Posted in Food and self-image, Renuka

Mindful eating, the answer to a diet-free healthy lifestyle?

Why dieting doesn’t usually work – Sandra Aamodt

What if we told all those dieting girls that it’s okay to eat when they’re hungry? What if we taught them to work with their appetite instead of fearing it? I think most of them would be happier and healthier, and as adults, many of them would probably be thinner. I wish someone had told me that back when I was 13.

Sandra Aamodt

All my life i’ve been fat. All of it guys, I’m not joking. My family always jokes about how as a toddler, my grandma would keep feeding me and I would keep opening my mouth for more – so she would keep feeding me until there was no more food left. While the story of my toddler self never being able to control myself around food, sounds amusing to my family – It’s painful for me to hear.

Because, it sounds remarkably a lot like how I am now. Except now as an adult, I am my own grandma, and I keep feeding myself. Even when i’m full. Even when I know I don’t want anymore. Even when I know I’m hurting myself.

So while everybody thought this was cute when I was a child – things quickly got out of hand as I grew up. I still didn’t understand food and its role in my life. See – in my family we go by the rule “better to cook more than not enough”. So in case we have guests, or people are feeling extra hungry on the day – there’s always extra food in the kitchen.

But more often than not – there are always leftovers. And what happens to these leftovers? Well, my aunt (the main chef) will complain about how she slogged the whole day in the kitchen and everyone is not eating enough etc etc, essentially guilt-tripping us into eating more. And by us, I mean mostly me.

See – the thing about me is – I hate making my family disappointed. I hate making my loved ones upset. So, as a child I sought out the easiest ways to make the people around me happy.

Be well behaved.

Don’t make your parents angry.

Follow instructions.

Listen to the adults.

Boy, if I had known that all the adults around me had no idea what they were doing – I’d have been better off not doing any of that.

So I ate. I ate, and I ate more. And somewhere along the way, I developed a terrible relationship with food. I didn’t know when I needed it. I still don’t. The problem is – it’s cute to be a chubby child. But sometime between being a toddler and midway-through primary school, chubby goes out of fashion for all children. Then it becomes unhealthy. Then you are fat. Then you are essentially a monster for not being able to control yourself around food.

It doesn’t matter that the adults around you are the ones who couldn’t show you a good example. They are all considered to be a healthy weight – so the problem must be you. A child.

I have been put on diets since I was in primary school. I have been forced to work out, skip meals. I did anything and everything so I could lose weight as I grew older. Even tried weight loss pills – at my family’s recommendation, and on my own. Nothing has worked. Every kilo I lost, I put it right back on after a year at most.

Somewhere between being a cute chubby child and becoming the “giant” that many refer to me as now, I think I just gave up on my health. A part of me didn’t ever believe I will be healthy because I will never be thin. Somewhere along the way – I grew to believe that only thin is healthy, and therefore I am not. I could be working out everyday and eating below 1200 calories of home made food, and yet I was twice the size of my peers – so I was unhealthy. It made me angry. And before I knew it, I’d be back on the binge cycle again.

It just doesn’t make sense. Sandra Aamodt gets this. And in her video she explains why this doesn’t make sense.

From “Why dieting doesn’t usually work – Sandra Aamodt”

The graph above shows how the relative risk of death increases and decreases depending on the number of the four recommended healthy habits an individual adopts. The study from which this graph was obtained observed that, if an obese individual:

  1. eats enough fruits and vegetables,
  2. exercises three times a week,
  3. doesn’t smoke, and
  4. drinks in moderation

they had the same relative risk of death as one at a normal weight. And this is what really struck a chord. It made me realise – it doesn’t matter how big I am. What I really want now that I’m older – is to be healthy. And to prove that I can be healthy at any weight. And if that means I will never be thin, or if it means I lose some weight along the way – it doesn’t matter.

What I really want – is to take care of myself. And to stop beating myself up through harsh diets and crazy exercise regimes. That isn’t healthy, and I don’t want that anymore.

As part of my quest into getting healthy at thirty (LOL), I will be adopting mindful eating, as well as the four habits listed above. I shall be doing some more research, but along the way I will also be getting my annual physical assessments done. So I’m excited to see where I am now. And where i will be in a year’s time. I’ll put them up here once they are ready so we can all see how this goes!

