Having spent a month abroad volunteering at a wildlife sanctuary in Laos and with destitute communities in Sri Lanka, I returned to Singapore down a cup size and having lost much mass in my thighs. The physical exertion had caused me to burn most of my body’s fat and I was the skinniest I had been since having reached puberty. 13-year old Mira would have been thrilled with the body I had achieved from shedding the fat while travelling. I had finally got the body I spent years trying to achieve, by denying myself the healthy amount of food for fear of gaining weight and avoiding foods deemed as “unhealthy”. The irony of the situation was that at age 18, all I wanted was to be curvier. Funny huh, how I had attained my “ideal body” at last and it wasn’t even the body that I wanted for myself anymore. It was in that moment that I realized I had finally come to accepting, and more importantly, appreciating the God-given curves of my physique. It took me close to 5 years to reach that state of peace with my body.
Body insecurity for me revolved around striving (and failing) to achieve what was considered to be an attractive body by my peers, as represented by thinspo and fitspo posts on Instagram and Tumblr. Satisfaction with my body was closely linked to successfully reaching the “ideal body” of the moment. In secondary school, skin and bones were all the range. The skinner a girl was, a greater source of envy she was to other girls her age. But by the time I was in junior college, curves and tone muscle had become the hallmarks of physical appeal. What started as a seemingly harmless interest in fitness and nutrition soon turned into an obsession with bodily perfection. And I think we know all too well how food habits take a turn for the worst from that point.
This tale has its happy ever after, don’t worry. No, I did not find comfort in the fact that inner beauty is far more important than a hot bod or take to embracing my individuality. The confidence boost I gained was based on a manifestation far more physical. I began receiving compliments about my physique. It had never occurred to me that perhaps my body was beautiful as it was and that the uncharacteristically curvy form for an individual of my petite frame was actually attractive. My journey towards a positive body image had very little to do with adopting a healthy diet and exercise regime but rather, involved finding aspects of my body that were unique and hence attractive. It really was that simple: all I had to do was open my eyes to what I already have.
The fashion industry too seems to be acknowledging the beauty in bodily imperfections. Cara Delevinge’s thick eyebrows and Nicki Minaj’s large bottom are two examples of how features once considered to be unattractive are now heralded as signature looks. What I've learnt is that healthy body imaging comes from recognizing the beauty your body has to offer instead of striving for society’s ever-changing idea of perfection. Body fads fade away just as quickly as they flood the media. Lasting happiness can be found in being Made Real and feeling great about it. I, for instance, wouldn't be able to boast of such curves without some level of body fat. (Body fat ain't such a bad thing after all eh.) Fat in all the right places: that’s the bodily quirk I’m proud of. So the next time you look into a mirror and resent yourself for those thighs you feel are too thin or hips you find to be too wide, feel proud instead of your figure for someone somewhere in the world is probably wishing for those very features that you so desperately wish you didn't have.