Herworld (Malaysia) - - CONTENTS -

Ex­pert an­swers to sat­isfy your cu­rios­ity.


I was 24 when I started work as a com­mu­ni­ca­tions of­fi­cer. For the next five years, I ate more reg­u­larly than when I was in school. For in­stance, I would have milk and fruit for break­fast, a small sand­wich for lunch, and a salad and a glass of milk or a small bowl of brown rice for din­ner. I con­tin­ued to work out re­li­giously and stayed away from high­calo­rie foods.

When I had to at­tend work events, I typ­i­cally steered clear of catered food and al­co­hol, go­ing in­stead for diet soft drinks and canapes. I also avoided pig­ging out when I was on hol­i­day or so­cial­is­ing with friends. For ex­am­ple, I would fill up on plain sal­ads so I wouldn’t be able to fin­ish my next course, and al­most al­ways used the ‘I’m too full’ ex­cuse when­ever the desserts came around. Peo­ple mar­velled at my re­straint, and I was se­cretly proud of my­self, but at the same time, I dis­liked hav­ing to be at events where there was a lot of food. At 29, I met Der­rick, and for the first time in a long while, my way of life felt threat­ened and I be­gan to feel like I’d lost con­trol over my­self.


Der­rick is a huge foodie. Be­ing in the F&B busi­ness, he prob­a­bly wouldn’t be able to get away from food even if he wanted to. When I started go­ing out with him, I made it a point to or­gan­ise dates that didn’t in­volve much food, so we would go for long walks fol­lowed by cof­fee, or watch a late-night movie fol­lowed by a drink at a wine bar. But I could keep up this pre­tence for only so long.

Pretty soon, Der­rick was tak­ing me to ex­pen­sive restau­rants and cook­ing for me. That would make any wo­man swoon, but I dreaded such dates. Un­for­tu­nately, on th­ese oc­ca­sions, I couldn’t pre­tend that I was too full to eat, and I def­i­nitely couldn’t just pick at my food or take small bites ev­ery now and then to show that I was in­deed eat­ing.

Un­like Der­rick, I took no plea­sure in food. But be­ing his girl­friend meant ac­com­pa­ny­ing him to many busi­ness and so­cial events. Out of re­spect for the host, I had to eat what­ever was of­fered to me, and some days, we would even have to eat lunch or din­ner more than once. I’d never been sur­rounded by so much food be­fore.

Nat­u­rally, I had trou­ble deal­ing with this. Avoid­ing food be­came the most im­por­tant thing in my life. It over­whelmed me. Ev­ery event I had to at­tend with Der­rick – and th­ese were two to three times a week – would trig­ger a panic at­tack. Al­though I was care­ful and didn’t put on weight, I couldn’t stop think­ing about all the calo­ries I was con­sum­ing, and I was con­stantly wor­ry­ing about how I would stop my­self from go­ing over­board.

As Der­rick was im­age-con­scious and liked his women slim, I felt pres­sured to look good next to him. He’d dated a cou­ple of beauty queen-look-alikes in the past and all his ex-girl­friends had near-per­fect bod­ies. It didn’t help that the par­ties we went to were al­ways full of skinny, gor­geous so­cialites and party girls, many of whom were good friends with my hus­band. Even though I wasn’t over­weight, I al­ways felt like a whale stand­ing next to most of them. It was so un­set­tling, and I con­stantly felt that th­ese women were scru­ti­n­is­ing my body.

Be­fore we got mar­ried, Der­rick also oc­ca­sion­ally joked that he would leave me if I ever got fat. I don’t know if he ac­tu­ally would, but just hear­ing that com­ment made me fear­ful. Racked with anx­i­ety, I han­dled the cri­sis the best way I knew how – by starv­ing my­self on days when I didn’t have events to go to, and by tak­ing lax­a­tives and ex­er­cis­ing more on days when I knew I would have to eat. Cur­rently, I run on the tread­mill for 45 min­utes ev­ery day, and on top of that, at­tend hour-long group workouts like zumba and spin­ning five days a week. But if I’ve eaten a lot, I’ll do an ex­tra half-hour on the tread­mill the next day.


