn’t have time to cook a healthy meal at home.
When I craved a cozy homely atmosphere, the cute little Italian family owned restaurant across the road from my halls of residence had become my home away from home.
The girls and I had got so familiar with the owner, we felt comfortable enough to walk over on those cold winter nights in our big coats over our pjs and slippers for late night suppers after studying. Looking back I can’t believe I actually did that. Walks to the Turkish shop a few streets down do get fresh bread and the most delicious cheeses had become a daily habit. Late night walks to Waterloo Station to have midnight snacks of smoked salmon and cream cheese bagels were quite regular too.
No doubt the pounds started piling on, being on the petite side, I was beginning to look rather curvy and was struggling to fit into any of my clothes. Where was Kim Kardashian back in 2000? If Kim fever had hit town back then I would have been considered hot stuff. Its amazing how “current” thinking on what physical perfection is seems to change so often.
After completing my degree and moving back home, I tried to lose the weight but nothing worked. The Atkins, The South Beach, The Master Cleanse, The Zone, The Mediterranean, you name it, I tried it. All I wanted to do was lose a couple of kilos so I could fit into my clothes again, but nothing worked. Nothing.
Then suddenly a few years ago, I magically lost around 5kgs. Now being only 5’1”, losing 5 kilos (either way, if you put on 5 kilos you look huge, if you lose them you literally disappear) had a drastic effect on my physical appearance. There was no particular reason for my weight loss, but I am putting it down to emotional stress, work deadlines, family issues and relationship problems – they all take their toll on a girl.
5 kilos less meant no butt, no boobs and a skinny, cheekless gaunt looking face. Now that its more than acceptable, even desired, to look like Kim and Beyoncé all my curves have gone and left me. At one point in my life “Have you lost weight?” would have been like music to my ears, now all I get is “Your face looks so thin, you need to stop with the diets.” These comments literally send a shiver down my spine each time I see friends and family.
These days I spend money on expensive face plumping creams and all kinds of other green stuff including a spirulina hoping to get rid of this gaunt waif like look. Chia seeds and intense marshmallow herbal tea infusions are also a regular on my face plumping plan menu. With regards to the spirulina, my mother will only watch in awe and amazement that I actually have the stomach to drink it everyday. It’s quite exhausting really and the stress of it all probably stops me from actually gaining any weight.
I am willing to accept that maybe this is just the weight I am naturally supposed to be, but it’s the constant comments that I just can’t seem to get away from. “You really need to eat, your face just looks so thin and tired. OMG your soooooooooo tiny.”
If I went around saying to my friends “OMG have you gained weight? You need to quit with those cup cakes and get your ass to the gym” I’d probably be left without any friends, as they would think I am rude, tactless and have no manners.
So why do my “fuller” friends, think they have the right to say these comments to me.
I don’t tell anyone how I feel about this (in fact I am pretty shocked I am writing about it), except my sister and my besties. Can you imagine me complaining about my struggle to put on some weight and plump up my face in a healthy way and natural way.
“Shefa, shut up, so many girls are trying to lose their double chin and you just go on and on about having a skinny face.”
I know what they would tell me; shove down the cupcakes and cookies and fast food and problem solved. I would find their solutions ignorant and feel frustrated at their lack of understanding, so there is no point discussing it with them. I don’t eat junk food because I care about my health, I don’t like the greasy taste and smell of it. I am trying to plump up to get healthy fresh look, I don’t want any extra cellulite on my thighs and I most certainly don’t want to clog my arteries or pores. Eating too many cupcakes and chocolate as others have suggested is also not an option, because I don’t want premature ageing or tooth decay, not to mention the risk of developing diabetes.
Okay, maybe my problem isn’t such a common one and you find it not worthy of complaining about, but that doesn’t make it any less of a problem. I think, if anything, it actually makes it more of a difficult issue to find a solution for. There is almost no support, be it physical or emotional, from others.
On this continuous journey to finding my optimum weight what I have learnt is how to be more conscious of food choices. Now I look for foods that will give me more than just taste satisfaction. I am looking for foods that will improve my hair and skin, my metabolism, my immune system and how my brain works.
I have also learnt that as women we need to handle each other with a lot more care and be more responsible with our words, understanding the powerful effect they have on each other.
When I do finally achieve the full faced look I am hoping for I more than likely will get annoyed with the “Shefa have you put on weight?” comments. Be careful what you wish for………you just might get it.