The weight-loss business is a multibillion dollar industry. Every year, women subject themselves to fad diets, funny pills, and fat-burning electric belts in pursuit of an ever-changing notion of an “ideal” body size. At the end of the week, we pray to our weighing scales, hoping for that little needle to move just a smidge lower than what it showed last week. And when it doesn’t, we slink away and gorge on ice-cream to cheer ourselves up.
“Back then, the weighing scale was my television – I was glued to it. I thought I had a good idea of what my ideal weight was supposed to be, so I often went on crash diets,” explains Sherlyn Tan, founder of Twenty3. Uncomfortable in her own skin and often picked on for her size in school, she suffered from low self-esteem, equating her weight with what she perceived as how people judged her. Although it is a common fear among women, Sherlyn went a step farther than most, resorting to just eating a single egg and a bowl of Campbell’s soup every meal, to the point of collapse – her father carried her in his arms to the nearest clinic when she fainted one day.
“That was my life for years. My weight would balloon up and crash down frequently, often with a 10kg swing each time. I thought it was normal,” says Sherlyn. That was until she was hospitalized with dengue in February 2015. Vomiting daily, her weight quickly fell away. There was also the mental burden of leaving her rapidly-growing business on its own, as well as the emotional depths when she came under attack from cyberbullies who called her a fraud and a slut, among other things. “That was absolutely the lowest point in my life, and I just wanted to end it all.”
She was discharged a week later, at her lightest weight in all her life, but a physical and emotional wreck. “I hated how weak and lowly I felt, so defenceless and allowing myself to be trampled by a mosquito and a bunch of anonymous bullies. I wanted to change all that, but didn’t know how,” says Sherlyn.
A month after, fully recovered, she tagged along to her first gym session with her boyfriend. It was an eye-opener, and while digging deeper into the world of fitness, she discovered Instagram fitness sensation, Kayla Itsines, and her world-famous Bikini Body Guide (BBG). “I’m a very structured and regimented person, so having a guide really helped me. The community aspect of it was also very encouraging, and they all shared their progress pics, which inspired me further,” she explains. “I wanted to look like those girls – fit, lean and happy.”
Sherlyn started her Instagram account, @sherlyn_fitness, to keep up with the BBG community and to keep herself on track. Her single-mindedness pushed her to keep improving each day, with the memory of her lowest point driving her on. She knew her mind would make excuses each morning, so she started sleeping in her workout clothes, sometimes even with her ponytail, so that she could jump out of bed and straight to the gym!
Her Instagram account grew quickly, attracting support from like-minded people from around the world who love to work out. “It’s a two-way thing – I share my workout routines and my clean-eating meals to help educate and advocate a healthy lifestyle, and the encouragement from my followers inspires me to go further!” she says.
Fellow Malaysian devotees of the BBG phenomenon began congregating on her Instagram. This gave her a lightbulb moment to hold the very first BBG community meet-up session in Malaysia. “I'm an ultra-introvert, and especially just recovering from the lowest point in my life, it was extremely difficult to get myself to do anything like this. However, I knew I had to overcome it just like my previous challenges – the small victories do count!”
The first BBG meetup was held in October 2015 at KLCC Park, spread out over 2 weekends to accommodate over 100 girls! Boyfriends, sisters and even mothers of the BBG girls were present too to show their support.
She has organized BBG meetups each month when able, paying from her own pocket to rent gyms and once, even to host a clean eating meetup and discussion. The response has been overwhelming from women all over Malaysia, and once, even a Singaporean virtually took part in the workout!
OUR FIRST EVER MALAYSIA PINK @kayla_itsines BBG MEET UP VIDEO TEASER! I can't wait for this Saturday part 2 meet up and combine both group photos & videos already! Im so happy seeing these video! I'll be posting this video on our FACEBOOK PAGE : BBGMY so you may grab it from there! Special thanks to @titus_tjt for helping us with this! ??????#bbggirls #bbgmy #bbgmalaysia #bbgmeetup #bbg #fitness #healthy @kayla_itsines @bbg_my @bbgmeetup #bbgvideochallenge #sweatwithkayla
Within these few months of healthy living, Sherlyn realized the importance of the adage, ‘mind over matter.’ “It's our mind that limits us. My advice to those looking to start fitness is the same as what I tell every budding entrepreneur – don’t overthink it. You don’t have to be great to start, you just have to start to be great. Go ahead and test your limits, then break them.”
Inspired by her own fitness journey, she created a new sportswear line called MOVE by Twenty3. “New, cute workout outfits – especially sports bras – always pump me up! I wanted to create a line that was equal parts functional and fashionable. Most big sportswear companies neglect the latter,” she explains.
"As for the name MOVE, I hope more people realize that fitness isn’t a destination. It’s not a bikini body, it’s not a flat tummy, it’s not a number on your weighing scale – once you’ve achieved those goals, it becomes easy to lose the initial motivation. Fitness is about motion, the movement, and the journey. I started my journey because I wanted to be as slim as what society demanded, but now I just want to be better and stronger than I was yesterday. The last time I stepped on my weighing scale, I was 5 kgs heavier than before I fell sick due to my growing muscles. But when I look in the mirror and at the things I am able to do with my body now, I realize that I really don’t care about my weight anymore. I just want to keep moving and breaking my limits!”
Note: MOVE by Twenty3 is launching in Atria Shopping Gallery on the 19th of March 2016!
The next BBG meetup is happening on April 2, 2016 at Bangkung Park, Bangsar. If you’d like to be a part of a warm, friendly, and supportive community of MOVERS, drop Sherlyn a DM @sherlyn_fitness. Beginners are absolutely welcome!