From 50KG to 302KG, My Father Hates Me Because I'm Fat (A True Story in Singapore)
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), over 650 million adults worldwide were classified as obese in 2016, and the numbers are still racking up. A common narrative we often hear is how obesity leads to other health problems. Most people who suffer from obesity may develop diabetes, heart diseases, stroke, hypertension, cancer, severe knee and back pain, sleep apnea, and metabolic syndromes.
With that said, obesity may affect an individual not only physically but also emotionally and socially. We don't hear enough stories on how gaining excessive weight affects someone’s self-worth and becomes a hindrance to their close ties, including their families.
This is the case of a Singaporean woman who disclosed her name as Huiru. Once weighing 50kg, Huiru, through unhealthy habits, found herself tipping the scale to 302kg and, in the process, changing her life forever. She bravely told her story through an interview with AsiaOne.
Food and Heartbreak
During her interview, Huiru pulled out a photo. The image was a young girl, grinning sweetly at the camera, with her father on her side. It was her photo from years back. It is hard to identify them as the same person looking at the girl from the image and the woman at present.
Everything changed in Huiru's junior year in college, when her boyfriend of four years broke up with her. Nursing her broken heart, she turned to food, specifically sweets. She consumed tubs of ice cream, and its coolness gave her comfort through her heartbreak. Chocolates also brought back the sweetness her heart ached for. She came out of her heartbreak a size bigger, with her waistline going from 24 to 27 inches.
It was nothing out of the ordinary. It was just a classic moving on scenario straight out of your standard rom-com. However, wherein movies you would expect the main character to pick herself right up, Huiru's story took a deeper turn.
A year later, she bumped into her ex-boyfriend with another girl. As her heartbreak resurfaced, Huiru once again turned to food for comfort. Her heartache is now bigger, so is her food's portion size. She downed two buckets of fried chicken- 30 pieces in total- in one sitting. Just an hour after doing so, she drove to a prata shop, eating five parts in one go alongside two mugs of Milo dinosaur.
Everything spiralled down from thereon. As she kept eating, the numbers on the scale kept going up.
Weight and Family
Huiru's mother was by her side for the majority of the interview. At one point, she admitted that she and her husband could have been there more for their daughter. As she suffers from her heartbreak, Huiru came home to an empty house, as her parents were overseas, nothing but food to comfort her. They witnessed how their little girl grew, not only in age but also in her weight.
Huiru's concerning weight gain was never a topic for discussion within their family. It wasn't until Christmas Eve in 2009 that the family had to confront the issue in an unfortunate manner. As she was mingling with guests that night, she heard a remark saying, "Who's that elephant?" clearly referring to her. She saw how her father turned red because of anger. However, instead of calling out the guest, her father sent her a message to retreat to her room for the rest of the night. Without gaining another glance from her father, she did go to her room.
From then on, her bedroom became Huiru's place of solace where she can hide from people, even from her own family. She would spend 24 hours in her bed, eating, sleeping, watching TV, scrolling through her phone. The only times she gets up is to shower or use the toilet. As her weight climbed, the more she sunk into the comfort of her bed. Even the simple task of going to the bathroom became more difficult.
Her weight gain also caused more friction in the family. Her father had a lift made to move from the first floor of their home to her room on the second floor. The reason behind it was that "He was so sick of hearing the thumping sounds I made when I walked up and down the steps". Now this is something that we should never do to our child.
In 2010, her father wanted to send her off to the UK due to the shame of how her daughter looked. The trip did not end up happening, but without heavy pleading from Huiru and her mother.
In her own words, she told how it was also hard for her father to hear other people's comments about her daughter. Huiru started to feel like a disappointment to her family and herself. She no longer socialized with friends. The only one she keeps contact with is through Facebook, where her profile picture was one way back from her junior year.
With low self-esteem and without parents to comfort her, Huiru gave up any hope she had.
Weight Loss Journey
On the date of her interview, Huiru managed to come down to 219kg. She is a work in progress. However, that seemingly small weight loss was not easy for her. Kudos to Huiru for her determination.
A common misconception among people is that excessive weight gain is a conscious choice. For some people, seeing the numbers on the scale provides enough motivation to shed the weight off. On the flip side, for people like Huiru, seeing how they weigh becomes more discouraging. Huiru admitted that she stayed away from the scale for a long time in fear of knowing how much weight she gained.
Knowing how her weight is affecting her life, Huiru decided to pursue change. She shared a thick folder containing various programs from the leading slimming and beauty centres in Singapore that she had signed up for. However, the process proved to be more difficult than she imagined.
