Right until my fifth month of pregnancy, I had people look at my belly incredulously, and ask me if I was really having a baby. I worried all the time that my baby would be underweight. Then the scales started to tip and I started worrying that the baby would be overweight instead. It happened almost overnight; the sudden rounding off of the belly, the tightness of clothes, the rapidly changing bosom. The weight started to pile on and as I stretched my maternity wear to its limit, there was comfort in knowing it would all fit, no matter how big a slob I would become. For once in my life, there was no one looking at me when I grabbed that extra bowl of ice cream, or dug into a box of desi ghee ladoos. It was like being let lose in Disneyland by myself.
All our lives we are dictated by the weighing scale; some of us are too thin and are desperate to pile on the kilos, others spend every waking moment thinking of (thinking is the operative word) how to shed it. By month nine I was bigger than I had ever been and bolder too. I no longer cringed when I asked for a double helping of chocolate sauce over my ice cream or when I pulled on my yoga pants; lose and shapeless.
Then the baby came, and as per my clever calculations, I should have instantly been four kilos lighter (placenta gone, baby out etc).
As I stepped on the scale three days after the delivery, I was almost four kilos lighter and so I guffawed and thought... don't know why they make sure a fuss about losing post baby fat and flab. A month of bleariness and weariness later, I realised something was horribly wrong as almost everything got stuck at the bosom and refused to travel down. So imagine my shock when I stepped on the weighing scale (yet again) and found myself up five kilos! What the hell was going on? Don't think about it said my doctor. Not for six months at least. There began my uphill battle with the big bulge as I was 13 kilos up. When I was out and about on my own, no bawling baby in the nook of my arm, I wanted to carry a sign that screamed: I look this way because I have a four-month-old (or 14-month-old, 18-month-old, you get the picture). A friend I met who had also had a baby looked at me and squealed, "I am so glad to see even you have put on weight." As anyone with weight on them will attest, there is nothing worse than someone's eye roving over your jiggly bits, the pity written rich in them. You hate yourself for looking and feeling the way you do but are loathe to start trying to shrug it off because it is so damn comfortable. And no matter what anyone else says, the buck always stops with you because it is all about how you look to yourself.
My daughter is now 18 months old and in the time since, I have gone from not fitting into anything I owned, to diets that robbed me of my soul, to excruciating personal training at the gym, to being back in smalls that seemed loose, to putting it back on. Over this time, one thing has remained constant: my endearing and unfailing relationship with sugar, something I had always loved but made my own during and after the baby. For those who have never craved sugar, you should stop reading right about now, because none of what follows will matter or make sense. Sugar has been my biggest friend and foe in the last year-and-a-half, my go-to thing when I am angry, frustrated, bored or plain in need of a fix. We share this strange relationship where I am addicted, acknowledge the addiction, but keep slipping. Again and again. The white powdery stuff they dust cakes with is my drug and god knows I need my fix.
I have spent the last few months banishing anything remotely sweet from my diet (and it went okay for a bit) to indulging myself endlessly, shamelessly, relentlessly. The other day I found myself sitting with a box of chocolate and going through the entire lot (including some that I did not even like). One is never enough and it is only when I get to the point where I feel so sick with self loathing that I stop. The longest I have managed to go without sugar is a month. The first few days were hard but I soon found that I could avert my gaze without feeling giddy... and at the end of that month I actually felt incredibly fantastic (and so terribly deprived).
And then the decline began all over again. Give it all - give me Bengali mishti, give me cake, give me pudding, give me chocolate. Ice creams are the only sugar I don't get excited about. I don't care for aerated drinks at all, I barely drink alcohol, and fried food is not on my list, but show me some sweetness and I am all yours. There are times when I hate myself for being weak, for giving in without a second thought. Then again, I wonder why I exist at all if I can't indulge my sugar fix.
So as I struggle with keeping the kilos in check for the nth time this year and yet again embrace a diet that says, no oil, no butter, no dairy, no wheat, no sugar (of course), I negotiate with myself. I will knock off the kilos till I get into a comfortable, super-slim-me kind of zone and then, sugar and I can be reunited, regardless of the few kilos that go up and down.
As I write this, I wistfully think of hot chocolate fudge that I must snub and the social outings where I must decline dessert and wonder if I should just cave in. Then I look at a dress hanging in my cupboard from three years ago and harden my heart. Sure, it feels like I just broke up with someone really special but I am sure the results will be sweet.