I also highly recommend that you watch the video if any of what I’ve written resonated with you. Aamodt goes more in depth about how your brain makes it much more difficult to return to a normal weight when you have been heavy all your life, but I’ll leave you to watch and find out more on that.

I started this post on a sombre note, but I’m really more excited than anything to get on with it. Till the next fortnight folks!

Image: Bonnie Kittle on Unsplash.com

Posted in Renuka, Thoughts&Revelations

How old are my parents again?

Another Sunday, another frantic phone call from home about another parent being taken to the hospital.

I have another 6-ish months to go before I officially turn 30, but what I’d forgotten is that my parents will soon also face a far more terrifying milestone – 60 years on earth.

As overbearing as Indian parents can be, and as much as I have often wanted my parents out of my life in the past, their mortality is something I haven’t put much thought into.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve watched both my parents go through multiple surgeries since I was 17. My mom had a stroke and was in a coma that we didn’t know if she would come out of She hasn’t been the same since.

I’ve visited multiple hospitals in Singapore more times than I should have been before turning 30. I could tell you where you can go for a quiet space in SGH, what food is best in Tan Tock Seng, and how NUH is a lot more accessible now than it was years ago.

I’ve roamed the various corridors of these hospitals for days on end over the years, become so familiar with hospital procedures and protocols (before I started working in one myself), that I can honestly tell you, I’m tired of it.

So tired. Tired of receiving phone calls about falls, heart attacks, panic attacks. Tired of going to the hospital and home and work and back to the hospital. Tired of feeling terrified that this phone call will be the last one.

I’m worried out of my mind all the time and I’m sure I’m not the only one. And if saying that I’m tired makes me a bad person, then I’m not afraid of being a bad person.

At the end of the day, I will say I’m tired, I will get angry and upset. I will worry about my own mortality, and fret over my health. I will text my best friends, and get some relief from their supportive words.

And I will pull through for my family.

I will be there at whichever hospital I’m needed. I will ask all the questions to all the doctors and I will keep worrying about my parents.

We may not have the best relationship. My family will never make it to daytime television, with ever-smiling and overwhelmingly supportive families. But it’s all I have, and damnit, I will dig deep and pull through for them again.

Image: Hush Naidoo on Unsplash.com

Posted in Renuka, Self-Love

Love Myself? Ok.

Girl, you know you very fat ah; why you don’t diet?

The Lady in McDonald’s, Jan 2019

It’s not the first time, and I’m sure it won’t be the last that I hear some mangled version of this line. I don’t know when these comments began or how long I’ve been putting up with them that I barely react in public anymore (it’s a whole other story in private of course). A snide comeback waits ready to be fired from years of practice. How many years? I couldn’t tell you. Frankly, I don’t even want to think about it.

Back to the quote at the start of this post. There are so many things wrong with that line that I don’t even know where to begin. First of all, the last time this person saw me was years ago, and we don’t even have any proper relationship to speak of, so why is she talking to me about my body? She has no idea about what’s going on in my life, no idea what I’m doing, who I am as a person, what I love or hate. She literally doesn’t know me except as the girl who is part of that Indian family that’s always in McDonald’s – where she works.

So, here I am, surrounded by my entire family – who are all wonderful and what some would call “socially acceptable” size-wise (although no one knows the insecurities that each of these individuals have about their owns bodies). And with a smile she decides to greet me with this beautiful opener just as I am about to dig into my Filet-o-Fish (and Iced latte with no syrup – cos too much of that sugar will do you diiiiirty, girl). Complete with her arms spread out in a mocking pantomime of how big I am. Really?

Honestly – I’m hungry, so my reaction is just a dismissive – “Yah”, as I continue to bite into my burger with a little less enthusiasm then when I first opened the box. Then out of the blue, I am struck sideways by a voice coming from my left side. My dear aunt, who loves me and wants nothing but the best for me, decides that she has to defend me in her own misguided, sweet and caring way.

“Yah la, she got diet la. But still like that”.

With a simple shrug and a wave of her hands as if to say “what to do?”. As if, this is necessary information. As if I need to be defended. As if my very existence itself is a giant question mark.