A common issue she had with these programs is empathy and apathy. Despite having good intentions, most of the weight loss consultants and therapists she worked with did not understand how much effort it takes to do simple tasks as going to the bathroom. She underwent diet plans, but without proper guidance, she lacked the discipline when eating. She was also required to do specific exercises regularly. However, Huiru experienced withdrawal symptoms, like headaches and body shivers, due to the physical fatigue when she stopped eating.
Finally, with the help of her family, Huiru is now making progress. She is working with a medical practitioner that her father hired and a dietician. She has limited her meals to three meals a day and controlled her portions. Snacks were replaced with fruits, and wine was replaced with water. She only drinks coffee with no sugar every morning. Fish is her main protein, though she still gives herself a chance to eat red meat once a month. She also treats herself with some skimmed milk once in a while.
Weight Loss Alternatives
If you find yourself in the same situation as Huiru, do not lose hope. It is never too late to turn your life around. Lucky for you, there are many options out there that you can try to lose your excess weight.
Of course, diet and exercise is still a good option. These two components remain a part of your weight loss plan regardless of what alternative method you opt to undergo. Make sure to eat balanced meals filled with nutrient-rich foods in controlled portions. Pair healthy eating with at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day can produce great results. However, not everyone finds success with diet and exercise alone.
For more severe cases of obesity like Huiru, they may opt to undergo bariatric surgery. Bariatric surgery, also referred to as weight loss surgery, eliminates a part of your stomach or digestive tract to decrease your food and calorie consumption. Some of the popular bariatric surgeries include gastric bypass and sleeve gastrectomy.
These surgeries can be restrictive, where it shrinks down the size of your stomach, helping you consume less food. On the other hand, it can be malabsorptive, making it harder for your body to absorb calories and nutrients. With that said, the results of these surgeries are permanent and irreversible. Meaning to say that you’ll have a small stomach for the rest of your lives.
If you do not want to commit yourself to options like surgery, then weight loss balloons like Allurion Elipse™ Balloon might be for you. An inflated balloon is placed inside your stomach and filled with water. As the balloon takes up space, it allows you to feel full despite eating fewer amounts of food. Also, it slows down digestion, containing food in the stomach longer, making you less inclined to eat food frequently.
The Allurion Elipse™ Balloon is the first and only swallowable weight loss balloon in Singapore. Unlike other weight loss balloons, Allurion Elipse™ Balloon requires no surgery, endoscopy, or anaesthesia. The inflated balloon comes as a capsule, which allows you to ingest it with a glass of water. After doing an X-ray to ensure the capsule is in place, the balloon is filled with 550ml of baffled water. The doctor will run another X-ray to see if it is adequately filled. The whole process only takes 20 minutes.
The swallowable weight loss balloon lasts for 16 weeks. After that period, a time-activated release valve opens and allows the balloon to deflate, where the remnants of the balloon are naturally excreted through your bowel movement. Clinical studies show that patients who use Elipse Balloon lose an average of 10-15% of their body weight within 16 weeks.
Mind, Heart, and Body
Who is to blame for people with obesity? In cases like Huiru, one may point to the ex-boyfriend for causing such emotional trauma. You may direct it to the parents for not giving enough help and attention to their daughter. You may also blame Huiru herself for the choices she made. At the end of the day, there is no use in pointing fingers.
Again, obesity is not a conscious physical choice. It results from a series of circumstances that leads to a person turning to food and inactivity for a sense of comfort. It helps to know the root of the problem, may it be societal pressure, emotional trauma, or a physical condition. This way, you can target how you can solve your problem. But do not dwell on it for too long. Also, do not obsess with your current number on the scale. What matters is how you move forward and improve yourself.
For people diagnosed with obesity, do not lose hope. Your suffering, whether it is physical or emotional, are all valid. Just remind yourself there is a wide range of possibilities out there to become the best version of yourself. You do not have to tread this difficult journey alone.
For the people who know someone suffering from obesity, cheer them on and support them. What they are going through is not as black and white as you might think it is. Leave the judgement out of the door and walk with them through this journey.
Health is not just about how we feel physically. It is what we think, what we feel. Obesity is not an individual problem. A big part of the country's population is diagnosed with the condition. The other half of that population still has stigma regarding obesity. It is essential to be mindful of our choices regarding our body. But it is also important to be aware of what we say. Let us work together, so there would no longer be stories like Huiru in the future.