'Thin epidemic strikes SNDT' reports today's Mumbai Mirror. A shocking 60% of students are underweight, a 2004-5 report of the University's dept of Student Welfare says.
I am not surprised. The wanna-be-thin-at-any-cost mania is quite visible all around us. Try shopping at any of the 'happening' boutiques in Bandra or a store like Mango and the message is clear - If you're a size 'S', the whole shop is your oyster. An 'M' has some hope. Beyond that - forget it absolutely.
Thing is, the boutiques import clothes from Thailand and Hong Kong where women are generally petite. And Mango is a European brand. Whereas Indian women - even at their absolutely correct body weight in medical terms - are more curvy. Which is why to carry off clingy Western clothing, underweight is the way to go!
Now some girls may be born skinny, but others achieve skinniness and yet others will do anything to get that way. 'Anything' includes not just saying no to pakodas but skipping meals, or consuming the bare minimum.
And some of these 'girls' really should know better.
Ms Shobhaa De, columnist, commentator on every which issue, marriage and family expert and mother to 4 young ladies in their teens and twenties weighs 52 kilos. At 5 ft 5 1/2 inches that's not exactly 'ideal weight range'. 58 kilos is more like what the doctor ordered.
Shobha De's 'diet'
(as told to Saturday Times):
Breakfast: 5 almonds 1 glass of warm water with tulsi leaves and honey.
1 whole-wheat toast.
1 cup of black tea.
Lunch: 1 glass of fruit lassi OR 1 boiled egg.
WOW - that must be filling!
Evening: 2 Marie biscuits with 1 cup of black tea.
Dinner: 1 portion of fish or mutton curry in Bengali preparation, a small portion of green leafy vegetables, 2 chapattis made from whole wheat Punjabi atta.
Calories consumed: Approximately 915 calories
Normal intake for adult female: 1800-2000 calories
Dietician Naini comments: “Shobhaa’s calorie intake is very low for a person who has such an active lifestyle. She needs to add more fruits to her diet and have a bowl of salad and some curd besides the lassi for lunch. Or maybe, she could do with an egg, a whole wheat toast and a bowl of salad.”
If a 50 + (almost 60 year old!) woman can be so paranoid about her weight as to skip lunch and practically starve herself, can you blame 16 year olds?
Talk about role models.
Men have stomachs, women eat air
The director of a Delhi-based management institute which I happened to visit recently remarked there is a big problem when it comes to deciding what food should be cooked in the hostel mess. "The boys want parathas, cutlets, pakodas - the girls just won't eat that stuff... In fact they eat little, if anything at all!"
Actually, if you check out the canteen menus of most colleges, you'll find it hardly reflects the current obsession with thinness. The menus are stuck in the 1950s!
Counselling and educating girls, as SNDT plans to do, is fine. But, you can't fight a global trend. So making healthy eats more easily available is also important.
College managements need to take a fresh look at the food they're dishing out. Keep the samosas but also include some fruits, salads, fresh juices and even healthy alternatives to junk food like sprout bhel, chapati rolls and butter-free sandwiches.
The menu could even specify how many calories each item has to make it easier for the weight-conscious to stick to their diets.
Enough food for thought... my lunch is waiting!