Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2015 (Feb 23 – Mar 1)

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Am doing another post for Eating Disorders Awareness Week, this time its one hosted by the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) in the USA (the last one I did was the week for Canda) and the theme that NEDA has for this week is “I Did Not Know”. On social media, individuals are encouraged to post anything about eating disorders, from facts to struggles during recovery to their personal triumphs over their eating disorders to raise awareness about what the mental illness is and the damage it can bring to one’s physical, mental and emotional health.

For this post I thought I’d take a leaf out of many people’s books and share with you a list of things that I myself, based on my personal journey with my eating disorder, did not know about eating disorders. I do believe that some people are under the impression that people who develop eating disorders did so out of choice because he/she wanted to achieve only a certain type of body

She wanted to be skinny so its her fault she got an eating disorder. That’s all she can think about: getting thin, so she has no one to blame but herself. Look at how skinny or how fat she’s become from starving/binging, that’s what you get when you start dieting. She should have known. She could have stopped dieting but she chose not to. That’s what you get when you’re obsessed and self-centered. 

Eating disorders don’t develop out of choice. I most certainly did not wake up one fine merry morning and go “Oh let’s get an eating disorder today, that should be jolly fun” or “Let’s get thin today, and never mind that I’ll lose my hair or lose my muscle mass or develop ulcers or start thinking about suicide” Yes, in my mind, I had a goal of becoming thin, but I most certainly did not bargain for my behaviors to spiral dangerously out of control due to my dissatisfaction with my body that was compounded by my lack of knowledge of the dangers of extreme dieting, the idealization of thin women in society and

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I DID NOT KNOW THAT…

  • What started out as an introduction to meal replacement drinks would start my eating disorder journey
  • I would no longer look at food something to enjoy, but something to fear and even detest.
  • I would start obsessively counting calories and punishing myself by not eating the next day if I exceeded my self-imposed limit of 1400 calories a day.
  • My hair would fall out in clumps and would never grow back the same way again.
  • I would develop ulcers on my lips
  • I would start “diet-hopping”
  • Losing 5kg in a matter of a week wasn’t equivalent to fat loss, but muscle loss.
  • I would become so secretive with my eating
  • I would no longer be able to identify what feeling hungry meant.
  • Loving, hating and feeling scared of eating was a feeling that actually existed
  • I would never eat another single burger for 7 years.
  • I would hate looking at my reflection
  • Binging would bring me comfort.
  • Self-harm would become a coping mechanism
  • My menstrual cycle would be irregular for approximately 4 years.
  • My love for dance would be sacrificed
  • Drink diet coke all day just to feel full
  • I would become addicted to exercise
  • “Normal eating” no longer meant anything to me
  • I would start to abuse laxatives
  • I would develop depressive thoughts when I entered college.
  • I would develop suicidal thoughts in my sophomore year and see death as the only way out of suffering
  • I would develop a self-imposed curfew to get home by 9pm just so I could go running because if I missed a day’s workout, I would start getting anxious.

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I’m 101% positive and if you ask anyone on the street, whether they’d choose to endure any of the above, even for a few days, they’d give you a resounding “no” in your face. All these physical, emotional and mental consequences were outcomes that I did not bargain for nor expect. I went from a confident carefree girl to an insecure and crumbling mess of a person who had no idea how to navigate her way through life and who actually thought that what was happening to her was a phase that would pass without incident if she “just went back to normal eating”. Sort of like the awkward phases of puberty – you have to do your time with the acne, the braces and the social awkwardness before you emerge out of it into a better person. Only it wasn’t. It persisted for a long time and I was just about ready to give up.

I think I understand why people don’t treat eating disorders as seriously as they do with other conditions, such as depression. Its to do with eating, something that’s a normal process in people’s life. Just eat normally. I know that. But its hard to do that when you’ve lived a long time restricting and bingeing and reading up on ways to lose weight by eating all sorts of strange foods at odd hours. Normal is relative, and its hard for people to believe that something as normal and simple and innocent as eating can be so harmful. There is nothing glamorous about eating disorders. We don’t end up looking like Hollywood actresses. This is the price many of us pay.

I’m not fully recovered. I still struggle with normal eating at times. I battle fears and anxieties with food and a part of me still wishes I were thinner. But I’m still fighting.

