Categories: Perspectives

How Discovering K-Pop Helped Me Lose 8KG & Stop Getting Bullied In Secondary School

Tales of a former “fat kid”

Image credit: Renae Cheng

Teenagers can be cruel, and I was relentlessly teased by my schoolmates for being a fatty-bom-bom. The worst form of teasing is when they “ship” you with your crush, only to have him respond with a big, hearty “Ewwww!”.

Fun fact: The same dude who publicly rejected me back in Secondary 2 also slid into my DMs once I shed a little over 8kg over the course of 1 year.

And it all started with me discovering K-Pop.

Backstory: How I got fat

As a child, I had no concept of nutrition and exercise. Other than once-a-week P.E sessions in school, I didn’t partake in any form of working out. Coupled with the fact that my favourite cuisine was fast food, I ballooned upon the onset of puberty.

Pudgy 15-year-old me
Image credit: @renaecjc

Discovering K-pop: A moment that would change my life forever

Dramatic, I know!

The Hallyu Wave crashed onto Singapore’s shores in 2009 when I was in Sec 2 and my cousin introduced me to a catchy ditty by Girls’ Generation – also known as SoNyeo ShiDae or SNSD for short. Up till that point of my life, I had only consumed Mando-pop or music in the English language, so the inability to sing along or understand the lyrics of Korean songs was stifling at first.

SNSD’s golden years will forever be missed
Images adapted from (left to right, top to bottom): Gee, Genie, Oh!, Run Devil Run

There’s something magical about K-pop, though, from the upbeat and well-produced songs to the next-level dance choreographies showcased in music videos I can only describe as bite-sized cinematic masterpieces. Soon enough, I was hooked on the genre and embarked on a slippery slope discovering girl groups and boy bands left, right and centre.

Images adapted from (left to right, top to bottom): Girl’s Day, BTS, Dalmatian, Sistar

Not to mention that this all happened during peak puberty period, and the visuals of fit and attractive young superstars twirling their hips and thrusting their pelvises certainly had my hormones surging off the charts.

You know the obsession is real when you start splurging on idol merch
Image credit: @renaecjc

How K-Pop helped me lose weight and gain confidence

Finally exercising, to K-pop dance

The biggest contributing factor to my weight loss was the way K-pop got me to actually start exercising. Almost all K-pop music videos feature an iconic dance routine that fosters recognition among fans, and is also the choreography they use during their live stage performances throughout the song’s promotional period.

Image adapted from YouTube

For whichever songs were currently on my playlist, I’d watch the idol groups’ dance practice videos and follow along. YouTube is also a great resource for user-uploaded choreography tutorials.

Keep in mind that I had no dance experience beforehand. My size and resulting low self-esteem meant that I rarely ever felt comfortable busting a move in front of anyone else but my own reflection – which happened to be shrinking gradually.

The best part was, it didn’t feel like I was working out. I don’t fancy sports, and slogging it out in the gym bores me within minutes. But grooving along to high-energy K-pop music was my ideal version of heart-pumping cardio.

A very cringey photo I posted on IG back in 2015, showcasing the amount of sweat I had worked up…Don’t judge me!
Image credit: @renaecjc

Young Me would also plug in my earphones and fantasise that I were performing my heart out to everyone who ever crapped all over me for being unattractive and undesirable, all because of my weight.

I’m still dancing to K-pop to this very day! Here’s me taking a dance class for Blackpink’s Kill This Love:

Video credit: @melopok

That’s me on the left in the green camo tank top 🙂

Newfound #fitspo and #bodygoals courtesy of K-pop idols

For the young and impressionable teenager that I was, idolising celebrities meant that I aspired to be like them to a certain degree. Going through the roster of top idol groups, you’d notice that there’s not much diversity as far as body types are concerned.

The ideal K-pop girl is tall and skinny, with legs that go on for miles and a waist that’s barely there.

Goo Hara’s legendary 20-inch waist
Image adapted from Cyworld & Baomoi

K-celebs make headlines for physical attributes like an “ant waist” or “legs over 100cm long”. No, seriously! A quick Google search will show you that there are entire articles dedicated to reporting the exact length from their thighs to their feet. Who’s even in charge of acquiring these stats?!

Infatuated with these idols, I used to search up their online profiles and get excited over minute details.

