Returning to Our Bodies | One Future Post

Trigger Warnings– body shame, reference to self-harm.


Rishita, Curator, One Future Post, Volume 1


I carry you and our experiences. From the moment you were conceived, I have never left you alone. I am more than a vessel made of bones, blood, and flesh. I, your body, am an ancient intelligence you inhabit. I run, crawl, claw, I play dead, and sometimes I shiver—anything that will help us survive.This is about thriving, not just surviving. Today, I want to talk about forming paths of healing for us through practices that allow you to listen to me mindfully. Practices like yoga or hula-hooping, that help you create a communication bridge between me and your mind. 

Think back to when you first picked up a hula hoop. The voices in your head whispered that your soul’s home was ‘dirty’ or ‘wrong.’ Early on, we carried the burden of shame tied to being objectified. The idea that your body’s movements determined your safety took hold in your mind. In 10th grade, you began fasting to meet your mother’s inherited ideal of beauty, passed down like an heirloom. You longed to be skinny like your sister, hiding your changing body under baggy shirts. It felt like being a stuffed animal suffocated by shame.

After trying for the hundredth time, when the hoop finally stayed on the grooving waist for more than a minute, the exultation was surreal. Your mind went silent, as the hoop became my extension, as it spun, glided, and swerved with me. It helped us live through some of the most anxious nights. The freedom that we found — I was pretty and graceful, just the way I am. It was liberating for me to break from the labels of awkward, stiff, and clumsy. The journey with somatic practices can look different for different bodies, I am proud you found your joy and reclamation in hooping.

Our journey together has been challenging at times. When you started exploring the fluidity of your gender and sexuality, it felt isolating to be in a body that was used as evidence to confine you to the binary of man-woman. I am grateful that, over time, we found safe community spaces to explore the idea of gender beyond the body. 

In the midst of the pandemic, we joined a queer-themed dance party curated by OFC via Zoom. It was a safe space to be myself without judgement, finding joy and freedom. Later, in Dharamkot, Himachal, we experienced an ecstatic dance ceremony that transcended language, culture, and boundaries. It was a sacred communion with strangers from around the world, where we expressed ourselves fully and formed a powerful connection.

Learning to love me, your body, need not be a lonely process. I am thinking of how you look into the mirror with so much love, smiling, your head echoing with all the nice things told to you about your body by your current or former partner. Also, sex can be an empowering somatic practice for queer individuals and women, isn’t it? It helps you reclaim agency, challenge objectification, and assert desires. Of course, it requires consent, communication, and safe spaces.

Meditate on how walking barefoot on the soil and doing seva in the community of Sadhana Forest relieved me of my chronic pain during the time you spent there. And now I am excited for the classes at the Queer Tango group that are about to begin. Finding safe community spaces has been integral to this healing journey.

While there is joy in my heart, my back is heavy with grief on some nights. I forgive you for all the times you ate your feelings for years or the nights you reached out for a blade—  anything less painful than the emotional pain you were trying to escape. We live based on the awareness and information we have at a particular moment. Today, I am grateful as we walk the paths of healing. Will you join me in another post-dinner walk tonight?

Yours faithfully,



P.S. – a poem.








Do the waves celebrate

the return of the starfish

from the shore?

Does the sand grieve 

the last throb of the dying jellyfish?

The art of celebration

is mastered through attention.


Hold that pebble against the skylight,

move your fingers

around its smoothed edges, smell the future

of the sand in its core,

before you put it in

your pocket.

Before you pocket celebration, 

you have to be intimate

with the shore of grief —


walk barefoot feeling every grain,

crunch of shells

every crashing, gulls crying

salt and fish in the air.

When hurt washes over you

Do not metal your heart,

it will not save you

from being ravaged to rust. 

Let your heart be salt, instead

crumble and dissolve,


Salt water heals wounds, 

my grandmother said, 

as she dipped a strip

of her old cotton saree

into the solution

and dabbed my bleeding knee 

after I grazed it 

falling from the bicycle.

Does the skin grieve a wound? 

Does the skin celebrate a scab?


I threw out my shoes; 

I walk plenty.

My pockets now,

rattle with the pebbles I love.


