Skinny sham­ing sucks too

It’s ev­ery bit as bad as fat sham­ing.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - FRONT PAGE - By VIC­TO­RIA BROWN star2@ thes­tar. com. my

MOST peo­ple don’t take Jas­mine Saw’s is­sues se­ri­ously.

She can eat as much as she wants and not gain weight. The 26- year- old also looks much younger than her age.

Some­how it’s harder to con­vince peo­ple that be­ing un­der­weight is just as se­ri­ous an is­sue as obe­sity.

Dressed in a baby blue spaghetti strap top, a stylish waisted denim skirt and ca­sual san­dals, Saw is of­ten mis­taken for some­one in her late teens rather than a woman in her 20s due to her small body frame.

“Peo­ple au­to­mat­i­cally as­sume that I’m younger than my younger sis­ter.

“It’s flat­ter­ing but also an­noy­ing,” says Saw who are usu­ally sub­jected to iden­tity card checks at clubs to ver­ify that she is of le­gal age.

Saw weighs just 35kg, and that has been her weight since she was 15. She is clas­si­fied as be­ing un­der­weight, with her body mass in­dex ( BMI) equalling 14kg/ m2 ( any­thing un­der 18.5 con­sid­ered un­der­weight).

“I know it’s not healthy and it’s not like I don’t want to gain weight,” she says.

“I should get this checked out. I haven’t ac­tu­ally done a full proper full- body check up.

“But sub­con­sciously, I guess I’m a bit wor­ried that some­thing is ac­tu­ally ter­ri­bly wrong with me,” says Saw.

Gorg­ing on food

Most peo­ple as­sume that Saw is un­der­weight be­cause she is sim­ply not eat­ing enough.

Friends and fam­ily are con­stantly telling Saw to “eat more”. Peo­ple think they mean well when they urge un­der­weight in­di­vid­u­als to take an­other help­ing, not re­al­is­ing that it’s ac­tu­ally as hurt­ful and de­grad­ing as telling some­one over­weight to lay off the nasi lemak. There is con­stant and per­sis­tent pres­sure to con­form to what so­ci­ety be­lieve should be the ideal body type.

“They will stuff your face with food. Even if you’re full they’re still try­ing to stuff you. Some­times it gets to a point where eat­ing be­comes al­most like a chore,”

Tai Tan Fung Ying, 22, who has a BMI of 16.3 says she was prob­a­bly un­der­weight as a child be­cause she was a fussy eater and would take three to four hours to fin­ish a meal.

“To my fam­ily mem­bers and peo­ple who knew me then, it made sense that I was so skinny,” says Tai. But when she turned 12, she started eat­ing “like a reg­u­lar in­di­vid­ual”.

“But to them, it is as though I had never changed, as though I still dis­like food, as though I don’t eat,” she adds.

Tai says that her fam­ily would al­ways ask her to eat more, and in an ef­fort to put on weight, she would eat what­ever she wanted, when­ever she wanted.

At one point, Tai was com­pletely in­dul­gent. She would eat choco­late cake for break­fast, whipped cream out of the can, cook­ies by the pack­ets and lots of but­ter on her bread. But no mat­ter how much she ate, Tai sim­ply couldn’t put on weight.

Tai says that she would be eat­ing to the point where she couldn’t con­sume any­more, but would still en­dure com­ments like: “Are you sure you ate any­thing to­day?”, “When did you last eat? Last week?”

Most peo­ple are more puz­zled than sym­pa­thetic at Saw’s in­abil­ity to put on weight.

“They say ‘ I just breathe, and I put on ten pounds. And you’re there eat­ing like no­body’s busi­ness and you’re still like that’,” re­lates Saw.

Grow­ing up look­ing at curvy Vic­to­ria Se­cret mod­els, Tai ad­mits that she has some is­sues about her thin frame and lack of curves.

“I’m so skinny, I’m flat. So a cou­ple of com­ments have been made about my size. It be­came very hard for me to love that part of my­self. It is still a strug­gle. And I have ad­mit­tedly con­sid­ered a boob job,” says Tai.

In an at­tempt to look more volup­tuous, Tai said that she tried var­i­ous food and herbs that “sup­pos­edly in­crease breast size”.

“I’ve eaten fenu­greek... soya milk, miso soup and old pa­paya that are sup­pos­edly re­ally good for that,” she said. How­ever, she said that none worked and “noth­ing has changed”.

Saw laments that she of­ten has trou­ble find­ing clothes.

