Up Close – Living in starvation mode
Ella Tan | On 23, Dec 2014
The shapely figure and chiselled cheekbones of the beauty pageant winner (she was 3rd runner up at the recent Miss World/Singapore contest) belie years lost to a dangerous eating disorder. At her lowest point, Angeline Yap was a skeletal 32kg. At 1.64m, this was deathly thin, literally skin and bones.
Matter-of-factly, she admits she was never fat but low self-esteem led to a yearning to be thinner. It grew into a life-threatening obsession that had her forcibly hospitalised a few times a year from the time she was 15 until she turned 21. Tube fed, counselled and under psychiatric care, nothing helped until one day, she felt hungry and ate a large meal without sneakily throwing it up. It was the turning point for the pretty girl.
“During my school days, I avoided staying home or meeting friends, so I could skip meals. I lied that I had extra classes and would hide out in places like the library just so I could miss lunch.”
Parents, stay calm
Most parents would react like Angeline’s and freak out watching their daughter waste away. Her parents, not surprisingly, were worried sick. Angeline’s advice: “Because I’ve gone through this, I would say to affected parents, if your child has an eating disorder you have to be very patient and supportive. My parents were too paranoid and we fought every day. The anger and tension didn’t help my recovery at all. Don’t get too over anxious and quarrel with your child.”
Be sensitive with remarks
Well-meaning relatives and friends often unthinkingly point out a child’s weight gain or hearty appetite. Angeline warns that “If you say, oh you’ve put on weight, often the child will take it to heart even if she behaves like she doesn’t care.
“I have a twin sister but we don’t look alike. She was always the smaller one, so when we were growing up people would comment about our size difference, joking that I ate her share. When we were young, I didn’t think much about it, but once we reached puberty, I started to become very self-conscious.