It’ll take a longer time for society to fully grasp the seriousness and ramifications of what an eating disorder really is. I can’t possible change the mindsets of everyone but I hope that every little thing I do in my way contributes to raising awareness and increasing understanding in what other people as to what really happens when one person experiences an eating disorder because we are such misunderstood people. Its not just about eating. It extends into your health, your emotions, your happiness and your lifestyle. Eating disorders rob a person of that and here’s hoping that this post will be one of the many that will change your “I Did Not Know” to “I Now Know” or ” I Now Have a Better Understanding”

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Thoughts? To those going through an eating disorder and/or recovery or if you’re an advocate for raising awareness about the dangers of eating disorders, join the online community and share your stories or facts about ED and recovery on social media! I’d love to see them.

Enjoy the weekend guys!

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  Here are some videos that I’ve been watching over and over again the past couple of days:

I must have watched this trailer at least 10 times and I don’t know what it is about the storyline that attracts me but I definitely am catching this when it gets released AND HOLY SMOKES THE GUY PLAYING YOUNG HARRISON FORD – THE BOY ON THE BIKE. THOSE CHEEKBONES.

ADELE IS PERFECT END OF STORY I WANT HER AS MY CELEBRITY BEST FRIEND.

social media detox + letting go of people offline + chinese new year day 1

On Wednesday I went through a major bout of social media cleansing. I went to Facebook and deleted from my list, a whole bunch of people whom I no longer speak to; friends whom I made whilst I was in primary school and no longer keep in touch with. These are people who:

  • Appear on my Facebook Wall in flashes as they post blurbs about the comings and goings of their lives that I find no interest, especially if we weren’t in the same class then. I did the same on my own personal Instagram account. I’ve blocked followers so they can no longer keep track of my posts. Most are complete strangers from various parts of the world whom some way or another found and just decided to follow me – and this was way before I found out about the privacy settings on Instagram and made my account private – and who at the same time are following thousands and thousands of other people (so really you’re not that special anyway).
  • People whom I no longer wish to keep in touch with and whom I don’t want knowing anything about what’s happening in my life.

I think there comes a time when it suddenly hits you in the face and you’re wondering why you’re letting so many strange people seeing the snippets of your life, especially ghost followers who follow thousands of people but post virtually nothing on their own profiles. Who are you and why are you following me? Why am I letting you see pictures of my dog or of what I did yesterday?

I think for some individuals having a huge number of followers( by this I mean thousands and thousands) gives them this strange false sense of superiority. Not all of us, but a small handful, especially those who have thousands of followers, have a public Instagram profile and post nothing but selfies. Unless you’re a fashion blogger, a celebrity or someone endorsing something then its understandable that you’ll need a large base to inspire others with your style and/or promote your product. I think some people equate social media followers and the number of likes with a sense of importance. Of course I do feel good when people double tap my pictures but I tell myself to not let it get to my head because for a handful people, it extends beyond that in which they begin to derive their sense of esteem and confidence from the number of likes they get from complete strangers, and I don’t wish to fall into that pitfall because its a very unhealthy and disempowering situation to be in. That’s another reason my personal Instagram account is private. After all, we are in the age of digital narcism, and Facebook, Instagram, Twitter & even this blog where I post pictures are but platforms in which we can we can manipulate and create a carefully constructed profile and present a desirable self to others. The person you’re looking in pictures probably doesn’t look like what he/she looks in real life. Hell I don’t look like myself in pictures all the time too! I don’t wear makeup and contact lenses and fancy outfits all day. I love dressing up and putting on makeup like many other girls, but at the end of the day, I love me a pair of comfortable shorts and a tee shirt with the telly on in front of me. I

So lessons here is to not be so consumed by what you see in social media and not fall in the trap of only being able to feel good about yourself only when you receive likes on Instagram. Esteem doesn’t come from strangers but from within! Is perfectly okay if you want to put pictures of yourself up on social media because you feel and look good because hey I do that too (hehe and let’s be honest we all want the likes and awesome comments) but I think we need to monitor ourselves every now and then and ask if we’re putting pictures up too frequently to feel good about ourselves and if we’ll feel awful if we don’t get comments or likes we want. I don’t want to keep posting only pictures of myself where I think I’m good-looking just so I can get approval from others. My happiness doesn’t like in strangers.