“You see a re­ally nice dress on the man­nequin and they’ll never have your size. You don’t have enough butt, you don’t have enough boobs, you just don’t fit,” she says.

“Half the time, I ac­tu­ally find my­self look­ing for clothes in the kids sec­tion.”

But Saw says that she has got­ten used to the com­ments peo­ple make about her size.

“Most of the peo­ple around me now are not say­ing these things to hurt me, it’s more like a joke. So, there’s no rea­son for me to get mad at them,” she adds.

Just as bad as fat sham­ing

Al­though peo­ple are more aware of fat- sham­ing than skinny sham­ing, both are equally dam­ag­ing.

“Clearly body sham­ing of any form is dam­ag­ing, to the in­di­vid­ual con­cerned,” says Malaysian Men­tal Health As­so­ci­a­tion deputy pres­i­dent and psy­chi­a­trist Datuk Dr An­drew Mo­han­raj.

Some peo­ple who may have good in­ten­tions, not aware that they are just be­ing tact­less.

It is im­por­tant to re­mem­ber that a healthy body is not nec­es­sar­ily a thin body, stresses Dr Mo­han­raj

The me­dia is of­ten fix­ated on a cer­tain

body type that re­flects what is “fash­ion­able” in the West­ern world.

But this fix­a­tion of­ten com­pletely ig­nores the dif­fer­ent ge­netic pre­dis­po­si­tion of var­i­ous other groups that lead to the va­ri­ety of body shapes and forms hu­man be­ings come in.

Dr Mo­han­raj says that those who are un­der­weight might be suf­fer­ing from eat­ing dis­or­ders, body dys­mor­phic dis­or­der or de­pres­sion.

“Neg­a­tive com­ments will only be counter pro­duc­tive. It will push the tar­geted in­di­vid­ual to fur­ther psy­cho­log­i­cal dis­tress,” he adds.

In­ter­na­tional Med­i­cal Univer­sity nu­tri­tion and di­etet­ics lec­turer Kan­i­molli Arasu says those who are un­der­weight have their own is­sues.

“Com­mon prob­lems in­clude the risk of os­teo­poro­sis or am­me­nia, or some­times overly- thin peo­ple have a com­pro­mised im­mune sys­tem that puts them at a higher risk of in­fec­tion.

“So be­ing thin does not nec­es­sar­ily mean that they’re healthy,” she says. But be­ing thin can also be just “ge­net­ics”. “They may have a gene ra­di­ant where they are prob­a­bly not putting on fat in cer­tain parts of your body. But there are also many other rea­sons, such as, un­der­ly­ing med­i­cal dis­ease.“Some peo­ple have me­tab­o­lism dis­or­der, and it could also be con­nected to some hor­mone reg­u­la­tion,” she says.

Kan­i­molli rec­om­mended get­ting a health check up first be­fore at­tempt­ing to put on weight.

“First of all, we have to find out why the per­son is not gain­ing weight, be­cause there could be a med­i­cal rea­son be­hind it,” she says.

“But if it’s not any med­i­cal re­lated is­sue and di­etary re­lated, then the di­eti­tian would ac­tu­ally an­a­lyse the diet and see if the per­son is eat­ing ac­cord­ing to their re­quire­ments.”

A visit to a di­eti­tian can help them plan out a proper meal plan that suits their life­style and help achieve their weight goal.

“A lot of peo­ple think: ‘ I’m very thin, I can fin­ish a whole cake’. But ac­tu­ally, just eat­ing desserts may not be very healthy be­cause it’s only calo­ries com­ing from fats and car­bo­hy­drates,” she says.

She says that she would eat food that are rich in nu­tri­ents, like milk, yo­gurt, cheese, or a peanut but­ter sand­wich.

Tai says that she has de­cided to adopt a health­ier life­style by ex­er­cis­ing reg­u­larly and eat­ing healthily.

“My heav­i­est point was when I was work­ing out con­stantly and eat­ing healthily, that was when I started putting on real weight,” says Tai.

Saw em­pha­sises that ev­ery­one should strive to be a health­ier ver­sion of them­selves rather than aim­ing for an ideal body shape. “Try be a bet­ter and health­ier ver­sion of your­self rather than try­ing to be like Bey­once or some other model,” she says.

Dou­ble take: Saw ( right) is of­ten mis­taken as be­ing younger than her sis­ter Rachel ( left) be­cause of her small frame.

Health­ier life: Tai has re­cently started eat­ing healthy and ex­er­cis­ing more.

Body sham­ing has its roots in pre­scrip­tions of ideal body shapes for women. — Reuters

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malaysia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.