Today I want to share with you what’s on my heart and a little of my journey to health.
For ease of understanding, I’ve made a really crude bar chart. There will be no fancy pictures tonight, no hyperboles, extravagant recipes. Just a very honest, heavy heart and words from a very flawed person.
From ages 0-16 I lived as normal a life as could be. I always thought I was average in everything. Average in height, average in weight, average, average, average. It didn’t matter much to me though. I liked being average. It meant like baby bear’s porridge, I was neither too hot nor too cold and I was just right. Besides, I had more important things to do in life like playing shadows with my brothers, protecting my oreos from them and collecting fanciful stationery pads from the school bookshop that I hid at the bottom of my drawer in hopes that my mother would never find out (didn’t work). Save for a couple of comments at Chinese New Year or other family gatherings where the proverbial aunt with her ample bossom would always pinch my cheek and exclaim “AIYO! What happened to you! Why you put on so much weight!” I never really gave much thought to my size or any physical part of me. I had hands and I had legs and every part of me worked perfectly fine except for my traitorous lungs that always gave out on me on my dreaded NAPFA tests. But wheezing and panting and swearing that I was going to die helped me to eek out a pass anyway so even though I knew I wasn’t very fit, I felt that I was okay because, well, I passed right? And I wouldn’t ever have to run for another year so meh, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. I was doing well in school and had even gotten attached to my primary school sweetheart (haha, how young and foolish we all were last time) and life was going pretty well.
Life changed drastically when I was 17 though. I left the protective arms of my secondary school and was thrust into a whole new environment in JC. Perhaps it was the ‘communist’ nature of my secondary school but for the first time in my life, I realised what it meant to be in a ‘dog eat dog world’. Don’t get me wrong, none of the people I met in JC were bad just that we were so different and it didn’t helped that we were all vying to succeed in a pressure cooker environment. I remember being totally gobsmacked when in the first week of school I’d printed notes for everyone in class-because well, if you are printing 1 copy, you might as well print 25 right?- and a senior stopped me and said “huh. why did you do that. xiao. you are just wasting your time. Nobody will ever do that for you also. ” I didn’t know if that was more painful or the fact that in the 2 years of my time in JC, that would turn out to be true.
For the first time ever as well, everyone suddenly seemed almost perfect to the point of being painful. (Although of course, on hindsight now I knew everybody also felt almost the same and it was my insecurity talking to me and nothing was really true). They were all so effortlessly good looking, so smart, so athletic, so cool I felt like I didn’t belong anywhere. How did they even know to tailor their skirts like that? Where did they get such short socks from and oh lord, their hair- so gorgeous it made my flowing locks look like a haystack. It probably also didn’t help that my skirt was knee length and my hair neatly pulled back from my chubby face like what my secondary school DM would approve of. It was easy to strike up a conversation but terribly difficult to sustain it because I didn’t have any common topics to discuss with anyone. Till that first day in school, I’d never even stepped foot into Holland Village- how was I to answer if I had ‘heard of the new ice cream place that just opened’? I was ranked as one of the top 20 speakers in the nationwide debating championships in secondary school but for my entire time in JC I ironically had no ability to speak. There was just nothing to say. Everyone else was smarter, more exposed to the world, prettier, better, more outgoing. Everyday in JC was just the suckiest time ever and while everyone seemed to be having the time of their lives I often hid in the toilet to cry after failing yet another exam paper (seriously, I don’t think I passed a single one), hating myself and believing that I was an absolute failure.
Then the bingeing came.
I wouldn’t go into details but one particular incident stands out the most. Stress levels were at an all time high and it had been yet another sucky day at school. The moment the dismissal bell rang, I stuffed (yet another failed) exam paper into my bag and dashed out of the school gates almost trembling with need like a drug addict. I went to the nearby macdonalds and bought a large McSpicy meal, with 20 nuggets and alacarte mcwings, to KFC for another set meal, to the hawker centre of meepok (don’t ask) and to 7-11 for bags of chips then I took a cab home, praying no one would be in and inhaled everything. For that few moments when I was stuffing and stuffing and my stomach expanding to the point of hurting, the hurt, the pain the anguish, all diminished with each mouthful I shovelled into my system. It was only when everything was gone, when the last morsel had made it’s way into my tummy that I finally recovered my senses and the sense of guilt would start creeping in.