But anyway, I’ve also stopped following some people whom I met in Buffalo in 2013 (wow time really flies) on both of Instagram and Facebook whom I no longer wish to have contact with. Ex-classmates whom I only spoke to a few times and whom I know absolutely nothing about; random people I met at orientation gatherings or through student groups and whom I never speak to again. Delete. Gone. Poof.  I used to follow the Latin American Student Association (LASA) because I was a member in that student group while on exchange. I would avidly keep up with their postings and happenings, especially with regards to dance. I always remember eagarly awaiting posts, videos and pictures of the dance performances that they had after I left for home because I had so badly wanted to join in their annual dance competition but couldn’t due to the fact that I was only there for a short semester. In some storage way, looking at the pictures and the people whom I used to rehearse made me feel as though I belonged there.

However ever since I took Latin dance more seriously by taking proper dance lessons, going for workshops, proper social dancing and dance congresses and even performing on stage, I found that I’ve been slipping away a lot more from LASA. I no longer find any interest in keeping up with them (except the Kardashains) because I no longer belong there. LASA served as a wonderful head start in Latin dance but now that I’m progressing further in it, I am no longer interested in what they are doing. I can see how much I’ve improved ever since I ever started dancing salsa with them and I find less of an interest in hearing about their activities because to be brutally honest, it doesn’t parallel the type of dance I wish to achieve. I want to achieve greater and better things and LASA isn’t providing me that kind of inspiration anymore. I can’t relate to LASA as much as I did before. Its the same for some people I met too.  Some people just aren’t meant to be in your future and as hard as it is for some people, that that is all right. Maybe you find yourself having nothing in common with a person and no longer interested in keeping up with him, maybe you want to maintain relations with only certain people you met at certain points in your life, maybe you want to cut off ties with people who aren’t making you happy, bringing back only unhappy memories and holding you back. Some circumstances just no longer promote mental, emotional and spiritual growth and its time to let them go and move on. Eventually, you realize that you only want to surround yourself with people who help you move forward in life, bring out the best in you and make you feel happy.

I also find it unnecessary to drop certain people out of my life like that without warning. Just certain. I don’t leave a disclaimer of any kind; I simply just walk away and stop communicating with them altogether, simply because there comes a time when you just can’t afford to explain and/or continue explaining to people why you no longer want them in your lives. Maybe they’re toxic friends, maybe they’re taking advantage of your friendship, maybe they’re treating you as a second option in your life and you know you deserve better, maybe they’re bringing back unhappy memories. Whatever it is. You just can’t keep teaching other people lessons that that will have to learn on their own. You don’t owe explanations to anybody. I say do whatever you think is necessary for your personal growth, health and happiness. After all, out with the negative vibes and in the good stuff will come in.

I still keep up with some of my LASA friends I made in Buffalo anyway, though I think its slightly sad that proof of our friendship can now only be acknowledged in the form of a like or comment on Facebook or Instagram. I guess that is what happens when people grow up – everyone moves away and the people you meet in life won’t always remain forever, though I find comfort in the fact that we still take interest in each other’s lives even though we’re physically far apart. There’s a difference between being a passive friend and a friend who takes an interest in wanting to find out what is happening in your life, be it a double tap, a comment or a message. It doesn’t matter if they do so once a week or once a month. I find simple comfort in knowing they are still somewhere out there and remembering me, and I, them.

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Chinese New Year has officially begun and it is now the Year of the Goat, or as my mum calls it “my year” because I was born in the year of the Goat 24 years ago. 24. Ack. I’m not one who keeps up with my Chinese traditions because my mum being from London and being a Eurasian (half European half Asian) didn’t grow up with the strict beliefs and customs entrenched in the Chinese culture . My dad though, being the conservative Chinese man that he is insists on adhering to these traditions and customs. There is the usual tradition of giving out of red envelopes filled with money to the unmarried (no complaints there), visiting relatives and paying our respects to them, not wearing black during visits because its an inauspicious color and signifies bad luck and death, wearing brand new clothes for visits and refraining from cleaning the house on the 1st day of Chinese New Year (my dad says to do so equates to “sweeping away” all the good luck CNY brings) & the Chinese New Year goodies start rolling in too and these are fabulous because you see them only once a year and some taste amazing: pineapple tarts, wafer biscuits, prawn rolls, lotus pastries with yolk etc.

My “brand new clothes” consist of clothing that I bought months before but having never worn them since their purchase. The first day of CNY (20th Feb) was spent going to my granddad’s house for lunch, though first I had to endure the usual family custom of assessing my dad’s outfit. He wears the same thing every year for the first day of Chinese New Year and every year without fail I tell him “Pop you either look like a pimp or a banana” because he just has to pair his egg yolk yellow shirt with this pair of hideous egg yolk yellow pants) I’m glad I didn’t get my fashion sense from him.

