By Amandla Karungi

I did feel beautiful at one point in my life…when I was younger, about 8 years old. I really did. The one thing I did not have that I wanted  were thighs that touched when I sat on the toilet seat.

I don’t know why I wanted my little stick thighs to touch but, 7 years later, God answered my prayers. It became impossible for them not to touch. In fact, the clashing friction of my inner thighs hindered my walking. I’m glad that there was no thigh gap trend then, it would have widened the gap between what I thought I should have been and what I was.

By the time I was 16 I was plagued by teenage fat and acne. One of my aunts tried to comfort me by assuring me that by the time I was 20, I would have lost the weight. Her repetitive words of assurance only served to make me even more comfortable. It made me feel more self conscious in her eyes and in mine. Also, I didn’t want to have to wait until 20; I wanted now. I wanted ‘Sweet 16’ beautiful; a smooth baby-skin face and a tiny waist.

One holiday at a relative’s party in my village I walked amiably to my grandmother’s side for a hug and, with a stifled laugh, she whispered in her low husky voice, “You look like you were stung by bees”, before she pushed me away.

I got many opinions. I got advice as well. One friend, who was also trying to lose weight desperately, told me that she was swallowing some pills that she got from a pharmacy. She said that those small white pills, can’t recall their name or what they actually did, were apparently helping her lose some kilogrammes. This method sounded so curiously strange to me that, despite how much as I wanted to swallow a pill and wake up small, I just failed to comprehend the mechanism behind it. Since I love long explanations and for everything to make sense I didn’t give her advice a second thought.

I tried some ‘natural’ methods of losing weight that I had innocently watched on TV as a child; I had no intentions of copying what I saw. It was a method used by those TV ballerinas when they wanted to be tiny enough to be allowed to dance. It involved pushing your index finger down your throat and throwing yourself over a toilet. This did not work for me; partly because of its ineffectiveness and partly because I did not want to put my face inside a toilet.

Some months before I turned 19, my sister came back from University and she was the first to point out to me that I had lost so much weight. I had already started to notice that a size 36 had become too big for me. Many of my semi-new clothes looked roomy on me. I loved it. I absolutely loved it.

I used to think to myself that if I had to choose between being obese and being anorexic, I would choose anorexia.

Maybe it was a desperate need to control life, overcompensating for the fact that I could not control much in my world…food and weight were controllable.

Two years after I started my weight loss journey I expected to be more comfortable with my body; but I wasn’t.

I read these weight loss stories on Yahoo today and it seems to me that these previously overweight people expect to feel completely beautiful after they have lost weight.They imagine that their weight is the only barrier preventing them from loving themselves completely and living a full life.

And yet, I find myself creating farther and farther “finish lines”. I still find myself saying that I will be beautiful when my bum is upright, when my hips are wider, when my hair is long enough to be held up in a puff…I will be, but not now. I’m not beautiful now.

I read a poem by Maya Angelou and Pamela Redmond Satran recently, titled A Woman Should Have. Among the things they list about what a woman should know, they write:

“Every woman should know

That she can’t change the length of her calves,

The width of her hips,

or the nature of her parents..

That her childhood may not have been perfect…

But it’s over…”

Apart from stating a scientific rule, that we cannot change our length or our width (except by plastic surgery), this poem helped me realize that we must learn to accept ourselves. We must learn to love ourselves, even when there’s a pooch and ringlets, dark marks and little pimples like popcorn suffocating our faces. We must love ourselves even we do not feel good. That is the time when we need it the most. That is also the only way we can treat ourselves better. When we treat ourselves better, it will show.

I should be able to love myself in whatever state I’m in, even when I don’t feel perfect – I must always see the beauty in me. People who see beauty in themselves always get more beautiful, and those who see themselves as ugly feel even uglier.

They say that whatever you focus on, expands. Focus on the beautiful you. Look for her if you cannot see her.

Besides, perfection does not exist; does it?