If you look at me now, I am comfortable in my own skin. I eat whatever I like (still quite healthy) and I don’t kill myself during my workouts. I have maintained my weight for the past ten years. In fact, I am in better shape now at the age of 35, than in my 20s.
This article is NOT about healthy eating and exercise. Because we all have heard it a gazillion times that is the formula to achieving our dream bodies. But the problem is, to lose the weight and maintain it for the long term is not so simple. The answer lies in psychology.
Before we dive into HOW I achieve my “ideal” body, I want to share with you the turbulent struggles first. The journey that got me there ain’t pretty. I almost had to get a blood transfusion to stay alive.
Let me show you what I mean.
When I was 16, I strive towards being under 100 lbs. Because my first boyfriend’s ex was 98 lbs. Well, who wants to be fatter than your boyfriend’s ex? My competitive ego in my underdeveloped mind chirped. Plus, my parents were going through a divorce, and I gained a whole FIVE pounds, and for the first time, I learned the word DIET (Cue the drama in my teenage mind).
That was pre-social media era. So I went to the library and got myself a stack of SHAPE magazines. I found out that exercising and eating less would be the answers to losing weight (Yea yawn). But I did what I had to do. I went to the gym for two hours a day. I weighed myself multiple times a day. I soaked the grease off my food with a paper towel. I took small bites of food to make myself feel fuller. I counted calories and ate 1400 calories a day. Within a month, I went from 106lbs to 97 lbs with a waist of 23 inches. I could almost see my ribs but I would still call myself fat since I didn’t have those abs of a Victoria Secret angel. That’s how I first developed Anorexia.
Sorry no pictures here, because you know..that was before facebook.
After months of malnutrition and rigorous exercise, I couldn’t take it anymore. Once I had a bite of those crunchy savory chips, it was like a demon has unleashed. I couldn’t stop. I would eat a WHOLE bag of Costco family size chips in one sitting, then a whole TUB of mini croissants, stuffing my face so much to a point I wanted to throw up and I would still keep going. This developed into a binge eating disorder.
I was scoffing down guilt, shame and hatred towards myself. To offset the guilt, I would proceed to starve and exercise the next day to make up for it. This became a form of bulimia with the purge being the exercise because I never had the guts to put a finger down my throat to throw up. But then I’d get so hungry again and ended it with a binge. This cycle continued for YEARS. I would go through periods of “recovery” and “relapse”.
I started looking extremely pale and my menstruation has stopped for a year. This was when my mother intervened and brought me to the doctor. We discovered that my hemoglobin level has dropped to 2g/dL (The normal level is 12-15g/dL for women). This was when I was very close to getting a blood transfusion.
This realization has shocked me back to life and I started eating normally again. I stopped exercising so much as well. Within months my menstruation has returned. The road to recovery was not easy though. It was years of learning to let go of “perfection”, self-acceptance, and not being affected by societal standards and expectations.
Now that I have come out on the other side, it pains me to see so many people still beating themselves up for not having the perfect body. It is so damaging when we tie how we look to our self-worth, even at the expense of self-sabotage. I am an example of it. But it doesn’t have to be that way!
So the answer to achieving my healthy body was first and foremost developing a healthy mindset. Once we have a healthy foundation of self-worth, healthy eating and exercise will come more naturally as a result of wanting to take care of ourselves.
In recognizing the culprit of WHAT the underlying psychological barriers are, we are better equipped to stop punishing ourselves when we are not achieving the “ideal” body. Interestingly, the results will come as a byproduct.
Let’s look at some of the factors in society today that might have tripped us up:
Before social media, looking like a victoria secret model was my “ideal” of beauty. Nowadays, social media made it even easier to compare ourselves.
If you have seen the movie Crazy Rich Asians, in the scene where the first thing the mother said to his son was that he has lost weight and needs to eat more. That’s the love language of my culture. Criticism of body image.
As cliche as this sounds, self love is the foundation of achieving our goals! We can’t truly be happy either even if we do achieve that perfect body if we don’t love ourselves no matter what. We have been conditioned by society that if we don’t look a certain way, we are not enough. Stop beating yourself up! We don’t have to listen to that voice.
Let me know below if you have struggled with weight or if you have any questions! I am happy to help. This issue is so dear to my heart. Thanks for reading!
Disclaimer: An eating disorder typically requires therapy, as it is a mental illness, and hospitalization in extreme cases. Please seek professional help if you know anyone in that situation.