I’m struck dumb. A rare occurrence, if I say so myself. Where did this come from? Why would you do that?? I want to turn to my aunt and yell at her for her nonchalant answer. I want to get up and leave. I want to melt into the floor and become one with the ugly grey tiles, or teleport away from this embarrassment of a conversation. Instead I remember that it’s 2019, and get annoyed that I still can’t teleport. And I – I keep quiet.

Do not confuse my quiet with resignation though. This is a different type of quiet. This is the type of contemplative quiet that comes once in a blue moon for me – someone who often lashes out before she thinks. This is the type of quiet that is often followed by determination and a call to action.

This is a long-drawn, victorious quiet for I decide then and there – I’m done. I’m done having to be the only one having my food choices questioned while everyone else around me is eating equally as unhealthily.

I’m done having to defend myself and my body. I’m done having others feel the need to defend my body. No more.

I’m done.

And I’m ready.

I’m ready to love myself, and I’m ready to love my body.

My body – you hold all of me that’s both beautiful and unsightly. You hide the shy child that’s inside me that few get to see. You are hardened from multiple battles – surgeries, self-harm, slips and falls, snide remarks and hate – so much hate. A short lifetime spent building walls – a jovial and outgoing exterior cemented with all the hate, to distract them from the constant and on-going chaos inside.

Today I choose to tell my body this: You did well. 

You are amazing and I thank you for staying strong despite everything I put you through. I thank you for continuing to love me when all I showed you was hate.

Thank you. And I’m here for you now. I love you and I will love myself – even if no one else understands. Even when the whole world is confused with the idea of me daring to love this fat, imperfect body. No one else will have that power over my body again because I choose me and –

I love you, Renuka.

Image: Daan Stevens on Unsplash

Posted in Renuka, Thoughts&Revelations

The first grey hair down there

I remember it like it was just yesterday (when in fact, it was about 4 days ago). It was a day just like any other on our sunny island – hot and humid as hell. It was also the second day of Chinese New Year – and I’m willing to bet a whole kilo of Fragrance Ba Kwa that none of my Chinese sisters were subjected to the same shocking discovery as myself on this day.

My first grey hair down there. (That sounds like a really crappy reality tv show, or the title of a rather unfortunate porno, now that I think about it.) It turned out to be just another day of self discovery – so I did what any sane person would do. I texted the full details to one of my best friends – Anittha. It was also the day I became the second honorary member of the “Grey P**** Hair Club”, whether I liked it or not.

Thus began the second month of the year I turn Thirty. I was prepared for adventure! Finally graduating! Breaking free from the corporate world! I definitely was not prepared to question my impending mortality after being forced to grapple with a sign of ageing that I had never even stopped to consider. Oh well. Life goes on.

Now that you’ve been introduced to me with a fact that even my family does not know of (I also just realised I managed to accidentally out the president of the GPH Club in that process – sorry fam), what more can I say that will even be of any interest? Let’s get down to business shall we?

When we began exploring the idea of a shared blog, Anittha and I honestly just wanted a common platform to share our voices. We have no idea where this will take us and how far we will go. The one thing I can guarantee though, is that this will be a space where we can unapologetically be ourselves and it will remain that way for anyone else who stumbles upon our safe little corner of the internet.

One other thing I wanted this blog to be was a space to document our thirties as well as a project that we each decide to take on every year. A project for self-improvement if you will. For myself, this year I will focus on self-love. It’s cheesy af, yes I know. But it’s something I have neglected for 29 years, and I refuse to let that number get to 30. This year I choose to love me, and to be grateful for who I am and how far I’ve come – for not too long ago I did not see myself reaching this age. I won’t go into details right now, but I just want to begin by thanking myself for staying strong and moving forward. This year, I want to take it further. I know I am strong – now let me use that strength to push my limits. This year, above all else – I will live by this motto:

In a society full of hate, I choose to love me.

And by choosing to love me, I’m ready to commit to doing whatever I’ve wanted to do without brushing it off with the flimsy excuse of “I’ll do it when I lose weight”. Screw that. This is the year I graduate, the year I experiment and pursue my dreams, the year I complete three 10ks, and the year I explore my spirituality. There’s so much to get done and I’m excited to get going. So stay tuned! (No, seriously stay tuned – my first 10k is in a week and I am terrified.)

Till next time, this has been your favourite tall brown girl ❤

Image: Timothy Meinberg on Unsplash.com