Star Speak, By Shaheen Abbas: A Note To Every Woman Who Has Felt She Is Not Skinny Or Beautiful Enough

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Star Speak is an ongoing series of columns, penned by celebrities we are used to seeing on these pages. This is their space to write about their take on fashion, the fraternity and whatever else catches their fancy.

This week’s column comes from jewelry designer, Shaheen Abbas who shares four life lessons that will serve every woman well. You can follow Shaheen on Instagram here and on Twitter here.

For every woman who has felt she is not skinny or beautiful enough: life lessons from someone who has been there, done that, and emerged (a little bit) wiser.

I used to be one of those women, who would feel guilty for having zero control over food and berate myself for all the junk food that I ate, get pissed at the mirror over the slightest hint of a frown line, and obsess over those few extra kilos and grams on the weighing scale. How flawless I looked in that bodycon dress was the only (and truest) measure of my beauty, right? So damn wrong!

Why are we women so hard on ourselves? The abs are never washboard enough, the arms never lithe enough, the skin never glowing enough… it’s like we take some sort of perverse pleasure in brooding over our flaws. We are addicted to bashing ourselves over our appearance. We’ll say YES to crash diets, unsupervised workouts, and complain about how “fat” we are, but it’s always a NO to the beautiful person that stares back at us in the mirror.

Something stirred inside me during the last year of being in my 30’s (I turned 40 this March, in case you were wondering!), and yanked me to a state of self-awareness. I decided to say a giant “F**k you!” to all these unhealthy insecurities that weigh us women down. I mean, after 14,600 days of dealing with these doubts and worries, it was about damn time that I felt like I had enough! If I wanted to celebrate myself (and not just the number of candles on my cake), there was no better time than now. So here I am.

But let me make one thing very clear. This is not some sort of sermon on body positivity or a preachy celebrate yourself lecture. I can’t force you into a revelation on how YOU should treat YOUR body with TLC. But I can share with you what I’ve learnt, often the hard way. Think of this as some hard-hitting truths from a woman who means well. Someone needs to say it like it is, right?

Lesson #1: Young is being able to laugh till ur stomach hurts at the stupidest of things, not the absence of frown lines.

I always marvel at women who have injected every last inch of their face in a quest to look younger. So much so that they are now beyond recognition and the entire world knows the work thy have had done. Did I miss the memo that we are supposed to give the Gigis and Kendalls of the world a run for their money and lose our ability to smile in the process?

Now don’t get me wrong. I am not against vanity; I am most definitely vain. I am not against a cosmetic nudge here and there to look fresher either. I don’t feel the need to hide the fact that I have tried injectables myself. All I am saying is use it within sensible limits. Own your age; don’t try to erase all evidence of it. It defeats the purpose of ageing with confidence, fun and style. We are so blessed to reach the age we are so why be embarrassed about it. Own those laugh lines, it makes us who we are. Let’s not end up looking like circus monkeys, shall we?

Lesson #2: Food is not the enemy.

Every time I am in a snug outfit that accentuates my frame, I will have someone invariably come up to me and say, “You must’ve starved yourself for days to get into that outfit!” Such statements shock me to no end. Why do we consider food as an enemy in our quest to become fit? Being fit does not mean starving yourself. I eat whatever I crave, but I balance it out by working out very consistently. Stop abusing your body by putting it through crappy diets or depriving yourself of your favourite treats. Understand the power of eating right. Eat the damn burger, if you so crave. Or fill yourself up with so many paani-puris that you can’t move. Just dont stop working out and moving that body. Find a healthy balance. It’s as simple as that.

Lesson #3: Being fit does not mean being skinny.

Yes, I am four-five kilos heavier than what I used to be a few years ago, have wiggly arms, cellulite in my thighs and stretch marks that can give zebras a run for their money. But I am fit, so thigh gaps be damned, I say!

I discarded associating being fit with being thin a year back, when I decided to run the marathon. It was a big step considering my horribly weak back. I did not do it to lose weight. I did it to build mental focus. And in the process, ended up appreciating and respecting my body like never before. The same thighs I considered my ‘problem area’ in the gym, kept me going for 2.5 hours, and didn’t give up even when my mind was tired.

So here’s my lesson: respect your body, it’s the only one you have. Stop judging your appearance by the number on the weighing scale. Skinny and fit are not synonymous. I may not have the metabolism of a 22-year-old but I can run faster than my 15-year-old son and digest junk food better than my 26-year-old sister. How many ‘thin’ women can say that?

So what’s the key to being fit? One word: consistency. I don’t change my dietician every month, jump onto every latest fitness craze, or hop from one trainer to the other. Nor do I crib about my weight to every person who will listen. Stop complaining and start moving. Dieticians, trainers, and instructors are not magicians— there are no instant results when you’re trying to build a healthy life. But keep at it. Dedicate your time, mind and body to a balanced regime and once you are addicted to those endorphins, the results will astound you.

Lesson #4: Stop ‘filtering’ your body beyond recognition. Own you shape!

How many ‘beauty’ apps is your phone populated with? Too many to count? Most of us are guilty of that. We use 600 filters (to look slimmer and younger beyond recognition) before posting a picture on Instagram. And then we thrive on the number of likes those pictures get. (But can’t seem to take a genuine compliment from someone who is seeing us in the flesh.)

Berating yourself is NOT COOL and never has been. Stop the harsh judgment of self and the next time someone at a party tells you that you look great in that dress, don’t be like, “Oh, this is the only thing that fits me now” bullshit. Just say thank you and know that you REALLY do!

