Living in a community where your body type is seen as offensive by many pretty much crushed my self-esteem growing up. Being ashamed was a constant state I was in, and in turned I grew into a person who deprived myself of proper self-care. Until I found out that I nearly died.
I have always been fat my whole life. I wasn’t consistently active, but my weight had never stopped me from doing physical and outdoor activities. This made me believe that I was more on the physically fit side and was generally healthy.
Despite my generally low self-esteem, most of my friends saw me as a very confident person, thanks to the self-image that I had consciously built for myself from years of exploration growing up. In my young adulthood year, I could shrug off people’s comments on my body –how I should lose weight soon before I grew older, even my dad’s attempt to lure me into having liposuctions and gastric bypass. I showed no fear of the prospect of dying alone. I was ready to accept my life and identity as a fat and quirky girl.
Then at 27 reality struck.
In 2017, my aunt insisted that I took some tests before a trip to West Sumatra. The results were horrible. My bad cholesterol level was 259, my triglyceride level was 491, and my uric acid was 7,5. As a comparison, the normal level for cholesterol is <200, for triglyceride is <150, and for uric acid <5,7.
I found out that I could get a heart attack or stroke anytime and anywhere in that state. It was like a slap in the face – by Thanos while he’s wearing the Infinity Gauntlet, right before he snapped your loved ones out of your life.
I realized that I didn’t want to die just yet. For sure I didn’t want to die because I hadn’t tried hard enough to stay alive.
Morris Rosenberg, an expert on self-esteem, described self-esteem as one’s attitude to one’s self. It is basically how one would treat one’s self, whether it is favorable or unfavorable to the self, and how it affects one’s self. As a person with low-to-nonexistent self-esteem, it is obvious that I might have always been practicing a very small amount or the wrong kind of self-love.
Back in the days the ideal days off for me would involve staying in bed all day with my laptop and eating lots of comfort food. I used to consider this a form of self-care, although they often led to procrastination. Is it wrong to find comfort in lazing around? Of course not. People have different ways to recharge and reward themselves. It reflects how we perceive self-love. I learned too late that excessiveness is not part of self-love. What I lacked was moderation, which is also an expression of self-love.
So I decided to make a change, starting with dumping everything toxic out of my system. I quit the cigarettes, changed the diet, and became more physically active.
These are the four major steps that I have taken since then.
- Setting a certain daily calorie intake limit.
Humans generally need 2000-2500 kcal/day to function, so limiting your daily calories intake to below 2000 will force your body to burn the fat accumulated from the excess energy you didn’t use in the past. Anywhere between 1200-1850 kcal daily calories intake would be an ideal start to shed some weight. (Pro-tip: I use apps like MyFitnessPal to track my daily calories intake.)
- Eat highly-nutritious foods.
This might be one of the trickier parts because a plate of rice, steamed chicken breast, tons of leafy vegetables, and slices of fruit for dessert might look heavier than a cup of weight-loss shake. Guess what? It is. But it also makes you feel full and keeps you from those hard-to-resist cravings you get in the afternoon at school/office. Make sure you take balanced carbohydrates, protein, dan fiber every day with your daily calory intake limit as the benchmark. (Pro-tip: protein is my best friend to muscle up.)
- Keep moving.
“If it’s only one kilometer or under, you can walk it.” That’s what I told myself whenever I’m outside. It also applies to choices between stairs vs elevator/escalator.
- Work out.
There’s really no other way to doing it. Go to classes, hit the gym, swim, run, or walk as much as you can. When I first started, I began with walking at the highest speed of 5 Km/hour on the treadmill, but I do it constantly and consistently. Start slowly and go at your own pace. Once your stamina is built up, you can up the challenge slowly. The key is to be consistent and to do it at least three times a week.
That’s all. No additional supplements (except the omega-3 capsules to lower my cholesterol). I don’t think I would ever get tired of repeating this: a healthy diet is not one that requires you to starve one’s self. A healthy diet means eating the right food at the right time, with the right amount.
It’s not as easy as it sounds, of course. The first few months were the hardest part of the ordeal. It wasn’t just the physical hunger; the drastic lifestyle change exacerbated my anxiety problems and personal issues. But this was a blessing in disguise, as it forced me to address my problems by going to therapy.
Having pushed myself beyond my perceived physical limitations also changed my mental state. In just a year I changed from that person who wished something, to someone who actually does something. Instead of wishing my fat away under my blanket, I have turned into a girl who went to the Bodycombat class before hanging out with her friends.
More important, my health check-ups always come out good. There is a newfound liberty in this new awareness, and I discovered in me a stronger sense of authority: the awareness of how malleable this body and mind are, and how I am capable of taking control of them. This gives me a sense of accomplishment.
To date, I have lost 37kg. Still, it is a challenge to fight the self-loathing that has been ingrained in me from years of living in an unchanging state.
So, this is not about losing or gaining weight to fit certain societal standards. This is about loving one’s self. The struggle doesn’t end as long as we live, but it’s worth knowing that I had done something before I come to that end.