Body Image

I have recently started getting back into listening to podcasts regularly again. The latest one I have been binge listening to is called Perfectly Imperfect. I found this podcast because an ex-producer of Wongfu Productions began this podcast with her friend who also used to work at the same production company and I have been a casual fan of them for a while now. So one of the podcasts I listened to today that resonated with me a lot was the one wherein they talked about body image. Through this, it got me ruminating about my insecurities, which I try to hide most of the time especially in front of friends. 

One of the insecurities I have had for the longest time growing up and even until this very day is to do with my body image. Like most girls, I have had to deal with feeling insecure and unhappy with the way my body looks. It is a very common struggle that almost everyone goes through. I have yet to meet a single person that is completely and 100% okay with the way their body looks. As much as my friends and even myself say that they are completely happy with the way their body looks, there is always that person that wants to go to the gym every day to lose weight through exercise or someone who is trying to change their diet by cutting out sugar or carbohydrates because they believe that is the best and fastest way for them to become skinnier. Of course, not everyone strives to lose weight as their main goal by striving for a healthier lifestyle. Some people genuinely are doing it for the long-term benefits of living longer and healthier, but I still notice a lot of people struggling to be okay with themselves even in their adulthood and I definitely am one of them. 

So growing up I was on the skinnier side and my body image issues started quite young in primary school. I would have friends at school comment about how skinny I am and say I looked like sticks or they would say that my legs look like a pair of chopsticks. Then I would go home and get criticised by my family and relatives, telling me that I’m not eating enough and that I looked way too skinny in my clothes. They would then serve me huge portions of food in order for me to gain weight. It all sounds silly now because I don’t remember all the specifics that people told me about my body, but at the end of the day, it made me self-conscious of my looks. I was already insecure about being literally the only Chinese student in my entire grade and being the 1 out 5 Asians in my entire school that had a student population of about 140 kids. Just everything about me, made me stand out in front of everyone and I really just wanted to be accepted for just me and not judged all the time.

I used to be friends with someone who would constantly criticise my body and say that they wouldn’t be surprised if I fell down the stairs because of how thin I supposedly was. I would actually spend time standing in front of the mirror and pointing out what I did not like about my body and would wish it looked different. I became so self-conscious about my ribs being visible beneath my skin and I also became self-conscious about the fact that my breasts hadn’t developed yet. I would wish I had bigger boobs and I also hated my jawline. I hate how thin my face structure was that my chin pointed out from the side. I was also self-conscious of my nose. It was the one thing I wish was smaller and slimmer. I just had a lot of insecurities. It didn’t help that I began having acne in the 6th grade, so I was 12 years old then. I had all the more reason to loathe myself.

This unhealthy obsession with my body also meant I began having an unhealthy relationship with food. Everyone would tell me that I never gained weight and everyone seemed to somehow diagnose me and claim that I had super fast metabolism, when in fact I was just eating a balanced, healthy diet. All my friends telling me that I had a fast metabolism crept into my mind and I began to believe it without having actually been properly diagnosed by my doctor. Since I thought that my metabolism was much faster than everyone else’s, I thought it was the perfect way to eat as much junk food as I wanted because there would be no consequences for me. And now it has all hit me in my 20s and I do regret my past choices with food. Because I’ve created this unhealthy relationship with food, I am constantly relying on it to fulfil both my hunger and emotional needs, which is such a dangerous area to be put in. So unlike most people who wanted to lose weight, I wanted to gain it. I did not want to be skinny or ever called a twig again. I did not want to look at my naked body in the mirror and see a small, bony child. I would constantly check my weight and I would just eat whatever food I could consume without caring about whether it was healthy or not.

My parents contrary to what most of my friends believe was extremely strict all throughout my childhood and teenage years. They never ever allowed me to have any kinds of snacks that would be classified as even remotely unhealthy. Because of this, I yearned so hard for junk food. I would be so envious of peers whose parents packed them a small packet of chips for recess or chocolate yoghurt or dunkaroos. I think the unhealthiest thing they allowed me to have was those small packets of tiny teddies. I was so envious of all the lunches that my friends were allowed to eat. I was especially jealous of people who were allowed to have fast food often. That was the dream for me. I mean in hindsight, it was good that I didn’t eat junk food growing up, but then I would secretly eat all this junk food in school when the kids and I would swap snacks and later on, I would go to the canteen to try all the unhealthy foods they sold. I craved everything I could not have and I tried to find ways to secretly eat all the junk food I wanted to try without my parents noticing. This was so dangerous for my body and my self-worth because I just wanted to fit in and not be so skinny. I did not want my friends to constantly make remarks about my body. I would go home and always check my BMI score to see if I was still in the underweight range. It got really bad when I was about 16 and 17 when I told myself that I was actually trying to gain weight so I could be eligible to donate blood since the minimum weight requirement was about 46kg or something around there. It became my biggest goal and because of that, I began to binge eat. 

