Thru the screen of my old laptop, I saw this young girl stood in front of a live audience at TED Talk held in Jakarta International School in South Jakarta. She was visibly nervous, clearly mustering courage like a girl who had a big secret to tell. I recognized those emotions -as a mother of a daughter and as a woman who has gone thru that phase in life- I felt her. I checked on the date of the talk, it was 2017.
I am known to be very picky about what I watch and how I use my time. After all, I only had 30 minutes to spare that afternoon, but she intrigued me, so I stayed put. She went on telling the story of her battling body image in her tweens and the strict diets that followed, in the hope of transforming herself to a ‘better’ someone. ‘No,’ I remembered thinking, ‘you were already perfect and gorgeous, with thick, flowing black hair.’ Still her emotion was so familiar to me and perhaps to all girls growing up with bombardment of how girls should look like, in Gadis, Cosmopolitan, Vogue magazines and the likes. That strict diet regiment she followed had messed up her system, bringing about depressions, eating disorders and a myriad of health issues.
Her story in that talk, though, ended up with triumph. I muttered and applauded softly. Yes, I was rooting for her. Turned out my 30 minutes was spent wisely because that afternoon she simultaneously lifted my mood and gave hopes to others and the live audience, judging from the response in that video.
Simran is now a bubbly twenty-something girl, who cleverly realized then that the only way to defeat her demons is by mastering their spells and using them to counterattack. Since that talk, she went on to become a nutritionist while immersing herself in yoga and meditation and continuing to search for ways to help others. To me she is a combination of a nutritionist, health coach, life coach, and mindfulness coach. Although she reluctantly accepts those attributes, she possesses depths in uncovering what is truly important in life, so I insist.
Frankly, who never felt vulnerable about the way they look? All these remarks, such as “oh, did you put on weight; are you going to have that second helping; looks like your sister is thinner than you are; do not play in the sun, your skin is so dark lately; you should be on a diet; did you know she followed this and that diet regiment and lost 10 kilos?” The truth is, body shaming is mostly unintentional, done oftentimes by our most beloveds with no obvious ill-intentions. Yet they leave scars that must be addressed, or you will continue bleeding forever. And that was exactly what Simran was doing. She fell, she addressed it, and then stood up and hit the ground running.
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Here is a bit of interview with Simran, just a tiny peek of her wisdom with enough thing to ponder about.
1. Please tell us a bit about your background.
Plant-Based Registered Nutritionist from the UK. Currently doing a Masters in Functional Medicine & Nutrition. I spent a lot of time educating about holistic health for corporations and to our society to empower the public. I worked across integrative medical clinics and Nestle for a year and a half. I started my own business along the way providing plant-based goodness for those with allergies.
My two mottos in life are: first, whether you think you can or you cannot, you are right, so do not let anything or anyone stop you from growing. Second, healthy can be made fun!
2. We saw the talk you gave in front of people at JIS, in which you revealed the challenges you encountered in life. Tell us what motivated you to open up to a bunch of strangers?
It was not easy and will never be easy stepping out of our comfort zone. But I was left with two options: one is to allow my fear to get the better of me and let things be the way it is, or two, to use my story to raise awareness and break social stigma so that children or even adults don’t have to go through this journey alone, even if it might be just one person I could probably save. I chose the latter and funny thing this was the first time that my parents (yes, they were sitting in the audience!) got to know what I was really going through.
3. Any words about healing process?
Healing takes time and patience. The process and results are never linear. The process is a continuous journey of loving ourself, accepting ourself and freeing ourself from judgements, be it from others of even from ourself. We are always the hardest on us and the earlier we start to recognize and accept whatever it is that is going on within us, the better it is for our mental health in the long run. It is uncomfortable to begin with, but I promise you it is the most empowering thing you can do for yourself.
Our bodies are constantly changing throughout the day, through the years of adolescence, through our 20s, pregnancy, menopause, so on and so forth. Our bodies are going to keep changing whether we like it or not. So rather than fight them and battle them every time, do something small every day that contributes to your growth and healing.
4. With your expertise and experience, what would you say to people struggling with body image, eating disorder, mood swing and all growing pains?
I am no expert at this but all I can say is would you speak to your loved ones the same way you speak to yourself? Majority of times body image stems from an emotional void that feeling of “I am not loved” or “I am not enough”. And that we need to be certain way to for our loved ones to accept us.
As much as we try, we cannot control social norms and the habit of how people comment and body shame each other but we can control how we choose to react. Think of it like being given a gift -what happens should you choose not to receive it? So, the next time someone tries to body shame you, think of that as a gift that you choose not to take. We cannot please everyone. Before trying to make anyone else happy make yourself happy.
If you are reading this, I just want to take a moment to thank you and to tell you that you are so loved and you are enough. Your body is your first home. It is the only home we must live the life we want; with the people we love doing the things we want to do. Befriend your body so it cooperates with you to be healthy and happy. Every day I practice gratitude for my body to give thanks for always being there for me and showing up for me even when I am not kind to it.
5. How do you feel about extreme diet?
Absolutely against it. It was a big contributing factor to the health conditions I developed and all the food sensitivities and intolerances over time. Please do not do it. Do a balanced lifestyle instead, follow the 80-20 rule: 80% stick to whatever is good for you and 20% of the time allow yourself to enjoy within limits. This will not only keep you healthy but also emotionally and mentally happy!
6. How do people find you?
The best way is through Instagram @the.simway or @thehealthynutr
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Yes, I still dream of a world where there exist no insecurities, no shaming, and no heartbreaks, but I also know it is just an idealistic notion. However, Simran has shown us that it is possible to turn insecurities and challenges into strengths. She pointed to the importance of being kind to ourselves. And feeling enough, as she remarked, probably is the key to all healings. Throw in gratitude, and we may feel that we have arrived and find the peace of mind we all need.
‘We are given one life, make it count’ is how she signs her correspondence. Simran is like a maharishi in the making, and for now, namaste -the light in me recognizes the light in you-, from me to all of you. Love yourself and acknowledge that light in you.
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