Body Image Issues and Healing Amidst It All

by Lance Ekum on · 41 comments

Note:  Today we have guest writer Zeenat Merchant-Syal, of Positive Provocations, sharing a very heartfelt and meaningful piece on body image.

That Weird Dead Feeling
Creative Commons License photo credit: Kendra Infinity

"Do not wish to be anything but what you are, and try to be that perfectly."~ St. Francis De Sales

On a recent trip to my cousin’s place, who I met after many years, we talked and giggles like we were kids. Neither of us felt any older than those days we used to play in the rain and create havoc during summer break. All of us lived in different states/countries but would come together to Mumbai,India for the summer. Its still essentially the same situation, except now we have our own little ones roaming the rooms.

Battling Body Image Issues

In most of these trips and even in my regular life then, I was constantly battling body Image issues. You see, I have always always been on the plump side. I don’t ever remember being thin. That in itself had never been the problem. The problem was when I would be given free flowing, no hooks barred advice at every nook and corner about how I should lose weight. Living in a home, where each parent had completely different approaches to the way things are supposed to be, didn’t make it any easier. One would constantly keep vigil of my intake, while the other couldn’t bare the thought of his child being so worried about what she ate.

This tug of war culminated into such a massive problem for me especially as I entered my teens. Suddenly everything and everyone was about looking “perfectly media good”. Walk like someone, look like someone, talk like someone other than yourself and you could be the IN teenager. I became that. Although I was still battling the way I saw myself, I put up a brave front and laughed. I was the life of every party, and yeah had the handsomest guys ask me out. Was all this making me feel better? NO! It was actually deepening the problem I had with myself and pushing it deeper into my soul…until I was so so deeply scarred. Scarred enough to make horrid decisions I still regret. I keep thinking now…”how could I have been so stupid?”

I still remember how I would cry to sleep every night, because I didn’t like who I had become, but felt it was the Only choice I had to be accepted.

Becoming The Real Me

There came a point, when the self annihilation had started, that I couldn’t look myself in the mirror. In those days, I came face to face with questions of purpose. In my most low states I could hear a voice inside me ask me, “Is this what you want to BE? Who are You REALLY? ”

It was only when I met my spiritual teacher, at the age of 16(almost 17), I realized how awesome it could be to be Me. The Real Me. There was this woman, right across the room at a social gathering, who I couldn’t stop looking at. She was simple, neat, smiling and extremely loving. She wore simple clothes, no frills, no makeup, no pretentiousness whatsoever. I was so drawn to this woman. She somehow looked like she glowed. I still think she does. She introduced me to my soul. And for that I remain eternally indebted to her. She guided me, taught me lessons from religious scriptures. Showed me the light, so to speak.

As I dwelled into religion, spirituality and all things mind, my body, my heart all came to a certain calm. I realized that I am meant to be a certain way. It felt right. That is my unique gift. The physical body issues began to heal. As the issues healed, a warm more loving me emerged. A Me even I am sometimes flabbergasted by. I stopped crying to sleep, I stopped hurting myself, I stopped being someone I was not.

The relief of letting those masks go, was like taking off a huge mountain from my shoulders. I never felt lighter, freer than I did in that moment.

Yes, not all people in my life were fully happy with this transformation, but they came to accept a happier me.


Today, I’m still plump. But happily so. I love myself and things about this self. Dimples, warts, moles, crooked teeth, the not so perfect figure….I love it all. It keeps me real. I live a very simple but content life today.I am healthy. I walk, do yoga, exercise, eat right, smile, help others heal, help souls become whole and happy. So I'm plump. Big Deal!(smile)…More of me to love More of every other soul in this Universe with 🙂

I do hope I can instil the same simplicity, love and calm in my little girl. As she grows up, I keep thinking, she will go through some of the anxiety of peer pressure, society pressure to look or be a certain way. But I know I will be with her every step of the way, telling her just how Beautiful she is just as she is. She need never be anyone else!

May we all Happily embrace our awesome and very real selves. Its one of the most imperative steps in understanding and living in constant happiness. Knowing and trusting the Divine Plan and living in the flow of it makes living blissful. Nothing and I mean nothing can get you down then.

Today(literally) as I met my cousin, she said, “We were such goofballs in our teens na. You are still a goofball, naughty as ever, but you seem genuinely Happier now. What did you have an epiphany or something?” I kinda did and I completely agreed with her, while I baked and we ate home made veggie pizza with all our kids.