The excuse of trying to be in the right weight range for blood donations was actually a way to mask the fact that I did not want to be skinny. By the way, I never ended up going for the donations. I wanted an excuse to gain lots of weight. I began to binge eat whatever I could find at home. I would hardly ever finish my food during school and because of how hungry I was after class, I would use whatever spare change from I had from skipping piano lessons, to buy myself a thick shake from the nearby Donut King or I would secretly go to Woolies and buy myself a big packet of Red Rock Deli chips, hide it in my school backpack and secretly eat it in my bedroom at night. I would be so sneaky about all the junk food I would eat and not tell anyone. I remember when I was 16 when I used to see this group of people after school, we would always meet up at the same McDonalds every week, so of course, I would go order myself at least a soft serve or some sort of meal that would come with a big cup of Fanta or Coke. I just did not care about what I was consuming because whatever would help me gain weight the quickest, was alright with me.

This goal of trying to gain lots of weight was also the sole reason why I began running as a hobby. I began running a lot at home on the treadmill and I would also go for jogs at the park in order to gain muscle mass. I was just so obsessed with changing the way my body looks and for the wrong reasons. Also because I was consuming whatever foods I deemed delicious enough, I began to stress eat and eat whenever I was bored. This binge eating really took a toll when I began university. Funnily enough, once I actually gained the weight I wanted to all those years, all my insecurities reversed and I wanted to be skinny again. I wanted to be slim like I used to. Due to all the junk food that I would eat at the wrong hours of the day and all the fatty, sugary foods I was eating, I gained all this weight in my thighs, my face, my stomach and basically just everywhere. I regretted my choices but I still had that ignorant mentality of eat now, burn it off later. My ribs didn’t poke out as much, but now I wanted a flat stomach or ideally some defined abs. My confidence was just on a crazy rollercoaster ride. I wanted to gain weight in my face, but when I actually did and got chubby cheeks, I wanted to lose it all instantly. I got a new set of insecurities with my body and in the back of my mind I wanted to change it, but I was just so caught up in overthinking about my body that I was not really being consistent with trying to change it to a healthier, happy state.

The drastic change of environment, the plethora of university work I had to always keep up with and my bad home life, stressed me out so much. I did not find a healthy way of coping with all the new stresses in my life and I turned to food to give me instant gratification. It did not help that I have limited self-control so whenever my friends and I would eat out, I would just order whatever I wanted to. Now I had so much freedom to go out and buy and cook my food that I ate whatever I could never have in my childhood. During class breaks, I would go to the food court and order overpriced meals and at the end of every big assessment, my classmates and I would have celebratory dinners, which in turn made me lose a lot of money but also gain a lot of weight. Because everyone told me I had a fast metabolism, I believed it so I ate whatever I wanted to and did not care about it. This was so false. I gained weight so easily and I didn’t notice the changes until I looked at old photographs of myself as a teenager wherein I was much slimmer. And not just stress, I would also binge eat when I was bored at home. I would use the excuse that I needed a good meal or a whole bunch of snacks in order to study, so I would walk on over to my local Woolies and just splurge on random foods I wanted to try or that I was craving. Fulfilling cravings was such a hard thing to control. I am still struggling with this now. Even when I am completely full, I will still eat because I have become so reliant on food to satisfy whatever needs that need to be met.

Currently, this is something I am still working hard on. All that binge eating and unhealthy lifestyle choices have affected my health very negatively as of late. I am now dealing with constant bloating, constipation, nausea, food intolerances, vomiting, etc. – all because of my poor diet choices. Whilst I used to be so insecure about how skinny I was, now I have become insecure about my gained weight. In my mind, I want to be skinnier again or just very lean with minimal fat. It is something I am working on and it is hard for me. I have unfollowed all social media that make me envy other girl’s “perfect” bodies, but I am still working on trying to eat healthily. Instead of pointing out how skinny I am, now my friends will point out all the little fat I have on my body. I look in the mirror every day and give myself positive affirmations and say that I am very happy with the way I look, but deep down I still haven’t fully accepted myself yet. Beauty definitely is in the eye of the beholder, but I am honestly still struggling to accept my body for the way it is and I am still quite insecure about my own body despite working out daily and eating lots of fruits and veggies. Overall, it is a tough journey of acceptance that we all go through and I hope that someday, we would all just love each other for the way our bodies are and not for what they could be.

