This time, we have Cheryl Tay--the founder of Rock The Naked Truth movement. Cheryl inspired us with her stories on how she's overcome her eating disorders and body image issues and the journey to become who she is today.
Can you tell us more about yourself?
Hi! I'm Cheryl Tay and it's very hard to describe who I am or what I do in just one line, or a few lines, but I will try.
I do a few different things for work - digital marketing, content creation, journalism, photography, personal fitness training.
I also have a body positivity movement called Rock The Naked Truth, which is something I am very passionate about.
And I also do Ironman triathlons (well at the moment there are no races because I can't travel).
Could you share about the story behind Rock The Naked Truth (RTNT)? Why did you start RTNT?
I suffered from eating disorders - anorexia, bulimia, binge eating - for over 10 years of my life. I just had this strong desire to be skinny and I did everything I could to achieve it. I was so fixated on the digits on the scale and the obsession got so bad that I got to a point of self-harm. At one point, I lost over 20kg in over 2 months because I was starving myself, over-exercising and severely under-eating. For example, I would run 20km every morning, 6km in the evening and 2-3 hours of kickboxing EVERY DAY and refuse to eat. I was weighing myself every hour! My period also didn't come for 7 months. It was a very dark period for me then and even though I lost so much weight, I was constantly miserable and I was on this downward spiral. I lost a lot of good friendships, I wasn't a fun person to be around, I was always angry and tired.
I continued to struggle with binge eating for many more years, for over a decade and I had a very unhealthy relationship with my body. I felt like I was never good enough for anything or anyone, my insecurities would get the better of me and I had a lot of toxicity in my life. I put back all the weight I lost, obviously, because I lost it in such a drastic and unsustainable way. So I got to a point where I just gave up on myself and told myself I was gonna be fat forever, that nobody was gonna love me.
And then one day I rekindled my love for fitness again. I've always been active - representing my school in badminton, track and cross-country - but when I started exercising to lose weight, it killed my passion for fitness. I hated exercising because I found it a chore; it became something I had to do because I needed to do it to lose weight. But sometime in 2015, I went to the gym and learnt how to do a proper deadlift, squat and bench press.
I realised it was very interesting to see what our bodies are capable of. I wanted to lift heavier, run faster, and I began to see that we should be focusing on what your body can do, and not obsess about how your body should look.
I went on to do CrossFit, Olympic weightlifting and now Ironman triathlons. It amazes me everyday, to see how beautiful the body is and how much it can do. The mind is truly the limit.
Once I had this shift in mindset, I discarded the negative thoughts of being inadequate and insecure. I started to become very comfortable in my body and have reached new heights of self-confidence. Thus in 2016, I decided it was a good time for me to start RTNT. I managed to get out of the gallows and I hope that through RTNT, I can help others do the same. It is horrible to be trapped in all of those insecurities for a lifetime.
What is the hardest thing in this journey of starting RTNT?
It's been great and people can relate to the movement with their own struggles of body and weight, and how these have affected their lives.
I just wish more multinational companies and organisations (those with more power in terms of reach and finances), as well as academic institutions, would step up to support the movement in bigger ways, ie. more than just collaborations. I would love to create an academic syllabus for body image for example. It seems like it is a superficial problem because of the nature of what it is (ie. about appearance and weight), but it actually affects a large part of society and it is, what I would call, a societal disease. Young women do actually die from eating disorders.
I understand that you've struggled with body image for a few years. Could you share how you managed to overcome this struggle? :)
Ultimately, you need to realise that your body is yours for life and you're the only person who can take good care of it. You are responsible for your own body and no one else. Instead of suffering for your whole life, why don't you make a commitment to love your body right? Eat well, exercise because you enjoy it, be proud of the skin you're in. Also, don't be afraid to be yourself and you don't have to conform to societal stereotypes. Cut out negative and toxic people in your life and work on surrounding yourself with positive people who lift you up!