Counsellor Nivedita Singh answers your queries about relationships, family, school and life

Body Shaming

“Recently due to exam stress I gained 4-5 kilos and after that the way I felt about my body changed. I became too conscious while wearing the clothes that I normally would. I felt very awkward; I started feeling that all of my friends are secretly judging my weight. How do I get my confidence back and remove the Body shaming that I am inflicting upon myself?”

“I’m too fat … not tall enough … I don’t like my hair … my nose is too long … if only my legs were longer and arms slimmer …”!! Does this sound familiar? If so, you’re not alone. As a teenager, you’re going through lots of changes in your body, and, as your body changes, so does your image of yourself.

Add to this the stress and pressure of preparing for exams. Lifestyle becomes more sedentary and calorie intake goes up. Hormone, anxiety, less sleep and low exercise are the hallmarks of students’ life today. Stress hormones are programmed to store fat in us. While studying, we tend to reach out for comfort food to address stress, which make us sluggish, slows down our metabolism, affects our memory, thereby causing further stress. This becomes a self-perpetuating cycle. An important disclaimer here is, that contrary to popular belief, sleep deficit does not make us burn calories but is a powerful factor influencing weight gain.

Students and teens across the globe are experiencing most of what you have shared. A few things for you to flag and remember are as follows.

Body shaming, whether inflicted by self or others is a form of abuse. You have got to stop engaging in it. Allowing your confidence levels and self-esteem to ride on your physical attributes is extremely common, but again, not to be indulged in. Yes, it can and does hurt when friends make fun or pass snide remarks, but it helps to remember that overcoming it is in your hands. Self-esteem comes from doing things that are challenging for us. Now that exams are over, take charge of yourself. Decrease sugary beverages, do portion control, limit fast food, make healthier food choices, increase physical activity and decrease screen time. Aerobic exercise will decrease the stress hormone (cortisol) and trigger release of chemicals that not only speed up metabolism but will also improve mood.

A word of caution.

Look around you, all human beings (even the most perfect-seeming celebrity) are imperfect. It’s what makes each of us unique and original! Everyone has things that they can’t change and need to accept. If there are things about yourself that you want to change and can, do this by making realistic and achievable goals for yourself. One sees today’s youth stuck into a food and body preoccupation, repeated cycles of weight loss and regain, distraction from other personal health goals and obsessive dieting and/or exercising. It’s a trap you need to be aware of and not get sucked into. Learn mindful eating. Eat with awareness. Engage in lifestyle modification with regular and consistent exercise. Be optimistic but also rational and realistic.

April-2016