A positive affirmation I use when I feel a whiff of old imagery coming along…. “I am Awesome. I am Beautiful. I am a divine creation full of amazing mastery.” Heart *Smile*

Zeenat is the founder and writer of the blog ~Positive Provocations~ Healing You Completely with Positivity, Love & Happiness!. A Practicing Counseling Psychologist/Spiritual Counselor/Motivational Speaker/Naturopath by profession (since the past 10 years) and Spiritual Traveler & Writer by passion.
Zeenat is also an eternal student and researcher of the school of life and all its realities. A constant learner in the fields of Metaphysics and New age Thinking. 

Lance writes stories from his heart, aiming to inspire and motivate, as you align more fully with YOUR true peak. When he's not here, you can find him hanging out with his family, riding a bike, or just generally acting goofy.   Sign up for the Thoughts from the Treehouse newsletter and get additional inspiration in your email inbox!
Lance Ekum
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{ 39 comments… read them below or add one }

Joyce at I Take Off The Mask July 1, 2011 at 9:09 am

Nice post, Zeenat! Thanks for sharing, Lance. 😉 We are not our bodies after all, we are not our talents, we are not our wrinkles. We are beyond all that, for we have been created in the image of God! We are of the spirit of love, and love transcends all limitations and boundaries.


Zeenat{Positive Provocations} July 1, 2011 at 2:09 pm

HI Joyce,
I could come there and hug you….but know I’m hugging you in spirit for all you just shared.
We are far beyond the physical…and that realization came so much later for me. But better late than never right 🙂
We are love……and you my dear are so so so much love….Thank you!
You comment made me skip happy twirls 🙂
So Much Love,


J.D. Meier July 1, 2011 at 11:19 am

> naughty as ever, but you seem genuinely Happier now
Way to be!

It sounds like you got your priorities and values in order, and those great way points on the road of life.


Zeenat{Positive Provocations} July 1, 2011 at 2:12 pm

Hi J.D.,
Oh naughty is kind of my middle name 😉 That is one quality I refuse to let go of…whatever my age 🙂
I did get my priorities right….so right, sometimes even I’m surprised at myself. But being and living in that happy place, makes for such an amazing life. Nothing phases us then…
Thank you for your lovely comment here 🙂
Much Love,


Ewa July 1, 2011 at 2:10 pm

Thank you, just thank you.


Zeenat{Positive Provocations} July 1, 2011 at 2:14 pm

Hi Ewa,
Thank you sweetie….I can feel your thank you saying so much more…
I’m glad this post helped you in someway…..
Thank you again for your lovely thoughts here.
Much Love,


Zeenat{Positive Provocations} July 1, 2011 at 2:19 pm

Dearest Lance,
Thank you so so much for hosting my words here on your amazing Jungle!
I’m honored and so so happy…I think I’ll just go over after typing this comment and do a few happy dancing twirls….weeeeeeeee weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee…. 😉
You are the mostest bestest Jungle keeper ever 😉
So Much Love,


Cathy | Treatment Talk July 1, 2011 at 3:04 pm

Hi Zeenat,

Thank you for your inspiring post. It’s unfortunate how our society dictates to women to be literally an impossible shape, and that the only way to be successful is to stay thin, thin, thin. Everyone should be as healthy as they can, but feel good about themselves and their bodies. For some, it’s an easier battle to stay thin and for others it’s a constant struggle which makes them feel bad about themselves. Doesn’t seem fair. It is wonderful you are teaching your daughter to love herself first and that she is beautiful they way she is. That is an important message all parents should give their children. Thanks.


Zeenat{Positive Provocations} July 2, 2011 at 3:41 am

Hi Cathy,
I know what you mean….the society’s pressures of the certain image is so so UNreal. It’s not only unreal, but also so stressful to many of us. The stress of not fitting in, cause well some media hype decided we should be a certain size or there is something wrong with us. Its absurd.
I love the realization that we are all meant to BE a certain Unique way. Healthy YES, Fitting the norm NA 🙂 Happily Unique thats the way to be 🙂
Acceptance of the Real person within makes all the difference.
My little one is enjoying her freedom to BE now..and I hope I’m able to keep freeing her further.
Thank you so much for your beautiful thoughts on this topic.
So Much Love,


Susie @ Wise At Work July 1, 2011 at 3:23 pm

Hi Zeenat.

