stop trying so hard

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Why are we trying so hard to fit in? Why do all want to lose weight and get thin? Why do restrict our food (only to binge after) and constantly work out in the gym to get a good body? Why do we care about what other people think about us? Why do we care so much about how many likes we get on Facebook and Instagram? Why do we care whether or not other people see as beautiful and thin? Why do we care about wanting to look a certain way and be a certain way?

Through my years of struggling with my eating disorder and body image issues, I’ve come to realize that much of my problems stem from a desire to look a certain way and gain social approval from others. Blame social media and the current body and beauty trends if you will, but it seems the type of body gaining lots of positive comments are “slim and lean” and “small waist, big booty”. I ask you to take a look at Instagram and look to popular social media influencers such as fashion bloggers and fitness models, and let me know what the most common body type is. I ask you to take a look at beauty pageants, at Hollywood and television and I ask you to tell me what the body type that gains the most positive attention. I ask you to look at magazines and tell me whether you see more titles telling you to embrace your body instead of dieting and losing 10 pounds and how to disguise your flabby belly.

The glamorization of certain female body types are harmful, to say the least. It triggers unrealistic expectations and undeserved body comparisons. It makes many of dislike our bodies and think negative thoughts. We start living the get a body because we want the same validation. After all, who doesn’t want to be complimented and admired and revered? Humans have an innate need for social approval and validation. We want to be accepted, to be liked and to fit in. But at what cost?

It doesn’t matter whether or not we have a curvy figure or not. It doesn’t matter if we don’t have long toned slim legs. It doesn’t matter if have a belly that jiggles and folds that we sit. If I do, does  it mean I’m less of a woman? How am I being judged based on how flat my belly is or not?

We need to stop thinking that being thinner, being curvier, being taller or having certain body types or certain appearances will make us happier. As someone who’s spent years trying to look a certain way, I can honestly tell you that you will be wasting your time. You can never be thin enough or curvy enough or sexy enough for some people. We’re not put on Earth to physically please others with our looks. The only thing that makes us happy, is to live our lives doing what we love without the validation of others.

You are allowed to live and be here and be present in your whole authentic self. You are allowed to post those “unflattering” photos of yourself on Instagram. You are allowed to leave the house without makeup (but with sunblock!) because you don’t need to wear makeup to be yourself! You are allowed to wear a bikini and cropped tops even if you aren’t skinny. You are allowed to be wholly you because you deserve to be here. You are allowed to love what you see in the mirror. 

Stop trying to please others and live for others. Live for ourselves instead. The more we keep trying to live up to the expectations of others in order to gain approval and validation, we slowly begin to lose ourselves. We begin to live for other people’s approval. Our self-worth becomes dependent on them; without it, we don’t feel good about ourselves.

Let’s just and stop sacrificing our happiness and sanity to live up to a certain beauty ideal. Live for ourselves, and live to be the best version that we can be without conforming to the pressures of beauty ideals. Because, fuck its exhausting.

The ones who accept us only if we look a certain way, aren’t the ones who should be in our lives The ones who accept us no matter what shape and size we are, are the ones who truly care for us.

eating disorders & the paradox of controlling our food

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There’s something involved in eating disorders that play an incredible important role in recovery, and also serves to intensify out eating disorder exaggerated – control.

When my eating disorder was a lot worse, I was trying to control just about everything. Calories in and calories out, food groups, amount of exercise, time to eat breakfast/lunch/dinner/snack, fat and muscle percentages & weight I was trying to achieve. I was trying to pinpoint everything to to reaching that unachievable numeric goal. And the more I tried to control, the more my own intentions backfired me, making my eating disorder even worse and delaying recovery.

Why? Because I refused to surrender myself to my body’s needs. When I wanted rice I forced myself to eat brown bread instead. When I wanted white chocolate I forced myself to go guzzle a load of water. When I wanted curry I reluctantly chose clear soup. When I wanted cheesy pizza I unenthusiastically chose salad without dressing. Not just once, but as many times as I could.  I pretty much was denying my body what it needed and what it wanted.