From that moment life became a rollercoaster of comfort eating and guilt. Every time something happened and I had no words for it I would eat my feelings. Bad grades? 3 fast food set meals would cure it. No friends? Hey, nuggets would never let you down. I ate my way through the next few years of my life ballooning to 15kg over my ‘happy weight’.
All these happened while everything was crumbling around me- my grades in university, my love life, my relationships with the people around me yet I think on the outside I was still quite happy, bubbly and functional? Inside though, I felt like I was drowning and desperately trying to keep my head afloat in water. I swung from binging, to restricting and back again and was in general just always filled with despair.
At 22, everything came to a hilt. To cut the long story short, my boyfriend of 8 years found some other girl more attractive than I was and left (in the most heartrendingly horrible way ever). My professor threatened to fail me if I skipped anymore classes and I was slapped with a $30,000+ debt (Inclusive of my undergrad fees but I was also young and frivolous and stupid about money).
I wish I could say more (and maybe someday I would) but if you look at the bar, 23-24 was really a period of discovery for me. For the first time in 8 years I decided to stop being a door mat and LOVE MYSELF. I stopped defining myself by societal standards, stopped depending on others to validate my self worth, stop spending money frivolously, restricting/ bingeing/purging whatever.
I was desperate to learn about health and not some bikini body diet so I scoured the internet and the library for cancer prevention books, food nutrition books and the like. I figured that if I really wanted to be healthy FOR LIFE and love myself, not just to look good then I would need to learn from people whose diets truly meant the difference between life and death. 23-24 was truly, truly a learning experience for me. I got out of all my crappy relationships, built new, true real ones, rediscovered God (seriously, He is my everything now), lost 15kg, learnt to live healthy on a shoestring budget, drank green smoothies everyday, counted nutrients in my food instead of calories, threw my weighing scale away, completed my Honours year, wrote my thesis on societal standards and the female body (Ii am hellbent on this topic haha), made so many mistakes and learnt from them and really learnt the true meaning of living a happy healthy life.
Age 25 I coloured in green because this was the year I can frankly say I was the healthiest and happiest. This was the age I could truly look you in the eye and tell you that I feel beautiful not because I was perfect but because I’d achieved balance in life. The day I knew I truly loved myself was when I was looking over at my boyfriend (yes, I got attached again after agonising for months to make sure I wasn’t rebounding and questioning if I could really ‘trust’ again) and thinking to myself ‘wow, I love myself so much now that even if I had to get married tmr I wouldn’t even have to despair over losing weight because being married is about LOVE and HAPPINESS not how I look or what I weigh!’
That year, I gained a few kg and learnt that I had a range of weight that I considered my ‘happy size/ place’ where I felt confident and happy about myself. It meant no restriction yet no excessive binges either. Even if I ate out of line a few days in a row, my weight would stabilise and it would cause me no worry. I learnt that TRUE HEALTH is in THE MIND and characterised by the fact that I didn’t have to think about food (too much or the lack thereof) all the time. I indulged in a wide variety of Real Food and everything was so yummy and so satisfying! For the first time in my life as well, my constipation was cured and I was going EVERYDAY and I finally could understand when people say it is possible to go in just under 5 min! (TMI, but big deal to me. I used to spend HOURS in the toilet). I was literally glowing and I just felt so healthy, so happy, so empowered. I chose to eschew the typical 9-5 career path and it really helped opened me to new experiences in life, to learn to empathize with people, to be less judgmental and to just be more loving and gracious because the world is beautiful and there is so much to celebrate about it. I learnt the we truly are the culmination of all our experiences and I cherish each moment of crying in the school toilet, each ounce of self hate and self doubt and even (or especially) my failed broken relationship that consumed so much of my youth because every of those moments fueled my journey into becoming the person I truly am happy being. I felt so good about food and life that I started this blog because I wanted to let others the amazing healing properties of food as well as all the beauty the world had to offer.
