I fondly remember when I was a child, and was known by my family as the ‘rice bucket’. I was the girl that could eat bowls of rice for dinner, and who must order fried rice in every restaurant.
Then I started being conscious about how much I ate.
It started off innocently enough, with my friends lamenting about being fat (despite being normal and perfectly lovely-looking, I tell you) and going on diets. They’d skip meals during recess, and this weighed heavily (no pun intended) on an impressionable teenager like myself. I felt greedy eating normal meals while my friends sipped daintily on mere drinks. I started learning from them: I cut my portion size for eating, restricted my food, and eventually skipped meals. Dear readers, if you are contemplating this, please listen to me. Please do not do it – it is unsustainable, leaves you grumpy and just weak. Thankfully though, such extreme crash diets were relatively harmless, since I always ended up wolfing down huge portions for dinner because I was too hungry (what diet?). It was a horrible cycle to be trapped in, but the only saving grace for my appalling behaviour was that I still fed myself enough food at the end of each day. Suffice it to say, though, that my body image wasn’t satisfactory. I hated myself, and thought my tummy stuck out too much. I felt like Winnie the Pooh, except that I did not have hordes of fans, and that I had thicker thighs. It was not a very happy situation to be caught in.
Things took a nosedive in junior college. I was very stressed out by academics and adopted bad eating habits because all I had time for all day was to study. I rationalised my behaviour and told myself I did not need so much food anyway since I was so fat to begin with, and that I don’t deserve food. If I could travel back in time – I know you all are expecting me to say something cheesy like hug myself – I would slap myself. Hard. For thinking that I do not deserve food, I do believe my seventeen year-old self deserves a big slap indeed. Everybody deserves food: food is the thing that keeps us alive. Never, ever associate food with guilt. You’re not weak, or stupid, or a loser for eating. You’re feeding yourself, both physically and spiritually.
Back to my story first, though! In my messed up mindset, I also came across the notion of calorie-counting, which was a truly harrowing experience. I got obsessed with counting my daily calorie intake, and thought that would help me (magically!!) lose a lot of unwanted weight. After reading from online sources that I should be eating the magic number of 1,200 calories daily (which is completely untrue, by the way), I decided that I should consume less than 500 a day. Through a sheerly distorted mindset, I chose not to even wolf down food anymore even when I felt really hungry – I had a goal of 500 calories to reach, after all! I would eat only an apple for the entire day and subsist on that. I started panicking about dinner daily because it was prepared by my mother, and I felt that it was too oily. It got to the point where I made my own dinner – and I would eat only steamed vegetables and chicken breast for dinner. It was, to put it bluntly, not the way to live at all. I constantly craved things like donuts and muffins and fries and buns and bread and potatoes, but my dark mind screamed at me; prevented me; terrified me.
(Me and my recent, tearful reunion with the one true love in my life – potatoes)
Months passed and I got what I wanted as I lost weight drastically. Yet, I can tell you, dear reader, that I also lost many other things. My previously bright eyes became dull. My tummy shrank, but so did every single part of me. I became small, withered, and unhappy. I got fatigued and cold very easily. In fact, one memory stuck out at me. I was walking along a walkway in school to my next class, when I dropped a pen that I was holding. Any normal person would immediately bend down, pick up the pen, and move on with their life. Not me, though. I stood there, staring at the pen with a resigned expression on my face. I was actually so weak that I found it a chore to have to bend down to pick up a dropped pen. I also felt like crying rather often during that period of time, since I was both terrified about what I was doing to myself, and still very stressed out by the looming examinations. Teachers and friends of mine became concerned, and tried to reach out to me. I could only feel shame, and shrank back from their love. Meanwhile, my own mother watched me urgently, with expressions alternating between incomprehension, fear, anger and most heartbreakingly, complete sorrow. I had become a self-harming alien, and that broke her heart. She will never read this (the woes of the less technologically-savvy, haha), but I will always feel sorry for putting her through the pain that she felt. The most regrettable part of this experience, in fact, is the pain I caused other people.
Things only started looking up many months later, when my family literally begged me to take better care of myself. I summoned up the courage to visit a doctor and seek help, but he was not the most encouraging. He merely told me to eat more and told me to drink Milo (such specific instructions), but did not address my deeper problems. It was not his fault though, as a family doctor he was probably not as accustomed to dealing with the mental demons I was fighting. Nonetheless, I followed his instructions to a T, tried to get better and in fact did, but the root of my problem remained. I still did not love myself. Believe it or not, but at my weakest and most skinny, I still saw Winnie the Pooh in the mirror and unlovable. Needless to say, when I convinced myself to eat more and put on weight again, I felt terrible, and fat, and ugly again. Eventually, this got the better of me, and I returned to my destructive behaviour. I only managed to climb out of the spiral I was in in the past two years, where I learnt to actually properly ensure my own health. How I did this was through actually actively loving myself and rejecting my constant, harsh criticisms of myself. It is not easy to do so and was an arduous journey, but I am beyond proud to declare that I did it. I no longer hate myself and in fact, I’ve learnt to appreciate myself.
(Waffles are worth the shameless selfies)
What my past has taught me is that blind food restricting will never make you happy, and is one of the worst things you can do to yourself. I clearly remember how miserable I felt during the period of time I was trapped in my own insecurity: I was never satisfied with myself! Yet, though not proud of what I did to myself, I would not change the past at all. My struggle has opened my eyes and helped me mature as I see for the first time how debilitating body-image issues are to young women and men alike. I passionately advocate self-love and acceptance for everyone. It is often a topic that is much easier said than done, but I believe with all my heart that it is possible to love oneself unconditionally. After all, we are ultimately the ones that are responsible for ourselves, and the best carer is the one who truly loves what he or she is caring for.
Nowadays, I am much better. I still have days where I feel insecure, but I have grown a lot from the little girl who wanted simply to be skinny. I learnt about self-love, acceptance, appreciating myself and most importantly, that I am amazing the way I am. You know what? You, my dear reader, are amazing the way you are too. You are wonderfully, uniquely made, and never let anyone tell you otherwise. If you believe otherwise, please (pretty, pretty please!) feel free to contact me. I would be more than happy to listen to you and try to help as much as I can. Remember, you are never alone!
With this note, I would like to end my little self-introduction to all you lovely readers. Thank you for even bothering to read this far, it means a lot to me that you would be interested in my story. Stay strong, stay gorgeous, and stay brave in whatever you do xx
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