Rishita is an educator, poet, and tree-worshipper. She writes to document, explore, and survive. She lives to keep expanding her list of little, mundane joys like — the Tyndall effect through canopies; fresh, crisp, sun-dried laundry falling on the bed; watching people hold hands on the metro.

Mapping and negotiating power

Uncuff India Episode 10: Dimensions of conflict and peace: visioning a utopian world

Uncuff India Episode 9: Civic space and dissent: A pathway to social justice

The Performance Of Fatness

This blog is the third of our series of blogs on the experience of fatness in urban India, and is written by Deeksha Tiwari.

Content warning: mention of disordered eating, anti-fat bias

Judith Butler’s theory of gender performativity, i.e., that gender is a social role performed by individuals and validated and approved by society, provided a fresh lens for perceiving gender. While their theory specifically discusses gender, it has a certain universality to it that can be applied to a plethora of other identities including the fat identity. According to anthropologist Victor Turner, repeated performances are necessary for social action. This repetition serves as both a reenactment and a re-experiencing of a set of socially established meanings; it is the routine and ritualized way in which they are legitimized. 

Being fat in today’s world is like living under a microscope since every action is scrutinized with the binary lens of ‘healthy’ or ‘unhealthy’. In addition to being monitored by non-fat people, fat bodies undergo scrutiny by themselves and other fat people as a result of the internalization of this scrutiny. 

For a fat person, there seem to be only two roles to play: a ‘good’ fat person or a ‘bad’ one.  

Being a ‘good’ fat person involves following an elaborate list of dos and don’ts. There are rules to be followed and mannerisms to be observed. In a way, it is quite similar to being in a play. Every waking moment has to be a performance, carefully portrayed within the boundaries of the script, which in this case is the list of dos and don’ts. And just like a play, there are critics, voicing their approval or disapproval, waiting for you to ‘slip up’ so they can tell you the many ways you are not living right. Unlike plays though, the critics of fat people’s lives are mostly unwarranted and quite often unqualified.

This performance of fatness is indoctrinated through different mediums until it becomes second nature. From stereotypical media portrayals to the constant policing of fat bodies done by families and friends, it is made clear that the only somewhat acceptable way to exist as a fat person is to always play the part of the ‘good’ one. Gemma Gibson describes this performance as a “rhetoric of innocence which seeks to absolve fat people of the ‘blame’ for their fat bodies.” So as long as you play the part of the apologetic and guilty fat person doing everything in your power to change your body, you remain innocent of your fatness. Naturally, a fat person that refuses to put on this performance becomes the ‘bad’ one.

How to be a ‘good’ fat person – scrutinizing fat bodies using the ‘health’ lens 

To play the part of a ‘good’ fat person, you must have certain qualities. The foremost requirement is that you live a ‘healthy’ lifestyle. Now, the term healthy has very different and ambiguous connotations for fat people than it has for non-fat people. For a non-fat person, it mostly means eating nutritious meals and getting some exercise and movement for your body. Even then this is very negotiable as most non-fat people go about living their lives as they please without raising any concerns. For a fat person though, it seems as if being ‘healthy’ is not an option. It is something that is expected of them owing to their fatness. Being ‘healthy’ for fat people includes doing anything and everything (not excluding starving yourself) to not be fat.

This obsessive need to assess the health of bodies, especially fat bodies, and then deduce their worth is extremely dehumanizing. The Body Mass Index (BMI) continues to be a widely used metric by health professionals and people to assess the health of individuals despite having been found to be incredibly inaccurate. As per this assessment, fat automatically equals unhealthy. According to researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, BMI is an unreliable indicator of body fat content because it ignores factors like muscle mass, bone density, overall body composition, and differences between racial and gender groups. An alternative was proposed by Dr. Margaret Ashwell, to assess and predict health risks like type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. She suggested that the waist-to-height ratio is a better predictor of these than BMI.

