Comedian Tanmay Bhat took to Instagram and penned a note where he shared his struggle with body weight and wrote, "Fact is I've always hated myself." Talking about the "self-hate" he has "repressed for the last 3 decades", Tanmay added, "The self-hate manifests itself as...self-sabotage...I've escaped toward food, alcohol, pot, skipped workouts." "It's time to heal...I'm starting anew today," he further wrote.
This emotional note has many shades underlying in the words of hatred as well as willing to change, related to a common issue of today’s time- weight, body image and mental health. The research, published in the 'International Journal of Epidemiology,' showed that the psychological impact of being overweight causes depression, rather than associated illnesses such as diabetes. In India, obesity is emerging as an important health problem particularly in urban areas, replacing the more traditional public health concerns including under-nutrition. Overweight or obesity is seen in 30-65 per cent of the adult urban population. There is strong evidence to suggest an association between obesity and poor mental health in teenagers and adults. The perception of being obese appears to be more predictive of mental disorders than actual obesity in both adults and children. Weight stigma increases vulnerability to depression, low self-esteem, poor body image, maladaptive eating behaviours and exercise avoidance. Factors such as dieting, binge eating, poorer perceived health, low self-esteem and body image concern, weight-related stigma, low expectations of weight loss attempts, adoption of unhealthy lifestyle and reduced support from family and friends can pave the pathway to mental health issues.
Another dimension of weight-related issues and mental health is the idea of body image. Apart from one’s actual weight, the perception one has about his or own body shape, size and type can have an influence on the mental health of the individual. One of the common mental health disorders caused by negative body image is eating disorder. There are many studies female body image but few on male body image. This seemed to imply a perception of girls having more body image issues compared to boys, in academic research. However, body images issues of any magnitude and significance are deserving of acknowledgement and intervention, irrespective of gender. “Recent studies point out that 30-40% of people with eating disorders are male,” says Dr John Vijay Sagar, Additional Professor, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Nimhans, Bengaluru. And among these, majority comprise of young adolescents. They feel the pressure to look a certain way, not only generated by the media, but also by their peer group. Their role models are adults, who are either lean and muscular like sports stars or film stars who have pumped up bodies.
One of the biggest mediating factor in this scenario is media, which has played roles on both sides of the story by spreading the thin ideal internalization as well providing a space for people to share their stories of self-hate or self-change. Media has been one of the powerful influencing factors for body image concern and it is significantly associated with body dissatisfaction and development of dieting disorders. Media influences people to follow and accept what it depicts as a mythic concept in their daily life. It often over represents models and actors who are thin and under represents overweight or obese characters. Though, most general as well as health related magazines contain information on the importance of diet and exercise, these magazines also highlight the ads for reducing weight in a hasty manner by unhealthy means such as appetite suppressants and so on, at the same time. However, at the same time current popular media has been witnessing change, and recently a Positive Body Movement has taken social media by storm, where people have begun to shun the images portrayed by media in favor of more realistic body images.
This campaign emphasizes self love and acceptance of themselves and has gained tremendous support, to the extent that a lot of eminent public figures join the movement to speak out against skin complexions and body shaming. Body Positivity is one of the most discussed topics today with the upsurge enabled through the power of social media platforms. Campaigns such as the Dove campaign for the Real Beauty, Less is More, the Perfect Body, Free the Nipple, Embrace have focused on self-esteem and inner beauty and uncovered the double-standards in male and female body perceptions. However, the movement has a long way to go to fight against the long-entrenched unrealistic body standards in the lives and minds of people. The aim should be working out and striving to be positive and creating a better and more importantly, healthy lifestyle for oneself. Youth and adults shall aim to value their health, unique beauty, and identity so that they can use their vital resources of time, energy, and intellect to make positive changes in their lives and the world.
Desk, I. T. W. (2018, November 15). Are obese people more depressed? This study seems to have the answer. Retrieved from here.
Neki, N. S. (2013). Obesity and Depression:-Is There Any Link?. J.K Science. Vol. 15 No. 4, Oct- December 2013
Sinha, S. (2018, January 22). Body image issues on the rise among men. Retrieved from here.
I've escaped towards food, alcohol, pot: Tanmay on struggle with weight. (1970, January 1). Retrieved from here.