She gives the skinny on being fat

She dolled herself up for her secondary school prom - only to have some mean girls calling her a fat swan behind her back.

It was at the end of 2010 and Miss Laura Patricia, then 17 and 1.66m tall, weighed 82kg.

The nasty remarks about her weight upset her, but instead of sinking into self-pity, she decided to do something about it.

A year later, she had dropped to a healthy 58kg.

But a new problem emerged early last year - she became so obsessed with the idea of losing weight that she developed an eating disorder.

This was because her then-boyfriend had compared her to other girls he had dated. In a Facebook post she said: "He always told me to lose weight and (I) came down to size XXS."

Their relationship ended last year.

Her eating disorder became worse after the break-up. She ended up weighing only 48kg. At that point, she also started losing hair and her skin got flaky.

She decided to pull herself up from that low point this year and gain back some weight.

Now back to a trim and healthy 58kg, Miss Laura, who is waiting for her university acceptance results, has a message for other girls - be healthy, not skinny.

In December last year, she told her story on online media sites YouTube and Facebook, without mentioning her eating disorder.

Her story made her an online celebrity and many praised her efforts to lose weight.

"I wasn't used to the attention. It was overwhelming," Miss Laura told The New Paper in a Skype interview.

In her 14-minute YouTube video, the Singapore permanent resident from Indonesia talks about how she was ridiculed by her schoolmates at her first prom, what made her want to change and how she has forgiven her detractors.

Since it was uploaded last December, the video has gained over 24,000 views.

In the same month, she also uploaded a before-and-after picture on Facebook - comparing how she looked at her prom in 2010 versus her new figure at her junior college prom last year.

The Facebook post has garnered over 38,000 likes and over 3,200 shares.

Student Clement Ow, 24, was one of the netizens inspired by her story.

He said: "It was very nice to see someone who forgave people who did nasty things to her and to spread the word of graciousness.

"It's also good that she can be an ambassador for healthy living and a fit lifestyle."

Miss Laura, who studied in Singapore for 10 years, said getting to where she is today wasn't a smooth journey.

She grew up as a chubby child and became conscious of her size when she was about 14.

The bubbly 20-year-old said: "I was in the TAF (Trim and Fit) club all my life. I just don't feel that it was fair that you had to be singled out.

"I just felt ugly all the time."

She started dieting in early 2011 when she went to JC, switching to "one big meal and two small meals" - bread for breakfast, lunch in her school canteen and a high-protein dinner.

Sensible method

When TNP consulted dietitian Derrick Ong of Eat Right Nutrition Consultancy on Miss Laura's weight-loss method, he said: "She sounds like she was doing something sensible and not too drastic."

Miss Laura said: "All I did was cut down on calories, drink lots of water and sleep well. I ate more proteins and vegetables to feel full."

By June 2011, she had lost about 10kg and by the end of the year, it was 24kg.

She said: "I still remember the first person who told me I had lost weight. That really made my day."

On Sunday, Miss Laura created another buzz online when she posted on Facebook about her struggle with an eating disorder while trying to lose weight.

Explaining her reason for the new posting, she said: "A lot of girls on Facebook sent me messages to ask how to lose weight.

"When I look at their (pictures, I realised) they are already skinny. I just don't want them to think that skinny is the way to go, but it is about being healthy and fit."

Miss Laura's sister, Miss Sherly Noviana, 22, said: "I was aware that she went on a journey to lose weight, but I was surprised at how much she managed to lose.

Full-time national serviceman Zachary Tee, 18, a close friend who has known Miss Laura for six months, said: "She had a very positive attitude. She was always dedicated to the changes she wanted in life."

The right way to diet and exercise

How fast should one be losing weight?

A healthy weight loss is about 0.5kg to 1kg a week.

Is counting calories important for someone who wants to lose weight?

Counting calories works for some people as it helps them self-monitor (what they eat).

What I recommend is to look at portion sizes.

Can one lose weight without exercise?

I wouldn't want to put any ratio to exercise versus dieting as I think they are both important.

People who do both usually get better results than those who do only one thing.

What is considered an unsafe way to lose weight?

At first, it is quite easy to lose weight as the initial weight loss is water loss.

Later on, the body will start losing fat, and as you lose weight, your body's metabolic rate starts to slow down.

So you have to go slow and steady.

If you go drastic, the metabolism rate will plunge and the body will tend to hold on to its fat reserves as a defensive mechanism.

Some people set unrealistic weight-loss goals for themselves and their body image may get distorted, which may lead to eating disorders.

Dietitian Derrick Ong of Eat Right Nutrition Consultancy on losing weight

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