Saturday, March 15, 2014

When #fitspo goes too far.

I remember updating my Facebook status some time last year with a statement along the lines of "everything posted by elitedaily is trash". At the time, everyone I knew was always sharing stuff from the site on my news feed. So every time I checked my news feed, I'd see a barrage of posts along the lines of "10 things you should do in your twenties", "5 reasons you shouldn't settle down", "7 types of friends you don't need"...etc etc.

And to me, it was really all just trash. It just bombarded us all with the stereotypical elitist lifestyle of partying, getting rich, and hooking up with as many people as you can, so you won't have to endure the horrors of a joint account. Or something like that. But I do remember very vividly that one post shared talked about dabbling with comfort women, because you get your quick fix without any complications or emotions.

At that point, I honestly just shut off from that website and didn't bother clicking on any of those links again. Everything on the site was just so shallow. Maybe it's just me being a huge prude, but there's so much more to life than turning it into a bloody MTV music video. And honestly, I didn't need anyone telling me that I need to have a threesome in my twenties.

But lately, I've been wanting to write something about the insane health and fitness craze that has basically overtaken everyone's lives, myself sort-of included, but only because there just seems to be no way of escaping it.

Suddenly, out of nowhere everyone you know is posting online about the distance they ran/cycled/swam/rode donkeys. Or about the weight lifted or reps completed in the gym. Sometimes, they even top it off with lovely pictures of them flexing their muscles; here it differs, some literally look like rock hard Greek God statues (kudos to them), but some are just sad, though you have to give them props for trying.

And of course, there's the food. You know, where they subsist on protein shakes and green juice or fruit and berry salads or whatever. They only ever steam or poach, and know the exact calorific value of every morsel of (super)food that passes their lips. They tend to hashtag their pictures with #cleaneating or #healthylifestyle or #fitfam and what have you.

I mean it's fine that you consider yourself a nutritionist and want to share your words of wisdom with the world. You feel great about yourself and your healthy lifestyle, and you can't help but want to show it all off. If you've got it, flaunt it, right?

And I have absolutely nothing wrong with these people. If they just want to post about their wonderfully healthy, zen, muscle-building, #legsday lives to share them with the world, who am I to put a damper on their #fitspo? The problem only arises when they start updating their status with pictures and/or quotes along the lines of "fat people are lazy people", "a moment on your lips forever on your hips", and of course, "what's your excuse for not exercising today?".

I mean screw you.

It used to be that we complained Hollywood superstars set unreasonable beauty standards. You know, where every single superstar would triumphantly appear a few weeks after giving birth with this impossibly hot bikini body you couldn't have if you spent your whole life working on it. Even poor Kim Kardashian (who would've thought I'd ever use that adjective in relation to her?) that was ridiculously made fun of for putting on weight during her pregnancy, bounced back with a vengeance.

We used to say that of course they managed to do that; its their job and they have legions of nutritionists and personal trainers and contractual obligations to make sure that they always keep in perfect shape. It was always us, i.e. the normal average workaday people, against them, i.e. the nip&tuck goddesses.

But now we're getting the same pressure, but worse, from our fellow peers. It's not anymore the case of having that annoying skinny friend who either eats like a pig and never puts on weight, or keeps complaining about non-existent fats. Suddenly everyone around you is caught up in the revolution of becoming a member of the #fitfam, and you're made to feel like crap everytime you catch a status update from them.

You now feel like you should be ashamed for having fried rice or a burger or God forbid, a slice of cake. (Cue collective horrified gasp.) The travesty of empty calories! How dare you allow yourself to partake in such careless culture, you glutton! Don't you know that a single bowl of rice needs 30 minutes of solid running to burn off?

So for the first time in my life, I find myself actually siding with an article on elitedaily: The 11 reasons why the fitness culture on social media needs to stop. Because this fat-shaming culture has gotten out of hand.

Just because someone isn't gloriously sculpted doesn't mean they love themselves any less. Some people actually have work to do and what precious free time they have isn't going to be squandered on a visit to the gym when they're already bloody exhausted, thank you very much.

No, at the end of a long and shitty day, I want to curl up with a tub of Ben and Jerry's and watch romantic comedies starring Ryan Reynolds. Because there's nothing remotely "fun" about sweating buckets and pumping iron. And after I'm done pigging out, I don't want to log on to Facebook and be made to feel like shit when facing a plethora of "motivational" updates saying "Have you ran/lifted/rode donkeys today?"

It's like religion. I'm a stout Catholic, but I'm going to use Christianity as an example anyway because well we all have that certain stereotype as a friend.

This person, lets call him Bob, is a great guy. Bob is friendly and generous and is always ready to help you out with a smile on his face if you're ever stuck in a rut. Bob regularly praises God in regular conversation, like "God has blessed us with great weather today!" or "Praise the Lord, class is cancelled!". Bob is a very active church member, and he's always tagged in pictures during church events. Everyone loves Bob.

Until one day, Bob decides to become more pushy. Bob used to just invite you to church events and was cool with any answer, but now he insinuates to others that if you're not a Christian, you're going to burn in eternal hellfire, and is no longer happy with getting no for an answer. Obviously, non-believers now dislike Bob; they avoid him and dub him "the super Christian".

