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Living in a Fat-phobic World has Real Effects on Mental Health, Explain Pallavi & Ameya, Fat.So?

By Just Her | March 23, 2021

Breaking the weight-based discrimination barriers, Ameya Nagarajan and Pallavi Nath started Fat.So? a podcast about fat liberation and acceptance, reminding the world that being ‘fat’ is like living in just another body type.

Fatphobia is more rooted than it appears on the surface. It usually starts with casually joking about a girl's excessive weight among family conversations and slowly escalates into criticizing the weight for everything that goes wrong in her life. Fat-shaming has been so normalized that no one knew how deeply it could affect a woman mentally, emotionally and physically, until women like Ameya Nagarajan and Pallavi Nath started the conversation around it. 

A voracious reader, writer and a socializer, Ameya has four degrees and had some remarkable stints at reputed companies such as Indian Express and Penguin India. While more reserved, Pallavi’s fierce life experiences made her a brain- based coach, energy aligner, and explorer of the self. Despite being so different, what bonded them both together were their similar experiences of fat-shaming that made them come up with Fat. So?. Let’s delve deeper into their journey. 

JustHer: Tell us about Fat. So? What triggered you to come up with the podcast? 

Pallavi: I stepped into the world of body positivity in 2014 and by 2016 was on the path of fat acceptance. But all the people I was speaking to were either outside India or on social media. It was when I was interviewed by Cat Pause for her show ‘Friends of Marylin’, the idea seeded in my head that I want to have more conversations around the experience of being fat. In 2019, I was given the opportunity by “GatherSisters” to host a plus size gathering and the energy in the room was phenomenal. It was also where I met Ameya and in a subsequent meeting, she agreed to do the podcast with me.

Ameya: It was Pallavi's idea but we both felt there was a need to create a fat-inclusive space for Indian women. We wanted to make sure there was a voice out there that went against the fatphobic ideas that society propagates, a voice we wished we had heard when we were younger. 

JustHer: Among your personal stories of fat-shaming, which one do you think has affected your mental health the most?

Pallavi: Fat phobia is pervasive in everything and everyone you interact with. Sometimes they seem to be the most innocent statements but can seriously impact the way a person feels and consequently their interaction with the world. For me, I just always felt wrong, inadequate, less worthy and defective.

Ameya: I can’t give one specific story, in my case, it was how men ran away from me, making me feel the worst. It is living in a fatphobic world that has the real effect on mental health. Sometimes the trigger is something really small, which is the point.

JustHer: Share with us an instance where you might have done something that the society thinks a fat woman shouldn’t be doing or can’t do.

Pallavi - I think the mere fact that I am confident, unapologetic, not focused on losing weight or conforming to any standards. I speak about my experience and to that extent have a voice and an influence.

Ameya - I wear what I want to, and not the kind of clothes fat women are supposed to wear. I take up space, speak up, push back when people are obnoxious, and call my doctors out on their fatphobia. At this point, my very existence is not allowed by society. 

JustHer: Fatphobia is deep rooted in society. How do you think starting conversations about it can make a difference?

Pallavi: It is important to let people know there is a different perspective out there. Sadly, it also falls on a lot of us to let people know there is actual research that invalidates a lot of the myths around all fat people being unhealthy and all thin people being healthy. Having the conversations are the least, but we can go on the path to greater change being possible.

Ameya: Starting a conversation always helps. Sometimes you just need someone to point out an alternate perspective.

JustHer: How do you think society’s standards of beauty affect the mental and physical health of young girls? How can your podcast help in changing that?

Pallavi: Unfortunately, young girls and boys make uneducated choices about food and their bodies based on certain opinions. I personally think that our society is diseased in its focus on conformity. Everyone wants to fit the mould. What is scary is how we buy into all the fantasies and apply the same rules to our lives without any research.

Ameya: Constantly being told that you are wrong, you do not belong, or you should hide has an obvious effect on mental health. Adolescence is a time when our identities are forming. And if you are told at that time that you are worthless, you tend to believe it forever. People might do anything possible to become fit or thin, leading them to terrible eating disorders. People might think that they should be grateful for any attention and end up in manipulative, abusive situations, believing that they are lucky to get that attention. We hope that by pointing these things out and offering a counter narrative to fat stigma, we can create a space for us to fight back in our minds.

JustHer: Talk to us about how your podcast has created a difference in your listeners’ life.

Pallavi and Ameya: We do get messages from people telling us that they felt heard, seen and validated for the first time ever, and that the podcast has given them the strength to stand up and say no to fatphobia in their lives.

JustHer: How would you suggest young girls to deal with the consequences of fat-shaming?

Pallavi: It is important for young girls to use the access they have to the internet to look at different perspectives about their body and think about what they want to believe. Also, it is important to connect with the community that makes you feel better. 

Ameya: Take a deep breath and walk away. If you have the resources, ask people why they have said what they have. Push them to the point where they realise that they are dehumanizing you. And if they start talking about weight, tell them to read Health at Every Size.

JustHer: How easy or difficult it is to embrace the concept of body positivity? What’s the first step?

Pallavi: The path to body positivity or fat acceptance is unique for everyone, so there’s no prescriptive first step other than awareness.

Ameya: I believe the ease or difficulty depends on the person and their situation. It was extremely easy for me (though I personally do not subscribe to body positivity, I am body neutral and want fat liberation. Season 2- Episode 2 explains all this). I come from a loving and supportive family who nurtured and praised my abilities and taught me to just do what I want. That gave me incredible armour – it continues to do so.

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