Why are Pakistani women obsessed with their weight?

Published: April 10, 2014
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Weight loss is a very morale-boosting event, but it should not consume our lives or reach a stage where it becomes unhealthy.

I should make it clear from the beginning that this unhealthy obsession with weight is not limited to Pakistani women but is the universal truth for women everywhere. 

We are either too thin or too fat, with most of us being the latter. In Pakistan, a woman’s elegance, grace, beauty or self-worth is all linked to her weight and other women, mostly, deem a skinny female to be successful.  I noticed this on a recent trip to Pakistan.

After meeting relatives whom I hadn’t seen for a long time, the first thing they commented on was my weight, which had become quite rotund. It didn’t occur to them that maybe they could ask me about my studies or my career but instead they decided to focus on my physical appearance. If I lost too much weight then comments would fly around me being ‘kamzor’ (weak) and dieting too much.

There’s just no way out of this!

Such rude remarks weren’t limited to relatives but to beauty parlour assistants as well. However, they were kind enough to label me ‘healthy’ instead of fat.

I, however, have absolutely no qualms about my weight. I love the curvy, healthy look that celebrities like Beyonce or Kim Kardashian espouse. There is far too much pressure placed on girls of a younger generation to be thin and look a certain way.

A close friend’s daughter was taunted so much about her weight that she became alarmingly thin and had to be hospitalised. She reduced her food portions so drastically that her weight plummeted and the encouragement from her friends to continue exacerbated the problem. This is just one example I know of.  I have heard of countless more.

Anorexia nervosa is a mental health disorder affecting on average 1 in 1000 people. It is a disorder which is scarcely discussed in Pakistan but one with very real consequences. Subjects usually limit their food intake so severely that their weight drops below the normal range, and if the weight isn’t stabilised or increased, it can result in death. Although anorexia statistics in Pakistan are not well known, I am absolutely certain that peer pressure, expectations of how women should look and the media plays a very potent role in keeping young girls enslaved to the concept of thin equals beautiful.

This is a dangerous mind-set and one which needs to change.

Instead of trying to focus on our outward appearance, we should concentrate on how to become better human beings first. Women should focus on excelling in education and become individuals who have something positive to contribute to the society rather than becoming stick figures and revelling in this new found glory.

Indeed, weight loss is a very morale-boosting event, but it should not consume our lives or reach a stage where it becomes unhealthy.

There is more to life than calories and kilograms!

Faiza Iqbal

Faiza Iqbal

A law graduate from King's College, London Nottingham Law School. Having worked at Mandviwalla & Zafar as an Associate, she now writes freelance articles and is trying to qualify as a barrister in Canada.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.