Published 19 June 2020
We get up close and personal with Krystal, one of the youngest members in the #UnionFam and one of the most inspiring lifters we have met.
Photo Credit: Krystal's first Malaya Mayhem powerlifting meet in March 2020

I've never shared my fitness journey publicly other than my closest friends because I felt embarrassed and uncomfortable with my eating disorder. It started when I was 14. Many of my school mates especially females would complain about how 'fat' they were although they were merely 50 kg.

Often than not, I was always embarrassed by my weight. Peer pressure and the standards set by social media made me believe that to look 'fit' and 'beautiful', I had to be in a certain weight range or have a certain waist size.

Since then, I became obsessed with weight loss and started searching for ways to lose weight quickly. I knew genetically I have a higher bone density, which contributed to my weight but I was still self-conscious. I started to restrict myself so much that I've dropped about half of my weight in a year. At that time, it didn't bother me much, but I soon became conscious that this was not the 'health' I was longing for.

My restriction led me into depression, and I've changed into someone who I did not recognise. I was super underweight. I didn't like going out nor talking to anyone. I liked being by myself and often skipped school.

"I soon became conscious that this was not the 'health' I was longing for."

By the end of that year, I decided that it was enough. I didn't want to trouble my family anymore and the fact that I was only 14 years old then, I told myself that I was too young to die (I'm not exaggerating, my bodyweight was low enough to potentially stop my organs from functioning but I couldn't be admitted into the hospital as I was underage). I was afraid, I panicked. I wanted to break out of my negative self, to start recovering from my disorder.

So, I started going to the gym twice a week and started healing my relationship with food. I have had a personal trainer who helped me throughout my recovery. At that time, I've also started going to Union Strength as I wanted to explore strength training without being restricted by the programme I was on. Six months later, I stopped taking PT sessions as I realised that I no longer need any guidance and that I was ready (plus I couldn't afford the price!).

Who or what has kept you going?

If I had to be honest, my family was not my motivation as they never understood what exercising meant to me. However, I was lucky to be surrounded by like-minded people in Union Strength as well as some supportive friends in school. Thankfully, I've managed to break through my restricted mindset and freed myself into the world.

Although it has only been a year and a half since I've started strength training, a lot has changed ever since. My relationship with food has improved exponentially, although I still believe that it is only inactivated in my brain. That if I ever feel stressed out or depressed, my eating disorder will creep up on me and trigger my sensitivity around food again. Nonetheless, I'm happy that I can eat anything, everything whenever I want.

Photo Credit: Krystal's Instagram Feed

What has been your biggest challenge?

The biggest challenge in my fitness journey would most definitely be accepting weight gain and to understand we are all genetically different from each other. No matter how hard we try to mimic someone else's workout or diet, our results will never be the same. Strength training has helped me gain around 10-15 kg of muscle mass. Although my current weight is much higher than before I even started 'dieting', I'm pretty happy with my current body composition.

What would you say to someone who is thinking of starting their own journey?

It may or may not be true scientifically, but I believe that dieting or shedding fat isn't everyone's thing. Our bodies are so different in many ways, catering our own needs, so it only makes sense that not everyone would be able to get the same results. I am not saying that you can't lose weight or fat, but be mindful of what our body wants and truly identify what our actual goal is before pursuing our goals.

My story may sound cliche but this is the reality. Nowadays, being healthy is perceived as weighing as light as you can, having abs, eating whatever junk but still having that toned body, wearing size S in every clothing etc. The list could go on and on, but I'm glad that’s no longer my definition of being 'healthy'.

And I urge everyone, especially teenagers to not worry so much about how you look or how much you weigh. To me, being healthy is being happy 24/7, having good sleep every night, going out and eating without feeling guilty, spending time with friends and family, all which I've missed because of my false perspective of 'health'.

"Love yourself, speak yourself, stand for yourself, you have just one body and it's not worth it starving yourself just to look a specific way."

Krystal Phang
Powerlifter & Student