I have a confession: I hate trying on clothes. Correction: I hate trying on clothes back here. Where sizes run small and there’s no room on the shelf for a 73cm waist pair of shorts, I find more and more reasons to shy away from heading towards the fitting room. I discovered my true feelings towards clothes here years ago when I was a teenager, when I was no longer told that if I ran a bit more, my puppy fat would melt away and I would simply become who I was meant to be – thin and, well, what word is paired with thin in Asian culture? Oh, that’s right. Thin and beautiful.
Well, I guess I haven’t been beautiful since I haven’t been ‘thin’. Except maybe when I was a tiny baby who only weighed 6lbs…
I never used to think of myself as fat. Oh, the dreaded word. The word – and the negative connotations behind it – was planted into my head by well-meaning family members (lol) and relatives whom I only saw once a year (never mind that after meeting for the very first time in our respective lives, one of the first few things they would comment on would be my weight).
Sure, I was always a bit bigger, a bit chubbier, a bit rounder than some classmates. But I wasn’t fat. Unhealthy, maybe. Fat, no. I was only fat in terms of the standard of beauty. I wasn’t stick thin with arms that could break as easily as a wafer biscuit, the circumference of my waist wasn’t narrower than a soccer ball, my ribs didn’t poke out against my PE shirt, and later when I hit puberty, my hips didn’t remain the same diameter as my waist. Not your typical Asian girl.
My parents didn’t overfeed us but unlike other Asian families at that time, my parents having studied abroad were more westernized than others. So this led us to places like McDonald’s and Chili’s or restaurants that served things like chicken pie (oh, glorious mashed potatoes and gravy), lasagna, pastries, basically cheesy, creamy, and rich goodness. I suppose they were also lax on things like junk food and processed food but we never ate it excessively.
Once the idea of me being fat was planted into my head, however, I could no longer look at pictures of myself without thinking, ‘fat’. Add to the fact that I wasn’t athletic, I suppose there was even more reason to call me fat.
Things people have said to my face:
“Lose a few pounds, you’ll look better.”
“I know you’re happy the way you are and it’s good to be happy, but you’d look better a few pounds lighter.”
“You’re a bit bigger than your sister, huh?”
“You two look alike but I can tell who is who since you are bigger size.” – people at school.
“Because you’re fat.” – boy whose face I should have hit. What followed after his tactless announcement was awkward silence. My friends struggled to console me but I don’t remember what they said anymore. None of my friends has ever said ‘you’re fat’ to my face but I think they all thought it. All I remember was feeling like I’d been doused with a bucket of ice water and shame. At that time, I didn’t know how to respond. I guess I kind of laughed it off. Later that comment made me cry. It was hurtful. Or at least the word has a negative meaning attached to it.
“You put on some weight since I last saw you.” – popular phrase among relatives.
“You’re twice the size of that girl.” Or ‘That girl is half your size.” – thank you, I wasn’t self-conscious enough already.
Only when my mom brought up my weight was it ever about my health (and she only started bringing it up when it was obvious that the puppy fat was not shedding). Other people just made it seem like it was a crime and a horror and a downright shame to be bigger than the average kid.
I wasn’t actually fat until my high school years. By then, I was tired and angry of people telling me I was fat, and I was also beginning my downward spiral into the shame – often accompanied by self-loathing – of being bigger than the average girl that I would feel even till today. I adopted an ‘I don’t care’ attitude, ate whatever I wanted, and refused to follow my mom to the gym.
If that’s what I’m going to be labeled as and all I’ll ever be thought of as, a few more pounds won’t matter, is what I thought.
I also spent 6 weeks vacationing in the US right after graduating from high school. I admit, there was a lot of food. I barely recognize my full-moon face in the pictures from that period of time. I even bought a pair of jeans over there when I was my heaviest that I’ve ever been and when I returned home and eventually lost some weight, I could no longer fit in those jeans. If anyone cares, I never wore those jeans and planned on giving them away but earlier this month, I found them hiding in the back of our shared cupboard and had them repurposed into a pair of shorts (no, I don’t sew; yes, I requested that the waist be pinched).
Anyway, those 6 weeks and the few weeks after that, I can safely say that, ‘well, yes, I ate too much and put on more weight than I imagined’. I guess if you want to put a label on it, you can say I was fat.
When I came home, my mom convinced me (or at least that’s what I think happened) to go to the gym with her since I wouldn’t start going to the local college until 3 months later. I did. There were days when I would kick up a fuss and refuse to go but eventually I began to enjoy our mother-daughter gym mornings. No, there were not a lot of pounds shed.
I guess that’s where part 2 comes in.