 We had Thai food (oh the irony but pineapple rice is so great) and as much as I enjoy talking to my relatives and catching up on our lives, I find it so irksome to have to keep telling them I won’t be bringing my boyfriend to their homes for visiting and then enduring their sighs of mock disappointment. My sister is getting married in July and although most of the talk is focused on her wedding details, I kept getting asked as to when it was my turn to tie the knot. Trust me, it gets annoying after the 3rd time.

After lunch I headed over to Shu’s place and we spent a fabulous day taking pictures with her sister, watching videos and playing charades. Her parents graciously invited me to stay for dinner and I felt horrible at intruding on their family time. They insisted though, and since it was Chinese New Year, I felt it would have been churlish to refuse their kind invitation & so we had a lovely steamboat dinner and cheesecake for dessert.

Feeling blessed to have a family who supports me, close true friends for wonderful companionship and a home I can go back to where the wi-fi is free and where I can take my bra off after a long day.

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Er. Shu caught me trying to take selfies before stuffing my phone back in my pouch and I could only sheepishly agree for her to take proper pictures when she offered to do so.

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what a striptease/lap dance workshop taught me about body image empowerment

Wow its been a while since I posted anything in here. I’ve been swamped ever since my last post, owing to the fact that I’ve been working on my final year thesis and attending more dance lessons in the evening. Working on a 10,000 literature review can be a nightmare after a while. My 2 project mates and I have to skim over hundreds of articles and revise our report multiple times and after a while, I just lose the motivation to write a blog post. This really makes me wish I had a Quick Quotes Quill like Rita Skeeter does in the Harry Potter series where it automatically writes down everything you say. Or in this case, a Quick Quotes….something so whatever I want to post magically types out here by itself. To write is to bleed. Anyway this is going to be a long post so if you actually manage to read on to the end, congratulations! I went for a striptease/lapdance workshop sometime last week. Yes you heard me right. A striptease / lap dance workshop at an exotic dance studio held by a pole dancer called Chili (though now that I think about it, Chili could have been her stage name) from Australia who’s been pole dancing for a couple years now and she runs around the country performing and giving classes and stuff. A friend signed us up for this striptease workshop and my experiences with the workshop made me reflect about body acceptance and gain some perspective into what empowerment means in the context of body image. By the way, if you’re reading this post to look for pictures, you come to the wrong place so if you’re looking for nudes because you saw the word ‘striptease”, sorry not sorry. Anyway, the workshop involves performing an (imaginary) lap dance and stripping our clothing after. Chilli had sent an email a few days before the workshop telling us to bring extra bikinis or underwear because we’d be stripping and honest to God I thought it was because we’d be pouring chocolate syrup or body glitter on ourselves on our underwear after stripping our clothes off and so the extra bikinis were for us to change into after the class. Sadly I was wrong. So there I was, happily bounding up the steps leading to the studio brimming with anticipation because seriously what a GREAT way to spend 2 hours on a Sunday learning how to do a lap dance and strip your clothes off in a sexy way. LIFE GOALS PEOPLE. LIFE GOALS. LEARN HOW TO STRIP YOUR CLOTHES OFF IN A SEXY WAY AND LEARN A LAP DANCE. They’ll come in handy one day. So N and I stepped into the dance studio, and we were immediately greeted by the sight of a dozen half-naked women tottering around the studio in the highest heels I have ever laid my eyes on and talking and laughing in their skimpy  underwear. And they had sexy underwear. I’m talking lace and buckles and cross straps and Victoria Secrets. I pretty much froze on the spot, with my eyes as wide as dinner planes and just trying to process the scene in front of me because can you imagine, expecting yourself to enter a studio with people dressed in regular clothes but instead you’re treated to the sight of near-naked women prancing about without a care in the world? All I could do was just gingerly make my way to the side of the studio to deposit my bag and casually asked one of the other girls why she was already in her underwear and she just said “Oh Chili says we’ll be starting the class in our bra tops and underwear and stripping it off. So just wear 2 tops and bottoms”. Wait. What? Nobody told me that we’d be dancing and stripping in our bikinis to start with. Where was it stated in that email? I have read that thing at least 3 times and it mentioned nothing about dancing 90% naked to start with. I mean okay I came prepared such that I brought extra tops and bottoms but i was working under the assumption that we’d be lap dancing in normal clothes before stripping to our bikinis at the end. With my body image woes, I  most certainly was not prepared to be dancing near-naked for the entire 2 hours. I had bargained for dancing in clothes for about 1.5 hours and being near-naked for the remaining 30 minutes. I was in such a dither and was stamping on the spot like a frustrated bull and torn with indecision & seriously contemplated wearing a black shirt over my bikini top. My tummy is my problem area; I don’t have flat abs. I have folds. My tummy isn’t toned no matter how many sit ups I do and I don’t have an hourglass figure. Its one of my biggest insecurities and I most certainly did not want to see