I know that I’m not fat, and I’ve never struggled with an eating disorder. Because of that, I feel a bit out of place commenting on this site. However, I did grow up with a nickname that my grandfather used to describe my face that loosely translates to “Round-a-round-round,” a mother who reminded me to always “suck it in”, Asian friends whose mothers were not shy about commenting on all of our appearances, and many other little things like that. It was these “little things” that built up over time and slowly got to me.
These “little things” first started to accumulate around the time I was in junior high. I always knew I had a large butt, but it never bothered me until I was 12 years old, because that was the time when I could no longer buy pants that fit. Either they were too tight around the hips or they were too long and loose around my legs. My half-Asian friend insisted that I should be proud of my perky butt: Since she felt self-conscious about her Asian-esque, flat, non-existent butt, I should be grateful that I’m one of the few Asians who actually had curves. Somehow, I never felt truly comforted by her words.
After the years went by and I became more fashion-conscious, I found that there were were so many cute clothes that looked good on other people and so many haircuts that I would love to pull off but would never look good on me because of how my body looked or how round my face was. For example, wearing cute cocktail dresses were out of the question because of my “daikon legs” as my mother would call them (as in, they were short and stubby like daikon radishes). I was always in a miserable, self-deprecating mood after every shopping trip or haircut. My boyfriend often asks me why I don’t go out shopping for new clothes more often when all my current clothes have popped seams or are in tatters, and I tell him the same story every time: Because nothing will fit. To this day, I still wear many of the clothes that I first bought half a decade ago in high school, as I am still struggling to find my own “look” that will actually come in a generic clothing store.
During my first year in university, because of the stress from all the major changes in my life and from exams, I lost about 5 pounds. That year, I was exuding confidence. Finally, for the first time in my life, I felt really pretty. I started to really accept that, yes, I am a thin Asian girl, and that my voluptuous butt was okay! Boys were starting to pay attention to me (that was the year I met my boyfriend), even girls were paying attention to me and saying I looked pretty. In retrospect, I’m sure that my confidence was, sadly, linked to my weight loss. Though I didn’t have a scale at my dorm, I checked my weight whenever I came back home for holidays and would return to school feeling prouder about my body.
The next year at university, I became ill with a high fever with a serious throat and ear infection. Though the illness was relatively brief (only about half a week long) and not very serious, it was the worst sick spell I’d had since sixth grade. I later found out, the next time that I visited home, that I had lost another 10 pounds while I was bedridden. Though my mother was starting to express her worry over my weight loss, I never thought twice about it. It was hard to take her comments to heart when her expressions of concern felt more back-handed than genuine: “I think you look better with a rounder, plumper face,” she’d say, or she’d accuse me–that’s right, accuse me, not ask me–of being physically sick, like having an intestinal parasite or cancer or something like that.
In any case, I felt increasingly confident about my appearance after this sudden weight loss. I was proud that I could eat whatever I wanted and the worst that would happen is that I would get a temporary “food baby” (yes, I was one of those people). Magically, I kept the weight off for a couple years despite my eating, and during that time I felt more attractive than ever.
At least, until this past year. During my last semester at school, I regained all 15 pounds over a period of about three months. I really have no idea how it happened, but I didn’t know about the weight gain (as I said, I had no scale at my dorm) until I opened my mother’s Christmas present. My mother had bought me a pair of ski pants, and was fretting that it may even be too large for me (the pants were too big for her, and before I regained my weight I was smaller than she was), when the opposite was true! This was about four months ago, and even now, I worry about my bulging belly which I can no longer brush off as a “food baby,” I am disappointed to rediscover every day that, yes, my “love handles” and slight double chin have indeed returned, I fear that soon I will no longer be able to fit into my skinny jeans that I bought only a year ago, and I am terrified that I won’t be able to buy any well-fitting replacement pants once I outgrow my current ones. As my weight returned, my self-confidence in my appearance slowly left me.
My boyfriend continually tells me that I look great whenever I complain about my body, and I know he means it, and I know he’s right. And I know logically that I am a healthy weight and that even now, at my heaviest, I am still considered small compared to others. But deep inside, there are always negative feelings constantly nagging at me to figure out a way to lose 15 pounds again. As my weight diminished, so did those “little things” that bothered me from years past, and now, as I regained my weight, those “little things” haunt me again. Why I can’t just listen to my brain when it says, “You look fine! Don’t worry about it! Remember to love yourself”? Why is this a difficult thing to do?
I know that I don’t struggle with my body image or with food as much as others do. I know that I have the self-awareness to know when I am feeling down about myself and when I am loving myself. For that I am grateful. Still, there is room for improvement. I want to push those “little things” and those negative feelings away without any correlation to weight loss. I wish that when others make an offhand remark about my appearance, I can shrug it off and take it with good humour. Finally, I want to wholly love every inch of myself one day. If I can do that, then I think I’ll be okay.
Charity | Calgary, AB | Canada
Charity just finished school and is on a (really slow) path to self-discovery. She hopes that this path will be delicious with tons of wonderful dumplings to eat along the way.