Eat your curry leaves, so your hair can grow out strong and black. It’s your life goal as an Indian — you must have hair so strong you can lift with it and so black the night sky should envy you. Tomatoes keep cancer at bay; tomatoes are also a leading cause of cancer. Beetroot causes diabetes. Sugar isn’t good. Eat fat to lose fat. Carbs are your enemy. Zucchini pasta instead of real pasta. Any of this sound familiar? It should, we are bombarded with this info-dump from everywhere possible. But honestly, what are we really learning here?

Let’s all become rail thin and hate ourselves. Maybe then we will be happy. Maybe then we will love ourselves. Just another 5kgs to lose. New Year, new me, new you — because the old us just isn’t good enough. Too fat, too thin, thunder thighs, flat butt, love handles, tires, knobby knees, flabby arms — we use words to hate ourselves, words to starve ourselves, words to hurt ourselves, and, we hate to eat.

Welcome to the new age, where self-love is preached with a side of ‘watch what you eat’! Your body is your temple, and you are not allowed to desecrate it with anything non-vegan, non-organic, non- find-another-word-that-displeases-you-and-fill-in-this-blank food. Yes, stop eating.

Post an image of decadent food on social media, but only take a bite. While you are at it, also ensure your rigorous workout routine from hell makes an appearance soon after. You don’t want the world to think you let yourself go now, do you? That would be ridiculous.

Do you eat to live, or do you live to eat? When was the last time you ate to please yourself? Not a guilty pleasure, not a reward for your hard work, just ate because you can? Do you remember? Because, I honestly don’t.

I grew up in a family that was obsessed with beauty. A place where everyone knew what food groups were ‘good’ for you. A place where you believed, you are what you eat. Let me tell you, the price of perceived beauty, is hunger.

I was always hungry — for an ice cream, a potato chip, a burger, a fry, a cola. I was always hungry for so many more things that I’ve forgotten what I was hungry for. It would be a long time before I realized that it was an abnormal relationship with food, to put it mildly. And, once I did, the damage was already done. Now, give me anything that the world says is not good for me — and I’ll eat it all.

I had my first chaat when I was 17. Might I just add, dahi chaat still remains one of my favourite comfort foods. My first cola was in the rum I had at 28. Not, the best way to taste cola, but then again it was the only time I considered it. Not a fan, if I’m being honest, but, still glad I tried it before I rejected it. I ate a burger with a side of fries when I was 19, and that remains the one and only time I stepped into KFC with any enthusiasm. I’m yet to enjoy an ice cream. This is particularly sad as it took therapy for me to understand that I’m traumatized by the idea of consuming ice cream. And I grew up hating myself. Sleek figured, clear skinned, self-hating hungry girl.

We live in a world where diets have almost become a mandate. Food delivery apps crowded with healthy foods, diet foods, balanced foods — all with a side of self-hatred and a minimum 20% discount on your order.

Body image issues raging as loudly as the fires that burn down our planet. We are hungry, we are burning, and we hate ourselves.

Biting a chocolate has become as sinful as biting thy neighbour’s wife. Calorie counting easier than counting cards in a casino. Where will we go from here? I often wonder.

The same society that feeds you your body image issues, feeds you the products that make you hate yourself. This loop feeds the capitalists, we feed the companies and yet we are depriving ourselves, by choice, when somewhere else in the world, people are really starving. It makes me question, if self-hatred is in fact a privilege.

Would I think about my body so much, if I was indeed truly starving? When I was a child, I once heard my father say, “a hungry lion will also eat grass.” Would I truly be concerned with the quantity or quality of what went into me, if I was truly a hungry lion?

Why do we hate food? Why don’t we ever just eat what we want, when we want, however we want? Especially when, we know that so many people do not have that same privilege. And yes, why don’t we fix the issue of food shortage by compensation from all the food waste while we are at it?

Why not live how only you can live, as the best version of yourself, not defined by the rules of others — the laws of beauty written by a society that also tells you that beauty is, in fact, truly in the eye of the beholder? If that is where beauty truly lies, ask yourselves this: who is really looking? Is it me, or is it you, or is it them?

I’ve decided that I’ve had quite enough of this farce. I’m going to listen to my body from here on and do as I please. I will eat those cashews at the risk of a pimple, eat that burger at the risk of some belly fat, I will butter up my toast and drink some cola and if all of this will someday kill me, well, it would be a good way to go. If it makes me sick, I’ll figure it out with the help of medicine and doctors. Our relationship with food cannot and should not be diluted to the policy of ‘prevention is better than cure.’ Seems like a sure shot way of creating hungry, angry and sad people. We all will die anyway. Wouldn’t you rather live completely, than regret not eating that fondue or that cheesecake or whatever else you deprive yourself of in the name of beauty? What is beauty anyway?

On one side we have the world getting more body positive and on the other we have an almost under the table style of shaming still rampant, still existent and still so damaging that all that positivity gets sucked right out.

Let’s start a truly loving relationship with food from here on out. And, no, not sneaky bites of chocolate cake when no one is looking. Food isn’t your secret lover you hide from the world. Eat your cake, eat that burger, or eat that kale or eat those deep-fried dripping-in-oil kebabs. But do it because you want to, not because you have to.

We are born free with a body that is entirely our own and you get only one. There is no one else who can be you, and, no matter what anyone says, you are your own master. Yes, your body is your temple, but it is not meant for the faithful to worship at and make offerings to. It is meant for you to reside in as its own god. Be the god of your body and eat. Eat. Feed yourself all the things that make you happy. Don’t eat that cake if you don’t want to, but, not because you have been told not to.

Set yourself free. You deserve to be. So, again, ask yourself:
Do you eat to live?
Or do you live to eat?