Small gestures of self-love

Here are the little things you can do for yourself and your well-being:

  • take a long, hot shower
  • read a chapter of that book you’ve been meaning to read
  • brush your hair
  • take a nice nap
  • cuddle your friends
  • declutter your room
  • paint your nails
  • draw your favourite plant
  • take a walk in your favourite park
  • have a cuppa hot tea
  • call your loved ones
  • do a lil bit of exercise at home
  • hug your dog

 

Gratitude and happiness

I’ve been bundled in a mesh of confusion lately over my life and my surroundings. Sometimes we grow up in an environment that is comfortable and makes us feel secure about who we are and what our lives will pan out to be in the future. But it’s so easy to just blank out or be numb to all the little things in life that should be appreciated more.

Growing up in a Christian environment through school, I’ve been taught about humility and what it means to be humble in the kind actions we take every day. However, I never really took it to heart. I just played the nice game and assumed that good things would come to me eventually. It’s a kind of hope I held onto because it allowed me to think that all the bad things that were happening in my life were simply impermanent and that it would all pass – that there are better days ahead. This actually plays into Buddhist beliefs of impermanence, which is ironic since I grew up being strictly taught Christian values.

Because of a lot of recent and new stresses in my life that has been ongoing since the previous year, I’ve begun to really try and take a step back in my life and be thankful for all the small things in the world that have come together to make me happier inside. So I’m thankful for all the people in my life who have made me a stronger, wiser individual who is still learning to grow, whether they did me wrong or not. I’m thankful for the privileges I have for living in a wealthier country. I’m thankful for this beautiful earth that I’m blessed to live in. And I’m most thankful for all the love that bonds humanity together.

 

Bops I’m in love with

These are the songs that are my all-time favourites amongst the plethora of music that I listen to on the daily. Sometimes we enjoy the beat of a song or the melody, and with another song, we appreciate it for its lyrics. These songs, however, are songs that I wholesomely love for its style, instrumental, singing or rapping, lyrics, poeticism, and meaning. I feel like they’re all very representative of who I am at the minute.

  • Eternal Sunshine by Jhené Aiko
  • Stay Young by Beeches
  • Freaks and Geeks by Childish Gambino
  • Still Into You by Paramore
  • Bonfire by Childish Gambino

 

 

Inevitable change

When you’re a teenager you think to yourself that after turning 18 or at least getting into your 20s, you stop changing so much as you solidify into an adult. Or least that’s what I thought. I’ve always been someone that just went with the flow and tried to do everything with my best effort. I tried my best and I was contempt with that because I believed everything would fall into place in the future. In a way, I still believe in this. I’m a very hopeful person and it’s what keeps me going every time big changes happen in my life or very bad things happen in my life. But in reality, your teenage years aren’t the only formative years of your life. I’ve found the changes during my teen years to be a slow, progressive period of my life where I felt that I had plateaued closer to my adulthood. I believed so hard that I had finally fit into the shoes that I’m meant to and I was so happy with myself. I thought I knew myself so well.

tumblr_optk9132tv1w9epm1o2_500

But alas, in the past 3 years, I had changed so rapidly in ways that I never expected. Even now I feel like I’m still rapidly changing and this change is good. It means that I’m doing something different every day, learning and growing to be someone I am comfortable with. 2017 has and is still throwing me so many surprises. I can’t deny that although I practise self-awareness quite a lot, I have lived my life with a lot of naivety. Naivety is something I feel that people misunderstand and brush off thinking it’s cute. But it has resulted in some negative outcomes for me. And it hit me hard. There have been many relationships that I’ve had to re-evaluate and I’m still re-evaluating some of them as of now – relationships that are beginning to crumble and are revealing themselves to be more than what appears on the surface. I’ve heard quite a lot that if you never fight in a relationship, it means you’re not close enough. Upon first thought, I thought it was silly. I said to myself, “if you don’t fight, doesn’t it mean that you have a very good relationship because you get along so well?”. For some people, never fighting can work out for them, but I’ve found that the initial statement rang true for me. No matter how similar and the same you think you are with someone, you will always have your differences. And these differences will create problems unless you talk it out openly and honestly, and make a compromise for the overall happiness of the relationship. But this doesn’t mean compromising all your needs to make the other person happy.

