13 years old. I started gaining weight at age eleven but it never bothered me till I was thirteen. Attending an all girls school, you were popular if you were tall, skinny and long haired. I was on the other end of the spectrum. Short with untamable frizzy hair, large spectacles and fat was never in the in-crowd. The wall flower. I didn’t speak much so I learned to listen: Girls spoke of whom was on a diet to get skinny; Paracetemol with Coca-Cola, borderline aneroxia, comparing whose collarbones were more prominent. I would come home almost each day, lock myself in my room, grab a pillow and scream and cry into it so my mother wouldn’t hear me. Punching my pouchy stomach while grabbing & scratching at my skin wishing that I could change my body like I did with my clothes. It didn’t help that I had asymmetrical breast; my left prominently smaller than my right. Hate, hate, hated my body.
14 years old. A year of seeing doctors and specialist. Maybe they could help with my breasts. Each visit brought me hope only to be smashed to the ground bringing on more tears and hate. One said to come back when I was 18 years old as by then my body would have stopped developing so perhaps something could be done. I held on to those words and counted each year till I turned eighteen.
15 years old. I only ate one meal a day for three months. No water nor food the whole day just a small dinner while exercising an hour each day. I was finally thin and boys started noticing me. I could go to the department and buy nice clothes off the rack without any frustration that they wouldn’t fit. I remember going to the store with my mother to buy new clothes and I excitedly asked her, “Do you think these will fit me?” only to turn around to see one of the cool girls to have overhead me. I wanted the earth to just swallow me up. By the fourth month my mother intervened and that was when I experimented with bulimia.
18 years old. Sitting on the steps outside the hospital, I was crying on the phone telling my mother that the doctor said he couldn’t do anything to change my breast size unless I did plastic surgery. Looking at me, you would have thought I had lost someone with my uncontrollable sobs. I had hoped that maybe a pill or an injection would have made me normal. I just wanted to be normal.
21 years old. I bought a prosthetic insert from a lingerie store to balance out my bra size. I felt normal. Human, in fact. I was so ecstatic about it that the sales lady took pity on me and gave me a tiny gift from the store because I couldn’t stop blabbering about how amazing I felt. Finally, clothes could fit me well. I could wear a bikini without having to pull and tug just so no one would notice. My only concern was would my future husband love me enough with such a body.
30 years old. Humongously pregnant with our daughter, I ran down to my husband one day crying that this pregnant lady in the magazine looked thinner and more beautiful than I did. How could she still have such a gorgeous body while I ballooned up like a whale? I felt ugly. Again, those words, those thoughts that I had tried so hard to escape from my school years came flooding back. It didn’t help that an aunt I met while visiting family in Malaysia came up to me with a look of disgust, shook her head and said, “You are fat. Not good. Hard to give birth,” I was into my second trimester! How could I not be large in size.
31 years old. I experienced giving birth to our wonderful daughter. Combining both her heritage, Alayna, her American name, meant my dear child while Indah reflected her Malay roots meant utmost beauty. Thus, my dear beautiful child was born on the 8th of January 2015 via c-section. When my husband showed pictures of me taken with our newborn daughter, all I could see were my double chin, my large flabby arms & again the pouchy stomach. Incapable of seeing the miracle I had brought into this world instead, all I saw was the fat, ugly kid I knew in school.
Present. I want to no longer wake up and criticize my body hence, my participation with this project. Knowing that living with such hate is no way to lead my life, baring my body has helped me heal. No doubt, there are days when I mentally scan my body but I can quickly push away the negativity and instead, focus on the positivity. I have a daughter now whom will look up to me as a role model. I can’t always protect her from the outside world but I can equip her with the tools to live positively. Be strong, be kind, be humble and most importantly, love your body are my advice to her. One’s beauty from within is what will bring you true happiness and peace with oneself. Mummy loves you, my dear beautiful child. May these gorgeous photos of us be forever with you to guide and to cherish when I am no longer around.
-Photographed by ABBP Regional Photography duo: Behr | Richardson Photography To book a shoot with them visit: www.behr-richardson.com
A Beautiful Body Project is a non-profit dedicated to inspiring self-esteem and showcasing unaltered images of people as works of art.