Around the world, the topic of body shaming and body positivity has found a platform, with many celebrities openly talking about it and calling out people who judge others from the prism of superficial beauty and unrealistic standards.

In India, while fat-shaming was normalised in the mainstream for a long time — with many yesteryear movies lampooning characters of a certain weight — things seem to have changed for the better now.

Remember when the Ayushmann Khurrana movie Dum Laga Ke Haisha (2015) had a plus-size Bhumi Pednekar cast in the lead role? Without being preachy, the film remained inclusive and sent a positive message to the world.

On social media, however, things continue to be a tad murky. For plus-size people showcasing their confidence — even actors who have had to gain weight for a film — there is an army of trolls waiting to ridicule and tear them down.

But taking the bull by its horns is the Sonakshi Sinha, Huma Qureshi-starrer film Double XL, whose trailer announcement has been making news. The story ostensibly deals with two confident plus-size women.

In the trailer, Sonakshi and Huma’s self-deprecating dialogues are seemingly directed at the people who have mocked them in the past, and will perhaps do it again, given the plot of the movie for which they have had to gain weight.

Here’s the trailer:

We reached out to an expert — Dr Samir Parikh, director, Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences, Fortis Healthcare — to find out how bullying and body shaming affects a person’s mental health.

“Any form of verbal bullying — using abusive language, calling names, saying negative things about people including their body, their looks, body image, fat shaming etc — essentially means you are transgressing a boundary. You are crossing your limit reaching into somebody else’s mind space and passing comments on that person,” Dr Parikh said.

According to the doctor, we need to feel comfortable with our body, since “body image is integral to our self-esteem”. “When people start commenting on our body, it has an impact on our self-esteem and that can result in having an impact on our overall well-being. So people who go through online bullying in the context of fat-shaming, especially young people, start to not feel good about themselves. They may end up feeling inferior, may even have hesitation about meeting people; they may develop social anxiety. It affects their relationships, academics, performance, and feeling good about themselves. They may constantly feel not-good about themselves which can impact overall life,” he explained.

Dr Parikh continued by saying that people who go through any form of bullying are more prone to having post-traumatic stress, depressive illnesses, insomnia. “We need to understand fat-shaming, body-shaming, passing comments on how people look, their colour, their height and so forth are all forms of bullying and bullying has to be stopped and we need to have a zero-tolerance towards it.”

How can we fight bullying? The doctor shared the following pointers:

* Raise awareness, let people understand that you don’t do bullying because bullying impacts peoples’ lives.

* Right from schools, children need to be encouraged to accept people the way they are. Not to pass comments, not to be negative to people, not to bully — children must learn from the very beginning.

“I think more people need to start talking about ensuring that we do not have any form of bullying and we create an environment in our social media, social conversations where body-shaming, fat-shaming, any other form of negativity that we do by using words, passing comments on people, should absolutely stop,” the doctor concluded.

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