I used to cringe whenever we experienced bad service at a restaurant and Mum would complain to the manager, or Dad would make us all walk out. I wondered why they had to do things like that because it was embarrassing to me. Now I’m all grown up and out of the sheltered wings of Mum and Dad, I see how important it is to know that what I feel is valid, and it’s ok to speak up to make my point.
While I don’t want to be the kind of person who kicks up a fuss over the smallest of situations, I also don’t want to be the kind of person who sits back and keeps quiet about issues close to my heart. There have been many times growing up where I have chosen to keep quiet when I was being told off wrongly, when I was misunderstood, when I was in a position of (what I believed to be) inferiority. And then I would go home and go over and over those scenarios, imagining them differently, wishing that I had said what needed to be said.
These days, whenever I find myself is a particular situation, I ask myself this, “Will I regret it if I don’t speak up?”. If the answer is no, then I will let it go and forget about it. If the answer is yes, then I’ll push myself to say something in as nice a manner as possible. So one thing I’ve learned is that it’s ok to be assertive, but there’s always a nice way of going about it, and a not-so-nice way. Ideally, we always try to opt for the former.
The other day I was on a bus, and I found an empty seat at the back next to this woman. My ‘ED alarm’ rang straight away the moment I saw her and as much as I thought to keep quiet and not say anything, the fact that my brain was pushing for me to speak to her made me think that perhaps I should. But what do I say? How should I say it? In the end, as my stop approached, I mustered up the courage to say, “I’m sorry if I’m making an assumption, and I really don’t mean to, but I have been in your position before. You’re really very skinny so if you need help, please find it. I hope you can be strong every day and know you’re not alone. And if I’m mistaken, I apologise.” To be honest, she didn’t really react at all and for a moment, I wondered if she even spoke English but I believe she did. I might have even had a glimpse of the briefest of smiles. A very slight one but one all the same. I left it at that and wished her the best before alighting.
This morning, I was flipping through Instagram stories when a woman, an ‘influencer’, I follow shared about her visit to the slimming centre. Her daughter’s only 3 months old and she’s already slimmed down a lot, but according to her, has about 3kg to lose to be back at her pre-pregnancy weight. I don’t have a problem with her desire to lose that last bit of weight because to each, their own. My gripe was that she mentioned that the ideal fat mass was 10-18%. Hers was 11% and she didn’t have much to lose. I don’t know if my understanding of fat mass is wrong but Google it and you’ll find that for any healthy woman, our body fat percentage should be between 21-32%. 10-13% of which is ESSENTIAL fat. Anything in between 14-20% and you’d have to be an athlete which most of us really aren’t.
With her wide sphere of influence, impressional young women who lack information, may then assume that they have ‘too much fat‘ even if they have a healthy fat percentage of say, 22%. Slimming centres end up offering that ‘quick fix’ when in reality, we shouldn’t be concentrating on weight, or fat percentages, or whatever number the media tells us we ought to be! Perhaps my sensitivity to this issue boils down to it being something that is important to me what with my history and all. So yes, I feel that it is important to educate people about health not based on numbers, but based on the basic knowledge of eating everything in moderation, exercising in moderation. And you’ll know you’re healthy when you feel good about yourself just because. Leave the numbers to the experts, leave the percentages to the professionals, and let people be happy without needing to calculate every calorie that goes into their mouths.
I digress. As usual.
The bottomline is that my first instinct was to share for the first time in a long time on IG stories that this is something influencers ought to be careful about – dispensing inaccurate information to the public. And I did. But after some thought, I also realised that by not speaking to the person herself, she wouldn’t be made aware of the negative impact some of her followers might encounter as a result. I decided that by communicating with her, I could affect change even if only in the smallest of degrees.
Now, I’m not saying that I’m right in my views. There are many perspectives, millions of opinions, billions of thoughts that may pertain to one topic. By voicing out my feelings, I’m not saying that I am better that anyone else, or am morally more correct. Most of the time, I’ve probably misunderstood the situation. What I wanted to do, and aim to continue doing, is to speak up about what is important to me in the hopes that it might protect other young girls from ever falling into the disordered ways that dictated my life for too long. Sure, I can’t save everyone. But even if just the ONE person, why not? That’s still a life. One precious life.
If I can ‘influence’ one influencer, perhaps she might be more aware of the content she shares, and in doing so, prevent more stress from being placed on the shoulders of youth who are already dealing with enough physical insecurities as it is because of puberty, while also trying to be accepted by friends, let alone deal with societal pressures.
I know I have strong opinions regarding this entire issue and I don’t doubt that you can feel a lot of it here in this post. But as I mentioned nearer the beginning, there is a nice way and a not-so-nice way to put our point across so crossing out names, this is what I said (please ignore some of the grammatical errors):
*information you dispensed, not dispelled =x
Hopefully I sounded as polite as I’d like to have sounded because I totally believe that she didn’t share what she did with the intent to cause harm. I also know that what we say to others doesn’t necessarily result in the conclusions we hope for. Sometimes they might totally relate, and at other times, they may not see your point of view and brush them aside entirely. Ultimately, I think what’s important is the act of trying – there is nothing to lose, and everything to gain. If nothing else, you feel more at peace with yourself. Thereafter, when all that’s needed to be said has been said, let it go and move on. 🙂
Anyway, said influencer did get back to me and told me it was visceral fats she was referring to. Still, visceral fats are usually measured on a scale of 1-59 and not in percentages but it doesn’t matter anymore. I’ve said my piece and I’m happy. I still like her as the person I see her to be and what’s happened doesn’t change my mind on who she is. This is simply a good reminder that influencers don’t know everything and not to believe or trust everything that we see or read on social media. Be discerning and remember, you are worth more than a number or a percentage or a dress size. Always!