myself in the mirror dancing with my belly jiggling like Jello. Nuh-uh. I mean I want to feel sexy when I lap dance and strip, not be grimacing at myself. And so right there and then, Chili came parading into the studio with her sparkly gold string bikini and sky-high heels which she calls “stripper heels”. She gets to the front of the class, claps her hand to get our attention and goes “Okay girls, gotten naked yet? Time to get sexy and lap dance for our men tonight okay?” And everyone just laughed and immediately started getting in lines to do warm ups. It was in a split second that I decided to just screw it all and so I just whipped off my black shirt and quickly sprinted to a free spot on the floor and trying very hard to stare at my own reflection. We did some stretching, some body isolations, and shoulder rolls and some shaking of the booty. So while doing the warmups I got to get a better look at the rest of the girls in the class and honestly, I expected most of them to have the typical, or rather common Asian/Chinese body: small, petite, skinny, small hips and a flat butt, and I expected women to turn up looking like models with perfect hair and skin but  I was wrong. I was seeing a dozen different body shapes and sizes. Sure some were skinny with flat tummies but there were also women who didn’t have that body shape and honestly it was the first time that I was in an environment that really and completely made me aware of body diversity. Some women were skinny but they had tummy rolls, some were skinny but had big thighs, two or three were plus size. And they were all in their underwear. After warmups Chili immediately went to break the stripping/lapdance routine for us. Here’s the thing: I have never seen myself dance in my underwear before. And having to stare at myself in the mirror and looking at my physical insecurities up close scared the bejesus out of me. I know that my tummy is my biggest physical insecurity but I’ve never actually been in a situation where I had to actually reveal this insecurity to virtual strangers and really confront this insecurity. I can only liken this to seeing the Pope. You know the Pope exists but when you see him for the first time, you just can’t quite accept the fact that he actually exists. Like “oh my god you’re real!” I have never felt so much more conscious in my life ever and I’ll admit, throughout the entire 2 hour class, there were some a few quite a number of times where I would suck in my tummy because just looking at how my tummy wasn’t flat irked me a lot. I was uncomfortable in certain positions because I couldn’t hide my tummy right. Lying flat on my back was fine because come on, your tummy looks flat that way. I kept trying to hike my bikini bottom higher so it’d cover more of my tummy even though it was meant to rest at my hips, or I’d sit up straighter and not slouch so my tummy rolls don’t show, or I’d just cross my arms and slouch ao my arms cover my midsection. Yeah. Don’t get me wrong, the routine was so much fun! We used a chair as a prop and I was doing body rolls and arching my back like a swan and shaking my ass and thrusting my butt out and biting my lips and flicking my hair and stripping my 1st bikini off and throwing it onto the floor. When Chili demonstrated this move, she actually brazenly removed her bikini top and revealed her naked breasts for us all. Now I’m a woman and I’ve seen nude women before, be it in a sauna room or in a movie but never in real life, and somehow to actually see your dance instructor take off her bra top in front of you was…interesting. Chili is my first topless woman. And she wasn’t even bothered by it. She just paraded up to the chair, reached behind her back and tugged at the strings and pulled the bra top away from her body in the most nonchalant fashion ever as though removing her bra top in front of strangers is the most natural thing that she does everyday. Actually now that I think about it, given her profession, maybe removing her bra top in front of strangers is a natural thing for her. But for someone like me – it sure wasn’t. So there I was staring at Chili and waiting to see the next move and expecting her to do something sexy with the chair and she suddenly rips her bra top off and I’m staring at her boobs. I somehow was able to keep a straight, impassive and nonchalant face as though women ripping off their bra tops to show their breasts to me happens everyday as well so that having Chili do so didn’t come as a surprise. I don’t remember thinking anything dramatic when Chili removed her bra top but a small part of me was all “What is the social convention for this? What do I do now that she’s removed her bra? Where am I supposed to put my eyes? On her boobs? It seems like I should because they’re now obviously the focal point but then again she’s teaching us and trying to tell us something so I should be looking at her in the face but then her breasts are showing and since rarely do I see another woman’s naked breasts in person all the time, such becomes an exotic spectacle which clearly warrants an ogle.” I couldn’t tell whether the other girls in the studio were ogling at her breasts in fascination or just neutrally eyeing them because their passive facial expressions didn’t indicate any hint shock or bewilderment. But anyway, back to the story, I was also pretending to pour body oil on myself while perched on a chair and laughing while gyrating on a nonexistent man on the floor. But the fact that I was so conscious of my tummy might have dampened the experience a little. I couldn’t execute the routine properly at the end of the lesson because half the time I was conscious about how my tummy looked and was trying to make it look like I have a flat tummy but to be honest, when you’re without proper clothing you really can’t hide much of your physical flaws. I was placed in an environment where I was stripped of my clothes, my protection that covered my physical insecurities, and