You’ve got to always be comfortable in your own skin first and foremost. You have to love yourself so much that everything else in your life comes after and is complimentary to your life. This is something I’m working on again. Recently, I’ve lost a lot of my confidence in who I am because of judgement from people in my life. I told myself that I should shut up and not be so talkative, and just listen. This tip-toeing of words and trying to be quiet, resulted in me actually becoming very quiet in social situations. It even affected how I presented myself in front of new people I met. I started to feel awkward and quiet, and sometimes just shy. I felt like I couldn’t be myself around people and had to cater to others to ensure I didn’t offend them. Amongst other things, this gave me a lot of stress. My mental health deteriorated again. However, I believe no challenge is a bad challenge! After talking with a dear friend of mine, they told me I needed to cut out these people in my life who are draining me and not doing any good to my wellbeing. I’ve begun to take a step back onto the path that will only bring me up to where I was. A place where I accept myself and my personality for what it is, and I am happy with myself.

 

Avo Smash

I spent all night in my bed yesterday watching vegan recipe videos and was inspired to make this very simple avocado smash on toast that tasted phenomenal. I had this for lunch today and this filled me up so well, despite it looking seemingly small in terms of size and portion. It’s quick to make, healthy and vegan! So here’s how to make it:

 

First, you need one ripe avocado. Slice it through the middle and keep one half to smash. Use a spoon to empty out the avocado onto a bowl or plate and use a fork to mash the avocado into a spread-like texture. I cut mine into small cubes before I started smashing, which made the job easier.

 

Next, finely chop up a bit of garlic and dice a bunch of cherry tomatoes. Heat up a pan to low-medium heat, spritz some olive oil and cook the garlic until golden brown.

Add in the diced cherry tomatoes and cook the tomatoes for about 10 minutes.

After cooking the cherry tomatoes, toast two slices of bread. Spread the avocado smash on the toast, add the cooked tomatoes and season with some fresh pepper. Then voila!

 

 

Almost Adulting

This month marked the release of one of my all-time favourite YouTuber’s (now author as well) first book. I know there is a stigma against YouTubers writing their own books, and some controversy around some even using ghost writers and releasing books just for additional profit, however, I was nonetheless super stoked for this particular one. ‘Almost Adulting’ is a book written by Arden Rose or formally ‘arose186’ online that centralises around themes of growing up, modern love, mental health, sex, independence and navigating adulthood. Arden is actually the only YouTuber that I’ve been an active subscriber of since I was about 15, so getting to read her first book was quite special.

Although the book is a short read, there are times when it does get a bit repetitive, particularly in the beginning of the book and toward the end wherein there is a lot of general life advice. I found the middle chapters to be the golden parts of the book because she dives into her personal experiences with more specific topics. One of my favourite chapters is when she describes her experience dealing with trichotillomania in high school and the insecurities that she overcame at that time. It was nice to learn more about the disorder as it’s not something I have much knowledge on myself.

 

The other chapter that I particularly enjoyed was when she described how she met and started dating Will, her boyfriend, and the ins and outs of maintaining a long-distance relationship. It felt like a little addition to Will’s book ‘This Modern Love’, which also deals with the role of the internet in helping to build relationships in the contemporary era.

 

I would say this book targets a younger audience, including those in their 20s or even in their late teen years. Of course, anyone of any age could read this, even those just in the beginning of their teenage years. But as an individual currently in their early 20s, I believe the book would be a more enjoyable read for those around my age because the stories and experiences Arden shares are very relatable. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it so I’d recommend it to any young individual wanting some casual life guidance or a read that feels like you’re having a late night, deep and meaningful conversation with a close friend.

Few of my favourite tunes

This past month I’ve been listening to a lot of new music and re-listening to some old ones that I’ve fallen in love with all over again. A lot of these songs I discovered through a YouTube channel called ‘Thelazylazyme,’ which I absolutely adore because they post new songs daily. The style of music that I enjoy the most i.e. alternative is what that channel mostly posts. There are tonnes of independent artists that I also like to listen to on Bandcamp and Soundcloud, which are also great sources of music discovery. So here are my recent obsessions that kind of define this moment in my life where I’m questioning myself and contemplating a lot about the world. I find all the lyrics in these songs to be relatable and poignant. It feels like I’m listening to poetry. I’ve also included links where applicable so you can support the artist by purchasing their songs.

Side note: I have a lot of Conan’s music on here, but I’ve been listening to his music the most on repeat every day so I am not ashamed.

