How to be a good sport

It’s not just about numbers on the scale. Take it from fitness buff Cheryl Tay, who has come a long way from battling body image issues and now wants to tell women everywhere it’s okay not to be stick-thin

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WHO IS SHE? Cheryl Tay, 28, a photojournalist, blogger and self-professed “fitness freak” who created Elite, a fitness contest on the hunt for the fittest man and woman in Singapore. “There are marathons, mass yoga sessions, etc, so why not a gym-going contest like Elite? Also, fitness saved me from my body image struggles. So I wanted to reach out to encourage more people to get out there and get fit. You may not be the fastest or the strongest, but at least you feel good working out,” says Cheryl.

I faced many body image issues all my life...I was a sporty kid, but I ate a lot as well, so I was fat. When I was 12, I could eat for breakfast six roti prata with egg and two Milo dinosaur drinks...and still want more. My weight fluctuated between 45kg to 60kg in secondary school and junior college. My then-boyfriend was ashamed to be seen holding my hand in front of his friends, and my friends called me names like Cheryl Piggy Tay and Pinky Porky.

I exercised a lot — in fact, I was in the school’s cross-country team — but I was never the skinny type. All this affected me for a long time subconsciously, and I started to go crazy and starved myself and exercised like mad. I only ate one apple a day, ran 20km every morning, did four hours of tae bo in the afternoon, which is like kickboxing, and jogged another 6km at night — every day. I lost 15kg in two months but I became very emotionally unstable and didn’t go out. I also succumbed to bingeing occasionally.

My biggest binge ever was two tubes of Pringles, one tray of 36 Ferrero Rocher chocolates, one tin of butter cookies and five packets of Tim Tams in one sitting. By the end of it, I felt so sick. My parents wanted me to see a psychiatrist but I refused. I stopped after four months and the weight came back. Later on, I tried slimming centres, over-the-counter pills, detox drinks and laxatives. I spent almost $20,000 on all of that, and still I didn’t lose any weight.

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