where I had to bare my vulnerabilities to virtual strangers and my insecurities were most definitely showing by the way I was trying to unsuccessfully flatten my tummy. Then here’s the other thing: the other girls in the studio didn’t really care. They were just following Chili and rolling on the floor and gyrating to the music and looked so incredibly comfortable being near-naked. Unlike me, they weren’t awkwardly trying to adjust their bikinis or slouching to hide their tummies. They were having such a good time dancing and feeling sexy. The girls with the big thighs didn’t come in leggings. The girls with tummy rolls didn’t come in shirts. The plus size girls didn’t come fully dressed. Everyone was semi-naked and didn’t give a damn that that they didn’t have a model’s body and that their thighs and their tummy rolls were jiggling while they were dancing. It was then that I realized something: If you accept your physical insecurities, no one can use them against you. Most of the time when I think of women dancing in skimpy clothing I think of professional dancers: dancers who train hard all day everyday and end up with fit and athletic bodies and end up dancing for celebrities. The women in this studio however, aren’t professional dancers. They don’t train 7 hours a day dancing. They are but recreational dancers with a passion for exotic dance. To be able to dance semi-naked and performing seductive dance moves means that you have to be really confident and comfortable in your own skin and with your body to be able to do that. You can’t be trying to hide your tummy while gyrating on the floor; nor covering your thighs while you twerk (yes we twerked). You have to accept your body for what it is and not care about the fact that you don’t possess a thin and tone body. You have to accept that yes, I have tummy roll or have big thighs and no I don’t give a damn that they jiggle now because I’m having the most amazing time of my life. When you accept that, you are empowered and you feel confident. Take Chili for example, she’s has performed many lap dances for performance in her native Australia and at the beginning of the class before teaching the routine, she just grabbed her tummy rolls and shook and jiggled them around for us to see and bluntly said “Look at this, I’ve got a tummy and no matter how many sit-ups I do, these babies are still here and they’re never going to go away, but I’m going to teach you how to dance in a strong and sexy way because when you’re strong and sexy, you won’t even be thinking about your body flaws” The fact that she actually acknowledged her physical imperfections with such openness and confidence was very motivating indeed because here is a woman, fully aware that she doesn’t posses the most thin and toned of bodies, yet she continues to go on stage in skimpy lingerie and performing sexy dance routines without a care in the world that her tummy jiggles. She accepts that she doesn’t have a flat tummy and because of that, she is confident. She may not be the most confident but she’s confident enough to be able to dance near-naked and strip off her bra top because she’s confident the body that she has. Even the plus size girls for that matter. There has been so much flak online; plus size women being ridiculed for dressing in skimpy clothing or posting pictures of themselves in bathing suits and getting bullied for not having a thin body, but these girls in the studio? They didn’t care that they were the biggest girls in the studio. You could argue that the the studio is a safe environment for them to be able to dance half-naked, but that’s not the point. I’m not plus size but I certainly spent 10 minutes trying to decide whether to leave my shirt on and spent a fair amount of time awkwardly trying to hid my flat tummy which was such a waste of time because other than a sarong (which we used only at the end), there was nothing to hide myself with. But these plus sized girls were rocking in. Hell, they actually danced better than I did! They were so confident about themselves and it showed. Me? I was an awkward mess half the time. And I think that’s what body image empowerment is about – accepting that you don’t have the perfect body and being comfortable and confident with the body that you have, because when you accept your imperfections, you begin to love yourself and feel less of a need to get approval from others. When you are insecure about yourself, people will eventually spot your weaknesses and can use them against you to being you down and crush your esteem. When you accept your imperfections, you don’t see a reason to hide your body or be embarrassed by it. You retain the power and control you have about how you feel about your body. And that’s what I gathered in this workshop. When you’re confident and empowered about your body, you don’t see a reason to hide it. You are in control of how you feel and you alone determine how you feel about your body. When you’re confident, it shows in your actions. This striptease/workshop allowed me to explore my body in a way I’ve never done before. For the past few years I’ve looked at my body and only saw something imperfect – small butt, lack of nice abs etc. But learning how to pose sexy, walk sexy, sit sexy, and even undress sexy made me realize how feminine I can be even though I don’t have a supermodel’s body.  When I wasn’t awkwardly trying to conceal my belly, I felt really really really good about myself. I was flirting with the mirror, throwing coy looks at myself, rolling my hips and sliding on the floor, teasing an imaginary man in front of me and touching my body and feeling very womanly indeed. Learning this simple lap dance and striptease routine made me realize how much something is innocent as dancing and stripping can make me feel good about myself because during that moment, I was bringing out the feminine and sexy person in me – someone whom I’ve never seen before and you what? I like her.

