LOVE YOUR BODY #1: Opening up about the struggles

I’ve never spoken about this issue at length, but now that I’ve been actively empowering Singapore’s females in sports and fitness (eg. through my Yahoo Singapore #Fitspo of the Week column) and sharing all their inspirational stories, I thought I would speak about my own struggles – I suffered from severe body image issues.

You have no idea how much I put my body through just to conform to “societal standards” since the age of 18 – very briefly, I’ve abused my body through extreme exercise, starvation, low-calorie diets, over-the-counter pills, prescribed doctor pills, binge eating disorder, slimming centre packages, slimming creams, excessive diuretics, overload of laxatives, meal replacements, fad diets, intermittent fasting, TCM, acupuncture, massages, mesotherapy and I ALMOST went for liposuction. (Wow, I never listed them all at one go and this is pretty shocking. Wait till you hear the details.)

I did all that to look like this:

ferrari california (4) (600x394)

It may have seemed worth the pain to look like this, but trust me, the mental anguish, the psychological stress and the constant beating up of myself for not being good enough are all things I don’t ever want to feel again. I was so obsessed with my weight, weighing myself every hour and it even got a bit mental when I started scratching myself for “putting on weight”. My parents nearly sent me to the psychiatrist!

And are you wondering where the money came from at that age? I used to work several part-time jobs whilst balancing my studies (at the expense of the studies to be frank) just to fund all these silly things I did to myself to try and lose weight. I don’t even want to think of how much I have spent in all – definitely tens of thousands, including at least S$10,000 on Herbalife – and it’s probably best that I don’t know.

So, through this LOVE YOUR BODY series I’m starting on my blog today, I will be opening up about my struggles over the past 10 years and sharing my experiences in detail as never told to anyone before. I want to reach out to others who are facing or have faced similar problems – you are not alone.

I told myself one day I would like to start this series but I waited until I was ready, until I genuinely accepted my body for what it is, until I am truly comfortable in my own skin. And today is the day.

I was a fat kid in primary school and thus I was bullied by my classmates, being called all kinds of mean nicknames. Up to junior college, I was still being teased (good-naturedly this time though) and it eventually hit me hard internally. But it was something that happened during my first relationship which ingrained this permanent message of “I don’t look good enough” into my mind.

At present I stand at 1.67 metres and I tip the scales at 60kg – by “societal standards” that’s considered “fat”. I used to slap an “ideal weight” of 50kg on myself and hence went through all kinds of ways and methods to try to achieve that weight.

This was me at 45kg:

Cheryl at 45kg (600x600)

I did hit 50kg (and below) twice in my life – From 65kg I went down to 45kg when I was 18, then I suffered a rebound and went back up to 62kg when I entered university, then down to 49kg when I graduated. From 2011 onwards though, my weight has steadily climbed and finally stabilised at 60kg today.

But you know what? I was never satisfied. Once I hit “my ideal weight”, I still thought I was fat and I wanted to lose more weight. (Geez, I must have been so annoying to talk to then.)

This was a Before/After poster I used to be so proud of:

Screenshot_2013-02-16-10-22-34-1 (600x467)

But you know what? The numbers don’t matter no more.

I don’t have the 23-inch waist I had, I can’t fit into my 25-inch Levi’s anymore, XS is non-existent in my world – but it doesn’t matter. The other day I finally sat down at my dual cupboard and threw out all the small clothes I was harbouring, in hope of being able to lose weight and wear them again some day. For some reason, hey, that move was pretty life-changing.

I’ve come to love my body for what it is and what it can do for me. We are all born differently and our bodies work differently, so I accept that I wasn’t born petite. I lead an active lifestyle now – I lift, I run, I flip tyres, I push prowlers, I kick, I punch – and I’ve never felt happier. Sure, there are days when I wish my arms were less flabby or my stomach is flatter or my thighs were smaller, but those aren’t what define me.

This is me now:

CTT_3988 edited (600x400)

I derive confidence from what my body enables me to do, such as my work (be it writing about someone’s story to the world or capturing important moments through my lens), and I’ve learnt that self-esteem is measured by the confidence in yourself and not by how you look. And if someone cannot love you for who you are (not what you are), he or she isn’t worth keeping.

Learn to love yourself – respect your body, feed it well and treat it right. Life is too short to be unhappy.

In the next article, I’ll elaborate more on the root of my body image struggles and how you can prevent yourself from falling into that trap.

(Cover photo by Fauzi Anuar; clothes by Under Armour)