“Fatso, go and die! Your fats are too much and your oils are leaking out!”
The callous words hurt more than the actual slap across the face.
Then 13 years old, Chloe* was often the target of bullying in her school, thanks to her size. The teenager stood at 1.68m and weighed 70kg, well above most of her peers. “I had no friends,” she recalled. “I refused to go for PE lessons because I felt so embarrassed about wearing shorts that revealed how fat my thighs were.”
Chloe’s relatives added to the pressure by nagging at her whenever they saw her during family gatherings. They stopped her from eating anything apart from fruits and vegetables and criticised her for being “so fat”.
Chloe grew increasingly withdrawn and lost much of her self-confidence.
“Constant bullying and teasing about a teen’s weight does negatively affect self-esteem, especially when there is little emotion support from close family on the issue,” said counsellor Karen Foo from Inner Odessy. “Sometimes even the teen's family's well-meaning teasing can cause feelings of shame and humiliation,” she added.
Tired of the incessant nagging and bullying, Chloe turned to slimming salons. Their advertisements on television promised fast, easy and safe weight loss at what seemed to be an affordable price. Chloe saw these slimming centres as a way out of what she called her “fat hell”.
As Chloe was a minor, she needed her mother to accompany her to each session. She dug into her savings and worked part-time in a fast food restaurant to fund her slimming sessions.
No magic bullet
No magic bullet
Chloe soon realised that the actual experience was far removed from the glitzy advertisements she saw on television.
At each centre, a consultant would reveal that the advertised price applies only for one treatment session, while emphasising that Chloe’s weight was “unacceptable” and required multiple treatments. Chloe would often be made to strip in front of a full-length mirror, while the consultant pointed out all her bulges and imperfections.
During the treatment itself, the therapist would suggest additional products such as serums and ampoules. Refusal to purchase these expensive extras could result in poor treatment by the therapist, claimed Chloe.
After the trial treatment, the consultant would try to press Chloe and her mother into buying slimming packages that range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars. They would often claim to offer significant discounts on such packages if Chloe signed up with them on the spot.
However, Chloe refused to purchase any of these packages.
“I couldn’t afford the packages by myself, and I didn’t want to spend my mum’s savings,” she explained. “Instead, I visited lots of salons for trial sessions, hoping the individual treatments would have some effect.”
Treatments could also be an uncomfortable and even painful affair. So-called ‘slimming wraps’ left Chloe in pain, with red and swollen skin. ‘Electrolysis’ treatments were frightening and uncomfortable.
The advertisements also failed to prepare Chloe for the radical diet that was part and parcel of most slimming programs.
“For breakfast, I had to drink a specially formulated fibre drink which was tasteless, hard to swallow and left me hungry. Lunch and dinner consisted of two pieces of wholemeal bread with lettuce and boiled chicken breast or fish,” she told AsiaOne. "The portions were too small for me and I ended up with constant gastric pains.”
After about fifty slimming sessions over half a year, Chloe finally lost 20kg. However, it was not enough for her. She wanted to lose another 15kg so that she can be stick thin like the fashion models she idolised.
She started experimenting with dubious weight loss techniques and extreme diets and fitness routines. She ate nothing but vegetables for a month, went on a ‘water only’ diet, swam fifty laps daily, and even attempted to survive on one slice of bread a day. She could not tolerate any upward fluctuations in her weight, and would fret over a mere gain of 200g.
The extreme weight loss took a toll on Chloe’s body as her complexion became sallow, her skin became saggy while her hair turned dry and brownish-yellow. She also felt tired throughout the day and became extremely irritable.
“Someone who is attempting to crash diet is likely to experience intense hunger, misery, depression, low energy and tiredness, and food cravings,” wrote nutritionist and author Dr Wynnie Chan in an article on a British website.
After a several months, Chloe became tired of the routine and went back to her old eating habits. “Life is too short to torture myself this way,” she said. “I don’t want to be eating like this forever, I felt happy when I eat what I want, when I want.”
After she returned to her old eating habits, her weight hit 95kg within six months.
“Once you return to your pre-diet habits (which is inevitable), you’ll regain the weight that you initially lost, and potentially more. This is because your slow metabolism can’t process the amount of incoming calories and, therefore, stores them as fat,” wrote Dr Chan.
Losing weight the safe way
The safe and healthy way
According to Health Promotion Board (HPB), one should aim for weight loss of not more than 0.5 to 1kg per week or 10 per cent of body weight over 6 months. One should get at least 150 minutes to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week for optimum weight loss.
HPB also advises individuals to choose healthy food options like soupy dishes, as well as smaller portions of food and switching sugared drinks to plain water for weight loss.
Now Chloe is on a weight loss plan supervised by a doctor and has been following it for about six months. She now weighs 79kg.
She sums up the lessons she learnt from her experience with weight loss centres: “Weight loss means adopting a whole new lifestyle with healthy habits. It is something you must do for life - there is no short cut to it.”
The writer, Cheong Jia Xin, is a student reporter from Republic Polytechnic.