I had meant to do a write-up on this last week, but oh well better late than never.
I struggled with my body image from the age of 12. It wasn’t something I could talk about and just like my ADHD, all I could think about was..there is something very wrong with me.
It was not particularly helpful to endure snide remarks from relatives or see the exasperated looks my parents gave.
“Not studying enough, Not fit enough”
The comparisons with cousins and peers annoyed me to no end. They even compared me to my younger sister, who was 4 years my junior and who did not grow up consuming appetite inducing tablets.
Those tablets mucked up my metabolism For Life. My appetite bottomed out, I did not know when I was full because I never felt full. I was always hungry. I became more sickly and I could not perform as well in sports. I was easily fatigued, sluggish.
To this day I wonder how my parents could have overseen their mistake. They skipped the whole part where they would realise that I did not just gain all that weight out of thin air, and that they should have paid close attention to my health. They just moved on to the bit where they hated my appearance.
As an Indian, I was not considered conventionally pretty anyway. I was not fair skinned like the rest, I did not have delicate features and I was not slim. Oh what a catastrophe..
As a Singaporean, I was not built like the majority race of the population, the Chinese. That makes sense since I am NOT Chinese. The average size here is a a size XS.
So when puberty struck, and my curves arrived..I was veryannoyed.
Why does my butt have to jut out? Why are my hips wide? Why are my shoulders so broad and my thighs so thick? Why are my boobs so far apart and flat?
Yup, I was flat chested 🙂
The ample breasts only arrived after the age of 25, I kid you not.
At 13, I was tired of hearing my parents berate me for my body and I wanted this to end. So I decided to exercise portion control and incorporate more exercise into my daily to-do’s. It wasn’t extreme, the weight slid off me reasonably quick. I wasn’t fond of making myself exercise every single day so I took it a few notches down.
Which was fine until I developed bronchial asthma at 14. It started with uncontrollable coughing spasms, that worried my parents and teachers. I would turn bright red and lose my breath, it scared me when I heaved with every cough. So I took it a little easy on my body and reduced my daily exercise load.
At 15, the shit was really starting to
hit the fan both at home and at school.
I struggled with my identity and felt suffocated by my home situation. I did not like being the class jester, but that was expected of me. I did not like boring tuition lessons or the boring school curriculum. I wanted to go out like my peers did, have sleepovers and go for fun school excursions. I wasn’t allowed to do the extracurricular school activities that I wished for – drama, the school band, dancing.
Something began to gnaw inside of me m. The only time that feeling was gone, was when I ate. There was a stall near my place that sold the tastiest chicken burgers at a cheap price. I started buying one burger after school, before heading home to eat the bland food that awaited me (yellow dal and white rice – YUCK).
As my grades slipped and relations with my peers worsened, it became two burgers after school..and then three.
It felt soothing to bite into those burgers and forget about everything else. Nothing was safe or predictable about my life. There was noone to rely on, to talk to.
A month into this routine, I realised that I was putting on weight. The rate at which I gain weight and the rate at which I lose weight is extremely skewed. I knew eating these burgers were bad for me, but it felt so good. The guilt compounded and I forced myself to vomit one day after eating the burgers. And I felt lighter, the guilt dissipated.
So there started my stint with bulimia.
I ate well in school and at home, and I did not gain weight because each meals was thrown up. I developed a quick gag reflex without the loud retching sounds so I hid it well. I felt in control of myself, in control of my body. I needed to feel that sense of control over some part of my life.
This was around the time that the beatings were a regular affair at home. After a while, the vomiting did not seem to help. I lost my appetite for life and sank into a dark abyss of helplessness. I hated my existence. I just refused to eat or drink anything. There started my short stint with anorexia. I would throw my food away, flush it down when no one was looking. I would vomit anything that I ate or drank, even if it was an apple pie or a glass of lemonade. My breath stank, my body felt lifeless and I was numb.
