Our Body Image

Illustration: (Si Hui)

“Am I fat?” is the most popular question people like to ask one another. More often than not, women ask their partners this. How should they reply? Both “Yes, you are” and “No, you are not” do not seem to be the right answers. Why are we even so bothered by our bodies?


Ah, because of how society places value on certain appearances, like the Barbie toys I used to own as a child, blonde and blue-eyed. I know there are Barbie toys made for the Asian markets but I did not own any. We’ve also seen these bodies on television, on the runway. Is that our idea of a “perfect” body? Are we even supposed to use them as our “standards”? What about one’s personality, character, don’t they also form part of our body image?


Next, we have the Body Mass Index. Is that an indicator we should look at? I was talking with a friend about weighing scales once and he said if he were to stand on one, the screen would say, “One at a time please”. 


As for myself, I do not even know. I think I am fat, terms like “chubby”, “plump” all mean fat in a way. Friends say I look “healthy”; what does that even mean?


I like to say, “I am fat” as a passing remark to the annoyance of friends, who go “Yes, you know you are fat, what do you want to do about it?” We know a large part of weight management is based on our diet, but I cannot cut out sugar nor measure exactly how many calories I’m consuming. And I’m definitely not disciplined. As I am deafblind, I lift, run, and do martial arts, not because I am fit, but because movement is one way I can experience an activity and participate actively.


Anyway, as I stated before, do we even need to measure our body against “standards”? They should not define you. Being comfortable in one’s body is more important.


Leading a healthy lifestyle, exercising with friends, and eating in moderation, are easier than trying so hard to conform to society’s “standards”. It is ok to pick up that slice of cake, that cookie and not feel guilty!


What a heavy topic this is.

Tan Siew Ling
Contributor to Not Without Us: Perspectives on Disability and Inclusion in Singapore

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