The thin dream
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.
IT STARTED WITH A BOY, OF COURSE
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.
NORMAL TO WANT TO BE THIN
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.