"I love my shape because it's mine, uniquely so."

    No matter how confident you are, body-shaming hurts. SHAPE Deputy Editor Jay Jayaraj, who’s usually calm and body-confident, discovered that even she isn’t immune to the nasty remarks people make when a neighbour recently questioned her fitness based on her body shape. She was stunned, and like many of us when insulted, didn’t react immediately. She spent a few hours thinking about it, and then posted this:


    Jay says she has had several casual conversations with this neighbour about fitness, health and food in general, and hoped that she had imparted some of the knowledge she gains while working on SHAPE and from her relationships with the trainers, doctors and nutritionists she meets in the course of work.

    However, after the neighbour’s comment that she didn’t “look fit”, Jay realised that not all people can be taught what being fit really means.”I realised that we can’t avoid these people, they exist among us. At the end of the day we just have to find our tribe and stick to them.”

    Jay hikes regularly. This photo was taken at Bukit Kembara in Ampang.

    Another harsh truth she learnt is that many people still believe that a) being fit means being skinny and b) you work out only to be skinny, not to also be healthy and happy. C) it’s all about the looks. But she hopes to change that mindset. “I try hard every day to teach people about what being in shape and fitness means, and I’m going to keep doing that. I love my shape because it’s mine, uniquely so. It speaks of my heritage, lifestyle, life experiences, and health conditions. My shape is my story, and that’s why I’m #shapeproud. It may not always be perfect; sometimes I feel so out of shape, both physically and mentally. But getting back on track with my fitness regime, spending time in the outdoors, eating living foods, indulging in my creative hobbies and being with people I love, help me to stay focused and inspired. It’s a journey I enjoy despite the challenges,” Jay adds.

    Jay completed the Blackmores Syndey Marathon in September this year.

    Jay’s Facebook post received many messages of support and opinions on the matter on body shaming. One Facebook friend, Shana Valli, said: “What I’ve realised from being body-shamed my entire life was that the people who do it are actually either ‘out of shape’ themselves, unhappy with something about themselves, or complain a lot. It’s actually a reflection of what they’re feeling themselves. The people who have uplifted me were people who are really happy and confident regardless of shape. Hopefully one day we get to experience a society that doesn’t judge people based on shape.”

    SHAPE Editor-in-Chief, Seema Viswanathan, also commented, saying: “People have no idea what comes out of their mouths sometimes and how hurtful their words can be. I’ve seen so-called “fat” girls racing past me on very tough hikes (tabik to them), and skinny-bones girls who can lift heavier than most guys I know. The public needs to know that there’s strength, flexibility, speed and beauty in all shapes.”

    Another user, Shirley, said: “Hahaha….. She never see big or plus sizes dance, doing yoga or play extreme sports in her entire life kot. What a miserable thoughts and too much media influence. I’ve seen countless skinny like toothpick sizes fellas can’t even do squats nor walk long distance. Don’t be sad. Let them sulk in their own sempit world.”

    Understanding the strength of media influence, and knowing that there’s a lack of diversity in the body shapes represented in fitness are what prompted SHAPE to launch the #shapeproud campaign in January this year. We called out to all our readers to post images of themselves working out or post-workout. We wanted to show that people who exercise come in all shapes and sizes and that everyone is on their own stages of their fitness journeys (see below).

    This is not meant to promote obesity in anyway, but to encourage women to start loving their bodies now, even while it’s a work in progress, not just when they reach a goal determined by their mirrors.

    Also, click here to read our story on body positivity in which we interviewed and photographed seven curvy women who prove that fitness is beyond what our bodies look like. We also ran this story in our print edition.

    As broadcast journalist Tan Su Lin (pictured bottom right in photo above) says, “Being fit is not about looking lean and slim; it is about how much you can achieve with your body. It can be about lifting weights or doing a headstand! I’ve never thought that I could be fit enough to hike. But with training and perseverance, I’ve hiked a few tough mountains in the past few years and I am very proud of it!” Other comments on Jay’s post offered ways to respond when you’re body-shamed. Some were downright funny, while others were, erm, you decide:

    • “You don’t sound smart. Is there anything in between those ears?”
    • “I love going up against these people in a physical test and totally destroying them!”
    • “What a rude cow. Just ignore lah.”
    • “Next time someone says this to you, reply with “Can YOU?” That’ll shut them down.”

    SHAPE-rs, the insult leveled at Jay is minor compared to what many of us, regardless of body shape and size, have faced. We’d really like to know how you were shamed and, most importantly, how you handled it. We’ll be doing a shout-out on our Facebook and Instagram accounts, let us know there, or email us at [email protected] if you want to comment privately and we’ll publish your quote anonymously.  Let’s deal with this problem together!




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