The Eternals’ weight loss reinforced their “strange relationship” with food

Kumail Nanjiani’s physical transformation for Marvel’s The Eternals was a pivotal moment for the actor.

Nanjiani, 44, went viral in December 2019 when he was sued for his role in Marvel’s The Eternals – but it forced him to confront his “strange relationship” with food and food culture.

“It felt powerful for a brief moment. And after that it was largely negative,” he told NPR. “In the beginning it felt powerful to have that reaction from people – I’ve never had that reaction before and I think part of me always wanted it – it felt powerful.”

But that “exciting” moment quickly took a turn.

“And then pretty quickly after that it felt reduced, it felt naked, it felt vulnerable. And it has made the discussion about my body exist in the public sphere,” he added.

Nanjiani admitted people come up to him on the street and mention something about his body — something he has a “complicated relationship” with.

The ‘Welcome to Chippendales’ actor has admitted his comedy revolves around his belief in dieting because he’s been ‘taught’ to be ashamed of his body since childhood and doesn’t like jokes about the body.

“Growing up, I was kind of brought up to believe that the body is bad, that all desires of the body are bad, and that the soul wants good and the body wants evil. So I guess that’s why my whole sense of humor is based on that dichotomy,” Nanjiani said.

He added that he had “limits” on how much he could eat growing up, as he was told not to overeat or waste food.

“I’ve always had a strange relationship with food. I always had guilt or regret associated with it. I’ve always used food as a punishment or as a reward,” he admitted.

Nanjiani didn’t think about addressing his relationship with food until he wrapped filming “Eternals,” which brought those issues to the fore.

“After that, I realized I was thinking about food in a certain way that I needed to explore and rethink,” he said.

He also admitted that his role as Steve — a strip club owner whose relationship with body image differs from that of his employees — on Chippendales helped him with the job.

Welcome to Chippendales
Kumail Nanjiani in “Welcome to Chippendales”.
Erin Simkin/Hulu

“I realized that I had been so strict with food and used it in so many unhealthy ways, and then forced myself to eat unhealthy amounts of unhealthy foods to break myself out of this trap,” he said. “There’s still work to be done, but it was liberating for months to just eat what I wanted, eat as much as I wanted. It sort of freed me from some of my thoughts about food.”

Nanjiani has also begun to recognize the double standards women face when it comes to body issues.

“I think I understand about 0.00001% of what women have been through their entire lives,” he confessed. “The big difference, of course, is that I’m not afraid to walk alone in a parking lot at night — you know, that performance gap isn’t there.”

“I sometimes feel like women, men are yelling at them or something that feels a bit like taking ownership of something that isn’t theirs. Men are, in a way, taking power away from women at this moment. I didn’t,” he continued. “If someone comments on my body in public, I don’t feel like there’s really a power difference. But of course being reduced to looks is still a big part of it.”

Though Nanjiani wishes the pictures of his jacked-up body “didn’t take up too much [his] Headroom”, he does not regret having published it.

“You changed my life,” he admitted.

If you or someone you love is struggling with an eating disorder, you can get help. Call the National Eating Disorder Association Helpline at (800) 931-2237 or visit The Eternals’ weight loss reinforced their “strange relationship” with food

Emma Bowman

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