Here’s the thing: when we enter a relationship with food with the aim of controlling the amount of food we put into our body, the (not-so) funny thing is that it ends up controlling us. When I was dieting and restricting my food I was in control, but when I binged, I felt like I had lost control of what I was doing. When we restrict ourselves so much to the point that our body rebels. We don’t make leeways for desserts, mistakes or one-off occasions. Everything must be followed according to the book and when we deviate from our rigid rules, we end up punishing ourselves.

We binge, because our body is starving. A binge is our body’s natural biological response to what we are doing to our body. 

And let’s be honest. For how long can we “control” ourselves? Do we want to control ourselves for the rest our lives, telling ourselves to choose option A over option B because option B might make you fat?

Your relationship to food is a reflection of your relationship with your life.  What is it in your life that you are trying to gain control or change that is making you restrict? A fear of loneliness that makes you binge to feel better? Trying to get a thin body & obsessing over your food intake? Wanting to get more attention and praise & so obsessively exercising to get a ripped lean body that those fit chicks on Instagram?

In my opinion, an important key to recovering (and deriving happiness from it) is this:

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Whenever I find myself obsessing over calories and getting anxious about my weight, I force myself to sit down and think “Why am I wanting to restrict my food and lose weight?” My answer? I wanted to be thinner; I wanted to lose weight, get attention and seek praise.

And then I think back to what I did to achieve that and what happened when I lost the extra weight: constantly watching what I eat and constantly wondering what I can and cannot eat to lose weight, exercising more and even comparing myself to pictures of thin women and using that as motivation to lose weight. Needless to say, my emotional wellbeing took a dip. When I chose to let go (difficult but I still chose it), I was so much happier. I was less stressed about food & wasn’t beating myself up over that bite of chocolate.

That’s the paradox of control. You can be in control of your life ONLY when you stop trying to be in control of every single aspect all the time. Maybe that’s a lesson that is also involved in eating disorder recovery:  that it’s okay to not be in control at all timesThat its okay to be imperfect. That its okay to overeat on some days. That its okay to not have a meal plan or if you do, to not follow it 100% all day everyday. That its okay to not an itty bitty waist or the body that some celebrities have.

When we stop trying to control our food, we start:

  • Really listening to our body and eat what our body tells us it needs
  • Allowing ourselves sweets and chocolate and cake and ice-cream when we want it without feeling guilty.
  • Removing any emotional associations with food.
  • Finding out that we don’t crave “bad” foods as much as want
  • Choosing to eat foods based on what our body feels it needs at that moment

We can’t always control what we eat, how much we eat and how much we exercise. The thing we can control, is how we choose to respond to a situation. The more we try to control what/how/when we eat, the more emotionally distressed we feel (anger, sadness, self-disgust). But if we choose to change how we perceive food, our relationship to food, and displace our self-worth from our weight, the less our food will control our mental wellbeing

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Perfection doesn’t exist and we are all flawed so let’s just learn to accept that we are flawed human beings just wanting to survive, wanting to pat the dust off our shoes and work on recovering from our disordered eating patterns and just be the best person in recovery that we can be.

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Happy 2016!

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Happy 2016! I can’t believe how fast time has gone, that a year has gone by in a flash, that so many events have happened in the span of a year but it seems like it all happened within months instead.

I haven’t blogged in the longest time ever. I usually need bursts of inspiration to be able to chug out a meaningful post and I suppose I’ve been going through some events with regards of eating and body that have sucked up my writing juices.

Anyway, before I embark on “welcome to the new year” reflection post, I’m entering 2016 dressed in an outfit inspired by the fashions of the 1950s. That era showcased women with swishy swing dresses, full skirts, pin up dresses, cropped tops, cigarette and capri pants & for some strange reason, bullet bras (think Madonna’s cone bra that John Paul Gaultier made for her).

I love how feminine the 50s fashion looks and I so decided to pair these cropped jeggings with my green halter and blue cardigan. I threw the bow-tie headband at the very last minute and I think it brings out the feminine playful vibe of the era.