Me: Omg, I just found out Tiffany from SNSD is 163cm tall. We’re the same height!! 😀
Friend: But not the same waistline. Haha!
Me: *utterly destroyed*

That said, it was very motivational to unearth pre-debut photos of idols who are lauded for their stunning figure, and see that they were once chubby as well.

Hyuna, who is oft-regarded as having one of the most bangin’ bods in K-pop
Image credit: Kids Kunst

I especially appreciated when these idols who have successfully dropped the pounds and gotten fit and fab share their experience during interviews. Back in my day, it was hot news that Nicole from KARA had been low-key bullied into losing weight by her friend – fellow K-pop idol, Key from SHINee.

Image credit: Cyworld

Words certainly hurt, and I can only imagine the amplified pressure she must have felt as a pop star under the scrutiny of the general public as well as industry insiders who made it clear she was “too big”.

Ridiculous diet tips picked up from interviews and variety shows

Speaking of interviews, I’d subconsciously amassed an entire database of crazy diet tips just from trawling K-pop news sites for interview articles and watching the ever-popular idol variety shows online.

They may be musicians and performing artists, but humankind will never stop fixating on these celebrities’ appearances by default. How do they stay so slim? What do they eat? Are they employing any crazy secret methods that I could adopt to unlock my full, sexy potential?

These are all questions nobody would mind getting the answers to, even if it’s just to kaypoh and roll your eyes at the over-the-top nature of it all.

Here are some random tips I’ve picked up over the years, most of which I attempted at the pinnacle of my desperation before eventually coming to my senses.

Disclaimer: I do not endorse the following tips as they can veer towards the extreme, so do take them with a pinch of salt.

The Paper Cup Diet: Each meal consists of however much food fits into 3 paper cups

Image adapted from: Daeyooda

Sure, it seems to have worked wonders for Nine Muses. But they also happen to be a girl group formed from ex-fashion models, so…Just sayin’.

This is a pretty hardcore method of portion control bordering on self-induced starvation and I personally would not advocate it. Instead, what I’ve learned is to eat regular amounts of food at a reasonable pace so your body has time to adjust and realise it’s full.

The Non-White Diet: Where you can’t eat anything that’s white in colour

Remember that shockingly impressive transformation photo of Hyuna? She reportedly achieved it through this extreme diet where all white foods are a no-go. We’re talking rice, bread, and sugar. Essentially a low-carb diet taken up a notch, you’ll be chowing down on mainly meat and veggies.

Corn is the enemy

Hell vs Heaven, indeed.
Image credit: Baomoi

My main takeaway from the web series “2NE1 TV” is that corn is the absolute DEVIL. At least that’s what Park Bom’s trainer makes it out to be, banning the songstress from eating it as it’s carb- and calorie-dense without containing substantial nutrients.

Bananas are your best friend

Hailed by the super fit likes of Seo In Young and After School’s Kahi as a dieting secret weapon, bananas supposedly sustain your energy levels over long periods and keep you feeling full. They’re also a “happy fruit” which contain mood-boosting serotonin, which is a nifty bonus.

Losing weight and getting fit: The K-pop way

Although K-pop helped me shed considerable weight, boost my self-confidence and embark on a fitter lifestyle, it’s worth mentioning that there were low points where I almost slipped into body dysmorphia. Being presented with these flawless physiques and perceiving them as ideals can culminate in a highly unrealistic sense of body image – dangerous, even.

SNSD’s Tiffany raised some eyebrows after these paparazzi shots were released
Image credit: Your Korean Bias

Fad diets and extreme weight-loss measures are never a good idea. If you want to achieve a physical transformation, regular exercise and a balanced and healthy diet is definitely the way to go.

Special shout-out to Hwasa from Mamamoo, who’s gained international acclaim for her thicc figure.

Image credit: Tenor

Back in the early 2010s era, she would’ve been criticised for being “fat” and having “thunder thighs”. This goes to show how much the K-pop scene is progressing in terms of body inclusivity and showing appreciation for curvier girls.

As a final note, just remember that all these K-pop stars lead a vastly different lifestyle from you and I. From having fitness trainers to dieticians, their day-to-day lives are tailored to ensure they’re never a size too big to fit into their stage outfits. They are, quite literally, in the business of looking good and selling the image of perfection.

Renae Cheng

I love food, dance, writing, and writing about food and dance.

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