By Elma Asio

I have my own long story about my own journey up and down the weighing scales. I’m quite certain most women do too. My greatest issues with weight began when I was a teenager. All my friends were much smaller than I was and those who were big as I, seemed to look simply perfect while I felt like a blob. To make matters worse, there were a number of people around me that often made rude and mean comments about my weight and my appetite. Finishing my meals seemed like a crime. They made me feel uglier and more imperfect than I already felt. There were times when I cried about it and looking at my reflection in the mirror didn’t help either. I rarely took any photos of myself in fear of seeing what I really looked like.

Some people may judge what I went through then and conclude that it was just teenage drama but self-hatred is a crucial issue. A teenager is only a “work in progress”, growing into an adult that one will become in a few years. Once the roots for self-hatred have been established you won’t be able to see any fruits of a full grown, self-efficient, confident young adult; more of whom this world needs. Self-hate is a deep routed issue, once that seed is sown, its vines will creep into so many areas of one’s life, altering the course of one’s future by a great stretch. It needs to be fought with so much diligence to ensure that those seeds of self doubt never take hold and are never given chance to sprout.

The challenges of self image especially those stemming from self hate affects so many women from all age groups. Girls as young as 10, in this day and age, starve themselves because they feel fat. While women at their prime, worry about the two kilos they gain within a period of just one year. The truth is ladies, you will never look perfect for everyone. When you’re small and slender, you’ll be too skinny for some people’s tastes. When you’re a plus size, you’ll be considered too thick by some people’s standards.

If such issues are not dealt with early enough, cases like anorexia, bulimia and many others can arise. The pleasure that we derive from food and eating fades when we start spending far too much time wondering how many calories, fats and sugars are in everything. You cannot fully savour whatever is in front of you because you’re worried it will end up concentrating on your hips and love handles.

Over time, I managed to lose weight. I did as much exercise as I could, reduced my portions, improved my diet and changed my attitude about myself. The attitude adjustment part was tough considering I didn’t feel as beautiful as the other girls. By the end of my fourth year in high school, I felt a bit of a change and I owned it whether or not other people could see it. I actually lost so much weight within a period of two years – close to 20 kilograms. I have managed to maintain the same weight since then and stuck to this strong resolve to stay healthy and fit.

But see, even now I am not seen as perfect by everyone. My father doesn’t like it, he feels I’m too skinny. My mother feels I could use a bit more flesh. I have aunts that invite me to their homes saying things like, “I’ll feed you well” (this is typical of African aunts). One would think basing on that statement that I don’t get enough food in my own home. I won’t lie, I do feel like I could use a little more flesh here and there but it isn’t an issue that keeps me up at night the way it did before. I am quite comfortable with myself. I have vowed, however, I will try my very best to ensure that I am fit and healthy and to remind myself that I am beautiful because that is what matters the most no matter what size I am.

Being anorexic isn’t healthy. Being obese isn’t healthy either. Are you healthy? Yes? Good! Are you fit? Yes? Wonderful! Getting there? Encouraging! As long as you’re healthy, it doesn’t matter how thick or slender you are. The important thing above all is that you are healthy.

Mothers please protect your daughters. Women, protect your sisters, your friends. Do the best that you can. It’s always better than nothing at all. This world is too harsh to go about life alone. Encourage the women in your life when they talk about doing something about their weight. Be their comfort when they feel helpless. To all the sisters out there; be the beautiful woman that you are and OWN IT because by this crazy world’s twisted and unbalanced standards, you’ll never be perfect. You can only be perfect for you.