I never thought I’d do cropped/capri pants as I thought I’d emphasize my muscular calves which gave me second thoughts but hey hey after months of learning to restructure my negative thought patterns, I just decided to f*** it and wear it because I like the overall look of it. The only drawback I have about the pants is that they are jeggings, are slightly tight at the waistband, but a good comfortable fit around my thighs. One size up and the jeggings hang loose on me. UGH. Frustrating. I’m now on the lookout for cropped jeans because I think I prefer a stiffer fabric so if anyone in Singapore reading this can recommend places to get good cropped pants or jeans ending above the ankle, HELP A GIRL OUT THANKS.

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I’m not going write a long-winded post elaborating the events that happened in 2015 and detailing the lessons I’ve learned, but I do want to list down some of the events I’ve experienced that, looking back, seemed quite significant

  • Performed at the Singapore International Latin Festival 2015.
  • Took not 1, but 2, solo trips to Japan (Osaka & Kyoto) and Thailand (Bangkok)
  • Got my first tattoo.
  • Graduated with 2nd upper class Honors.
  • Got to see Yanis Marshall perform live.
  • Taught Introductory Psychology to secondary school students as part of a temporary work stint at my former school.
  • Got into 2 performance teams (Ladies’ Junior Styling & Alma Latina)
  • Finally forgave myself for my a past mistake that I didn’t realize had been emotionally and mentally weighing me down.
  • Re-discovered my self worth by choosing to walk away from a casual relationship
  • Stepping out my comfort zone more and experimenting with more makeup and clothing choices
  • Wore a swimsuit (a monokini) for the first time in years. 
  • Going on more informal photoshoots.

 What seemed like negative events which I wished had never happened had strangely enough, turned out to be blessings in disguise. Not only did some (1) give me more time to be able to pursue and train more in dance, (2) grant me more time to establish closer bonds with my family & (3) allow me to make more new friends in the dance scene – some of whom have been unlikely sources of wisdom and helped in personal growth, some have also tested my character and pushed me to become a stronger, better and wiser woman more cognizant of what she is worth, what she deserves and what she should and shouldn’t do in similar situations.

I’ve also been going through episodes that continue to challenge the way I think about my body that is pushing me to alter my thoughts about my body shape. I’m continuing to try and make peace with my body and being less critical of it and am realizing that its getting slightly easier to reframe my negative thoughts into more positive one.

Additionally, I’ve been thrown into a couple of phases during which I abandoned mindful eating and started overeating, causing weight fluctuations and mood swings which have definitely made me realize that I need work more on body acceptance and what it really means to eat mindfully and healthily.

I don’t have resolutions for 2016. Instead I have goals. Intentions. Positive calls to shift and grow and make me a better empowered person. Some of which include:

  1. Training and improving my dance
    • Get better at chaine turns (traveling spins)
    • Work on musicality
    • Find my personal dance style
  2. Read 2 books per month
  3. Continue working on self-acceptance and mindful eating because recovery is a lifelong journey with unexpected paths, twists and turns.
  4. Be a more conscious shopper and purchase clothes that are versatile as opposed to buying many one-off statement pieces.
  5. Blog more about my journey toward body positivity and eating disorder recovery!
  6. Take more risks & learn from them.

I realize the last listing may not be considered a goal, but more of a challenge. But I do think risk-taking is an essential element to growth. A friend wisely told me: ” Taking risks is so fundamental to human nature. Curiosity and exploration is what makes us human. Closing ourselves off from the possibility of experience because of fear/worry, would lead to many paths untaken.” No risks = no journeys taken = no lessons learned.

Also, I really do I gotta blog more about my body positivity journey and the triumphs, challenges and lessons of my eating disorder recovery. I realized there was a burst of posts about body image earlier this year, which slowly faded off as the year came to an end because I was going through some personal work-related issues that drained the life out of me. Hopefully this year things will be better and I can spread more messages about body love and acceptance ❤

Happy New Year all! What are your goals for body positivity and ED recovery in 2016? Let me know I wanna hear them! Til the next blog post (soon I promise!)

