Look ma, no love handles

Chetna Keer | Updated on: May 17, 2012




The frenzy over Aishwarya Rai Bachchan's post-pregnancy pounds stirs debate on the new-age obsession with the ‘yummy mummy' image.

To be or not to be a yummy mummy? That is the question. The post-pregnancy frames of a new mother played up by the media recently triggered a tide of tweets and comments across cyber media. All because the mom in question was model-turned-actor and ‘First Bahu of Bollywood' Aishwarya Rai Bachchan. And also because these pictures hadn't passed through the customary visual vetting that is the hallmark of celebrity brand-building and public imaging: airbrushing.

Dripping double chin and chubby cheeks, the un-brushed pictures of the actress, taken at an event hosted by industrialist Mukesh Ambani at his Mumbai residence, gave a society obsessed with celebrities another talking point: flab and famous moms. That a non-issue such as the post-pregnancy frame of a famous star, captured on prying television cameras or Blackberrys, snowballed into a social media debate is in itself a comment on our collective obsession with glitterati.

In a celebrity-addicted culture-scape where a significant amount of column space and TV footage has already been devoted to speculation over the actress's daughter (nicknamed Beti B) — her christening, whether she'll appear on Oprah Winfrey's show with her parents, and where fake Beti B Twitter accounts are bombarding cyberspace, it's no surprise that much of Internet India turned into Incredulous India — eyeballs popping out as people posted animated tweets about Aishwarya.

Here's a sample of what's making the rounds online: “She is a Bollywood actress and being a part of showbiz it is her duty to look good and fit. Till now she has been praised for her beauty, so it is only fair that she should also be criticised if she is not able to live up to it. She needs to learn from people like Victoria Beckham who are back to size zero weeks after their delivery! She needs to lose that weight... it's been close to 5 months already!”

‘Yummy mummy' test

The merits and demerits of the cyber discourse are another story. But the big, fat question here is: Why such a furore and frenzy over the figure of a star mom? Is Aishwarya anatomically any different from a regular new mother, who piles on the pounds post delivery?

Says Nancy Sahni, a Chandigarh-based nutrition and wellness expert, “The reason there has been such a noise about Aishwarya's post-delivery flab is that as a public icon she is expected to be a role model for ordinary mothers. While a weight gain of 8-12 kilos is considered normal post delivery, in the actress's case it's been in excess of the normal increase, which is surprising considering stars have personal trainers, nutritionists and home gyms to keep in shape. Age may have something to do with it, since Aishwarya is in her late 30s.”

But is the new-age concept of ‘yummy mummy' healthy?

Nancy sees it as a matter of self-image and social perception. She says, “Today, if you go to your child's school you find every other mom looking slim and trim, so it's got to do with a greater awareness about fitness. As long as young mothers shed their pregnancy pounds through exercise and balanced, but controlled, dieting, and not through fad diets, it is definitely a healthy thing.”

Post-delivery fitness

What about any long-term consequences of shedding the post-baby bulge quickly? Mridula Wattas, senior dietician at the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education & Research, Chandigarh, says, “The nutritional requirements of lactating mothers increase, with an additional intake of 600-700 KCal needed. Though crash dieting is not advised, especially during lactation, a mineral- and vitamin-rich diet should be preferred to the popularly used fatty, ghee-laden post-pregnancy foods such as panjeeri . For instance, it is better to have roasted panjeeri , with lots of dry fruits, instead of a ghee-rich one.”

Advising against any drastic calorie drop in a new mother's diet, Nancy says, “Gradual loss of the extra kilos is better than sudden slimming among lactating mothers, otherwise in the long term it leads to side-effects like brittle bones, anaemia and early wrinkling of the skin.”

Media's double game

Coming back to Aishwarya, the public storm over her weight gain smacks of irony. The media first feeds it glossy and glamorous images of yummy mummies. The new-age template of mommyhood is mostly Hollywood-inspired, courtesy flab-free mums such as Angelina Jolie, Nicole Kidman and Victoria Beckham. Even in Bollywood, when a Shilpa Shetty or Lara Dutta or Malaika Arora Khan aspire for a Jolie- or Beckham-like image of hot moms, they reinforce that image for the average new-age Indian mum.

And, of course, the very media that plant these airbrushed, Photoshopped images in the public psyche are also the ones that ruthlessly “expose” those who do not conform to them. In turn, an audience fed on ‘Botoxed' benchmarks of beauty becomes unsparing of those who do not live up to media-manufactured collages of cellulite-free celebrityhood.

When Kareena Kapoor turned brand ambassador for Size Zero in India, she became the new poster girl of not just the film fraternity but also an entire generation of wannabe-Kareenas. But the moment she stepped away from this stereotype, everyone went into overdrive to cut an overweight Kareena to size by splashing pictures of her journey from Size Zero to Size Six.

Peddling private lives

A generation ago, when Bollywood was ruled by actresses such as Waheeda Rehman, Hema Malini and Jaya Bachchan — who accomplished their childbearing and rearing in an era relatively free of the paparazzi's pixellated peddling of the private lives of the glitterati — calorie-controlled motherhood was hardly the public obsession it has become today. Where Jaya Bachchan may have hardly invited media interest or fan frenzy over any addition to her anatomy in the wake of childbearing, her bahu 's (daughter-in-law) baby bulge and post-delivery pounds have turned into a virtual national discourse and mega media moment.

Is this a gift of the age of airbrushed brand building? Is it a corollary of the Size Zero brand of beauty that endorses zero tolerance for those who do not conform to this contour craze?

© Women's Feature Service

Published on May 17, 2012
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