I suppose the error my parents committed in my childhood did have one benefit. I couldn’t starve myself for too long. So I soon began to eat again. Without retching and without throwing the meal away. I was too deflated to exercise so I just didn’t. I began to ‘pig out’ and enjoy food again. Personally, I loved it because at least it meant I enjoyed Something. Life lacked happy moments or moments of peace.
Naturally, my weight was all over the place during this time. Small, Medium, Large – seen them all. By the age of 16, I was at an XL.
I was never Not berated or chided for the size I was at, be it small medium or large. There always was something wrong about my appearance and size. Not slim enough, Too skinny, Too fat.
It still happens today.
After age 17, I decided to become physically active again. The asthma seemed to have taken a raincheck and I yearned to feel strong, fit again. So I gradually incorporated brisk walking followed by jogging and then gym cardio sessions.
Now if you have stayed around my blog long enough, you know that that was not the end of my problems with weight.
Studying psychology opened my eyes up to the atrocities I had committed on my health, and it was then that my need to purge the occasional meal stopped.
I consider myself very lucky to have been educated early on about eating disorders. It really hit home when I interned at a psychiatric facility and worked with teenagers, adults who just could not stop this vicious cycle of self loathing.
There is a case that will always remain in my memory – an emaciated 20 year old female who had developed extreme facial and body hair, lost strength in her bones and thus had to rely on two staff members when she needed to be bathed or brought to the washroom. I remember being afraid of carrying her lest I broke a bone or hurt her unknowingly.
Suffering from an eating disorder does not stem from vanity. It comes from deep within and is exacerbated by the people in your midst. This is self loathing in the flesh, this is the fear of not being accepted and loved by another, this is self mutilation without the flesh wounds.
Throughout the period of time that I suffered from eating disorders, it did occur to me that this was not the right way to feel better about myself and how I looked. But there was no one to tell me that I was fine just the way that I was.
A support system makes All the difference. Getting help and talking about it was my first step towards healing. Confiding in the people that I trusted and whom I knew bore no judgement – my husband, my closest friends – made it okay to talk about this chapter of my life, and it helped me move on. Getting educated about it was a Very important part of the process.
Sharing my journey with my readers is my way of paying it forward and my way to reach out to anyone out there who struggles like I struggled. Who face fat shaming and don’t know where to turn. Who are picked on for being too skinny, too tall, too short, too large. This is where I tell you, You are not alone and you don’t have to feel isolated because of what you are going through. There are avenues for you to reach out and there is NO shame or embarrassment in this.
I received two very hateful comments on the blog about my appearance last Friday night and Saturday afternoon. One, was from a local and the other from a Caucasian. The first person said that I was condoning being fat. She also said that I ought to be ashamed of the way I look. According to her I am “hideous, fat, disgusting to look at”.
The Caucasian person said that women like me were only built to be mounted and treated like trash. He wanted to treat me like the slut that he knew I was.
Now I don’t usually react to fat shamers. I simply roll my eyes, click the delete button and move along.
But as I was penning this post and was having to revisit my past, reading those comments struck me hard. I stayed out of social media for the weekend. I cried for 2 days and nights.
I wanted to scream at everyone who made me resort to mistreating my body, I wanted to shout at the locals who stared at me like I was BigFoot.
I wanted an apology.
But that’s not going to happen because illogical people do not have the capability to make rational choices.
I rely on the goodwill of Karma and move along.
I do have one vice – emotional eating and after midnight snacking. I don’t hate myself for it. I just eat wiser the next day and remind myself to go for a walk so I don’t feel sluggish.
My wish is to be plus sized and healthy. Which basically means that I can walk from point A to point B, take a flight of stairs, brisk walk when the traffic light signal is blinking without getting winded and seeing stars. I am a foodie and that will not change.
What is rapidly changing, is my self perception of how my body Should look..of how vigorously I have to exercise…of how small my portions need to be.
This plus sized girl is beginning to appreciate her dangerous curves.