Now just switch out the scenario, and you get "Bob the super health freak"; someone who is unable to accept that there may be others who are happy with not leading a #fitfam lifestyle. You know, people with taste buds that actually function. Normal people who don't always eat unrefined carbs and may have greasy meals more times than a weekly #cheatmeal.

I realise that I sound like a bitter, obese bitch, and I suppose I am, to a certain extent. Especially considering my last depressed post, it now looks like I've just entered an angsty denial phase. But I've been toying around with these thoughts for ages, and all I needed was that one elitedaily post to make me realise that I wasn't the only person around that was fed up with the fitness craze.

Fat-shaming is disgusting. You can look down your nose from your plate of egg-white tofu omelette at my greasy pizza slice all you want. But at the end of the day, I'm just as happy with my life as you are with yours.

I'm lucky enough to be blessed with self-confidence, that took me years to build up, having never been skinny all my life. But fat-shaming is what makes perfectly average-weighing girls have their confidence shattered and subsequently turn to eating disorders.

Maybe these people may have good intentions. I mean, they've turned their lifestyle around and now they look hot and have tons of admirers and feel really good about themselves everyday, and they just want everyone to experience that same amazing transformation. Well then goody for you! But Bob, believe it or not, there's more than one way to lead a healthy lifestyle. And not everyone wants to be part of your #fitfam.

So by all means; it's your body, do what you want with it. But don't be that annoying person that tries to get everyone around you into the insane fitness lifestyle if they're just not interested. Don't be Bob.

Nobody likes Bob.

Shut up, Bob.

Friday, March 7, 2014

The Story of A Fat Girl (Episode 3)

It's no good. You still look like a fatface.

Jules cringed yet again at the reflection she'd grown to hate. Every single day she was reminded of how much weight she'd gained when she checked herself before leaving her room.

But she was kind of sadomasochistic in that way. So she traced every inch of her reflection's outline with her eyes, noting with heartwrenching dismay the ever-growing paunch. The stopping of dance classes clearly has not agreed with her.

But worst of all was her face, in all its round glory. In the past, though she had never been skinny, you'd never be able to tell from a mere face shot, and she used to be proud of her oval-shaped face and defined cheekbones and jawline. Now, she had the puffiest face in the world and horror of horrors, a freaking double chin.

She hadn't taken a selfie in ages, which is a big deal because she always used to be a huge vainpot. But she just couldn't deal with looking at the person she had allowed herself to become. It was just too much to let everyone back home see how badly she was getting along.

The weight gain signified how unable she was to take care of herself. She remembered announcing that since she would be preparing her own food in England, as well as joining a gym, that she would come back a much skinnier person; or at the very least, she wouldn't have put on any extra weight.

Obviously she had spoken too soon. That giant creature in the mirror taunted her with her words every day.

It got to the point where she hated herself every time she ate something, be it stir-fried or boiled. She hated that she had to feed herself, because every spoonful meant yet another calorie intake which she'd then have to sweat out at the gym.

And that was the part she could not understand.

She ate healthily. Her only meats were turkey steak, chicken thigh, and salmon. She ate loads of veggies: kale, spinach, bakchoy, carrots, sprouts - but never iceberg lettuce; and of course loads of fruit. Cooking methods were only ever stir-fry, oven-roasted, or boiled, because she didn't know any other way. She didn't eat rice, though noodles and (wholemeal, seeded) bread were consumed a few times a week. She alternated her morning cereal between muesli and her favourite almond & raisin clusters.

She exercised a lot. She only ever did cardio at the gym, and it was always for a minimum of 1 hour. For someone who had absolutely hated running back home, a (very expensive, but bounce-proof) sports bra investment had now changed things. She went to the gym 3-5 times a week.

She hadn't fallen sick even once, and she knew she was healthier and had more stamina than ever before. How was it possible that the weight could still creep on?

True, a biscuit or two and/or a few pieces of chocolate would regularly sneak its way into her day as after-meal desserts, but she'd always had something sweet after meals back home too. Come to think of it, she had carbs for every single meal back home, not to mention the regular mamak sessions, but she was still slimmer back then.

It just didn't make any sense now. And it ate away at her self-esteem, which was now completely non-existent. Self-pitying spells had always come and gone back home, but it was even worse now, because it meant she was doing something wrong in taking care of herself.

Thankfully, she wasn't the type who would ever turn to starvation or bulimia or any other eating disorder; she still had some measure of self-respect. But she also wasn't the crazy diet type either, i.e. she would never survive on meal replacements, and if she had to steam everything she ate she would probably kill herself.

She had stopped buying cookies since before cny, because they were such a horrible weakness. Her snack pile, which previously was restocked every week, had now dwindled to a few straggling Oreos and chocolate truffles. So she'd already drastically reduced her intake of empty calories, and she just didn't know what else she could do.

In the whole scheme of things, all she'd really put on was 2-3kg, and her clothes still fit in the same way as before. And some days she'd remember that and things would go okay.

But in darker moments and on bad days, she would continuously stare into her reflection and mentally punch herself for every unsatisfactory, wobbly inch. And then she'd tell herself that the reason she'd been single for so many years was that no man could ever love a fat bitch. Those days usually ended with binge eating and self-loathe.

Those days are now happening too often for comfort.

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