body image woes: commenting on weight loss doesn’t always make me feel better.

In the past few weeks that I’ve been out and about I’ve met people, both friends and family and I have received comments that I look different. More specifically they tell me I’ve lost weight: “Your face looks slimmer!”, “You look different!”, “You lost weight!”, “You look prettier!” etc etc. And there I’d go stammering away and mumbling “oh its just the eyeliner and the bronzer, I mean have you tried bronzer and blush? They do some pretty amazing things to your cheeks” or “Peplums are very forgiving”

Here’s the deal. I probably have lost a bit of weight although I wouldn’t know for sure because I haven’t weighed myself in the past 2 years ever since I started recovery in December 2012. I’m not in denial. Its more of a need to maintain my sanity and the fact that a number on the scale is definitely a trigger for me, considering how I used to obsessively weigh myself at least 5 times a day (kudos to successfully avoiding a trigger now). Since the start of last year where I’ve actually been able to practice better eating habits, mindful eating and understanding body positive mantras as I wasn’t in and out the country, I’ve been starving and bingeing less and my weight has stopped fluctuating, so the weight that I put on from my constant bingeing has probably fallen off from my face (which is a good thing though somehow the weight doesn’t seem to come off from my tummy) and my weight is currently more or less in a stable zone. However, it doesn’t mean that I’m still free from body insecurities.

I feel good when people ask if I’ve lost weight, I mean, people are noticing something different about you and come on, who doesn’t like receiving compliments? I don’t people to tell me I’m ugly, for Christ’s sake. “Oh my god Serene I haven’t seen you in so long, don’t you look just fabulously ugly?” That’s just lame. You know what I mean right. We all have self esteem needs and as much as people say we shouldn’t get validation from others, deep down in our yearning souls, our need for acceptance from others means that a little praise from them wouldn’t really hurt. We really do want some praise. Or at least, I know I do once in a while.

Anyway. Problem is, when I got home, I actually became a lot more conscious about my body. Like a lot. I know my body. I know that there is a little flab here and there that I wish could make its way to my boobs and my butt. There are still some parts of my body which I wish could look a little taller, a little leaner and little better though last year I’ve been learning to try and accept my body more and focus less on weight loss and more on getting my eating and hunger back on track. However, the fact that some people have actually noticed a change in me and that actually was enough for them to give positive comments was not only inherently rewarding, but also initiated a different set of thoughts. For instance:

1. “Oh my god now that people say my face looks slimmer. I better not gain any more weight and better stay at this size for good. “

2. Oh my god people say I look prettier since I “lost weight”. Does that mean that I was hugely fat years ago when they saw me? Jesus, I must have been fat and ugly back then! How fat was I then?! I can’t gain weight now. Gotta lose weight now!

3. Oh my god I still have flabby arms and a nonexistent ripped stomach. Those have GOT TO GO. UGH.  

 Here’s why many individuals with body image problems have low self esteem: in their minds, and also sometimes in my still-slightly-perfectionistic mind, somehow, losing weight = looking better = getting people’s attention = getting compliments = feeling like Lucy in the sky with diamonds.

Somehow, our weight is intricately entwined with our self esteem, and in a thin-obsessed society, losing weight equates to being beautiful. So when we receive compliments about weight loss, it reinforces the notion of “losing weight = look prettier” Its only natural that we want to continue receiving compliments. I guess for the average individual not overly plagued with body image woes and confident enough in their skins, they’d graciously accept the compliment. But not for someone like me who’s struggled with normal eating and body image problems since she was 16. That’s when the motivation for weight loss can become seriously out of control and all sorts of disordered thoughts and eating patterns manifest. Not good.

I’m not 100% recovered from my ED and/or body image issues. I still have days when I don’t engage in mindful eating, days when I (subjectively) binge and get incredibly anxious and start thinking about eating less and skipping meals, but I’m learning to overcome them. I don’t hate my body as much as before when I see pictures of thinner friends, but yes there are times when I would think about what I should do to lose more weight. And therefore in a way, as much as I try to practice loving my body more, I’m not 101% immune from such tendencies.

This experience actually came as a bit of shock and I wasn’t prepared for it. Its usually me gaining weight and trying to figure out ways to lose weight or trying to accept my body at its natural size, and also wondering why people don’t say I look pretty and getting jealous at my friends. But now having some people tell me I’ve lost weight and having these kinds of thinking come up really threw me off the edge and challenged me. I got a little freaked out and paranoid for a little quite a fair bit quite a reasonable amount a hell lot until finally I had to sit down and remind myself of my main objective: health, and not getting skinny to gain approval

I actually felt a need to maintain my current weight because I didn’t want the blow of accomplishing something, having gain recognition for it and then having it blow up in your face again. I guess for a few days I stopped wanting to get healthy to get my body back to pre-ED mode and instead wanted to lose weight to continue getting praise and feeling good about myself. But reality check came in when I started craving more food and thinking about food more and more and whether I should to shouldn’t eat this or that.

I guess it seems okay to ask: “have you lost weight?”, instead of “have you gained weight?” I mean hell I don’t want anybody to come up to me and ask if I’ve gained weight. The latter somehow just very insensitive and in society, weight loss equates to looking good while weight gain typically isn’t so, unless the person in question was seriously bone-thin and desperately in need of more meat on his/her bones. However, the fact remains that in society, weight loss is seen as something that is positive and recipient of praise and its kind of demoralizing to think that because of this, many women (and also men) have allowed themselves to equate being thin with beauty.

So in the end I asked whether I wanted to go back to the old ancient days when I was struggling with food, obsessively counting calories and weighing myself 5 times a day (sometimes even more), cutting out food groups and exercising til I died just to get skinny at the expense of the many health complications I had as a result (of which I’ll detail another day). Sure I’d still want to lose some weight and of course I still go running. If I lose weight, then okay. If I don’t lose weight, then, okay too. I know what my body can and cannot do now even if it can be mind over matter because when it comes to my eating disorder, I don’t really want to mess with the devil and relapse. I had to remind myself that what was more important now was my heath: to regulate my eating cycle again and minimize as best as I can alls sorts of dieting and self-hate mentality for my sake.



Attended a dear old friend’s wedding yesterday. We were debate teammates in secondary school some 10 years ago and now *gasp* she’s getting MARRIED. Here are some shots that were taken for me by my plus one. The wedding was held at an Indonesian restaurant by the seaside and the weather was perfect for an outdoor wedding.







That’s where the bride and groom would sit and pose for pictures with guests!



Getting her makeup touched up by her friend before the groom comes



❤ Mai, you’ll make the most compassionate and quirky wife. HUGS

(P.S. My thighs are aching like mad. My mum had me attend a session with her personal trainer last week to figure out what types of exercises I can and cannot do, given that my knees are aching and also because of my tailbone problem – for some strange reason my tailbone curves out slightly. Like a tail. Yeahhhh. So there are certain things I can’t do because my lower back will ache like hell after a while. He made me do these exercises that didn’t involve excessive running and pretty much gave me a good workout. I woke up the next day with a sore body. Hello I mean I am aching in muscles I never knew even existed. Which is a good thing I guess because I wouldn’t have shaved my legs to go see a personal trainer who wouldn’t give me a workout that didn’t involve knee and back pains)


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