On the flip side, there is the idea that people of all sizes can be in good health, even fat people. In this case, health indicators like blood sugar, blood pressure, heart rate, cholesterol, etc. are mainly used to assess the level of health. Going by this metric of evaluation, if you’re not fat but unhealthy, you’ll be told that you can do better, but it won’t likely result in discrimination and marginalization. Consequently, if you are fat but otherwise healthy, you are somewhat acceptable but still not immune to bias and prejudice around fat bodies. But what if you are fat and unhealthy? Is being unhealthy such a monumental failure that you no longer deserve respect or rights? 

Does fatness glorify obesity?

News flash: Just existing as a fat person is not promoting or glorifying ANYTHING. 

If you are not a fat person, there are very high chances that you can get away with eating a pizza without people telling you that it is unhealthy or that you are ‘promoting obesity.’ A fat person in the same scenario, however, has a much higher chance of being accused of ‘promoting unhealthy lifestyles’ and even being told that they do not deserve to live at all.

Fat people simply existing outside the role of the good fat person is always seen as glorifying being unhealthy and is met with severe backlash. Remember the photo of American singer, rapper and flutist, Lizzo, in a bikini that went viral? All the unwarranted comments (mostly hateful) calling her gross, unhealthy and accusing her of “eating herself to death” and promoting/glorifying obesity was in response to her just existing unbothered on a beach as a fat person in a bikini. It is also pertinent to note that the hate and backlash that Lizzo received were aggravated by racism. In an interview, Sabrina Strings, author of “Fearing the Black Body: The Racial Origins of Fat Phobia,” said that health concerns are not the source of fatphobia. As per her research, fatphobia in the West was rooted in Protestantism and the Transatlantic slave trade. Black people were believed to be “sensuous and thus prone to sexual and oral excesses.” Protestantism promoted moderation in all pleasures and as a result by the early 19th century, obesity was seen as a sign of immorality and racial inferiority, especially in the United States.

Another interesting thing to note is that Lizzo wasn’t even the one to post those photos. Page six just posted the pictures on their Twitter account with the caption “Lizzo rocks tiny red bikini beachside during Brazilian vacation” and all hell broke loose.

Fig: An example of one of the several hate comments under the photo, which individually, has garnered close to 3,000 likes.

Anti-fat bias and popular culture

Another significant characteristic of a good fat person, is their willingness to happily accept any and all comments, criticisms, and opinions regarding their bodies at any given point in time. It is irrelevant if these are opinions shrouded as health concerns, constructive criticism, or straight-up hateful comments telling you you’re worthless. As a good fat person, you have a responsibility to take it all as feedback. 

A ‘good’ fat person must also have a sense of humor about being fat to take jokes about their bodies in ‘good spirit’. We have often seen fat people being the butt of the joke, like in FRIENDS with ‘fat Monica’ or more recently in Avengers, with fat Thor. In the media, writers can do better than using the old, “I used to be fat, ugly, and sad,” storyline like they did for Monica on FRIENDS or Schmidt on New Girl. The shift from the ‘ugly and sad fat person’ happened to result in the ‘fat sidekick with too much personality to make up for their looks,’ like fat Amy from Pitch Perfect. In all these iterations, fat people are just expected to be laughed at and laugh with the person making the joke. A study in 2010 shows that fat people feel pressure to be charismatic and funny to compensate for their ‘failed’ bodies. Like Amy from Pitch-Perfect, some fat people feel like they have to use humor to make fun of themselves and their bodies to prevent others from doing so.

Surveillance of Fat Bodies

Fat bodies are discussed and monitored from a young age. In some schools, children are publicly weighed during their physical education period and depending on the weight, are asked to ‘take action’ (lose weight) accordingly. This creates an early awareness that weight is a ‘problem’ and needs to be fixed. 

Non-fat people feel like they have the authority to monitor fat people and it is disguised under concern. The holiday season can be a minefield of uncomfortable feelings and awkward interactions as it is filled with diet culture, food guilt, and anti-fat bias. It’s a lot harder to eat, drink, and be joyful when dealing with people commenting negatively about weight or food choices. On the one hand, we become obsessed with food and at the same time, social attitudes towards calorie counting and weight loss are at an absolute high. The idea that fat people, in particular, should be especially careful not to consume ‘too much’ food is usually at an all-time high.

