The thin dream

New Straits Times - - Heal -

LET’S face it. All women, at some point in their lives, have wished that they were thin or thin­ner. No mat­ter how much you try to em­brace your own fig­ure, there may have been a time when you came across a poster of Me­gan Fox and wished your pos­te­rior did not re­sem­ble a de­flat­ing beach ball.

We live in a ma­te­rial world where phys­i­cal ap­pear­ance mat­ters. And whether we like it or not, phys­i­cal ap­pear­ance in this con­text usu­ally means a thin­ner, leaner and less pudgy you.

I can’t speak for ev­ery woman, but I can cer­tainly re­flect on my own ex­pe­ri­ence as a young woman in an era of a specif­i­cal­lycel­e­brated body type.

Grow­ing up, most of my friends were fe­males, and body im­age is­sues filled our dis­cus­sions. Part of emerg­ing into adult­hood also meant blos­som­ing phys­i­cally, with hor­mones askew and the pres­sure to look a cer­tain way.

To­day it is not any less daunt­ing, as de­clin­ing me­tab­o­lism, moth­er­hood and other is­sues pose new emerg­ing lim­i­ta­tions.


But of course it started with the idea of gain­ing a boy’s at­ten­tion. I came from an all girls’ school, which meant my high school years were free of be­ing body con­scious for the sake of the op­po­site sex.

My first glimpse of teenage es­teem is­sues came when a girl I shared a dor­mi­tory with forced her­self to throw up al­most ev­ery night af­ter din­ner. She had a boyfriend at the time and the de­sired shape amongst her so­cial cir­cle was not curvy.

Then I went to col­lege and there were boys — many of them, too. With that came the sud­den re­al­i­sa­tion of male ado­ra­tion, and the self-con­scious­ness of one’s ap­pear­ance. I lived with the other girls from the same col­lege. We started to com­pare our ap­pear­ance, be­gan to try out fad di­ets and the var­i­ous trendy ex­er­cise regimes. We also ex­per­i­mented with prod­ucts ap­par­ently guar­an­teed

Against these dreams is also the ques­tion of com­pro­mis­ing our ac­tual health. We take so-called mys­te­ri­ous ‘sup­ple­ments’, put on strange de­vices and ob­sess over our bod­ies to the point that it tam­pers with our self-es­teem.

I also went through a phase where I con­vinced my­self that cau­li­flower was a type of steak. The slim­mer, thin­ner, longer ‘il­lu­sion’ is pretty much a global as­pi­ra­tion, as seen in the neck elon­ga­tion prac­tice among tribal women and chil­dren in this pic­ture.

to give you waist­lines smaller than Ma­lik Noor’s arm.

I had a house­mate who tried meal re­place­ment sup­ple­ments but the idea of re­plac­ing two meals a day for a liq­uid shake gave me the shiv­ers. I de­cided to opt for an Atkins diet in­stead, sur­viv­ing for only three and a half days. Not eat­ing any carbs made me so lethar­gic that I hal­lu­ci­nated about crawl­ing to­wards the fridge in the mid­dle of the night.

I also had a stint of not eat­ing rice at all, and let me tell you, ask­ing a Malaysian to not eat rice is al­most sui­ci­dal.

And then as work­ing peo­ple, we shifted our views to­wards pur­chas­ing aids to make us ap­pear smaller.

There were the new-age corsets with in­fra-red tech­nol­ogy, promis­ing to make you lose weight ef­fort­lessly just by putting them on. There were also those mag­i­cal drinks that al­legedly burn fat from the in­side, a vi­brat­ing ma­chine that could ap­par­ently shake the calo­ries out of you, and even ex­pen­sive mas­sages to tone your way into be­com­ing a Jes­sica Alba. The list is end­less.

I was ei­ther a wit­ness or a par­tic­i­pant of most of these things, and I be­gan to re­alise that the cir­cle was never end­ing. We were com­plain­ing about want­ing to be thin when we were girls, and we are still do­ing that ex­act same thing 20 years later.


In gen­eral, a bal­anced body weight is of course a pre­lim­i­nary in­di­ca­tor of a healthy body. Aes­thet­i­cally, com­mon cul­ture dic­tates that it’s more de­sir­able to be slim. It makes me wince to say that, but that’s the truth of what you see on mag­a­zines and TV.

There­fore, it makes a lot of sense why most of us yearn to have a thin­ner physique.

But against these dreams is also the ques­tion of com­pro­mis­ing our ac­tual health. We take so-called mys­te­ri­ous sup­ple­ments, put on strange de­vices and ob­sess over our bod­ies to the point that it tam­pers with our self-es­teem.

Iron­i­cally, our men­tal and phys­i­cal state de­clines as we at­tempt to ap­pear thin­ner. What a bizarre con­tra­dic­tion.

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