NEDA Week 2016

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As Eating Disorders Awareness Week comes to an end, I am taking the last few hours of this day to think about how my life has changed ever since I entered recovery.

At age 17, I started dieting to lose weight. When the weight refused to come off I went to more extreme and unstable methods to drop the pounds. I would skip meals, cut out for groups, count calories and run for hours on end. I was scared to eat out, refused to eat sweets and choose salads for meals, only to return home later and binge.

At 20, I began purging and I started getting depressed. I did my best to maintain my grades – which I did – but I was slowly drowning. I’d wake promising myself I wouldn’t binge, but I’d fail. I hated the way my body looked and refused to dress in anything other than black. I hated taking pictures. I wanted to lose weight. I was scared of food.

At 21, I became suicidal. I knew I needed help, but I was afraid of telling my mother. At 21, you’re supposed to be young and free, living your life with adventures and milkshakes, laughing at your mistakes and falling in love and traveling with friends. You’re not supposed to be suicidal at 21.

At 22, I started going for therapy, saw a dietician and trying to turn my life around. My psychologist stayed with me for 1 year to help me work on my issues but unfortunately, my eating did not get any better.

At 23, I doubled up my efforts in recovering. I was going through heartbreak and in an effort to reinvent myself, I focused on becoming a better person. Instead of focusing on eating, I focused on mindfulness and discovered the meaning & importance of self-love.

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Every since then my eating has slowly improved. I immersed myself in the eating disorder recovery and body positive community for support and am slowly emerging from my self-created prison. I’m learning to reject the standards of beauty society has, surrounding myself with people who encourage and support me throughout my journey & working on embracing my body for what it is. I’m learning to define myself in more than just physical looks. I’m slowly finding my confidence, becoming the woman I want to be, becoming more experimental with my clothing and style to express myself because my low self-esteem and self-hatred prevented me from embracing my identity.

I’ve been recovering for 3 years now, and I am still recovering. I don’t know whether I will fully recover in the future and I’m scared to think that one day I will relapse, but I tell myself that no matter how hard it is I will keep going. I will try to embrace every bit of my body and imperfections because I do not ever wish to return to the girl I was 5 years ago. I’ve tasted freedom and I want it. Sure there are days when I choose to eat less because I felt bloated and disgusting, and yes there are days when I hate my body and want to curl under my blankets, and yes I have moments when I compare myself to other girls wishing I had her body and okay there are times when I choose to exercise because I wanted to lose weight to be skinnier. But that’s ok because no one said recovery was going to be easy.

I’m not perfect and all that matters at the end of the day is that I choose recovery over quitting. 

I’m not fully recovered, but everyday I do my best to be the best version I can be and do my best to stick to the habits that promote recovery instead of those that support my disorder because I am worth, and deserve to live a life free from an eating disorder. I am not meant to be dieting and starving and crying. Life is not meant try fitting into a small size, gain approval and validation from others, & comparing yourself to other people wishing you were taller, skinnier, leaner and/or prettier.

I don’t want to be spending the rest of my life worrying about whether or not I ate too much, whether I’m skinny enough and pretty enough, how much exercise I should do to burn off all those calories. Instead I am meant to spread my wings and fly to live my life, gain experiences, make the  mistakes I’m supposed to make in my 20s so I can look back and laugh til I cry, go on whirlwind adventures, fall in love, dance to my heart’s content, wear my favorite outfits without shame or embarrassment, watch sunsets, dance in the rain (yes I love doing that), watch cupcake tutorials without feeling guilt and eat exotic food.

I am not meant to be defined by my weight, my size or my physical appearance. I am more than that. Ever since embarking on recovery I have started defining myself by my strength, my loyalty, my determination, my sass, my passion and the love in my heart.

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To all those out there on the path of recovery – you are worth recovery. You deserve to live a fulfilled life and you deserve happiness. It will be challenging, it will be difficult, it will be effortful and it will be painful, but you will find strength from your struggles and you will realize that the person that emerges from the ashes is one who is awesome and who is powerful, and you will begin to wonder why you haven’t met him/her sooner, and you will want to continue seeing how much this person will grow and see who this person will finally become. 

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Choose recovery. Choose happiness. Choose acceptance. Choose self-love. Choose life. 

