Fri, Jul 24, 2009 - Page 5 News List

FEATURE : Thin is in for Singapore youth, even if it is too thin

AFP , SINGAPORE

Fauzi Rassull’s figure is, for many young Singaporeans, to die for.

The slim 20-year-old, a popular blogger among the city-state’s fashionable youngsters, flaunts his 1.73m, 60kg frame in glamour shots splashed on his sites.

Followers share tips on eating and Fauzi himself swears by his regimen of two meals a day consisting of bread, instant noodles and salad.

Thanks in part to anti-fat advocates like Fauzi, thin is in among Singapore teens and young adults, but experts warn that the fad is behind a worrying spike in the number of people developing eating disorders.

“I don’t see myself as thin, I don’t think I’m thin now,” he insisted, saying he was aiming to cut his weight down to 53kg.

Fauzi’s dream weight would put him below the healthy range of the Body Mass Index (BMI) system used in many countries to measure fat.

At that weight, Fauzi, who does not hold a regular job and sells ads on his blog, would be risking “nutritional deficiency diseases and osteoporosis” based on the BMI scale of the Singapore Health Promotion Board, a government agency.

Fauzi, whose blog “The Male Bitch” was voted Singapore’s most popular blog for four straight weeks this year, denies he is encouraging anorexia, which afflicts many Asian youngsters.

“I just want to be skinny and people misinterpret skinny and anorexic,” he said, referring to hate mail he had been receiving from outraged people accusing him of promoting the eating disorder.

Medical studies show anorexia has become an endemic problem in Asian countries. Singapore is no exception, with the Eating Disorders Program of the Singapore General Hospital reporting five new cases a month. Many other cases are handled by private clinics.

Singapore has a resident population of just 3.64 million, of whom 13.4 percent belong to the 15-to-24-age category, the demographic most susceptible to the disorder, psychiatrist Ken Ung said.

“I think that the eating disorders are sort of a novelty, curiosity, so they are fairly popular to young people,” said Ung, who has studied anorexia for years.

He disapproves of Web sites and blogs such as Fauzi’s due to their influence among the young.

“These sites should be taken down, definitely it is harmful to that small vulnerable minority that will be influenced,” he said.

Popular social networking site Facebook apparently shared the same sentiments.

Fauzi said his 900-strong Facebook group — “Get Thin or Die Trying” — saw a spike in membership before it was taken down by site administrators in April.

He was also issued a warning and refused permission to start a new Facebook group after repeated attempts.

In a copy of the warning sent to Fauzi, Facebook said the site does not allow “groups that are hateful, threatening or obscene.”

But Fauzi, who is also the creator of “The Thinspo Club” on the social networking site Friendster, said all he was trying to do was gather like-minded individuals to share slimming tips.

“I just want Singaporeans to lead a healthy lifestyle as well,” he said.

Lee Huei Yen, the director of the Eating Disorders Program, was skeptical of Fauzi’s diet.

“The diet does not sound healthy and balanced and this person may possibly have an eating disorder,” she said.

Fauzi brushes aside such concerns and is single-mindedly pursuing his dream of being as fashionably thin as US socialite Paris Hilton.

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