'Body acceptance, it’s about accepting my own" - Urvashi Goverdhan

Urvashi Goverdhan

“Bro, what is happening?”, said my brother. He had come to visit me in Atlanta during my third year of college. It took me a moment to realize he was referring to my weight. I mean I knew I had to keep buying new jeans but was it really that bad? “Yeah bro. It's bad.”

I grew up a bony teenager. My uncle called me kaddi, which means stick in Kannada. My aunt apparently cried at the sight of my malnutritioned form. I ate as much as I wanted, of whatever I wanted, and nothing happened. I had never paid attention to what I ate or how I looked. Now at age 21, in a way only a sibling can, I had been given a reality check.

I understand that there are different body types, hormonal conditions, disorders etc that affect or influence weight, I had none of those. I has just been treating my body like a trash can for the sake of easing the stress in my mind. It was only after college when I had a more set routine and no homework to come back to in the evening that I started making changes.

I started counting calories. I came to the horrifying realization that I was probably eating 3500-4000 calories a day for four years in college. American fast food makes you feel like a deep fried chicken sandwich, fries with a mayo based dip, and a half litre milkshake were ONE meal. It was time to cut back.

I also wanted to start working out but the gym was intimidating. I was ashamed of what I had become and I didn’t need to have macho muscle men mock me on top of this. In the basement gym under my apartment building, my brother gave me the 101 with the equipment I had available. So I began.

Since 2013, I've watched what I've eaten. I've tried Keto, Paleo, Low Carb, calorie counting, you name it. I've done cardio, powerlifting, bodybuilding, Zumba, yoga, contemporary dance, the works. But always through the lens of self loathing. My diet and exercise were punishment. Punishment for my negligence. Punishment for my indiscretions. Punishment for my carelessness. Finally in 2018 I reached the goal weight I had put down five years earlier. I had lost 15kgs. Which is good, but I continued belittling myself. I could have lost, I should have been able to lose, why didn't I lose 15kgs in 15 weeks? Why did it take 260 weeks? But all said and done, when I looked in the mirror, I was happy. When I put on clothes, I was happy. I had finally done it.

Cut to an audition for an acting project. “You'll have to gain weight. You look too thin now.”

WHAT THE $&#(#)$@ I had been told over and over that this industry valued fit bodies. I had worked for five years to get here. Fine. At least I knew how to gain and then lose weight. So I began. It was almost as difficult as when I first starting counting calories, to know how much I was eating and eat it anyway. I had to unlearn everything I taught myself over five years.

I was back up 12 kgs of the 15 I had lost. This is where my real struggle with body acceptance began. My clothes stopped fitting me. I was down to maybe four or five options that I had to cycle. I showed up at the gym maybe once or twice a month instead of three or four times a week. I looked in the mirror and saw everything I had struggled so hard to get away from. My self confidence shrank. My social anxiety returned. I didn’t want to go out, I didn’t want to be seen. It was even worse now than college because now my friends are all actors and models who almost always look like the societal definition of “perfect”. Men with abs, women with size zero frames. They flooded my social media. Images of their rail thin frames seemed to superimpose themselves on my reflection in the mirror, reminding me that I was twice their size.

In the middle of all this one of my directors wanted me to write a new monologue for a show. As I normally do, I wrote about what I was struggling with. This time it was body acceptance - being okay with where I am now while I work towards where I want to be. I rehearsed the piece feeling slightly more empowered every time. At rehearsal my coactors asked me, “Do you really feel like this about yourself? I would have never thought.”. Through rehearsals and sharing the piece with friends and family I gathered that they didn’t really notice anything very different about how I looked. They could tell I had gained weight but it didn’t matter to them at all. I smiled and shrugged but I still saw my weight gain as a gross flaw in my character. It was my worst nightmare to be seen as out of shape, because you see, I’m not this person. I am fit, I work out, I was at my goal weight just three months ago. I would be performing poetry slam about unrealistic expectations of beauty while secretly continuing to hate myself.

The day of the show, not even an hour after I had performed my piece about body acceptance, a friend of mine invited me to an event. It was Saturday night and my social anxiety started kicking in. This event would be full of those model bodies that would make me feel worse. I wasn’t appropriately dressed. I didn’t have anything appropriate to wear that fits me right now. My friend himself is a model with an incredibly fit body, how could I be seen with him? I started to say these things to him when he cut me off, “Didn’t you JUST perform a piece about body acceptance?” UGH, he was right. It was time to put my money where my mouth is. I couldn’t be standing on a stage preaching that all bodies are beautiful and still not want to be seen publicly because I wasn’t in perfect shape.

I nervously walked into the event and there definitely were all the types of people and bodies that I had expected to see there, but nothing actually HAPPENED. I was so worried that people would talk about me, give me looks, look at me with the same disgust that I saw on my face when I looked in the mirror. But none of that happened. In fact it was the opposite. The photographers at the event were all around me. Maybe it was my outfit, it was costume-y, meant for stage, but here I was wearing it to a Saturday night party like it was no big deal. Maybe they saw me as confident, someone who didn’t really care that much about norms. Some younger girls complimented my outfit. This was not going how I expected it to. I was actually having a good time and feeling good about myself. Everything I had built up in my head, turned out to be just that - in my head.

The battle isn’t over. It goes on every day. Every time I go to the gym, my t-shirts tight across my bloated body, or have to find an outfit that fits me, or have to go on a date, the thought still crosses my mind.. “I don’t look my best, I should hide until I do” and I have to talk myself out of it, remind myself that this criticism comes only from me. I would never talk like this about anyone. I don’t care at all what weight someone else is. So why do I hold myself to a totally different standard? I’m trying to really internalize that body acceptance isn’t about accepting everyone else’s body, it’s about accepting my own.

- Urvashi Goverdhan

Urvashi Goverdhan is yet another Bangalore cliche, having quit her job in software to pursue her passion for attention seeking (read: acting). Since quitting her job, she's performed in several english theater productions and has been a part of several odd jobs like emceeing and being in commercials for TV and digital platforms. She is also a vlogger, beer snob, and agony aunt.

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'Body acceptance, it’s about accepting my own" - Urvashi Goverdhan 'Body acceptance, it’s about accepting my own" - Urvashi Goverdhan Reviewed by EMN on March 30, 2019 Rating: 5

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