Soumyasree Chakraborty was applauded for her courage and her style when she wrote “I am fat but I know how to rock my style” a few days back. Sunayana Sarkar applauds her too.
Like Soumyasree, Sunayana has never let her weight come in the way of her confidence or her style aspirations. While we were studying together in Presidency College, Sunayana was the one who was choreographing us for the fashion show competitions and helping us bring home the prizes. She went on to choreograph Bollywood stars Bipasha Basu, Celina Jaitley and Koena Mitra, when they were all modeling in Kolkata.
Sunayana is settled in the USA, a mother of a four-year-old daughter and a senior vice president at a global marketing communication company. While she has adopted a more casual approach to fashion, she still loves to dress-up and experiment with new make-up on occasions. (She was the one to get me my first eye-lash curler when I didn’t even know how it looked).
But Sunayana feels there is the urgent need to talk about health in plus-size women.
Over to Sunayana:
I have struggled with my weight since I was eight years old. Just like Soumyasree, I have been lovingly nicknamed “Muti”, “Fatty” and “Fats” by some of my friends. My fashion in teenage years was limited to salwar-kameez, baggy T-shirts and skirts and if I had gone camping then there was no need to carry a tent because my clothes would have served the purpose.
Discussing fat people was never anyone’s agenda
Growing up in India in the late 80s and early 90s, the cultural norms dictated that fat girls should hide their body and western outfits were almost a strict no-no. It was not until I moved to the US in 1998, that I started to wear outfits like everyone else — shorts, tank tops, pants, dresses, swimsuits — partly because they were available and also culturally acceptable. So, I really want to congratulate Soumyasree for opening our eyes and starting a dialogue in our culture on a topic, which was never even considered worthy to be on anyone’s agenda.
Beauty is skin deep and confidence matters
Between my baggy T-shirts and oversized skirts, I never ceased to feel that I am beautiful and I never felt the need to lose weight to look beautiful. I love food and refused to sacrifice an extra helping of my sister’s Chinese food or my mom’s pudding just to fit into a jeans or a dress. I have always believed beauty is skin deep and if I am confident and happy it is all that matters.
Social media is glorifying anyone with a double digit size
We are starting to see that growing consciousness of beauty in all shapes and sizes in USA over the last few years starting with Dove commercials to plus size runway models. Social media is reveling and glorifying anyone with a double-digit size, who is daring to be a model or celebrating their beauty in photos that have not been photo shopped.
This really feels good because I am also one of them. But what is starting to bother me is that in the process of being politically too correct, we are starting to overlook a very important part of this conversation. It’s about HEALTH.
It’s a stupidity not to talk about health
Health is such an integral part of our beautiful self, that it’s almost a stupidity to not talk about it. At an annual check-up in 2007, my doctor warned me about serious health issues, if I did not lose weight and change my reckless eating habits. Over the next two years, I was able to lose more than 20 kilos through healthier food, portion control of indulgent food and an active lifestyle. However, I gained back most of the weight during pregnancy and the first year of motherhood. I was so focused in learning how to balance motherhood and career, I forgot to take care of myself.
Now that my daughter is four years old, I have managed to get back to healthier eating habits and am going to the gym. But I have a long way to get to my healthy weight or Body Mass Index (BMI) and I am still struggling with health issues, which is very much a result of my overweight or obesity (depending at what time of the year, you weigh me).
Health is critical for happiness
I realize how health is critical to my confidence and happiness, which in turn makes me look beautiful. A healthy weight is co-related to how we feel and that reflects on our beauty.
This conversation is patronizing at times
While I love the celebration of my size 12 beautiful self, I am starting to feel this conversation is patronizing when no one is talking to me about how those extra pounds may not be good for my heart or my bones. I applaud the new consciousness about beauty that is emerging in India but I hope that India is not going to get warped in the political correctness like USA and leave out the discussion on the need to be at a healthy weight.