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Impact 0148: In her own skin

Cheryl Tay · 3 September 2021
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Cheryl Tay is the founder of Rock The Naked Truth (RTNT), a movement that hopes to build community for people who suffer from eating disorders and body image issues. Her passion is to remind people that they are indeed enough and that they are loved. She shares a letter about her journey.

This letter is addressed to my body:

Sometimes I wonder if you get frustrated with me for putting you through all the pain and agony of wanting to look a certain way and be of a certain size. I wouldn’t be surprised if you’re still mad at me for all of that in the past, but I thank you for not giving up on me.

Back then, I had this deep-seated desire to become skinny because I adopted the mindset that being skinny would make me attractive and popular. I craved the limelight and this need for attention was my fuel on this quest to lose weight.

How did I develop this desire? Where did it come from? It was something that built up over time, dangerously brewing at the back of my mind and creeping up on me. I bet you saw the signs and if only you could have warned me.

Remember how I was a little chubby in primary school and faced some bullying on the school bus, yet it didn’t bother me? I mean, you saw how I could easily polish off six roti pratas with egg and top it off with two Milo Dinosaurs, but no part of me thought I was fat or had an issue with how I looked.

All was well until I had my first boyfriend at 16. He was older and I really liked him. You could probably tell from all the butterflies in my tummy. But barely a few weeks in, he dumped me over the phone.

He never explicitly stated the reason but in hindsight, I realised he was ashamed to be seen with me because of how I looked. Whenever he spotted his friends at the mall, he would drop my hand and tell me to walk around by myself, and that he would call me when he’s done.

That’s when I became upset with you, my body, for not being pretty or having a hot figure. I believe that was when the seed was planted. It was there that I started to feel that being skinny would make me more attractive, especially to the boys.

I wish I could blame it on the boys. After being in an all-girls’ school for 10 years, I’m sure you felt the excitement coursing through my veins when I finally entered a co-ed environment in junior college. But in those whole two years, I never dated anyone, and even though I was close to a lot of guys, they seemed to treat me more like a brother than a potential girlfriend.

Then came the time where you suffered the most, when I was 18.

You couldn’t say anything, but you must have needed help so badly during that dark period of my life. I starved you, forced you to exercise excessively, binged on food, scratched you till I bled, repeatedly banged my head against the wall. I lost my period for months and I was a slave to the scale.

Sure, I lost a ton of weight, but goodness, you must have been so miserable.

And when the weight returned because I could no longer starve you any longer, I added salt to the wound with new methods – force-feeding you with diet pills, applying all sorts of nonsense creams on you, covering you with slimming patches, making you sweat in infrared blankets while being wrapped tightly in cling wrap, sticking electromagnetic pads on you in an attempt to “shrink” your fat cells, even injected some “fat-melting” chemical into you.

I completely neglected your feelings and no amount of apology can undo the hurt and pain I’ve caused you.

But it’s over.

It was 15 years of torture, but I promise that it’s over. Well and good. I will not subject you to those desperate attempts of weight loss anymore. You deserve better – and so does every other body out there.

Because of you, I created Rock The Naked Truth, a body image movement that encourages people to look beyond the digits on the scale. To start to see that we are all unique and beautiful in our own ways, that we should treasure our health, keep active, and be grateful for what our bodies can do – not focus on what they should look like.

Because of you, I found the courage to open up about my struggles with my body, and hopefully your journey will help others to find confidence in themselves. I’ve regained my passion for fitness, and exercising is no longer a chore to me. I enjoy working out with you and I am grateful for all the things that I can do because of you.

Rock The Naked Truth was created in 2016 to help people find their confidence and strength. Over the last five years, we have had events, workshops and multiple initiatives with different brands, organisations and individuals. 

Pre-COVID-19, there was a “ROCKrunners” club that met weekly, bringing together like-minded people who enjoyed running without the need for competition or pressure. There was also “ROCKtri” Ladies, a women’s triathlon club that supported women who were interested in multisport. We organised all kinds of fitness and sporting activities to allow people to try and see what works for them, because fitness is not supposed to be a chore.

Beyond that, we’ve created comics with the youth arm of AWARE to reach out to the younger generation. We give talks at schools, women empowerment seminars and work with brands that believe in body positivity.

It may be difficult to come forward and share your struggles with body image, but Rock The Naked Truth wants to be that voice for all the silent battles out there. There is freedom when we realise we are not alone and that our shared stories go on to inspire many, many others. Some of the stories we’re already telling can be found on our website or on our Instagram and Facebook pages.

Dear Body, all of these things would not have been possible without you, so thank you, and let’s keep going and inspiring others!

Love, 

Cheryl Tay

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