I was touched with your honesty as your described this painful story about accepting ourselves. At some level, each of us shares this — it might not be our bodies but our brains, or interests, or fears, or regrets — such a common theme. And it’s heartwarming to hear of your self-kindness and such a good reminder for each of us to exercise kindness and care to ourselves.

May all of us be in closer touch with our best parts today.
Thanks so much!


Zeenat{Positive Provocations} July 2, 2011 at 4:12 am

Hi Susie,
It is a common theme in many of our lives…the trying to fit in! I feel like if we all could just accept and embrace our true Real selves…we are giving way to immense Shine. Be it our bodies, our interests, our thoughts….There is so much beautiful God given potential in each of us, which we curb when we try to fit in or be someone we are not.
Self kindness and self love stem from a deeper place of embracing our true self….
I’m so glad you liked this gentle reminder ….
Thank you for sharing your wonderful thoughts here.
Much Love,


Giulietta Nardone July 2, 2011 at 5:10 am

Hi Zeenat,

Most women will relate to your important post. I’ve certainly felt pressured to look like someone other than myself. I used to straighten my long, wave/curly hair with some smelly, disgusting goop that had god knows what in in. Couldn’t leave the house until I got it right – even if it took HOURS. I wanted to look like the straight-blonde haired cheerleaders. When I stopped doing that during a relentless heatwave many years later, people kept saying, “I love your curly hair.” (Who knew?)

It’s hard to look like the women in air-brushed mag photos because even they don’t look like that. Yet, women try to anyway. Conformity comes in many forms – from body image to car image to house image to degree image to personality image to work image. I’d love to get rid of all the phony images we hide behind in the name of success and status.

Enjoyed this! G.


Zeenat{Positive Provocations} July 2, 2011 at 5:28 am

Hi Giulietta, (i love that name by the way 🙂 )
Oh this line “I’d love to get rid of all the phony images we hide behind in the name of success and status.” So so so true…and shouldn’t we all be trying to get rid of those phony wanna be masks we think we need. We are superbly awesome just as we are….
And you’re so so right…even those gals in the airbrushed, oodles of makeup ads don’t look like that in reality…ha! Reality is beautiful….no airbrushes for us gals thank you 😉
Thank you fro your lovely comment here. I love your energy!
So Much Love,


Zeenat{Positive Provocations} July 2, 2011 at 5:29 am

@Giulietta- Ohhh I tried that goopy stinky stuff when I was 16 tooo!!! ahh…so glad I’m back to curly wurly me….


Hilary July 2, 2011 at 6:11 am

Hi Lance and Zeenat … you both always come across as ‘from the heart’ people .. your writings reflect the person I feel you to be … so this post rings so true .. and it’s great Lance has posted it – bringing the two of you together.

My m/c is causing me typing hassles .. so I’m off before it or I explode! Happy 4th July weekend and general happy weekend with the families .. hugs Hilary


Zeenat{Positive Provocations} July 2, 2011 at 4:50 pm

Hi Hilary,
Thank you for your lovely lovely thoughts here…. about Lance and me. You are so right… Lance always comes from a place of heart 🙂 I’m honored you think I do too 🙂
And sweetie you better take care of yourself….sending you lots of healing love.
Much Love,


Corinne Rodrigues July 2, 2011 at 7:35 am

Having gone through the same struggles myself and found the real me fat and all, I can so identify with you, dearest Z. We love ALL of you, darling!


Zeenat{Positive Provocations} July 2, 2011 at 4:55 pm

Hi Cor,
We are sisters in so many ways na…and this is just one …
I love you too sweetie!
Thank you for your beautiful comment here.


Jean Sampson July 2, 2011 at 7:52 am

Hi Zeenat—–I , too, have been a slave to the body perfection master and it has been a lifetime’s journey to find freedom. How powerful we women would be if we were not constantly feeling bad about ourselves and trying to change things that are really just fine as they are. I have always said that the economy would crash in one day if all the women in the world quit buying all the ‘way over-priced stuff they buy because, at last, there was nothing about their bodies that they wanted to change! All of advertizing is aimed at making women feel bad about themselves and offering ways (read expensive ways) that they can become more acceptable. When my mom was a young housewife back in the 40’s and 50’s, TV and magazine ads started making women feel bad about their house-keeping, their cooking, and, of course, about how they looked, how their kids looked and even about how their husbands looked. It was the woman’s job to keep everything in her world looking (and smelling 🙂 ) perfect. Well, I could go on, but the point is that every woman’s job is to find the road to feeling good about herself and to follow it to complete self love and freedom. And then, we all need to keep reminding one-another that we really ARE OK! I think one of my buttons just got pushed—–sorry for the discourse! 😀

Thanks Lance and Zeenat—–this is SUCH an important issue!