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Some snapshots from class. And no as much as I felt incredibly womanly, I won’t be posting a ton of pictures here because of privacy reasons! See how I blemished the pictures? I don’t think it’d be ver polite to show the other women here in this blog without their permission so I had them erased.

Once again excuse me for the long post. If you’ve read this til the end, you deserve a nice medal! Really.

Plus, if there are any spelling or grammar mistakes in this post – SORRY. Really if there’ one thing I cant stand, its grammatical errors. I was so zonked out last night while typing this and literally had no energy to go through the post 5 times for proofreading before publishing. I’m starting to lose my perfectionist streak. Heh.

Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2015 (1st – 7th Feb)

So this week (1-7 Feb) is Eating Disorders Awareness Week, and the primary aim of it involves raising awareness and understanding of eating disorders. I initially thought of writing a piece to raise awareness about eating disorders for the purpose of education with a “coming-out” piece. Or rather, the “ED story” in which I tell you all the details about my eating disorder, starting from what I believed started it, to the disordered eating patterns I engaged in, to how I am faring during recovery. But I decided not to because (a) I still don’t feel fully comfortable with that and (b) I thought of providing a different perspective to help raise awareness and understanding by providing but brief snippets of what I personally went through. The questions below are, again, taken from the 30 Day We Bite Back Challenge organized by @webiteback on social media that I think paint a picture of what my journey was like since recovery. As I mentioned before, this post doesn’t speak for every other person struggling with an eating disorder, going through recovery or have recovered. This is but my way to help raise awareness about eating disorders by showing you a brief snippet about the experiences of a 24 year old girl to hopefully, help you understand what people who are going through/have gone through an eating disorder and the recovery journey a little better.

What motivates you to recover?

Reflecting on the life I had during the height of my ED days. I was depressed and shit-miserable and incredibly obsessive. I was jumping from counting calories to cutting out food groups to just fasting the entire day then bingeing at the end of the day, followed hours of running. I once ran for 3 hours nonstop after what I believed to be a binge and it was perhaps the best and worst feeling in my entire life. I remember crying in bed after that. Trust me, you don’t want to be doing that. It takes time and energy away from other things you could be doing, like dancing and going out with friends and doing all the fun stuff you should be doing when you’re 20.

Does your family support your recovery? How do they help or hurt your efforts to recover?

The only people in my family who know about my eating disorder are my mum and maternal aunt. In fact, the first relative I told to was my aunt who isn’t even living in Singapore, but in the UK and she was the one who offered to tell my mother on my behalf. My mum then told me she would bring me to see the clinic for help via text message. Yeah you heard me right. A friggin’ text message. But that’s actually how my family works. We’re not that close. We don’t talk. We text.  My mum wasn’t very supportive of me in the early phase of recovery actually. She believed me to be seeking attention and after our first argument, I truly believed her to be disappointed that I turned out to be like my big sister, who also was sent to a therapist for her anorexic-tendencies. I think she was hoping that I would turn out to be the “better” daughter.  It kind of sucks to keep your recovery and ED a secret from your family but I’m used to not relying on my parents when it comes to such personal matters. They didn’t know I was depressed, didn’t know I was cutting, nor did they suspect that I might have an eating disorder because I managed to hide it so well. I went to my first consultation with the psychiatrist with my mum but she left even before I got to see her because she had to go pick up my brother from school. So…yeah.

