Kumail Nanjiani hasn’t been in his new body for long, as he only debuted his transformed physique on Instagram less than two years ago. But the 43-year-old is admitting that already his eight-pack abs have changed his mentality when it comes to fitness, as he’s become fixated with his appearance and stats.
“It’s very easy to get obsessed with that number on the scale,” the Silicon Valley actor shared in an interview for Vulture. “It’s a tough thing. It’s deceiving. You become obsessed with it. I certainly have, and for me, it’s not great to weigh myself every day. I could tell you what I weigh today.”
During the conversation, Nanjiani readily shared that he weighed 163.4 on that very day. “If I could change something, I would love to not have to think about that,” he said.
For many men, this type of awareness doesn’t seem unusual, as Nanjiani ties it to toxic masculinity — something that he’s spoken about previously and reflects on with Vulture as well. “I’ve been more keyed into this masculinity stuff,” he said. “I started following a lot of bodybuilders on Instagram. I think about it more, and it has never seemed … more pathetic. It’s really like, oh, all of our problems basically come from men not feeling their feelings.”
This sense of masculinity is something that the Pakistani-native explained he hadn’t related to much before because of the lack of emphasis on his body. Instead, he was hyper-focused on his personality, which landed him in comedy. “I felt like I’d discovered a superpower,” he said of being labeled “the funny one” in college. “It wasn’t until then that I realized I was worth anything.”
Once in Hollywood, Nanjiani was forced to solely rely on his humor as he booked roles that often made his character the subject of comedic relief. In Silicon Valley specifically he recalled being unhappy about his characterization as the “ugly” cast mate.
“That stuff does get to you, where you’re like, Aww … that’s not a great feeling. I love everyone on the show, and I never voiced this concern. Maybe I should have. Other actors did when they had stuff that they didn’t enjoy doing. I understand that story line ended up being funny. But yeah, parts of that didn’t feel great,” he said of being software engineer Dinesh.
Ultimately, the issue was in the stereotyping of brown actors.
“Generally speaking, a big part of the ascribing of things that happens is sometimes it puts a filter on the world, and brown Asian men are completely desexualized,” he continued. “Because they’re not threatening.”
While it had proven difficult to control the narrative that he was placed in, Nanjiani has expressed that transforming his appearance was part of an effort to cast different roles and to combat “stereotypical depictions we’ve seen of brown dudes in American pop culture,” he told GQ.
In the end, he’s realized that altering his appearance will only do so much when it comes to the perception others have of him, or the one he has of himself.
“This prison has never been tighter, man,” he said of the anxiety that has returned when it comes to his fixation on body image. “Having other people decide how you feel about yourself — none of that goes away. It’s all still there. What you have to do is somehow figure out how to have self-worth from within yourself. I don’t know how to do that, but I’ll let you know once I find the key.”