Pulse.ng logo
Go

Girl Smarts Model Mia Kang opens up about how she overcame a devastating eating disorder

But at 13, my doctor told me I had to lose weight because I was at risk for type 2 diabetes and a bunch of other scary health problems. It hit me that this was a lifestyle issue, and it wasn’t going to go away on its own.

  • Published:
Model Mia Kang opens up about how she overcame a devastating eating disorder play

Model Mia Kang opens up about how she overcame a devastating eating disorder

(SYLVÈ COLLESS)

I grew up as an overweight kid, which led to a lot of bullying and teasing in school in Hong Kong. My parents used to tell me, “Don’t worry, it’s just baby fat,” and I thought I would grow out of it.

But at 13, my doctor told me I had to lose weight because I was at risk for type 2 diabetes and a bunch of other scary health problems. It hit me that this was a lifestyle issue, and it wasn’t going to go away on its own.

I was still a kid, so I didn’t understand how to get healthy; I just stopped eating. After nearly halving my weight, I was immediately scouted as a model. My plan to lose weight-however unhealthy and unsafe-had definitely worked.

Leonardo.

A post shared by Mia Kang (@missmiakang) on

 

The next 15 years were a whirlwind of traveling, modeling, and addiction. I was consumed by the industry and obsessed with being thin. I didn’t even realize at the time how sick I was and how much I was suffering from anorexia and bulimia. I was addicted to cigarettes, narcotics, diet pills, diuretics, laxatives-anything that would keep me skinny.

"I never knew what it was like to listen to my body and respect it."

I was desperate to conform to this standard of beauty that everyone I worked with was telling me was the "right" way to look, and I was destroying my body in the process. The worst part was that I still didn’t feel good about my body, and I was constantly anxious about how I looked.

I weighed 115 pounds and was convinced I was fat and would be fired from jobs for it. Everyone thought I was living a glamourous life-I was at the height of my career, but I was completely miserable.

(Want to see how other Women's Health readers answered? Check out the results of our annual Naked survey here.)

 

In 2016, after years of abusing my body and still being told I needed to lose weight, I had a complete meltdown. I knew I had to get away from modeling for a while, so I booked a flight from New York City to Thailand for what I thought would be a rejuvenating, 10-day vacation-but turned into the trip that changed my life.

I tried Muay Thai while I was there and fell in love instantly. I moved into a Thai fight camp to immerse myself in the sport, learn more, and train. I ended up living in Thailand for nine months.

I got fit and healthy and finally got the hang of basic things like eating three meals a day. I had honestly never done that-when I was young, I was always overeating, and then I started restricting. I never knew what it was like to listen to my body and respect it, and Muay Thai taught me that.

I learned that food is fuel and not a reward for starvation. I learned about strength, and I watched my body transform and gain weight. It was hard, but I felt so strong and so good and I realized that that’s what really matters.

"I can honestly say that the biggest I’ve been as an adult-I’m now a size 8-is the happiest I’ve been, too."

I eventually came back to New York. I wanted to keep modeling, but I hoped that by showing the world a healthy, athletic body, I could help lead change in the industry.

Top: I was on set for an ad for a slimming product and was so insecure and scared that I was going to get fired because I was too big. I starved myself for days for this shoot. I was anorexic, addicted to cigarettes, black coffee, cocaine, laxatives, diuretics and just about anything else that could help me stay a size 2. Believe it or not I was one of the bigger girls in the modelling circle at that time, and the final images for this ad were photoshopped so I was skinnier. Bottom: Me today, still modelling at size 8. I eat meals, quit everything I was addicted to, I'm healthy and strong. It's a new body for me. I am still learning to love my new attributes and tell myself that I'm beautiful. I spent my life in an industry where thigh gaps and protruding collarbones, ribs and hipbones is beautiful...now at 29 years old to reprogram that thinking is difficult. I get overwhelming moments where I hate myself and just want to go back to how I was before. I'm recovering. Stay strong - it gets better, I promise. Whether it's a good day or a bad day, love yourself and be fearless. I want to put the images out there that I never had. I want to tell my story because I don't want young girls and women to go through what I did. I want to change this industry and show that HEALTH is what we should promote. I want to give representation to everyone in between sample and plus size and to everyone who doesn't fit into a box. I want women to love themselves and their bodies because we possess a certain type of magic, power and strength that is the epitome of beauty.

A post shared by Mia Kang (@missmiakang) on

 

I lost a lot of clients, and I still sometimes struggle with my body image. But I’ve also gotten incredibly positive and inspiring feedback. I’m putting the images out there that I wish I had seen as a young girl and I feel like that’s helping to balance the images I put out there before that were contributing to this rigid beauty standard.

Throughout my life, I’ve been a size 0 and a size 14 and everything in between. I can honestly say that the biggest I’ve been as an adult-I’m now a size 8-is the happiest I’ve been, too. It’s not that I don’t have the insecurities anymore, but now I have the tools to handle them.

Training is a big one. The strength I’ve gained through that has transferred to all the other parts of my life. I know myself inside and out, and I’m proud of who I am. My weight has nothing to do with that. I feel like I’m comfortable with my insecurities now. They don’t control me; I control them.

Mia Kang is a model and Muay Thai fighter. For more inspiration from Mia, pick up a copy of the September issue of Women's Health, on newsstands now.

Do you ever witness news or have a story that should be featured on Pulse Nigeria?
Submit your stories, pictures and videos to us now via WhatsApp: +2349055172167, Social Media @pulsenigeria247: #PulseEyewitness & DM or Email: eyewitness@pulse.ng. More information here.