Melissa Sarah Wee, 37, turns heads. A diminutive figure of packed muscles, sparkly eyes, and a megawatt smile on a pixie-pretty visage attracts attention wherever she goes. Everything about her shatters society’s limiting paradigm of what feminine beauty is. Those who don’t know better see an attractive, fit and confident, young lady. For those in the know – which includes her 200 thousand Instagram followers, beneath that poise is a steely survivor who has gone through life-changing, painful experiences in her youth.
She was bullied in school for her weight and how she looked. Traumatised, she went on a bingeing and purging streak at age 14. Three years of sustained bulimia and depression landed her in hospital for a week when she tried to take her own life. Over the years, with support from family and loved ones, she won her battle against bulimia but continues to fight societal pressures of body shaming, choosing to share her bodybuilding passion and life openly on social media as a lesson and motivating others in a similar situation.
What is it like to be a female bodybuilder in this and appearance-obsessed world?
I face quite a bit of discrimination here in Singapore because I carry more muscle than the average woman. I’ve had people say mean things about my physique when I’m in earshot. I have a fair share of ‘haters’ who take time to troll my pics or even send awful emails on social media.
Did you face a lot of discrimination because you do not conform to society’s idea of being body-perfect?
Yes, to a certain extent. The media has been defining what beauty is like for generations, and society, in general, believes that to be beautiful, we must look a certain way. It’s even worse in this day and age where everyone has access to social media. It’s no longer just fat-shaming anymore, but also picking on those who choose to be fitter or more muscular.
How do you deal with all the negativity?
In the beginning, I would get very hurt and upset. I remember I was featured on Straits times Hot Bods about 11 or 12 years ago, and someone uploaded my photo into a forum. The guys there made nasty and degrading comments. I cried when I first read it. Over the years, I’ve learned to let it slide. No matter what I look like, someone will always have something unkind to say.
Back in 2019, you shared on social media that you were going through a tough time with depression and anxiety. How did you get through that period, and how big did your fitness regime play in that?
I think it was in 2020 when I had the most anxiety attacks and breakdowns. I reached out for help because I started to have suicidal thoughts. I attempted suicide when I was a teenager and woke up in a hospital. I recognised those thoughts and shared them with my siblings and close girlfriends. Who were always there for me whenever I had an anxiety attack. Without my loved ones, I honestly don’t know what I would do.
During that time, gyms were closed because of the current Covid situation. It added to my depression, but I told myself I had to give myself a fighting chance. So I took long walks along East coast park with my dog 3-4 times a week. I did some home workouts with resistant bands and whatever weights I had at home.
You have been an inspiration to many with your brutal honesty and heartfelt sharing about your past struggles with Bulimia, body dysmorphia, and the pain of being bullied. What advice do you have for young people going through some facets of this struggle right now?
The first thing to recognise is that you should never feel ashamed of yourself for going through that. There is nothing to feel embarrassed about, and please reach out to someone you trust. Getting help is so important. I promise you that it will get better, and the best thing to do is to take things one step at a time, one day at a time.
You have come a long way, and you look amazing. Can you share some of your wellness and beauty regimes with us?
I weight train 3-4 times a week for 90 mins. It helps to maintain my current physique and also so keep my basal metabolic rate going. I am also quite particular about my diet and don’t eat sugar and starchy carbs often. I love those, but I only have them on my cheat day once every fortnight. I believe that diet plays a big role in how you look and feel. Supplement-wise, I take vitamin C every morning together with some biotin and powdered marine collagen.
Tell us your favourite feature of the Skin Inc Tri-Light™ Body Sculpt Fit, and how do you incorporate it into your regular self-care programme?
After trying out the four treatment modes of this device, my favourite is definitely the heating and relaxing feature. The consistent heat at 42 degrees Celsius works wonders for my tensed neck and upper trapezium area, caused by stress. It instantly relaxes me after, and I felt that I slept better.
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