Fat people also try to compensate for negative stereotypes by working harder to make a good impression at work.  In a study by Amsterdam and Eck conducted on people who self-identify as fat, they found that fat people had to work the extra mile for their work to be seen as more legitimate. Many fat people feel the need to overcompensate for the stereotype of the ‘dumb, lazy and unkempt fat person’. By putting extra effort into their work performance and appearance, fat people try to show others that fat people are indeed capable of delivering outstanding output and can look professional. This can be via spending extra time on their appearance, working extra, and performing harder for lesser rewards. 

Another way that fat bodies are monitored is via social media. According to the  Vice President of the Adult Performers Actors Guild (APAG), “Instagram has an algorithm that detects and flags photos featuring over “60% skin.” The intention may have been to censor images that are inappropriate but the algorithm negatively impacts larger-bodied Instagram users. It inadvertently monitors fat bodies and makes them inaccessible. Refinery29 and Getty Images launched their 67% Project in 2017, which acknowledged that although 67% of women are plus-size, they make up less than 2% of the images we see. 

All this external monitoring can lead to fat people developing the habit of self-monitoring as a coping mechanism so as to not be judged or commented on by people externally. Self-monitoring is a very common practice that has been made a part of the fat culture as a weight loss method. When fat people self-monitor, the one quality that they have to show is restraint. Whether it be in their personality, food choices, or clothing and lifestyle choices. Any and all decisions have to be influenced by the need to get thin and be ‘healthy’. Studies show that self-monitoring, when born from a place of shame and judgment, negatively impacts the individual.  

The irony is that most of the time, being a ‘good’ fat person also isn’t enough. It’s as if our existence until then has been a waste of space because we’ve been taking up so much of it. We are constantly made to explain ourselves and our lifestyle choices. The more fat people give of themselves, the more society wants to take. This give and take is never-ending. The reality is that the more we compromise on being ourselves and not performing, the more rules-explicit and implicit, trends, advice, concern, and unsolicited help, are going to be aimed at us. 

These demands reveal much more about our society’s expectations of, projections of, and entitlement to fat bodies than they reveal about fat people ourselves. These demands are overwhelmingly created in a vacuum, away from the actual lived experiences of fat people, or any of our stated needs. Too often, fat people shoulder the burden of navigating these many, complicated, conflicting demands. It is therefore important for fat people to have communities and spaces where they can feel like they can freely be themselves without feeling like they have to perform and be a certain kind of fat. These communities can not only offer the much-needed solidarity but also a space for fat joy, fat love, fat pleasure and the entire gamut of fat experiences.


Thank you for reading this blog, which is the third of our series of blogs on the experience of fatness in urban India. This blog series is a part of our upcoming research study on Fatness in Urban India, focusing on building counter-power narratives on the experience of fatness in Mumbai; as well as developing an evidence base for documentation of the discrimination and oppression faced by fat people in urban India, with a focus on 


(1) built environments

(2) health and medical infrastructure

(3) careers – educational institutions and workplaces

(4) intimacies and interpersonal relationships


Further, we hope to document the ways in which fat people embody different physical-emotional conditions. Finally, we hope to use this research study to co-create recommendations for changing norms, policies and infrastructure to meet the needs of fat people in urban India. 


To become a part of this study, please consider participating in our data collection process by giving us 30-45 minutes of your time in an interview. To learn more about the process, check if you are eligible and to sign up, please visit:

Mapping and negotiating power

Uncuff India Episode 10: Dimensions of conflict and peace: visioning a utopian world

Uncuff India Episode 9: Civic space and dissent: A pathway to social justice

Shifting Away from a Single Narrative of Care


Welcome to ‘Decolonizing our Practices: Conversing about Care’, a three-part blog post series. This series is a culminating conversation between Tangent MHI and One Future Collective as a part of our collaborative initiative, which was undertaken in October of 2021, to work towards decolonizing the perceptions and practices of mental health in India.

This is the third and final post of this series – ‘Shifting Away from a Single Narrative of Care’. Join us on this journey, and explore ideas around care as a process versus a product, care in communities and how one can try to shift away from normative performances of care. [Please note that for the purpose of readability, the speakers’ responses have been divided into paragraphs.

Each new response begins with their name (Ankita and Anvita), followed by their initials (A.B and A.W, respectively).]

