Thirty-seven-year-old Ameya, who works with a media development start-up, says that she still finds it difficult to eat with her parents at the table, thanks to the years she’s spent listening to advice, bribes, and reprimands on eating. This might be a familiar story for a lot of people who’ve grown up overweight – which is why Ameya and her friend Pallavi Nath have started a podcast called Fat.So? to talk about what it means to live in a fat body.
Ameya is from Hyderabad and lives in Delhi, same as Pallavi. Recalling how the two of them met, she says, “In my 30s I have found that making friends is either instant intimacy or very slow and superficial. Pallavi is in the former category. A common friend hosts these incredible events in Delhi, through a project she calls Gather Around Sisters. These are women-only and usually centre on themes and issues that concern us, or at the very least focus on our experience of them. I went to one on journaling about a year ago, and then to a few more. Pallavi hosted the evening on being fat, and I was very excited to go.”
Describing herself as “Forty, fat, female, divorced and self-employed”, Pallavi, who’s just emerged from a 17-year career in the corporate world, says that she was blown away by Ameya’s “confidence and joie de vivre”. The two of them got talking after the event and became thick friends. Pallavi, who was thinking of doing the podcast, asked Ameya if she’d like to co-host it with her and that’s how Fat.So? was born. Happily, Suno India liked their recording and offered their platform for the podcast.
In six weeks flat, the first episode was out. In it, the two women exchange notes on growing up fat and the kind of unkind comments and humiliating experiences that they’ve faced – from being told to lose weight by random people, to men who liked them but were too ashamed or worried about what others would think, to admit it. But though these experiences are anything but pleasant, Ameya and Pallavi stay entertaining all through their conversation, their wit sparkling through.
Ameya and Pallavi
Noting that we all need more “body peace”, Pallavi, who’s been on a body positivity journey since 2014, says she’s observed that speaking to people – men and women – about it leaves an impact on them. For Ameya, who used to maintain a popular blog called ’50 dates in Delhi’ where she wrote candidly about her dating life, sharing personal stories isn’t exactly new.
“I learned long ago that telling a story about yourself helps people connect with you faster, though it can't be a story like ‘I am so smart I always come 1st in class’…heh. The beauty of the podcast as a medium is that it creates a space of intimacy, you feel like you're sitting there in the same room with the host and they're talking directly to you, but, at the same time, for the host, it gives a degree of distance and anonymity that maybe video wouldn't. No one can see your face when you say those things. I also personally think age has some role to play – as I have said on the podcast, I have no f*cks left to give. I don't care what people might think,” she says.
So far, the two of them have got 10 episodes in total planned for this season. The next episode is about the word ‘fat’ itself. Other topics that they will be discussing include the body positivity movement, sex, space, doctors, diets, being a fat man (with a guest speaker) and clothes.
Speaking of clothes, both women love dressing up – but this was not always the case.
“I consciously chose to wear only salwar-kameez-duppatta when I was 17, added the saree to that when I was 23 and continued that way till I was 37. I always chose beautiful fabrics and was creative with the style, accessories and make-up, but my body was mainly to be hidden until I was 35. Once I discovered the world of plus size modelling – and given the fact that I have an amazingly supportive designer who owns her own boutique in Gurgaon called Shloka – I started taking thin people clothes that I liked off the internet and getting them designed in my size, I showcase this on my Instagram. And suddenly, neck lines, back lines, hem lines and sleeves reduced or opened by several inches!” Pallavi says with a laugh.
Ameya thinks she really discovered her style in 2013 when she started getting a tailor to make her clothes in fabrics and styles that she chose. Before that, the options were either buying pants for Delhi winter in Size 40, Lee Men’s, or raiding Janpath to come up with “weird combos like long flowy skirts and kurtas”. Her move to the US in between also helped.
“I will still just buy some lovely fabric and let it sit in the cupboard until I'm inspired by a style, or I'll see it and think OMG THIS WAY and be at the tailor's in five minutes. I think it happened because, after living in New York, I saw that I was ALLOWED to wear stylish clothes! I could wear what I wanted. I could put on a fitted dress and decide if I liked it, which I often did, and then it was all about looking for ways to make it happen,” she says.
Ameya and Pallavi. Image credit: Suraaj Ajithakumar
And how has the response been so far to the podcast?
“I have had friends from school and college whom I have not spoken with for 20-25 years call me and tell me how proud and happy they are, and that they resonate with this. Numerous friends have written in saying that while they are thin, so much that is being said applies to their own body image. A few friends have written in saying they have been judge-y about fat people and they are glad to know another perspective and they really want to hear more. Some of them have shared the podcast with their children (censored, of course), since they want their kids to be more inclusive and confident,” says Pallavi.
The two of them feel strongly that life would have been a lot better if they’d had something like this back in the day.
“To just hear that someone else has the same thoughts of shame and self-hatred would have been amazing, and then to hear that it was ok and they were able to get past it might have helped me get past it sooner,” says Ameya.
In the podcast, Ameya says that she still has bad days and is yet to reach Pallavi’s state of self-acceptance. But by sharing their stories, the two women hope to let fat people, especially women, know that they’re not alone in the struggle.
“Our bodies are the way we interact with everything – and feeling like one’s body is a thing of shame requires a different level of resilience and ‘will to live’ to navigate. I doubt anything that Ameya and I say can explain what being in the bodies we have mean. At the same time I know that anyone who has felt the same shame – for whatever reason – will understand how losing the shame would be like stepping into an alternative Universe,” sums up Pallavi.
You can follow @fatsopodcast on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube for updates. A new episode of the podcast comes out at 5 pm on alternate Sundays and is available on all podcast apps including Apple, Google, Spotify, Castbox and Hubhopper.