Expert advice Mind

Does Size Matter?

Dr Savita Date Menon

Clinical Psychologist and Wellness Specialist

4 min read

Weighty woes take up too much mind space. Understand the price of being obese on UR mental health.

What did nature intend for man and woman to look like? Is it the well-structured but also well-endowed figures depicted in Greek and Roman art or the six-pack and size 0 that films, fashion and the rest of the world seem to be chasing? Does the beautiful body struggle impact your mental beauty in any way? Should the 20-year-old daughter and her 40 something mom look just as slim or will age naturally pile on loads of kilos? Let’s address some of these thoughts, doubts and even myths.

At puberty, most boys and girls are usually lean and thin. Even size 0 as understood earlier, more or less the same size of chest, waist and hips. As a child grows, the long thin trunk begins to broaden at the hips and shoulders, thereby showing a waistline. Since legs grow first, the waistline starts high. Later as the trunk lengthens, the waistline drops, giving the body its proper proportion. Boys, who mature early, usually have broader hips than boys who grow late.

On the other hand, girls who mature late have slightly broader hips than early-maturing girls. By the age of 16-20, all boys and girls have achieved their natural well-proportioned body structure. If physical activity is sufficient, metabolism is high, and a lean, healthy well-endowed look can be achieved.

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Let’s cut to the chase to modern India that paints a picture of a developing economy, fast pace urbanisation and growth. The rich are becoming more affluent, and a substantial middle class is moving fast on their heels. Is there a price that we pay for this social and financial upward mobility? Of course, we do! Feed the child everything that you couldn’t get, assuage your lack of availability and guilt with food for the eye and not food for health. Think of a well-stocked fridge as a sign of success! Tempt the kids with a kitchen bursting with goodies! The result? The kids are as fat as their parents’ wallets.

With all this, there is a physical and mental health price to be paid. What these young adults see in the mirror is not so complimentary. It creates a feeling of being lesser than their more structured peers. After all, the body is like the formal sitting room of a house. It is your prettiest foot forward. Not measuring up leads to insecurity, low self- confidence, and struggling self-esteem. All of which could lead to social withdrawal.

The good guys

Unilever has removed all trans fats from their food products and has also reduced many kilos of butter, salt and sugar from their goods that are available worldwide.

  • Size 12 jeans today were size 14, ten years ago!
  • Disney is deepening the water for boat rides because the average size of an American is 20 per cent more than ten years ago.
  • Airlines have made their seats wider.

The feeling of being ‘less than’ percolates to other mental and social areas of development.

The body is like the formal sitting room of a house. It is your prettiest foot forward. Not measuring up leads to insecurity, low self-confidence, and struggling self-esteem.

When family and well-wishers advice weight loss, it is then met with defensiveness and denial. After all, this is a confirmation of what young adults already know but don’t want to acknowledge. Defensiveness often results in rebellion, more eating equals more weight gain, and these mental health dysfunctions are only mild. Severe dysfunctions include uni-polar, sexual dysfunctions and eating disorders.

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These dysfunctions disproportionately affect women more than men. Matrimonial columns, for instance, reflect this, as they are more likely to read – wanted fair, tall, slim and well-educated girl. But a similar description for a groom doesn’t seem to figure so strong. These are times of sexual objectification of the body.

Housing a beautiful mind and a beautiful body are seen as a must. It is expected of men to have a fat wallet but a lean frame. It is equally expected of women to be intelligent and beautiful at the same time. Obese are considered to be funny people but U R in for a shocker as they are 25 per cent more likely to suffer from depression. So where is the room for humour?

The brain is mostly made up of cholesterol, a fat. It feeds on sugars and essential fatty acids. But it doesn’t need to be overfed. It thrives on omega-3 fatty acids which come from healthy food choices. What’s suitable for the head is good for the heart, confirms a study presented at the American Psychosomatic Society.

Take a good look at your mirror and listen to its diagnosis, pleasant or not. Work on your diet and exercise regime. A healthy diet balances the mind, while starvation only gives you mood swings. Vigorous exercise burns stress, and depressive emotions leave you mentally calm yet alert.