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reminder to self: live more in the present

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A project for a class on the psychology of social communication needed us to examine a social phenomenon in Singapore and our project group was attempting to flesh out our theories and plan a timeline. A report and a presentation were due, with 2 weeks in between each submission. The report is due first but naturally being studious worry-wart students, we tried discussing the specifics of the  presentation as well. Having exhausted whatever energy we needed to work on our proposal, we sat there in silence staring at each other until finally #2 homegirl said “Okay okay okay let’s just do this report first and worry about the presentation later when we submit the proposal okay? Let’s not worry about this now. Its too much energy”

On the way home after spending the rest of the afternoon watching my 2 homegirls hilariously googling for answers for their statistics homework (sorry Mr. T we’re just not magicians in statistics) and giving the evil eye to students who stole our taxis, it got me thinking “are we all always worrying too much about the future?” Why are we always wasting so much time worrying about the unknown when there are so many things at present to be enjoyed? Like that cute blue-eyed baby giving me a big toothy grin ( I have finally accepted that being Chinese, I will never be able to have blue-eyed babies in the future due to a need for a recessive gene – something that I genetically lack thanks), or that right now as I am speaking (or rather typing), why am I worrying about what I will be doing when this semester ends when the gorgeous colors of the sunset are spreading across the sky?

I am guilty of living too much in the future and not enjoying moments at present. I only realized the importance of cherishing whatever we have now during my exchange program in New York. I made friends and experienced new sights but inside me was the realization that I wouldn’t have that again. Instead of counting down til the number of days I had left til I returned to Singapore, I made the days count. I joined student clubs, made friends, learned a new genre of dance, went on peaceful campus protests, brought back red and orange colored leaves and ate snow.

I need to learn to live more in the moment, forget about what I did or didn’t do in the past and worry less about what will happen in the future. Life isn’t a bed of roses. You’ll experience sadness along the way that’ll leave you feeling empty and confused and even resentful. Its tough to understand the concept that “things happen for a reason” or “there’ll be something better that comes along”. I’m still trying to accept this. I’m slowly accepting this. Life is fleeting. Every second and every minute of our life cannot be replaced. 6 years ago I planned every single thing to the last single detail to prepare for the future and always worrying my butt off about every single little stupid thing. I would look back and think about things I wish I had or hadn’t done and wasting a whole lot of mental energy crying about spilt milk. Dawdling about the past, having headaches about the unknown future and even worrying about too much about my appearance and weight really takes up a lot of mental energy. I’m getting older y’all I ain’t got no time for this.

Now as I’m going through recovery, growing older, taken some yoga classes, experiencing what God gives and takes, gaining insight into life and learning lessons from mistakes, my life motto now is to simply wait until the next day to think about the events of tomorrow. Focus on the present, do the best that you can do with your commitments of the day, dance to awesome music, compliment someone’s outfit when you like it and make his/her day, eat yo’ veggies & as much as you can, trust in karma & channel your energies into enjoying all the quirky things that happen right now and work to being the best version of yourself.

Amen.

      “tragedies will always be found in the things we love. and if we are not willing to see the beauty in losing something that means the world to us, then imagine how terrible it will be to live for them.

we must always welcome the end of all things, for sometimes, knowing nothing lasts forever, is the only way we can learn learn to fall in love with all the moments and all the people that are meant to take our breath away

– r.m. drake”

In the meantime…

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eating pizza, because its kind of what I can do now…

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CAN YOU TELL THAT I LIKE MY NEW RED LIPSTICK. SHUDDUP YOU HATERZ GO GET YER’ OWN.

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found this on Instagram. I need to be friends with this girl.

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Mama’s relatives from Surabaya, Indonesia visited for a few days and brought some sambal chill, Indonesian style. SO DELISH. Doesn’t it look lethal? .

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Now I can proudly show people that I am a bachata dancer. Soy una bachatera de Singapore! HOLLA.

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Reading on the bed done doggie style.