When will I stop body-shaming myself?

El Kef, Tunisia

Discussing this topic publicly is quite nerve-wracking as most of my entourage is puzzled by my weight loss insecurities. Their reactions are, “you look great” or what annoys me the most “you’re a guy; you don’t have to worry about that.” I won’t even dive into the unbelievably tedious misconception that correlates beauty with body mass for women as it’s an entire issue on its own. However, this is something I cannot control. I have always wanted to feel good in my skin, yet I was never able to get there. Every time I get on the “healthy” path, it’s because I was called fat by someone. Hearing that word feels like getting hit by a train. Even though society didn’t explicitly expect men to be skinny, fit, or muscular, it was implicit. This information is always shocking to people so get this “guys can have insecurities about their bodies,” but sadly, they refrain from expressing them in fear of being judged.

I have personally struggled to accept myself and be satisfied with how I look, but for some unknown reason, my self-esteem became dependent on the number I see on a scale. For as long as I remember, the lower that number, the more confident I felt. I always try to wear t-shirts that hide my belly fat because I was so ashamed of it. When I would go to the beach, I would put my towel around the minute I get out of the water to not let people see me. This must be shocking to many people who know me and see me as a healthy individual with a decent body. Well, no matter how many people try and tell me that, it will always crumble down when that one person comments on my weight. In the last eight years, I have gained and lost an average of 8 kgs a dozen times which as you can imagine is a struggle on its own. One thing I am positive about is that I love food. I love Lasagna, Pizza, Sushi, Kafteji (traditional Tunisian dish), and so many other meals that I overeat. But at a certain point, I concluded that my relationship with food is unhealthy. I overeat when I am stressed, angry, sad, or depressed, yet when I feel good, I eat healthily. With that conclusion, I kept trying to fix this problem but in vain.

This fight wasn’t helped with the crisis of a particular virus that shall remain nameless as it put the entire world in quarantine. For an extrovert that heavily depends on others for energy, social distancing took a heavy toll on me. With over three weeks alone with barely any human contact, I fell into the trap of anxiety and started overeating and gaining a significant amount of weight. At that moment, I decided to act harshly. Many people will criticize this but read all the way through before doing that. I decided to go on a 7-day water fast. This means for a full week, I consume a whopping 0 calories and only drink water. Insane, right? Well, rest assured, I did a lot of research to make sure I don’t do anything reckless. It’s a good experience that detoxes the body and kills gut bacteria.

I am, however, experienced with fasting for long periods that exceed a day, so please don’t take this as an invitation to attempt it without doing all the proper research and doing it gradually. I will be honest with you, though, and confess that when I first started, I decided it was my punishment for overeating and gaining all that weight. Within this week, I watched two movies that I felt were eye-opening; The Platform and The Pianist. Two masterpieces (that I recommend) that touch on the relationship of humans with food in different ways. This helped me reflect heavily on my relationship with food. The myth of needing three meals a day became apparent, and I started to realize that we crave food mentally, not physically. With every passing day, my perspective changed, and I realized that this might be the first step I take to appreciating the value of food.

I am writing this on the 6th day of my experience as a form of therapy. I am proud to say that I’m on a journey of self-acceptance. A journey where feeling healthy will make me happy. A journey where I will stop obsessing about having abs and focus on my mental health. A journey where I am honest with myself about my deepest feelings. A journey where a number on a scale doesn’t determine my self-esteem. A journey where society has no say in how I want my body to look. So to all of you out there that can relate to this struggle, remember that you are not alone and that you can find the strength to love yourself in your way.

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An aspiring civil society activist from Tunisia working in the humanitarian sector with a brain that overthinks how much it thinks! Inclusive and Safe Space ❤

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Iyed Hamadi

Iyed Hamadi

An aspiring civil society activist from Tunisia working in the humanitarian sector with a brain that overthinks how much it thinks! Inclusive and Safe Space ❤

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