Disclaimer: Before you go ahead, we would like you to remember that this conversation is informed by the personal and professional stances of the speakers, by their respective socio-political location, and by the resources, they have been able to access. We recognize that this is not the only way one can think about the ideas mentioned here. We would encourage you to bring your perspectives, share your thoughts, and any other resources in the comments below!


Ankita [A.B.]: (continuing from the earlier conversation)…This also brings into perspective how deeply ingrained into our system, the idea of care is and how the personal is always going to be political in one way or another, right? I wonder which systems benefit from the singular and magnified focus on individualised care? There are a couple of answers that come to mind. One would definitely be capitalism because we’re riding on the productivity high that we need every individual to be a productive part of society. And this is how capitalism ensures productivity – it markets these ideas, provides a space for care, of course with terms and conditions! I give you care and you get my work done.

A.B.: Another industry that, uh, benefits from this is the mental health industry to be very honest. As much as we’ve been realizing the importance of mental health and therapy, over the last two years, I also realize that therapy tends to be seen as one of the most, uh, legitimate forms of taking care of oneself. It also creates this clear power dynamic within the industry, and between the industry and the people who are seeking care. This was spoken about a number of times, both in our conversations with mental health practitioners and in our conversations with individuals who access mental health services. Thus, even when we talk about individualized care, or “self-care” as we call it more popularly, it also keeps the power with mental health professionals. And it might be very easy for even a mental health practitioner to miss out on the fact that, um, an individual evidently does not exist alone and in a vacuum, but this person exists as a part of a system and has multiple factors influencing them. 

A.B.: This brings me to the next question that I wanted for us to talk about. Over the last couple of months, we’ve been trying to learn as well as unlearn. What I want to ask you is that, if we were to unlearn and try to make a shift away from this individualized form of care, what can be some of the next steps? Or where do you think we can redirect our attention?

Anvita [A.W]: I absolutely agree with what you shared! An individualized approach to therapy ends up placing the onus of healing on the individual without taking their social reality into consideration. People can work on themselves as much as possible, but it’ll never truly make a difference if they continue living in a system that is against them. The notion of productivity that we spoke of earlier is also born from this individualized responsibility of taking care of ourselves. And what you said about the mental health industry, too, absolutely. When healthcare becomes more and more privatized, we accept it as a marketed transaction for a privileged few, instead of holding the state accountable for an inadequate public health infrastructure or working towards trying to improve it; to make it more accessible; to question these power dynamics.

A.W.: A conversation we’ve had a lot at OFC–especially while discussing the ongoing COVID Mental Health Project–is that oftentimes, um, service provision can be a reactive way to provide care. And, of course, during times of crisis and even otherwise, seeking such services can be so helpful. Seeking therapy has really helped me heal and grow. But we cannot stop our efforts there. What would it mean to have more universal and preventative forms of care where we create–co-create–cultures that are compassionate and just and equitable? So, instead of always responding to a mental health issue after it arises, we’re reducing its overall chances of occurring in the first place? And so much of this would involve unlearning ideas that we’ve believed all our lives. 

A.W.: I think it’s also important to acknowledge how deeply institutionalized these beliefs about care are, as you’d mentioned earlier. It’s like when we’re born, there are already certain norms about how our parents should take care of us and, ever since then, we grow up internalizing what we see–in our homes, our schools, our TVs, our media, public places, everywhere. So, we would need to restructure our institutions in a way that there’s more awareness about how the current ways of, you know, providing and seeking care are not always helpful for everyone–especially for people in the margins. We would need to go beyond just the field of mental health service provision and collaborate with other sectors. We would need to think about how we are forming educational curricula; how organizations are developing policies; how our laws are being made. And we can’t just gloss over structural inequalities when we consider all of these. We would need to consider how even our most personal ideas are actually shaped by these structures. And we would need to reflect on not just the structure of these institutions, but also the kind of culture we cultivate in them. 

A.W.: Also, our communities play such a key role here. I think, even during the pandemic, it was so lovely to see people making mutual aid efforts, amplifying SOS calls, and organizing sharing spaces to support each other; to stand in solidarity with their communities. During a time when people were experiencing collective grief and trauma, so much of the healing was happening in collectivities, too. I would love to hear your thoughts as well.