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Valentine’s Day: celebrating self-love

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For as long as I can remember I hated Valentine’s Day. Seeing all these happy couples doing cheesy things like holding hands and cuddling and girls carrying stuffed animals and giant bags full of gifts made me want to projectile-vomit and cut my eyes out because it felt like too much cheesy romantic things. Also, I didn’t need a reminder that I was single.

This year however I’m experiencing a different sort of emotion about Valentine’s Day. Yeah sure there’ll be the usual barrage of annoying couples doing annoying stuff(ugh), but somehow this month I’ve been reflecting on the many events I’ve been pt through that have tested and helped develop my character, and I’ve come to marvel at how much I’m learning what it really means to love yourself.

Loving yourself isn’t just about talking positive about yourself and having a healthy amount of confidence. Loving yourself also involves doing things that remind you of your self-worth & doing things that contribute to your own happiness.

So many young girls and women these days struggle to love themselves because they experience low self-esteem and low confidence, thereby making them feel unworthy of love. They judge themselves too much, compare themselves to unrealistic standards of physical attractiveness and engage in unhealthy behaviors (e.g. excessive exercising or disordered eating patterns) in order to fit into a mold set forth by society, all because they can’t accept and love themselves for the way they are right now.

This Valentine’s Day I’m taking a different approach. Instead of celebrating love for a guy I intend to celebrate love for myself. The many years I’ve spent struggling with an eating disorder and poor body image has made me realize that many of the things I’ve done were done out of self-hatred. Starving myself, binging, cutting, criticizing my looks, obsessively counting calories, rejecting compliments, hiding under ugly baggy clothes, were all things that were done out of self-hatred. When you love yourself, you nourish your body right rather than starve yourself. When you love yourself, you don’t punish your body for eating because of the unnecessary excessive guilt it inflicts upon you. When you love yourself, you dress to express your personality instead of hiding your body out of shame.

Also, this Valentine’s Day I’m celebrating my capacity for self-love by recognizing my worth and value as a woman. I’ve abandoned toxic relationship because my worth as a person, be it as a friend or romantic partner, wasn’t being sufficiently recognized and was making me unhappy. Through various situations I’ve faced & that has tested me, I’ve learned to recognize my self-worth, remind myself of the value that I am, be kind to myself & not disrespect myself in any way by compromising my beliefs to please others. When you love yourself, you are kind to yourself & make choices that you’re comfortable with. When you love yourself, you don’t change to please others; you be yourself and the right people will come to you. When you love yourself, you come to realize that self-criticism is a dangerous method of self-destruction & you mindfully engage in less of it.  

This Valentine’s Day, learn to fall in love with and embrace your imperfections, your flaws, the physical parts of your body that you want to change, your fears, your insecurities, your quirks because they are what make you uniquely you.

This Valentine’s Day, appreciate the love and passion that rests in your soul. Appreciate how sensitive you are, how kind you are, how loyal you are, how loving you are, and how giving you are. Don’t let heartbreak and loneliness douse the fire in your heart. Appreciate that you make mistakes & learn from them because you’re human. Appreciate that you can never be as strong as you want to be all the time, and allow yourself to be vulnerable and learn from being outside your comfort zone.

Finally, this Valentine’s Day, this photoshoot is to celebrate my love for myself because after years of hating my body, I want to live in the moment and enjoy exactly how fabulous and great I felt in that smashing bodysuit and tights.

“The most exciting, challenging and significant relationship of all is the one you have with yourself.”

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I’m tired of hating my body cos I don’t.

Dancers face their own personal body images issues as well and as a chubby dancer myself, I completely relate to what Azzura has blogged about here. For those of you dance, do you face any body image issues? What are they? Am also in the process of interviewing Azzura (read: creating interview questions hehe) so stay tuned!

Inspiring People.

I actually grew up with various issues about self-image; as a part Indian-part Malay chubby Muslim Malaysian female, social situations can take sudden hostile turns at any point when people find it frustrating when they can’t put you in a ‘category’. Growing up, I felt confused and often nervous to explain my background….. it just seemed like whatever my answers were, I was always giving the WRONG answer. How can I look Indian but have a Malay name? How can I be Muslim but look Indian? Etc etc. I just AM, ok.

However, luckily I had a loving family that nurtured me into an outgoing child, and somehow I was able to get past all the identity-crises and I grew up a confident child and teenager who had lots of friends. There might’ve even been a boy or two who liked me in school — but well, it was usually…

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