Let It Go
No, this is not a post about Frozen’s overplayed song, ‘Let It Go’.
This is about letting go some of the issues I have with my body. Body image is always a tough subject, and everyday people struggle with the way they look.
Growing up, I was never thin. Neither was I obese. But I was always on the chubby side. I’m a UK size 12. I’m a large. I was… Okay with it. I believed that the way I was, was acceptable. However, it seems like I was the only one who thought so.
If you’ve read my first entry, you’d know the environment I grew up in. Under a tyrant grandmother. As said, she controlled everything. And yes, this included the things I ate. I wasn’t allowed to eat a lot of things. Anything sinful, especially. Chips, sweets, cakes, ice-cream, instant noodles, chocolates, fast food… You name it, I probably wasn’t allowed to eat it. Because they were forbidden, all the more I wanted to eat them.
From there onwards, I begin to develop an unhealthy relationship with food. I would binge on junk food whenever I get the chance to. In primary school, I would buy as many snacks as possible and eat them on the bus ride home. I would even ask my friends to buy chips, in particular, so I could eat them. When the vending machine in my secondary started selling cup noodles, I would eat them at any opportunity I get. When I headed out after school with my friends, I revel in having KFC for a meal. I remember going to Mini Toons specifically for the wide range of sweets they offered. I would even secretly buy junk food back, and hide in, for goodness sake, the bathroom to eat them. I was that desperate as a child. I envied my cousins, who could all eat whatever they wanted anytime they wanted, while I was banned from eating so many things.
I truly loved eating. I did, and I still do.
But the worst part isn’t that.
After I got diagnosed, I was put on medication. One particular medication, called Seroquel, while supposedly helping my mental condition, was detrimental to my health. I gained 30kg in no time at all. It increased my appetite, by leaps and bounds. I was constantly hungry. I wanted to eat, and eat, and eat. I ate everything that was available, and when there is no food to be found, I would almost definitely head out to buy more.
When I studied in Melbourne, it finally dawned on me how harmful it was. Seroquel causes somnolence. I have insomnia, so it helps me to sleep. I would sleep for up to 12 hours a day. I could deal with the sleeping part… It was the sleep-eating that killed me. I would go to bed, wake up in the middle of the night, still feeling extremely sleepy, and then eat, before resuming sleep. I had a tremendous desire to eat. I HAVE to eat, if not I would not be able to sleep. This carried on, for two years, before my medication was changed.
During that period of time, I was fat. Really fat. I could not fit into all my clothes. I had to buy new ones. Size XXL. I did not dare to wear sleeveless. I could not fit into jeans at all. I had a bulging tummy (which I still do have, btw). I wore black all the time. I did not look pretty in any kind of clothing I put on. I felt ugly. Undesirable. Hideous. I hated myself. I didn’t think anyone wanted to be friends with such a fat and unattractive person.
Every single person in my family commented on how much weight I’ve put on. When Chinese New Year came around, I truly wanted to run away. I could not stand all the negative comments coming from my relatives. I wanted to scream, “YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT THE F*** I’VE BEEN THROUGH. IT’S BECOME OF THEM (my grandmother and my dad) THAT I’VE TO TAKE MEDICATION THAT CAUSED ME TO GAIN SO MUCH WEIGHT!” I was upset, and also angry. I could not tell people I was mentally ill. Hence I had no way of explaining to them why I was so fat.
Everyone was telling me to lose weight. Everything I heard those years was to lose weight. My weight became everyone’s favourite subject. “You must lose weight… Eat less… You’ll look prettier if you lost weight… What have you been eating in Melbourne? Do more exercise…” Everyone had something to say about my weight. I was already suffering from depression, and their comments only made it worse.
Things took to a turn when my medication got changed. No more Seroquel.
The effect was almost instantaneous. I lost 20kg in two months. And on my third month, another 5kg. I wasn’t quite back to my old weight yet. I have another 5kg more to go. But I already felt better. I felt more confident.
However, I was eating only once a day. I was only recently released from mental hospital. I did not feel happiness in eating. I did not enjoy food. I dreaded cooking, and I couldn’t be bothered to feed myself. I ate the easiest things – yoghurt mixed with cereal or ham sandwiches. And that was it. I had an Outreach Clinician, who would visit me fortnightly. She had to encourage me to eat more meals, and developed meals that were easy to prepare. I tried to my best to follow her advice.
Before I know it, it was time for a trip back to Singapore. To celebrate Chinese New Year. I thought to myself, “People can finally stop saying bad things about me.” But, they didn’t. Sure, they did say, “You’ve slimmed down!” However, it did not stop there. “You should be slimmer… You should lose more weight… I think you should lose another 10kg.” Everyone still wanted me to lose more weight.
I started thinking… I can never be good enough. I will never be thin enough for any of my family members. I am the only fat one. I felt so ashamed of myself. I was the biggest girl, and still is.
But when I met my friends, it was a different thing. They congratulated me. They said nice things. I felt blessed. I felt happy. They are, truly my friends. Because of this, the realisation that I do have some really special people in my life, I felt joy. And then, I started eating better. I ate more. I loved food. I begin to take great pleasure in eating, especially when shared with the people I loved.
I’ve learnt that… When it comes to certain people, no matter what you do, you’ll never be able to please them. Especially the older generation. I felt resentment, first and foremost, but I’ve reached an understanding with them and with myself. They have no right to control how I feel about my body, and how my body should look like. I cannot let them control my appearance. How could I let them make me feel ashamed about myself, as if I was an inferior human being?
No, I cannot let this happen. Why should I let other people make me feel like I was a lesser being, just because I’m not thin enough according to them? I am a person, and I have every right to feel proud of the way I am. You allowed them to get into your head. Don’t. Think for yourself, stand up for yourself. I should do things for myself, and not for them. Let go of this resentment. Let go of the standards set by them. Let go of the negative comments people have said about you. Let go of the pessimistic thoughts you have about yourself.
Love yourself, like how your friends love you. You are no longer living under someone’s tyranny. You live for yourself. You do things for yourself. Do the things that make you happy. After all, you only live once.
I have since gained back half the weight I lost. Do I love the way I look now? Honestly? No, I don’t. But I accept the way my body is; I’m not a perfect person with a perfect body. I’m not going to make my life miserable by going on crazy diets or becoming a fitness freak (I do not get the natural high you get from exercising, and I’ve exercised for a good six years of my life). Some days I struggle to accept the way I look, but I don’t hate on my body. Most days I embrace it, and feel pretty, despite my size.
Remember this, it is YOUR life, YOUR body. Society does not dictate how you should look like. Other people have no business in telling you what you should do with your body. You are the one who decides how you want to be.
We are all imperfect beings; learn to accept your flaws or do something about it (instead of fixating on it and doing nothing), celebrate the enchanting qualities, and welcome the body you are blessed with.
I know I have.
(I hate exercising, but I do it once in a while to keep healthy. If I lose weight along with it, it’s a bonus 🙂 I was really pleased when my doctor told me I have lots of good cholesterol in my system, from exercising. I watch my diet, but I don’t specifically restrain myself from eating foods I love. This is me taking control of my body. I am in control. And not somebody else.)