Mention Li Tying’s instagram name @nglitying and more often than not, people know who you are referring to: The Baker of Stories… the one who bakes beautiful cakes and shares the stories of the friends and strangers that she has incorporated into the cake. But what about her story? Today, we take the time to get to know Li Tying better and to learn more about her journey with an eating disorder.
But first, what is an eating disorder?
An eating disorder is a mental illness that is characterised by eating, exercise and body weight or shape becoming an unhealthy preoccupation of someone’s life comes in many forms and can have different symptoms. Eating disorders are often associated with an intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat, however, in some cases, it is also a coping mechanism in times of stress.
Some common examples include:
- Anorexia Nervosa (self-starvation and food restriction)
- Bulimia Nervosa (binge-eating followed by compensatory behaviours like self-induced vomiting, laxatives or excessive exercise)
- Orthorexia Nervosa (Restrictive/obsessive diet limited to only certain kinds of healthy food)
- Binge-eating Disorder (Eating large amounts of food and feeling a loss of control over eating behaviour)
Further details can be found here.
Eating disorders can happen to anyone, both male and female and from ages as young as eight and even the elderly. An eating disorder could be sparked by a difficult childhood, a perfectionist mindset or even just social pressure to look a certain way. There isn’t one reason that causes an eating disorder and the recovery process is also different for everyone. However, it’s important to know that eating disorders can be life-threatening and it is important to seek help professional help.
If you have more questions or think you might need help, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more or for a listening ear.
Now that we understand eating disorders a little better, let’s meet the baker you’ve all been waiting for: Li Tying!
1.You’re known for being a baker of stories on Instagram. Today, we’d like to learn more about you and your story with a three-part introductory question.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Dreamer. Intuitive. Soft-hearted.
How would your family/husband describe you in 3 words?
Smart, creative and loving.Why did you decide to start The Spatula & The Pen?TSP began as a creative outlet, while I was still baking truly and solely as a hobby for friends and family. I believed in creating unique bakes and customising cakes according to each individual’s personality and preferences, as opposed to celebrating special occasions over store-bought run-of-the-mill cakes. Back then in the initial years I specialised primarily in cupcakes and cakes, which were often the choice of desserts for birthdays and other special occasions.
We know that you’ve shared occasionally about your past with an eating disorder and we’d like to share your experience today to help others in their own recovery process. As we ease into some questions about your struggle with an eating disorder, we’d also like to thank you for your courage and willingness to share your story to raise awareness and give hope to others who might be in a similar situation.
2. What sparked your eating disorder?
It began when I joined the salsa club in university. Prior to that, I was never really confident of my body image, but it didn’t bear much weight in my life up (pun unintended) until I was made acutely aware of my physical image in rather revealing and tight-fitting outfits. I was bothered by how imperfect my body was.While I was training for an inter-tertiary competition, I noticed that the number on the weighing scale began to drop as a result of the intensity of the trainings. Fuelled by the desire to drop more weight (since, for the first time in life the scale was actually moving downwards), I began to cut back on my food intake as an experiment. I wanted to know how far my weight would drop if I just ate less.It slowly became an addiction, when I couldn’t stop weighing myself everyday, and realising that every 100g-200g change in the scale would bother me so much. My weight plummeted really quickly over 2-3 months as I kept up with trainings but barely ate. I learnt to relish the burning feeling of hunger in my stomach; I counted it as personal achievements when I overcame the feeling of hunger and ignored food; I congratulated myself for turning away food. It became about discipline and control, and I wasn’t about to let it all go to waste.Once my weight reached its lowest point, I was thrilled that I’d made such a huge achievement with my strict control. Discipline and control was such an important part of my identity, and each time I slipped up by eating more than I should, I felt so much self-hatred for having caved into temptation. At my worst, I survived on one hard-boiled egg per day and maintained my 5km daily runs. It went on for 2-3 years, and it was an emotional and mental nightmare. I thought I was in control when in reality the disorder was controlling me.
3. How has having an eating disorder changed you?
It opened my eyes to a whole new world. Having been through that for a few years, I know how it feels like to be trapped in that mindset and not seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. For years I cried so often, out of guilt for eating beyond what I desired or for not being able to exercise to burn off the extra calories. I was an emotional disaster, often taking it out on those around me. Though, back then, mentally I knew that it wasn’t a good place to be, I wasn’t sure if I’d ever overcome it. I thought that I’d be like this for the rest of my life.Having been out of that tunnel of darkness, I’m a much more positive person. I daresay that I found myself through this journey, and grew as a stronger and more matured person. I’m learning to and getting better at cherishing myself for who I am, and in turn also being kinder to those around me (with better emotional stability and moods ;P).
4. What was your recovery process like?
It took years to really pull myself out of the hole. In that time, oftentimes it seemed like I was taking 2 steps forward and 1 step back. I’d be eating more, knowing that I was getting healthier, yet still be guilt-ridden emotionally and yearning to be stick thin like I had been previously.It happened about the same time when I came to know God and became a Christian. I began to find peace with who I was, loved who I was as a child of God, and understood that my life isn’t always in my control. I learnt to let go and let God into my life, and desired to be healthier and better for myself and those who cared about me.Fundamentally I think it was about me learning to love and appreciate myself. Growing up I was always plagued with low self-esteem and feelings of self-hatred and disappointment. I channelled my self-worth into what I saw on the outside, hence it was so important for me to maintain my weight, my skinny frame, and the ability to impress others despite my small frame (e.g. carry heavy weights, instilling discipline in my diet, etc). It was important to me to prove something about myself so that I could feel better. The first step out, was to accept that I am enough, and I am loved regardless.
5. What helped you during your recovery journey?
Knowing that what I was experiencing was also hurting those around me really woke me up. It took a painful ‘scolding’ session from a dear cousin of mine before I realised how selfish I was being, the way I was (she had always the kindest words for me and so much love, but it got to a point where she could no longer see me this way and the words just poured out).I was also aware of the damage I was doing to my health, both the short term and in the long run. I wanted to get better for my future, and the family I want to have in future.
6. What can family members or friends do to help their friends with eating disorders?
It helps to have a listening ear. I knew what I was doing and that it wasn’t right and healthy, but I was trapped within all the bad thoughts and emotional struggles in my mind. I was talking about it over and over each day – most times I could tell my closest friends and family were getting tired of listening to my rants and complaints – but from the bottom of my heart I was extremely grateful for their presence to know that I wasn’t alone.I hated hearing things like ‘You’re too skinny’, ‘You need to eat more’. I didn’t want to eat more because I’d end up hating myself if I did, so those words didn’t help.Being loving and gracious is the most important thing you can offer to someone who’s struggling. In this journey, it’s so difficult for them to love themselves for who they are, and to see any good in themselves. Remind them of how they are loved, they are special and they are enough. It might take a million reminders before they truly believe it and internalise it, but don’t give up on them. And don’t judge 🙂
7. If you can tell your younger self (who was struggling with an eating disorder) one thing, what would you tell her?
You will get better, and you will be happier. (: Hang in there and do what’s right in your heart.
Are you or is someone you know struggling with an eating disorder? Find out more and reach out for help HERE.