Zeenat{Positive Provocations} July 2, 2011 at 4:59 pm

Hi Jean,
That button is a darn good one 🙂
And you’re so so right about all you shared. Advertising is made to ‘create’ a ‘need’ where there is none. We gullible women and now men have joined the bandwagon too….get so floored by all the ‘new’ that we forget, life is better without too many frills to confuse it with.
We are super awesome just as we are….
I’m so so glad your buttons got pushed and you shared your wonderful thoughts here.
So Much Love,


Jean Burman July 2, 2011 at 3:01 pm

We humans are so hard on ourselves. If only we knew how multi layered we truly are… we would never again worry about what’s on the outside [without looking in]. It’s the inner glow that makes people beautiful… not the outer body. One of the most beautiful people I ever met was well into her 90s. I last saw her dancing lightly in her stockinged feet around the musical society piano at midnight. Her face was that of an angel…so blithe was her spirit. I never forgot her. It’s that inner glow… the inner glow you saw in your spiritual teacher Zeenat… that we should all be trying to find. Thank you for your heartfelt post [with so much wisdom in it] and thanks also to Lance for featuring Zeenat here.


Zeenat{Positive Provocations} July 2, 2011 at 5:05 pm

Hi Jean,
Oh that inner glow is all we need!
The picture you have painted with your words of the 90 yr old lady, is just breathtaking. Thank you!
There are many such glowy people in our lives, but with all the veils of materialism/society we fail to see them. Our inner glow comes from that deep sense of knowing, understanding and loving our true authentic self.
I’m so happy you liked this post….Lance is super awesome for hosting me here 🙂
Thank you for your loving comment here.
Much love,


David Stevens July 2, 2011 at 5:23 pm

You can only be the best you that you can be. Might sound corny however it is true. Self acceptance is mandatory. We often take a while to acknowledge this but when we do, ”happiness” sets in. It’s great to see you happy.
be good to yourself


Zeenat{Positive Provocations} July 3, 2011 at 2:16 pm

Hi David,
Corny maybe, but true nonetheless 🙂
Thank you for your kind words here. Its best to be as authentically US than like anyone else.
Your comment here is beautiful. Thank you.
So Much Love,


Megan "JoyGirl!" Bord July 3, 2011 at 7:06 am

Beautiful Zeenat! What a wonderful, courageous post, and one with which I strongly identify. For two-thirds of my life, I battled who I naturally was. I kept thinking I had to be “better” because of course I wasn’t “enough.” Part of this was upbringing (my family is hardwired to notice what’s wrong rather than what’s right), and part was learned (society). Part was also probably the collective consciousness. The good news, though, is that as you and I heal, we are healing the world.

It took therapy as a 20-year old (6 years after my eating disorder developed), lots of relapses throughout my 20’s and young 30’s, and then consistent work to finally reach the point I at now where, in my mid-30’s, I can look at myself and think, “Yep, I’m ALL RIGHT!”

Thank you for sharing your story, and LANCE, thank you for hosting Zeenat this week. Hugs to you both!


Zeenat{Positive Provocations} July 3, 2011 at 2:51 pm

My Darling Joyful Angel Megan,
I love that you shared your journey of healing here. My God….we have both been through a whole lot.
I relapse in bouts too, but its so much calmer on the inside now. My body is so happy, and reacts immediately when I put in the wrong stuff 🙂
It might’ve taken a while to heal, but the end result in oh so worth it na …
Thank you for being such an inspiration to me….in more ways than I can ever put into words.
So so so much love,


Angela Artemis/Poweredbyintuition July 3, 2011 at 8:02 am

This was terrific. So many women suffer from body issues today. I’m happy that you over came yours though. You are a beautiful soul inside and out!