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  1. Ms Abbas, Glad you got this off your chest and you own your new weight and shape. Your pictures here prove that you are still skinny and beautiful. The truth is that, even though you do not fret anymore and berate yourself, you seem to have good genes. You can put on a few more kilos but you will still look skinny and beautiful. That is our problem.

  2. This is as real as it gets and I whole heartedly agree with this article not just because I have turned 41 this March ( still grappling with hitting 40) , but because it serves up the truth on the prejudices we hold in a quest to look visually appealing and acceptable. At the end of the day, its all about owning your own body and looks. To be fit, not skinny, consistency in good diet habits and exercise routines is the key. The goal for every person should be fitness and well being, to be able to run after 40 + without falling flat breathless just after 2 jogs. Being skinny and taking a host of multi vitamins and all sorts of supplements under the sun, where’s the logic and reason for that?

  3. Hey Shaheen

    My heart goes out to you for this article..pretty candid of you! And I had no idea that you are around 40 years dont look one bit your age.

    Just a little thing, what I dont like about such fitness articles is that they are focussed way too much on the ‘skinny’ obsession..There are way too many women who are actually also criticised for not being ‘curvy’ enough. I am someone who has been on both sides of the table..even on these times I have seen people criticizing Deepika for being too skinny and even flat chested. So this bias exists everywhere, for all kinds of bodies. People are never happy.

    Haters gonna hate and potatoes gonna potate, so I genuinely feel all women must feel awesome about their bodies, be it curvy or skinny or whatever you call it. Skinny women have nothing against curvy women and I am sure its vice versa!

    Much love!

    • And the comments about being skinny – ” need to eat a burger” kind of will not be moderated while obviously fat – “need to lose weight” will be. Lol.

      • Yes…I lost around 20 kgs…I just wanted to be fit and then I have heard people telling me how I will not look good anymore in Indian attire because my body is not full enough.Just sounds so stupid. And the burger thing, they got no idea about my appetite now!

        • Great going, Sonia. You did it for yourself. Forget about such jokers.
          I don’t agree to those who keep giving punchlines about “oh fat is the new thin ” blah blah celebrate it. Being curvy & healthy is a whole lot different from being obese. Being obese will lead to drastic consequences healthwise. Same is the scenario with depriving oneself of any food to stay thin. And the women who promote wearing 2 sizes 2 small clothes to look thin are another level of jokers.

          Bottom line, being fit is a must and leading a healthy lifestyle is also a standard one should set for themselves. But doesnt mean we have to deprive ourselves of our fav foods. Moderation is the key.

  4. #celebritiesarejustlikeus! Well written message! I think this is needed now more than ever; when even the Gigi’s and the Kendal’s of the world are driven to photoshop, not because they lack anything but because of the social pressure in the age of share-everything-on-social-media. Where does that leave us mere mortals? Thank you for sharing this, Beautiful Woman!

  5. Amazing writing to which everyone can connect, so truthfully written in the time when people are busy showcasing everything which they have (truthfully I doubt)….. touched!!!
    You girls are doing great job!!!

  6. After a long time, found some nice words here. Emaciated, fair skinned, frail thin, starving, extremely filtered and photoshopped celebrities are role models, hot, drool worthy, what not. Your write up must be an eye opener. Physical and mental health, highlighting strengths and working on weaknesses, accepting your age and related biological processes, being happy with what you have….. the emphasis n priorities should be these. As a counselor I can go on. Thanks for the write up.

  7. Thats a really nice one, Shaheen! 🙂 The usual ones who write here throw a lot of jargons around or just write quite angsty. This was sensible and to the point.

    Kitchen/exercise both matters to balance out. I pretty much eat what I want but in limited quantity(ies) and do some regular workouts just at home. It does keep one fit .

    And yes you always seem pretty well dressed.

  8. I am not getting point of this article. This very wonderful woman is saying be beautiful how you are and then saying I am very fit and so I am very beautiful. Why she not saying I will be beautiful anyway? Or it doesn’t matter even if you are not beautiful, because you are beautiful anyway? But then if being beautiful doesn’t matter then why mention what is and what isn’t beautiful? It is all very confusing.

    I want back photos of thin women and people saying how that frilly frock makes her look plump because, as we all know only thin and fit is beautiful. And it is important to be beautiful. Awright, vicar?

    • Definition of beauty is different.
      Those below 30 & 40 – count size as beauty.
      Those above – know that balanced food & exercise (without skipping any) will lead to True Beauty – which is quantified by the amount of clinic/hospital/medicine bills.
      Yes beauty is important. Just pick which one.

  9. That was a great read. This was about her realization about being comfortable in her body. And almost every woman I know does struggle with this – at some level or other. And I do feel that celebrities feel even more pressure to be in perfect shape every time they step out… it must be quite stressful! On an aside, I would have never guessed that Shaheen is 40 years old… she doesn’t look her age at all.

  10. I was already a huge fan of her jewelry designs and now I am fan of her as a person as well. Such a beautiful and well written piece coming straight from her heart. Love it. Shaheen you are as beautiful on the inside as on the outside.

  11. This year my eyes opened, my sister has being dieting for the last 18 years, shes been eating fillet for most of the time, shes lost over the years and her weight has fluctuated and then back to herself. everyone felt uncomfortable around her because all she spoke about is weight and who lost and who is picking up and who looks fat in what etc etc.

    She’s been in and out of hospital recently, doctors said she is pre diabetic and that her kidneys are not functioning well.

    I dont think anyone realizes how dieting can mess you up. You just need to do things in moderation and obsession is a bad thing.


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