For most plus-sized people, weight is the one constant that hangs over them like a dark cloud. And it’s been no different for local actress Xixi Lim, who has “always been plus-sized my entire life”.
“I’ve been a loyal member of TAF club. Never been out of it,” she said with a hearty laugh. The Trim And Fit (TAF) programme was an initiative in schools to target childhood obesity in the 90s and 00s.
“I don’t know why I’m so happy talking about that,” the actress told Yahoo Southeast Asia in an exclusive interview, where she shared about some of her more painful moments she had experienced.
For Lim, 35, the bullying started only in secondary school.
The actress was already a star during her primary school days, after she took part in a singing competition and made two albums, and everyone wanted to be her friend.
Called all sorts of names
However, she faded out from the media industry after deciding to focus on her studies, and it didn’t help things when she transitioned into secondary school.
People called her “all sorts of names”, ranging from “potato” to “dinosaur girl” to “pig”, she recalled.
She said, “People just make fun of you - every single thing you do. It could be a very normal thing.”
Lim remembered one incident very clearly when she was eating during her recess period and decided to sit in “a small corner” of the long bench in the canteen. Then, one girl “shouted very loudly” and wondered if she could fit into that small space.
“Everyone started laughing. And I remember I just felt so hurt, I threw away my cai fan, which made me even sadder. I went back to my classroom and I just cried in a corner.”
She didn’t really receive any active support from peers during that time, either but Lim understood that people were “afraid to talk back to the bully” for fear of becoming their next victim.
The teachers were aware of the situation, but Lim explained, “As long as it's nothing physical or nothing too abusive, they will just take it as like, okay, you're teenagers, it's very normal for people to get bullied or people do not fit into the mass group.
“So they'll just tell you that it's okay. It will be fine after a while. You know, you can talk to them - but it's really not easy talking to people who laugh at you.”
It wasn't just the people in school, though.
Lim had an upsetting encounter with a mother and child out in the street, after a long day at school when she hadn’t eaten in hours and “was really very hungry”.
She was eating a Japanese rice ball when she walked past the duo, and the mother suddenly told her kid, that if they continued eating, they’d be as fat as Lim.
“I’m like, why do you want to say that? I’ve been starving myself the whole day. You don’t even know what I’ve been through the whole entire day. I actually teared but I still finished my rice ball.”
It could be a very casual thing, like a very normal thing that you do, but you get targeted every single time.Actress Xixi Lim
The incident made Lim realise that it wasn’t just her classmates who were mean to her, and that “as long as you are different, people tend to talk about you”.
How a model changed her perspective
Lim revealed that she didn’t like going home early because her family was worried since she always came home crying after getting bullied for her weight. So she would wander about the shopping mall, looking at the pretty models on the posters.
One day, she chanced upon a lingerie shop which had a poster of a model, who Lim had seen on the reality television competition show America’s Next Top Model.
“I remember her so clearly because there's a gap in between her teeth. So I told myself that if I can actually remember somebody because of a difference, then why can't I just embrace my difference and love me for me? Probably when I start loving myself for me, people will start to embrace me as a person as well. So that's like a turning point for me,” she said.
Yet, despite her positivity and acceptance of herself, she still remains cognisant of the “inconvenience” her size brings.
For example, she doesn't usually sit on public transport, because she knows others feel uncomfortable as “we take up a little bit more space”.
Taking a plane causes her to worry, too. Lim said she loves travelling but constantly worries about who is going to sit beside her - whether it’s a Caucasian who is also of a bigger build, or a skinny person who has to “squeeze her way towards the other side because I’m taking a little bit more space than her”.
“I don't want to create that inconvenience for people as well, so I usually choose to stand [on] public transport or if I can, I will not want to squeeze with people,” said the actress.
Tried many ways to lose weight
Lim admitted that she has tried to lose the weight many times, but failed due to her hectic schedule, a lack of determination, and her love for food.
“I’ve tried eating diet pills. I've tried not eating after eight o'clock. I even tried starving myself, doing exercise,” she said.
“But I think the main challenge is determination. And myself. And the love for food. I'm a foodie,” she added sheepishly with a laugh.
Lim also has her own challenges when going to the gym or attending a fitness class, such as wondering if she would be laughed at for not being able to keep up.
“I've always wanted to try spin class, but I'm very scared that I’ll break the bike. I don't know if the bike can carry my weight,” she added.
Still, Lim has gotten in touch with her personal trainer, and is trying to get her exercise routine back on track despite her packed schedule.
“I just want to keep myself more active because age is catching up. And my industry actually requires a lot of stamina for me to talk, to sing, to host, to act; so I think I need to keep my body in that condition in order for me to function,” she shared.
'Try to be more understanding'
In the meantime, Lim hopes that people can “keep their mouth shut” when it comes to plus-sized people and leave them alone while they try and manage their lives.
Lim said, “Yes, we probably will take up a little bit more of your space… But we really function like you. We walk, we sleep, we rest, we eat…
I hope people can be more understanding. You need to understand us so that you will really know that these are the struggles that we go through.Actress Xixi Lim
“Sometimes it's not that we don't want to go on diet. Sometimes it's not that we choose to be this obese - but I'm not saying me, I choose to be like that, it's my fault as well. But we need time to make changes to our body. So please understand that you don't know me, so don't judge my life. Try to be more understanding for people around you.”
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