Unfortunately, that time has some how slipped away and I have to admit that I’ve tumbled off the bandwagon. The stress of life has gotten to me again and while life is certainly not as bad as before, I’ve had recurring episodes of bingeing and comfort eating. At first they started out inncuosuly enough. Just a slightly larger meal than usual, than more and more till I was mindlessly shoveiling porportions of yesteryears. If you noticed, I haven’t even bothered making lunchboxes the whole of the past month because I was just so busy and unbalanced. I possibly ate more junk this few months than the past 3 months put together. I grew heavier and heavier but I guess I love myself so much now that I am all LOLLOLOLOLOLOLOL what is a little weight gain etc :/ I’ve read so much about different diets that I experimented with paleo, dukan, veganism, vegetarianism, even fruitarianism etc and all of that has taken a toll on my poor body ( I hope I haven’t damaged it beyond repair). All these little bits and pieces culminated into a massive meltdown and I have to be honest with myself now that I’ve once again reached the pit and I need to rebalance my life. I am almost 8kg away from my happy place (too much for my frame) and I’m almost slipping into the diet mentality game once again and thinking about my body in terms of numbers. (NO. I NEVER EVER WANT TO GO BACK THERE AGAIN). I want to go back to the green zone once again when I didn’t worry whether dairy was leeching calcium out from my bones or if rice was still inherently processed (since in came in a package -.-. FYI- Being obsessive about health is also an eating disorder called orthorexia) Following and experimenting with ‘healthy’ diets has really taken such a toll on my body and mental state that I am also desperate to go back to just normal, varied eating.
Also, I hope that for those of you struggling to follow a diet or wondering which diet is best for you (Vegan-ism is so healthy and compassionate! The dairy industry is LYING to us. Meat has hormones and bacteria! Fish has metals! Bread is processed! Carbs make you fat!) and you just end up undereating and avoiding food options because ‘it’s not part of your diet plan’ (only to end up BINGEING from hunger and hating yourself after) then may I please welcome you back to balanced eating. 😀
So bear with me my dear readers, as I make the tedious climb back to my
happy place and a more balanced life. I took a long time to decide
whether or not to share this information with you all because I felt
like such a hypocrite- but for what it’s worth, I really want to stress
that a journey to health is not in the least bit simple or linear. It
has to be worked for (some harder than others. sigh) and there will be
times when we slip or even come full circle (sigh x2) but more important
is the hope that there will always be a better tomorrow 🙂
For the time being though, I will unlikely be updating my facebook page that much but will be updating more frequently over on this space/ instagram just like how I did when I first started out. It’s back to the basics for me once again, and I’ve always wanted this space to be a small, intimate place where we can talk without fear of judgement or persecution. I will also be updating this space on my journey back to more balanced living and my Real Food meal plans and ideas geared towards weight loss (portion controlled vs. abundant unrestricted eating until I recalibrate my tastebuds and reset my hunger signals) which I think might be helpful for some of you as well. I don’t recommend calorie counting but my meal plans for weight loss are not ‘detoxes’ or starvation diets. Instead, they incporporate a wide range of food designed to bring balance back to the body and are perfect for long term sustainable eating. There will be no veganism, vegetarianism, cutting out carbs, cutting out foodgroups or whatnot here, I’m afraid. I find it makes me too finnicky and unbalanced and it has (evidently!) caused me to undereat and binge and harm my body even more. I’m going back to the basics- wholegrain carbs, small amounts of dairy, lean meats and an abundance of fruits and vegetables. Since I’m a quest to love myself right once again, that includes lots of massages and happy, positive moments as well 😀 I wouldn’t be weighing myself to chart my progress but I will know when I reach my happy place because I’ve been there before and wow, I look forward to once again leaping out of bed refreshed and happy with myself and raring to take on life!
I understand that there are many here as well who are recovering from anorexia and are looking to gain weight. I’m not sure if what I’m doing is triggering but I really hope that it isn’t and if you do feel like it’s triggering I really want to encourage you to view both you and I as on the journey to reaching our happy place where we can live our most balanced, confident lives where food is just food and a tool to fuel our body and mind. I doubt a weight where you constantly worry about your health or food is a happy weight so if you need to gain, please continue and keep at it! If you need to lose, tone up or reach your happy weight, I hope this helps you as well.
I have no greater wish than to see all of you be happy, healthy and confident at your most happy place where you fear no food and you live balanced, inspiring, lives.
Let’s be like baby bear’s porridge- not too hot, not too cold, just right.
See you at our happy weight my beautifuls 🙂
With all my love and determination,