Zeenat{Positive Provocations} July 4, 2011 at 3:12 am

Hi Angela,
Thank you so so much for your kind words here. We are all indeed so beautiful…just as we are. Divinely so 🙂
Your comment here gave me a big beaming *smile*! Thank you for that!
So Much Love,


Tess The Bold Life July 3, 2011 at 8:07 am

Hi Z.
This statement is awesome and I can relate, except for me it was a rebel Catholic priest that introduced me to my soul. I never thought of it in those terms so thank you for that! Your affirmation is Divine! No doubt your little girl will (is) doing great at your side. What a mom you are.


Zeenat{Positive Provocations} July 4, 2011 at 4:14 am

Darling Tess,
You make me blush happily with your comment. An introduction to our soul is so imperative…but more important is Who introduces us. How interesting that it was a rebel catholic priest in your case 🙂 I would love to know how it happened….
Thank you so so much for your love and support. I appreciate you completely.
So Much Love,


Evita July 3, 2011 at 3:37 pm

Hi Zeenat

Accepting ourselves and loving ourselves is such an important message. You shared it very well and are a beaming example and inspiration for others.

Indeed, we are not our bodies. Yes, it is important that we respect the physical while we are here and care for it appropriately, but identifying ourselves with the physical or allowing it to bring about inner turmoil, not accepting ourselves, berating ourselves and such things are not part of a healthy state of being where the mind, body and soul are concerned.


Zeenat{Positive Provocations} July 4, 2011 at 11:16 am

Dear Evita,
I agree with you…yes, our physical state of being is important. It needs to be taken care of, but not at the cost of our mental and emotional well-being.
When self love emerges, all else heals…
Thank you so so much for your beautiful comment here.
Much love,


Evelyn Lim July 3, 2011 at 11:01 pm

Hello Zeenat,

Thank you for sharing about your body image issues since years ago. I had my own issues as well. Having the perfect body is an impossible goal, unless one repeatedly resorts to plastic surgery. We are far happier learning how to accept ourselves as we really are.

It’s great to know that you’ve evolved beyond them and can now see how beautiful you are. Your affirmation is indeed an awesome one!

With love,

Affirming ourselves


Zeenat{Positive Provocations} July 4, 2011 at 12:09 pm

Hi Evelyn,
Youre so right….its impossible to be perfect cause truly there is no such thing. But in Gods Divinity we are all beautiful creations.
Thank you so much fro your loving comment here. Appreciate You!
Much Love,


Melody | Deliberate Receiving July 4, 2011 at 4:48 am

Hi Zeenat and Lance,
What a wonderful illustration of how to overcome body issues. I completely agree with your stance on the media. I don’t watch TV, and rarely look at women’s magazines, but the message is still pervasive. One thing I find that helps is noticing other women. Not in the judgmental, I’m thinner than her and fatter than that one way, but by noticing how “imperfect” they are and how they’re still beautiful. Often, it’s easier to see it in others than in ourselves, but it’s a start. Most women don’t look like models. Actually, not even the models do… By paying attention to the fact that ALL women have flaws and that the image we keep comparing ourselves to in our heads isn’t even possible, we can begin to appreciate our own beauty.

What a wonderful post.


Calli | Wedding Favors July 6, 2011 at 12:49 pm

Hi Zeenat,

I used to be chubby, too. I only lost some pounds when I started to have a job. I didn’t really bother to lose weight during that time maybe because I didn’t have any problem with my body. Whenever my bf teases me of my past body figure, I just tell him that it wasn’t my fault if I was pampered and well-provided by my parents with good food. 🙂


sheila July 7, 2011 at 6:14 pm

Oh! WONDERRRRRRRRRRFUL! I love the whole thing but mostly the section Becoming the Real Me. It is so sad that so many people have lost themselves. This is a wonderful testament that the real you is really truly in there. Just waiting.
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Alison Barrows@Crash Diets July 9, 2011 at 8:05 am

Hey, Zeenat! I interact with a lot of women under tremendous pressure to lose weight. Social pressure, expectations of the significant other, low self esteem issues and so on….I think indeed the most important thing is to love ourselves unconditionally. In the case of losing weight, this should not be to comply with external pressure. Anything we do should come from inside and we should love ourselves no matter what…..Nice post! Alison
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Andrew Walker September 4, 2011 at 2:00 am

Hey there. Thanks for sharing this. It’s a very interesting story. Very nice of you to share about this thing with us!
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