Ankita [A.B.]: I don’t think there are, like, a lot of different things for me to add. I agree that it’s of essence to start noticing, learning and practising cultural forms of care, which we haven’t previously seen as important because it hasn’t been portrayed to us as such. To also start respecting that “care” can shift its meaning for different individuals. For someone it can be sharing memes, for another, it can be reading a book and for the next person, it can be cooking for people they love. It doesn’t have to be glamorous. It doesn’t have to be visible. It doesn’t have to be–definitely does not have to be–expensive! 

Anvita [A.W]: Yeah!–A few days back, a team member of Tangent was telling me about this book on transformative justice that they’d recently read. And we went on to talk about holding space for feelings of guilt and shame. Even that can be such an important part of care. And the other day, in one of OFC’s meetings, someone said, “failure is a form of resistance to the capitalist system,” which was so moving. Accepting our failure can be a form of care and healing and liberation for a lot of us! Okay, you can go ahead. Sorry for interrupting you!

Ankita [A.B.]: No, absolutely! I think it’s a very, very important point. Failure is a manner of resistance. I think it’s important to remember that, because it’s easy for us to forget, so thank you for bringing that up. So we’ve just moved into the fag end of the conversation. How do we continue to keep this conversation going? What are some of your thoughts on that?

Anvita [A.W]: Would you like to take that up before I talk about it?

Ankita [A.B.]: Yeah, definitely! I also think about how much privilege we have to be able to even have this conversation. You know, there’s a privilege in that fact that we are here and having this conversation and we have access to things that are making it possible for people sitting in different parts of the country to be interacting with each other. If we want to keep continuing the conversation, it’s important for us to remember that we are going to fail and it’s fine. We’re going to stumble – that’s fine. We need to remember that different people might be at different levels of having this conversation. Our end goal might just be that we are trying to do away with a system that tells us that worth is based on productivity or on money or status indicators. I’m genuinely happy about how people are creating more resources based on lived experiences. And I think both Tangent MHI and OFC, have been trying to do our bit in sharing and curating resources. That is one thing I’m really glad about. Something that I would really love to see is for this conversation to keep on happening across intersections, across, language intersections, most importantly, and across intersections of like, all kinds of socio-political identities. So, I think that is what I had in mind. Yeah, I would love to hear what you think. 

Anvita [A.W]: Thank you, Ankita! I think you’ve covered everything that I had in mind. Also, I love what you ended with–about language intersections. And it may help to take this to different spheres of our lives, too. As in, not just having this conversation with those in the field of mental health, but also talking about it with our parents or our grandparents, you know, and understanding their experiences to explore these ideas across generations as well. I think we could continue having this conversation by holding it–formally or informally–within our micro-communities and in our social circles. It’s just a small start that would grow over time–is, is, is what I would hope.


Thank you for accompanying us on our dialogue around care! This is the concluding conversation of our blog post series. 


To access resources that have shaped our ideas of care, please find our resource list here. You can also find the summaries of our Sharing Circles 1, 2 and 3 with Mental Health Professionals here, here, and here, respectively; and that of the Participatory Workshop for Mental Health Users/Survivors here.

This blog also marks the concluding resource of our collaborative initiative, ‘Decolonizing our Practices’. We hope you found resonance in these spaces and that all of us continue to keep this conversation alive within and around us. Thank you!

About the Speakers


Anvita Walia is a student, researcher, and eternal learner. She is a Senior Program Officer at One Future Collective, a feminist social purpose organisation with a vision of a world built on social justice, led by communities of care. To know more about OFC’s work, please click here.  


Ankita is a listener, a mental health professional and one of the co-founders of Tangent Mental Health Initiative. Tangent MHI began in 2020 and works in the field of mental health service and advocacy. Their work is informed by the values of intersectional feminism, inclusion and accessibility. To know more about Tangent MHI’s work, you can click here.

Mapping and negotiating power

Uncuff India Episode 10: Dimensions of conflict and peace: visioning a utopian world

Uncuff India Episode 9: Civic space and dissent: A pathway to social justice