I used to hate my body.
A story of my fitness journey over the past five years
From what people see of me in real life, or in photos I post, I have a slim, relatively well-proportioned body that many women would kill to have.
But like many other people, I have not always been comfortable with my body and my physical health, and to get it to the state it’s in now and feel good about it has taken me a very long time. I hated my body. I hated to open up about my body image issues because people made me feel like I had no right to be unhappy with my body because I was “pretty”. I wished I was taller, because I was frequently bullied for being short. I saw other dancers in my ballet class who were skinnier than me, and I thought I was fat.
I was also diagnosed with high blood cholesterol when I was ten years old. It gave me so much grief because I was constantly told that my diet needed to be changed. I felt like I was unhealthy and simply not skinny enough.
2012: McDonald’s breakfasts & instant coffee
Four years ago, I was on antidepressants and I still ate red meat. I skipped a lot of meals. I was under a lot of stress at university. I would leave home at 6:55am every morning for class. Getting used to the long commute took a toll on me, especially when my workplace was near my hometown, and any time out of class was usually spent at my job.
In the mornings, I would barely have time for breakfast. I would make instant coffee in a thermos and drink it. Some days I had instant packet soup and I would drink it on the go.
As soon as I arrived in the city I would buy a bacon-and-egg McMuffin from McDonald’s. For lunchtime I would eat a lot of sushi. I snacked a lot on cookies and biscuits.
I ate very irregularly. When I ate a lot, I felt bloated and sick, and I would try to offset the damage by starving myself for a day or two. With the added stress, this cycle continued to repeat.
2013: Running, extreme yo-yo dieting, and settling for pescetarianism
I had friends who went to the gym, but I despised the idea of going to a gym. People tried to convince me to try a gym but I turned away. I was pretty disgusted by the gym. Instead I went running every weekday morning. I have to admit that I got very good and enjoyed it.
I thought I was doing enough exercise, but my high cholesterol did not lower. I did not lose weight. I would grab the fat sitting on my hips and get angry that there was so much of it. I would squeeze my meaty thighs between my hands and cry when I realised my hands were too small to grasp my thighs all the way around. I had a dangerous vision of “beauty”, and my extreme dieting reflected this.
I tried every diet that I could find.
Because I was so unhappy with my body, I went through several months of yoyo-dieting, trying everything I read on the Internet:
- Gluten free. This was one of my favourite diets and the one that encouraged me to cook and eat more vegetables. I cooked simple food myself and loved it.
- Low carbohydrates.
- High protein. I ate a lot of eggs. I tried to eat nothing but eggs. This was such a stupid diet. I also tried to eat a lot of prawns and nothing else. I was clearly not educated on “protein”.
- Low sugar and fat. I simply tried to stop eating cookies and eating snacks high in fat and sugar. I scrutinised food packaging to check their nutrition information.
- Sugar free. I didn’t eat any fruits, fruit juices, tomatoes. I generally tried to cook my own food so I knew what was going into it. I actually liked this diet and would recommend anyone to try going sugar-free (even just processed sugar) for a week. You get headaches since your body depends on sugar, but you feel very rejuvenated.
- Liquids. I tried to have nothing but water with a bit of lemon juice, and plain boring soups. I got hungry and gave up.
- Detoxing. I tried to have nothing but water. It was excruciating, and though I could stand to have an empty stomach for a while, I would go back to binge eating or having a snack.
In the end, I tried and settled for a pescetarian diet. I enjoyed eating fish because of its health properties. By this time I was sick of eating chicken almost daily, was not a fan of pork, did not miss beef, and refused to eat duck because I had a real affinity for them as animals. Because I was not eating most common meats, I opted for vegetables instead. Starting a pescetarian diet helped me eat more healthily and encouraged me to try whole foods.
Somewhere along the line, I became lactose intolerant. This may have been due to the fact that I ate very little cow’s milk since I was ten years old (when I was diagnosed with high cholesterol). One day I had yoghurt and it made me very ill. I was in a lot of pain, and other dairy products became difficult to stomach after that.