Do you have a turning point or a certain moment that made you decide to want to recover? Or was it a decision that happened over a long period of time?

Being suicidal. I was at the lowest point in my life and really believed that if I didn’t end this on my own terms, then my ED would. My weight was fluctuating like crazy, I stopped indulging in my favorite hobbies, I had mouth ulcers, I was depressed, my hair was falling, I was losing muscle mass, my concentration was badly affected and I feared my grades would be affected and I no longer knew being hungry felt like anymore. When I realized I didn’t have the courage to take the next step, I decided that it was either going forward with my plan or getting better and since I had already backed out the former, the only option left was to go for choose the latter.

What part of your eating disorder is hardest for you to overcome or let go of right now?

Still wanting to be thin instead of being healthy. Its not as intense as before, but its definetely a significant factor in my ED that affects the recovery process. I admit that there’s still a tiny part of me that still wants me to be a certain body shape and body size, that there are times when I feel too big for my skin and start thinking that I need to eat less and exercise more. Am I the only one in recovery still holding on to this kind of thought?

What are some things your eating disorder has taken away from you? 

  • Dance. With the amount of time I spent starving and bingeing, I would sometimes skip dance lessons just so I could go jogging to burn off whatever I ate. Yes, dance is a form of cardio, but I didn’t want people to see me in the body I had. During dance practice and lessons I had to look at myself in the mirror and all I could see what a big lump of mass moving very ungraciously on the floor. I hated my physical appearance so much, and the fact that there were so many other dancers who were skinnier and leaner than me made me so self-conscious and made me feel unworthy of being a dancer. I felt like I didn’t have the right body to dance hip hop and street jazz and so I gave up dancing for 2 years at the age of 20. I did go back to dancing when I was 22 when I was in New York, but it was Latin dance instead of street dance since the school didn’t offer street dance. No regrets and its given me a new perspective on dance and I am fully intending to try and go back to the street jazz scene again this month.
  • My confidence. I was still a big girl even before I developed my ED, and some of them immature bratty boys made fun of how I wasn’t skinny like the other girls in my class. Here’s thing. It didn’t bother me at all. Not one friggin time did it bother me. It didn’t affect me and I honestly just let their comments slide. I wore whatever clothes I wanted without a heck in the world; I threw on sleeveless tops and shorts skirts and I didn’t even think about how my arms or calves looked like. I can’t begin to explain to you just how I did not care at all. All that came crashing down with my ED. I started hiding my body and crumbled at comments about my body. Even the slightest things like “you’ve got a curvier body” made me hate myself more because I wanted a thin body. I equated curvy with big, and that was something my mind refused to accept. I hated shopping for clothes and moped at how I couldn’t wear whatever I wanted without feeling like a big lump of mass and ended up living in jeans, shorts and dark colors. I wanted the world to notice me, but I wanted to disappear at the same time because I was ashamed of how I looked.

What do you want your life to look like when you’ve recovered?

  • Not obsessing about my body parts
  • “You look so beautiful!” instead of thinking “I wish I looked as beautiful as her”.
  • No longer be afraid of eating
  • Accept compliments without rejecting them and thinking that the person who said them is lying.
  • Not getting anxious should I miss a workout.
  • Eat that extra cup of Ben and Jerry’s and saying “f*** it” instead “no more ice cream for 2 weeks”
  • “My ass looks good in these jeans” instead of “I wish I had a bigger booty”
  • Smile and truly mean it
  • Like what I see in the mirror instead of avoiding it.
  • Carefree
  • Empowered
  • Self-confident
  • Self-accepting
  • Free
  • Secure.

What is something you learned about yourself in recovery? 

  • That what is killing me isn’t just my disordered eating patterns, but my desire for acceptance and approval from others & my desire to live up to a certain beauty standard.
  • That whatever negative thoughts that consume my mind will control me and therefore, I need to learn to change my thought processes – something which I never did before.
  • That my strength did not emerge from a particular conspicuous instant, but during repeated trials and failures during which a pattern emerged that revealed my determination and refusal to give up.
  • Putting myself first isn’t egotistical. Its necessary.
  • That I am a f****** fighter.

 

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Eating disorders claim the lives of many and its a disorder that isn’t just about wanting to be thin and pretty, but more about fighting inner demons everyday that tell us we aren’t beautiful. Yeah, everyone wants to be beautiful, but to have a voice in your head telling you that you are ugly and that you need to go on a diet for the rest of your life by counting calories and exercising hours and hours a day all day every day is definitely not what everybody goes through.