I’ve always been chubby. In all my 30 years of living, I’ve never once been “skinny”, not even close. Blame it on genes or metabolism or just a lack of interest in exercise, I’ve never been slim. This being said, I don’t binge when it comes to food. I’m not particularly fond of fried food and soft drinks, and I almost never eat more than three full meals a day. And in 2013, I decided to take up a more active lifestyle, signed up for a gym membership and work out twice to thrice a week (until I was diagnosed with cancer last year). And for the record, the regular workouts only made me lose about 2-3kg, it wasn’t very significant.
Fat Is Not Fun
It’s not fun being a fat girl. I’ve been teased mercilessly since I was a child. I’ve been called names and always paired up with the biggest boy in class. Somehow, fat people are supposed to be married to fat people, according to primary school kids.
It doesn’t get better as I grew up. A guy whom I used to play music with used to tease me cruelly. He’d make thumping sounds when I walk (to make it sound like I were a dinosaur shaking the earth with every step I took), and told me that I looked like fat (and ugly) characters that are meant to be comedic in movies, and also told me that the reason why my favourite cartoon character was Garfield was because we were equally chubby.
All these teasing were totally uncalled for, and I had never been mean to him. I decided not to be friends with him anymore, left the music group and don’t ever speak to him again.
And then I attended a bloggers’ event for a detox supplement.
“You’re beautiful,” said the founder of the supplement. She then paused and added, “But only from the neck up.”
She went on to make comments about my physique and how I cannot be “lazy” and should do something about my weight. Needless to say, she spoilt my day. I went home and cried about it.
You Don’t Know Me Beyond “Fat”
This stranger, who didn’t even know my last name just defined my level of attractiveness by my weight. And even assumed my personality (“lazy”) because of my physique.
What does she mean by that I’m only beautiful “neck up”?
Well, she isn’t wrong about me being beautiful “neck up”. Don’t tell me she knew that:
- I am intelligent. Besides doing very well academically when I was in school, I read a lot, am knowledgeable about a wide variety of subjects, am great at my work, and my friends can attest to the great conversations I’m able to hold with just about anybody.
- I sing well. I definitely can hold a tune and have performed at several occasions, including being hired to sing at weddings.
- I’m a great listener. Friends like to confide in me because I listen, am caring to my friends and give sound advice.
- I’m effectively bilingual. I’m very proud to say that besides being a professional writer in English, I was also previously a recipient of a scholarship for Chinese language.
- I’m compassionate. I empathise with those who are less fortunate and try to be kind to people in the service line. Oh, I give up my seat (“reserved” or not, on a bus/MRT or not) to those who need it more than me.
- I am forgiving. I’ve written off many misdeeds done unto me and am friendly to those who treated me badly in the past (if they’re willing to be friendly with me, of course, it takes two hands to clap).
- I have a great smile. And I smile as much as I can. People warm up to me easily because I am generous with smiling.
And these are just some of the things I’m great at “neck up”. There are definitely more amazing things about me that I can share with you that I can do, “neck down” (I play the keyboard!).
But look, this is not a brag-fest and I’m not here to tell you all the talents and skills that I have, or the charities that I donate to or help out with.
I regret not pointing this out to that woman: I am more than just “fat”. And how beautiful I am is not up to you, a mere stranger, to decide, based on how you think I “look”. Hey, I didn’t even point out to you the number of wrinkles you have on your face and neck and that you shouldn’t be lazy about skincare so you can achieve good complexion like mine! (Insert bitchy face here.)
Although I didn’t manage to stand up to her, I decided I have to stand up for myself. From then on, I decided I would not let people like her decide how I should feel that day.
It’s Not An Easy Fight
Demons are everywhere. Sometimes it doesn’t even come in the form of an insensitive stranger, but in the reflection in your mirror – quite literally. We’ve grown up in a culture that’s so focused on the physical aesthetics that it’s hard not to bash yourself over how you look.
But what’s most important to me is to pick myself up immediately even when I bash myself over it.
This is how I look now. Finally, I lost weight. The irony is that I lost 10kg without “trying”. All my life, I’ve tried exercising, dieting, taking dietary supplements and all my weight loss were insignificant. And then I lost them because I lost my appetite when I was going through chemotherapy.
Do I feel more beautiful now than before? Yes. But not because I can now fit into a dress of a smaller size, but because I witness my own strength and bravery during the 6-month treatment – the toughest, and darkest period of my life, that I went through with so much joy and grace. I never knew I was capable of this. (And I thank God for his empowerment.)
Now that I’m in remission and am not so affected by its side effects anymore, I’ve noticed some weight gain already.
And this time, I decide to tell myself not to be affected by the numbers on the weighing scale, but to focus on being healthier, and to make sure I am as concerned – if not, more concerned – about how beautiful I am on the inside, just as the world is concerned about how beautiful I am on the outside.
Everyone ages, and our physical beauty will always be a depreciating asset. What I know appreciate with age, however, are wisdom, knowledge and a heart of gold. It’s easy to decide what you should invest in, when you put things into the right perspective.