Ob­vi­ously, Der­rick has no clue that I take lax­a­tives – three or four at a time, and at least twice a week. If I take too long in the toi­let, he just as­sumes that I have a tummy ache. I re­mem­ber a cou­ple of times when I had no lax­a­tives on hand af­ter a big meal, and I forced my­self to vomit. Purg­ing is not my usual method of cop­ing and I felt sick af­ter­wards, but at the time, I felt as if I didn’t have a choice.

It’s not dif­fi­cult to hide my se­cret. Be­cause Der­rick is al­ways so busy – he works late and trav­els of­ten – we rarely eat at home to­gether. If he has time over the week­end to cook up a meal, I force my­self to eat what­ever he puts in front of me, and later feel su­per guilty for clear­ing my plate.

It’s the same thing when we eat out – we’ll or­der food to share, and most of the time, I try to fin­ish my por­tion. If I’m on my own, I don’t eat much – maybe a plain salad and a small bread roll or some soup, just enough to keep me from feel­ing light-headed. I guess I’ve be­come so good at hid­ing the is­sue and cov­er­ing up my anx­i­ety that even the per­son clos­est to me can’t tell that some­thing’s wrong.

I know I have a prob­lem, yet I can’t bring my­self to open up to Der­rick be­cause I don’t think he would un­der­stand; he’d prob­a­bly think I was crazy for ob­sess­ing about my weight and ap­pear­ance. I’m also wor­ried that he won’t be sup­port­ive, that he’ll play down the se­ri­ous­ness of the mat­ter, or worse, tell me that he doesn’t want to know about it. Of course, it’s all just spec­u­la­tion be­cause I re­ally don’t know how he’d re­act.

Only a cou­ple of close girl­friends know that I take lax­a­tives and skip meals be­cause I con­fided in them once, when the pres­sure to look a cer­tain way got too much. They thought my ap­proach to stay­ing slim was a bit ex­treme and even called it ‘silly’ and ‘crazy’. They also urged me to get med­i­cal help.

My fam­ily mem­bers don’t know. I only see my par­ents two or three times a month, and there’s al­ways food in­volved but, just like when I catch up with my friends, I don’t eat much when I’m with them.

I’m not sure how much longer I can keep up the fa­cade. Think­ing about what I can and can’t eat when I’m out with Der­rick, plan­ning my life around his events, com­ing up with new ex­cuses for re­fus­ing food, feel­ing guilty about hid­ing all this from him and my loved ones... it’s ex­haust­ing. I can’t keep tak­ing lax­a­tives for­ever, and I’m sick of feel­ing hun­gry all the time and pu­n­ish­ing my­self with ex­er­cise.

I need help, but that would mean see­ing a spe­cial­ist and get­ting to the root of why I have all th­ese is­sues with food. It just seems like too much work. I’ve also con­sid­ered see­ing a di­eti­tian for ad­vice, but that would mean dras­ti­cally chang­ing my eat­ing pat­terns. I’m not sure I’m ready to han­dle that.

At some point, when Der­rick and I de­cide to have a baby, I will have to start eat­ing nor­mally again. That ter­ri­fies me. Right now I weigh 53kg, which is about three to four ki­los un­der­weight, but it’s been so long since I had a nor­mal re­la­tion­ship with food that I can’t even re­mem­ber what it feels like. I cry when­ever I think about hav­ing to put on weight just so that I can fall preg­nant and carry a preg­nancy to term. Then, I worry about how my body will change af­ter giv­ing birth.

I wish I had the courage to come right out and tell Der­rick ev­ery­thing. But I feel that by open­ing up to him, I would only be bur­den­ing him, and this is my bur­den to bear, not his. I long for the day when I can fi­nally be free, be­cause at the mo­ment, ev­ery day feels like such a huge strug­gle.”

*Names have been changed.

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