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So I think my emotional relationship [to my body] is complicated by two factors; the smaller one is my mixed race heritage and my South Asian heritage. And that was something which, when I was a kid, separated me from other kids. And I was never very culturally Indian. My father is Indian, my mother is English, and I was never very culturally Indian. So if I hadn't looked it, nobody would know.
But I grew up in a very non-diverse, very white small town in England. So there were moments where I was just, "Oh, why is my skin darker than everyone else, why is my body shaped a little differently to everyone else?"
More of an issue is my weight. And I've mostly been overweight in my life. My mother was a little bit of a feeder, God bless her. She would express a lot of affection through food and encouraging you to eat what you wanted. I did the usual kind of struggle when I was a teenager. I did get kind of thin for a while, but I still thought I was fat because, of course, everybody does at that age.
In my thirties, I kind of settled into a pretty consistent size that I am now, which is not a they-make-a-reality-TV-show-about-me level, but it's outside the norms of what is generally considered attractive, particularly for gay men. And it's connected to being gay as well because I think we obviously get a much less leeway about these things.
I was fairly convinced that I was not very attractive for a long time, mostly because of my weight, and that meant that I didn't date as much as I wish I had in my twenties. It meant that I didn't kind of put myself out there as much as I would have liked earlier in life. I've done a lot of work on that in the last few years, and it's gradually become clear to me that there are more guys out there who do like a bigger guy, the big hairy guy, not just big intense muscles, but an actual fat person, because I'm not very muscular at all. There are more guys out there who like that than I thought. That's something I'm still in the early stages of kind of exploring and having fun with, but it's already a very positive step for me.
I want to flip my lifestyle to a permanently, somewhat healthier state. I went back and forth a lot about that because I didn't want to contribute to a culture that is unaccepting of fat people. I see a lot of content on Instagram and everywhere else on the internet saying "You're perfect just how you are." And I spend a lot of time being like "Is this an act of self-hatred to to want to change this? Should I just accept this about myself?" But at the same time, the stats are what they are; obese South Asian guys in their 40s get diabetes. My dad was fat and he got diabetes. And it fucked him up, I don't want that to happen to me.
So there are good basic reasons why it is an act of self-care and self-love to try and change this about myself. But at the same time, I wanted to make sure that I wasn't doing it from a place of self-loathing or self-dislike. So posting [pictures of myself on Instagram] was designed to try and kind of square that circle. I wanted to say, "Look, this is my body and I love it and I accept it, but I want it to change because I will be healthier and I will live longer." And I try and keep both of those thoughts alive in my brain. It's not easy, but I try.
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