"Kasto Moto Chha!" Look how fat you are! Exclaimed my host mother during a visit to my adopted home in Nepal.
"Life has been good to you daughter! How happy I am." She beamed with pride.
When in Nepal, my initial reaction to this greeting is always discomfort, as the ugly cloud of self-loathing appears on the horizon. Coming from my life in Boulder, Colorado, where looking fit and slim is practically a prerequisite, it is unnerving and down-right rude to call someone fat or comment on how much weigh they've gained since you last saw them.
I resist the urge to feel bad about myself and remember that she is giving me a complement...she is just happy to see that life has been favorable for me during my absence. In Nepal, calling someone fat is a kind and socially acceptable way of saying they must be experiencing good karma, with lots of yummy food available, surrounded by love and not too many hard physical demands. If you show up too skinny, people feel sad for you.
Here in the US, calling someone fat is a good way to get slapped or lose a friend.
But when I think about it, for me, it's true. I am always at my thinnest when life is the most difficult, the most stressful, and the loneliest. When I am happy, relaxed, in love...I gain 15 pounds.
Wouldn't it be great if we looked at each others' spare-tires as signs of abundance and joy and, along the same vein, recognize that our friends who appear too thin may actually need extra moral support? Instead, we idolize the super-thin and spend countless hours feeling crappy about our bodies and denying ourselves all the abundance that is available to us.
Now I'm not talking about the serious problem of obesity, which is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, certain types of cancer, and type 2 diabetes, and only you can know if your weight is causing real health problems.
And this has nothing to do with exercise...I think we can all agree that exercise is good for us.
I'm talking about our nation's obsession with being something other than what we are, with dieting and looking different than how we naturally look, and how bad that fixation makes us feel. I'm talking about the fact that in the US, up to 80 percent of women exhibit signs of an eating disorder at some stage of their lives.
In the grand scheme of things, one billion people (one sixth of the world) live in extreme poverty on less than $1/day. Millions of people go to bed hungry for lack of available food.
If you fall into the population of people who aren't starving and are able to eat three meals a day, as I do, then why spend time and money feeling awful about the good fortunes you have? Why not stop wishing you looked less well-favored and start loving yourself and all the gifts (and food!) at your fingertips?
Maybe instead of wishing we were more "perfect", let's flip our perceptions, take a mental trip to Nepal, and realize we already are.
So for today, I will be the first to say it...You are looking fat, Congratulations!
Do you have a story about learning to love your flab? Comment below to let us know!
Featured in BE THE CHANGE, How Meditation can Transform you and the World by Ed and Deb Shapiro, with forewords by HH The Dalai Lama and Robert Thurman.