✿ The Other Side by Conan Gray

✿ Lovesick Boys by Conan Gray

✿ I Know A Place by Conan Gray

✿ Idle Town by Conan Gray

✿ Sever by Dead Sullivan

https://deadsullivan.bandcamp.com/

✿ Pizza by Oohyo

https://itunes.apple.com/album/pizza-single/id1215505002?l=ko&ls=1&app=itunes

✿ Mind Fields by No Vacation

https://novacationgrrl.bandcamp.com/track/mind-fields

✿ Dræm Girl by No Vacation

https://novacationgrrl.bandcamp.com/track/dr-m-girl

✿ Rain by Soyou feat. Baekhyun

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/비가와-rain-single/id1205766582

✿ Hypnotised by Coldplay

http://parlopho.ne/iHypnotised

✿ In The Bathtub Of The World by Tyler Burkhart

https://tylerburkhart.bandcamp.com/album/sweet-spell

✿ Woodland by The Paper Kites

✿ Roslyn by Bon Iver feat. St. Vincent

 

Monthly Reading Challenge

 

Growing up throughout my primary school and early to mid high school years, books and literature were a big part of my life. They helped shape my world views, ignited my imagination and were a source of not just enjoyment but comfort through the rough periods of my life. However, as I got older and became completely encapsulated by the workload of my senior high school years and university, I stopped finding time to read and lost a bit of interest. I would maybe read a new book once in a blue moon in comparison to the times I used to actively go to the library and borrow so many books to read at home.

During my undergraduate years, the goal of re-finding my passion for books and reading always played at the back of my head but I never took it too seriously. I would spend a lot of time at my local bookstore and online, buying books that seemed interesting or intriguing to me, but they would just end up staying in a massive book pile or tucked away in my ever so full bookshelf. But now I’ve decided to make this a main goal for this year and because I now find it hard to concentrate on reading one book, I’ve decided to break this goal down into easy steps so I’m not putting too much pressure on myself. Although I haven’t begun this in January, I’m okay with it because this will be a continual journey that won’t just end once 2018 hits. Each month I will aim to finish at least one book and this can be done in whatever time or pace I please, so as long as the book for the month is completed by the time the next month hits. Below are the books I’ve chosen for each month:

March

Unfiltered: No Shame, No Regrets, Just Me by Lily Collins

April

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

May

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki And His Years Of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

June

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

July

Paper Towns by John Green

August

The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens

September

An Abundance Of Katherines by John Green

October

Eragon by Christopher Paolini

November

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

December

Hyperion by Dan Simmons

 

21 Things I Learnt At 21

  1. It’s okay to have bad days. Not every moment in our lives is perfect.
  2. It’s also okay to just cry as much as you want. It’s not a sign of weakness, it’s just human.
  3. If you become overly stressed, a day off from your regular routine will really benefit your emotional and mental wellbeing in the long run. Sometimes we just need time to re-focus ourselves.
  4. Not everyone will have a good opinion of you, like you or support you, so stop trying so hard to fit in.
  5. Always stand by your inner values; your personal happiness matters the most in the end anyway.
  6. Everyone has their own pains and struggles; you’re not alone.
  7. It’s a normal part of life to outgrow your friends.
  8. You are your own best friend. As hard as you try, not everyone is meant to be your best friend.
  9. You don’t have to rush life to be like everyone else. Take things slow and enjoy every small moment along the journey.
  10. It’s okay to say no to people. You shouldn’t have to constantly feel obligated to please people.
  11. Don’t neglect your creative side! Take some time out once in a while to re-ignite your love for your creative hobbies like drawing or playing the piano.
  12. Music is incredibly therapeutic.
  13. Forgive, but don’t forget. Learn from your past relationship mistakes and don’t hand out your trust so easily.
  14. Start exploring any new hobbies you’ve always wanted to try! There’s no better time to learn and don’t hold things off for too long.
  15. Appreciate your family, especially the ones who have your back.
  16. Just because someone is related to you by blood, does not mean they are truly family. Pseudo-family can be found anywhere and give you just as much love, support and intimacy.
  17. Travelling can be equally fun and exciting, with or without friends!
  18. Success is defined differently per individual. Academia and money simply aren’t what you desire, but doesn’t mean someone whose goals are centred around those things is illegitimate. Everyone has a different vision of what they want their life to be and that’s perfectly okay as well.
  19. Just because something is on sale, doesn’t mean you should buy it.
  20. Education isn’t just about getting good grades or getting a job out of it in the end. Learning should be a lifelong process and everything you learn at high school or university is invaluable.
  21. Life shouldn’t be taken too seriously. Always have fun no matter what!