I now find that I can have a small amount of lactose without feeling too terrible, but it’s best avoided unless I want to deliberately make myself sit on the loo. 😜
On vegetarianism vs pescetarianism
In all honesty, my change in diet has helped me make friends and sympathise with fellow vegetarians and vegans whose diets were either by choice or for health purposes. I do believe animal cruelty is wrong, but I don’t consider myself any kind of activist for animal cruelty, or a representative in the community. However, I have nothing against people who are.
To each their own, but some people have asked why I don’t just go vegetarian. I like fish, although I don’t eat all seafood, and personally (based on research) I find it healthier than meat. There are some days I feel like vegetarian food — plants are delicious – and other days when I really wouldn’t mind a fillet of grilled fish. I would say it depends on my mood, but I also limit my fish intake sometimes.
High cholesterol medication
Some time in 2013 I was put on medication for high cholesterol, when a different doctor finally revealed that my condition was genetic and not influenced by my diet. (Read: The twelve-year battle is over. and part II.) It was a relief to be able to better my relationship with food. To this day, I still don’t really like having to take my medication every morning and wish I didn’t have to, but it’s working. I’ve kept the same diet, and I no longer have to worry as much about what I’m eating.
2014: Discovering a gym, struggling with food, and experiencing stress
I once swore that I would never go to a gym. I was content with exercising at home. It wasn’t until someone – no longer a friend of mine – left me feeling insecure about my body, and I felt the need to become some sort of Wonder Woman, that I decided to give it a try. I went several times a week, doing a lot of cardio but lifting some weights too. I slowly grew to like strength training even though I had no previous interest in it before.
I was snacking very frequently on less-than-favourable foods. There was a snack cupboard at the place I worked at the time, which gave me access to a bad snack diet: I ate full cups of nuts, protein bars, processed fruit sticks, packaged seaweed, and other such “junk”. I ate breakfast in the morning which was usually a healthy bowl of oats, but otherwise, I was not eating well. I fell back into the dangerous habit of trying to “undo” my bad habits by having less proper meals and starving myself.
Stress and weight loss
I was under a lot of stress in the latter half of 2014. I was going through a rough patch with my relationships and I ate almost nothing for weeks. I had no appetite, and I was depressed. I drank nothing but soup and tea because that’s all I could stomach. I continued to go to the gym, about three to four times a week, and it would always make me feel even less hungry after a session.
I dropped a lot of weight, but I didn’t notice. It wasn’t until I saw a photo Lilian took of me, where I was standing in a short skirt and a sleeveless top, that I realised I looked stick-thin. My bones poked out from the tops of my shoulders. I noticed my clothing becoming looser.
I looked so thin, but I could see my arms becoming more toned. The fat that I used to grab on my hips had reduced – I almost couldn’t grab it anymore. This was also the time I noticed that visual results speak larger volumes than the numbers on the scale.
2015-2017: A gradual, healthy, happy change
One might say that through my relationship with Nick, I have emerged a glowing, happy woman. I suppose it is true that if happiness is coming from one source, other aspects of your life will brighten too.
Over the past couple of years it was a bit difficult getting into a regular exercise routine. Things like holidays can throw you off, too. I am pleased to say that I have been going to the gym at least three times a week for the past six months, and it’s going well.
I’ve mostly been working on my arms, but I always warm up with cardio and have recently been doing more squats. I like seeing my arms become more toned. You will be surprised how difficult it is to “get muscly” and “bulk up”. I have worked on my arms a lot, but you don’t see my arms as super muscular. Getting my legs and butt in shape is my next goal.
The gym is not for everyone, but I have found that I never regret a good workout. Exercise has come to feel really good, and in turn motivates me to continue eating a lot of healthy food. I try to eat less bad food but if I want a treat, I will let myself have one (I gotta work on controlling myself with the sugar though). It really is all about moderation.
Recent news from the doctor has also showed me that lifting and building up lean muscle can help lower my cholesterol more naturally. And for that, I am glad. 😄
I’m now probably the happiest and most comfortable I have ever been with my body. I have never been prouder of my body than I am today, not even when I was able to do several flawless pirouettes in a row, not even that moment I realised I dropped a dress size. It’s today. It’s right now. 🙂
It takes time for one to love the body they are given, and to decide what they do with it. But your decisions determine the way you’re going, and that is what made me change over time.
It was hard for me to write this post in full; I appreciate your comments and your support 💖