El Estoque

Weight through the ages: how people of different ages feel about weight

Zara Iqbal

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Photo by Chetana Ramaiyer

SAAHIL SUKHIJA, 10

Ten-year-old Saahil Sukhija spends most of his time playing basketball, watching Youtube videos and solving math problems — a student at Stevens Creek Elementary, weight doesn’t matter much to him.

Sukhija doesn’t think elementary school students have weight standards, because he hasn’t heard any of his peers ever mention weight. Since he is only in fifth grade, his diet and lifestyle is mostly determined by his parents. He’s never worried about the number on the scale. Still, Sukhija isn’t satisfied with his current lack of freedom over his weight.

“If you’re a 10 year old like me, then it’s probably not a good idea just to rely on your parents to [manage your weight],” Sukhija said. “You should do some things by yourself.”

Despite denying the existence of weight standards in his generation, Sukhija imagines different genders would have varying opinions.

“[It’s because of the] stereotypes,” Sukhija said. “I just feel that girls would care much more about their appearance than boys would.”

However, Sukhija does believe that when he gets older, people of his generation will be able to take matters into their own hands as they will have more independence.

“I would care a lot more if I was in high school than now, about my weight,” Sukhija said. “I’m getting older and I’d take care of myself instead of my parents taking care of me.”

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Photo by Zara Iqbal

PRAGATI DHANAM, 13

Every since she started middle school, eighth-grader Pragati Dhanam heard snarky comments at school. Most of them were the typical remarks — ‘you’re too fat’ or ‘you’re too skinny’ — but some even escalated to references of eating disorders.

“I hear a lot [of] jokes that are being made about students that are overweight or underweight,” Dhanam said. “Students make fun of each other just if they look different from everyone else.”

Dhanam hears these terms in middle school, however, she says this type of behavior was unheard of when she was in elementary school. She knows plenty of her peers are ridiculed because of their body type and believes that these insults impact a person’s self-perception.

“I think people, in middle school especially, should stop being so judgmental because that’s the age where you’re supposed to grow and … become the person you want to be when you’re older,” Dhanam said. “It’s a really important time and we shouldn’t have people being so sad about their body type and about who they are.”

Even though Dhanam thinks that students her age should stop being judgmental, she suspects that it would be difficult to achieve.

“It would be changing our nature to stop people from judging,” Dhanam said. “All of us are different in basically every single way so it’s really hard to … stop people [from] judging.”

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Photo by Stuti Upadhyay

JEFFERY YANG, 16

Lean and lanky. Short and pudgy. Tall and muscular. Junior Jeffery Yang looks around MVHS, spotting people of all different sizes and vastly different builds —  and subsequently different weights.

“If you’re within a [healthy] range, you have plenty of other more pressing concerns than how much you weigh,” Yang said. “[At MVHS], your grades matter more than your physical appearance.”

According to Yang, since MVHS students seem to be more focused on academics instead of appearance or body weight, he rarely sees students being discriminated for the latter. However, Yang is convinced that, like most high schoolers in America, MVHS students must also have some sort of standards concerning their own weight. From his knowledge, most revolve around being well-built and relatively thin.

“If you’re really short, you have to be kind of fit,” Yang said. “The taller you are, the heavier you can be without people commenting about it.”

However, Yang doesn’t let current weight ideals affect him and is more concerned with his health to avoid diseases such as diabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association, the remaining lifetime diabetes risk for males ranged from 7.6 percent for those with BMI less than 18.5 kg/m2 to 70.3 percent for those with BMI more than 35 kg/m2.

“At a certain point you just start to think less about how other people think and more about how can I stay healthy,” Yang said.

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Photo by Claire Yang

VENNESSA NAVA, 35

Literature teacher Vennessa Nava doesn’t own a scale. According to Nava, focusing only on one’s weight is unhealthy and superficial.

“I value strength and flexibility and capability of a physical body over visual aesthetic standards,” Nava said. “[However,] I can tell when I’ve been eating a lot and I start to put on a few pounds … it doesn’t feel normal because I have had a relatively stable weight after I stopped growing.”

Her parents often limited how much they ate, and as a child, Nava never realized how her parents’ struggles caused her to develop a negative outlook on managing her own weight and health. Until high school, Nava’s unhealthy lifestyle scarcely changed.

“It was stress and I went through a bout of depression during my junior year and I just didn’t have a healthy relationship with food,” Nava said. “As I moved into college and I started being more physically active because I made a conscious decision [that] I want[ed] to be healthier.”

Since then, Nava has been doing yoga, as she thinks it helps her accept herself and everyone around her. She believes even though the Bay Area is fitness oriented, staying positive about body image should be universal.

“Every person is lovable,” Nava said. “If we just value people and their humanity based on whether they conform to this beauty image or [weight standard] … then [aren’t we] kind of monstrous?”

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SHASHI KAPOOR, 72

Shashi Kapoor thinks measuring and keeping track of one’s weight is crucial, especially as she watches her grandchildren grow older, comparing them to other kids’ their age who have different body types.

Kapoor believes that people’s weight should be appropriate for their height — not too thin or obese.

Now that she has aged, she is indifferent to weight by appearance, although she says she struggled a bit with her weight after giving birth.

“[My weight] changes many times, it changes with the time,” Kapoor said. “Within one year or so, the body comes back to normal. [I] need not do much about it.”

As young adults have many responsibilities such as maintaining a job, home and, potentially, a family, Kapoor felt that gaining weight could lead her to become sluggish and less productive when she was younger.

On the other hand, Kapoor’s parents never particularly cared about her weight. But now as a grandmother, she feels parents should take care of their children’s health and maintain their weight until they are able to manage themselves.

“As long as they’re young, it’s [the] parents’ responsibility at least to tell them about it, to guide them, to educate them or to train them,” Kapoor said. “Once good food habits are formed in [their] childhood, they carry forward.”