Fat.So? is back with the second season and it will discuss the mental and emotional struggles of living in a fatphobic world on alternate Sundays.
Ameya Nagarajan and Pallavi Nath are fat. So what? Ameya still loves to go dancing, do boxing, wear short skirts, eat chocolate fudge, use the lift, fantasise about past crushes, and sit widely. As for her good friend, Nath goes trekking, she can touch her toes, she gorges on mashed potatoes and fried chicken, she loves cleavage-revealing clothes and likes tall men with ripped bodies. The women from Delhi refuse to sit in armchairs at restaurants than to somehow fit in and don't mind asking for an extra belt in the airplane. Their confidence often leaves their folks and trolls shocked. "What to do? This is out of syllabus for them," Ameya mocks the unwritten rules that stigmatise fat people from enjoying their lives.
These are just some of the snippets from their podcast Fat.So?, which they started last year to talk about fat acceptance or the importance of loving yourself in a world where everything from chairs and clothes to doctors and dating is designed to suggest that fat people are in the wrong body and they must fix it. They talk about embracing the word 'fat', failing at weight loss, battling loneliness and bullies, loving the food and sex, weaving them with self-deprecating jokes and heartbreaking anecdotes. Neither do they give medical advice nor claim that their experiences are representative of all fat women.
Still, people have been able to relate to their stories, the proof of which is 24,000 listens and messages the show has received since the first season and the latest, which dropped this month. Pallavi, an organisation consultant and a brain-based coach, shares, "A 15-year-old girl wrote to us that she'd recently put on weight and felt terrible about her family fat-shaming her. Listening to our podcast, however, makes her feel better about her body. In other instances, old friends have felt sorry for the unkind comments we have faced and have promised to be compassionate to all irrespective of their bodies."
While 75 percent of their listeners are women, mostly in the 25-35 age-group, men tune in too to the show on alternate Sundays. Ameya, who works with a media development startup, lets us in on that, "A boy recently wrote to us that our show resonates with him and he would like to hear the experiences of fat men as well. Since Pallavi and I can't speak on behalf of fat men, this season, we plan to invite them over our podcast and also have Dalit and queer voices." On the same beat, 38-year-old Ameya informs that while Season 1 focussed on "physical things such as food, clothes, seats", the current instalment would delve into the mental and emotional struggles of living in a fatphobic world.
Take Ameya's case. Fed constantly on the idea that fat people are unhealthy and ugly, growing up, she did not play sports and assumed that love wasn't for her. Her parents would bribe her with Barbie dolls to drop some kilos while she would dodge them at the dining table. "That I was fat and I was made to believe I could not do this and that, it impacted my self-worth hugely," Ameya admits while going on to share, "But therapy has helped me find compassion for my body, my 'self'. It's encouraged me to listen to my voice than succumb to others." It's unlocked new potential in her as she says: "I do boxing now and I no longer assume that men aren't interested in me."
While Ameya's "awakening" - that fatness was just one of the many narratives of her life, not the only one - was gradual, Pallavi took to fat acceptance after bumping into the profile of Tessy Holiday, the world's biggest plus-sized model, in 2014. Pallavi talks about her transformation, "I was doing OK in my life but my weight was my constant failure. Once I realised fat wasn’t wrong, I stepped into a parallel universe, and saw I was compromising in many ways. It resulted in me changing careers and walking out of my marriage and living life on my terms.
But critics and their trolls fear that the fat acceptance movement is glorifying obesity. Pallavi responds to this by saying that she is not a medical expert but her reading on the subject and her lived experiences suggest that it's best to listen to one's body. She recommends reading Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight, by Lindo Bacon, who talks about understanding the set weight point, which is the weight that the body thinks you will function best at whether at a size four, or a size 24. “I believe whether you are thin or fat, you need to find a lifestyle that keeps you fit," shares Pallavi, whose healthy habits include walking, extended fasting and meditation.
Pallavi knows their podcast alone can't change how the world views and treats their kind but feels that "every person who feels a little better in their bodies is one more person on the path to fat liberation." Likewise, Ameya says, "If listening to our podcast today can spare even one listener 10 years of resenting one's body later, it'll be great. I wish I had something like this while growing up."Barkha Kumari is a journalist based in Bangalore.