Not naturally thin: Ex-Miss Malaysia on fighting anorexia and healthy weight loss tips

Adolescence often comes with sizable doses of awkward moments and confusion. For beauty queen-turned-singer Wincci Soo, that uncertain period in her life saw a shy, insecure teenager often bullied for her weight.

"I was obese as a child. I weighed about 55kg at age 10. The kids at school called me 'Godzilla' and 'Fatso'.

"Then, I could eat up to five pieces of Kentucky fried chicken at a go. Boys would do a crude imitation of a fat person walking whenever they saw me at the canteen," the lanky 28-year-old from Selangor shares.

Things were no easier at home. The youngster was often the butt of fat jokes among her relatives.

"I hated family gatherings. My aunties and uncles would often tease me about my weight.

"I knew they were joking, but it had a huge psychological impact on me, and I would lock myself in my room afterwards and cry," she says.

Soo was 14 years old when she decided she had had enough of being fat. "I resorted to starving myself to lose weight," she admits.

The teenager decided to do away with her usual diet, and survived on just watermelons and oranges.

"Those fruits made me feel full, and I needed the sugar. Whenever I ate anything else, I would immediately run off to the bathroom to purge," she explains.

She felt ecstatic watching the pounds melt away. "I was losing one kg almost everyday," she says.

By the end of the first month into her "diet", Soo had lost over 15kg.

"I was reduced to just bones. My breasts were flat. Mum noticed something was wrong when she saw how often I was running to the bathroom after meals. That's when I had to stop."

To her dismay, she eventually gained back the weight that she lost.

"I ate whenever I felt stressed, so I was at my heaviest (about 68kg) during my SPM and A-Level years," she says.

Dual-purpose dancing

But Soo was quick to get back in shape for the 2008 Miss World Malaysia pageant, which she won, and went on to represent Malaysia at the global beauty pageant in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Banking on her good looks and talents, Soo, who has a law degree and a Masters in Business Administration, went on to pursue a career in singing and acting.

While she has been following a stringent diet to keep up her glamourous image, Soo says she never gave much thought to exercise until about two years ago, when she was attempting to break into the Taiwanese entertainment scene.

"After awhile, just limiting my food intake didn't work for me any more, and I had to incorporate exercise to lose weight." Soo then decided to take up pole-dancing as a way to stay fit, as well as to rev up her performances onstage.

"Pole-dancing was something I could do in concert, and it made my performances a lot more exciting.

"My manager also thought it was a good idea, because he thought I was 'too obedient' and wanted to see a wild side of me."

Subsequently, the multi-talented miss also went on to learn aerial dancing, and more recently, break-dancing.

Aerial dancing, which involves exploring vertical and horizontal movement paths while dangling from the ceiling, helps increase her flexibility.

Meanwhile, pole-dancing helps increase her core strength and tones her muscles.

Dangling upside-down a vertical pole is much harder than it looks.

Soo recalls crying in her pole-dancing classes, because it was so painful. The pole left her with bruises across the length of her thighs and shins.

But the determined Soo stuck to it, and her efforts paid off when she got to showcase her pole-dancing talents during a popular Taiwanese talkshow.

The performance garnered considerable attention from both the audience and the Taiwanese media, says Soo. "They thought it was something special and they've given me the nickname 'steel woman'," she says with a laugh.

Strictly vegetarian

Despite her strenuous dance regime, Soo maintains a vegetarian diet to manage her weight, and to avoid from getting too bulky from her pole and aerial dancing regimes.

"I gained a lot of muscle from pole-dancing. It gave me that 'pumped' look. I was starting to look like a bodybuilder," she says with a grimace.

"I had to stop taking meat to stop my body from getting too muscular. Most of the time, I only consume blended fruits with yoghurt and honey. Sometimes, I take eggs.

"I also take berries, pumpkin seeds and walnuts, as they help to boost brain power," she shares.

On top of that, Soo also runs on her home treadmill for at least 40 minutes everyday. "All that cardio helps build up the stamina that I need to sing and dance on stage," she says.

Today, the 1.7m beauty weighs only 55kg, but shares that it is a constant struggle to keep her weight down. "Stars in Taiwan are very thin, so I would look really fat if I stood next to them, if I don't diet and exercise."

Since her foray into Taiwan last year, Soo says she has gone from a size S to an XS.

Despite her busy schedule, she says she always enjoys a good workout. "Exercise is the fountain of youth, and my skin actually looks more radiant now than it did a few years ago."

Mastering the physical challenges innate in pole and aerial dancing has also given her the mental strength and determination to take on new projects.

"I used to be afraid of failure, but now I just want to push myself as hard as I can.

"I am currently going full blast in my musical career. I wouldn't have the guts to go all-out before."

Soo, who emerged among the top five in last year's Masterchef Selebriti Malaysia, will also return to this year's All-Star edition of the cooking competition. She starts shooting this month.

"I think it is important that we keep trying new things, and to keep pushing ourselves, because you may be surprised by what you can actually do."