Sometimes it's just weird how things happen. I was entering my daily eats into My Fitness Pal when I saw something off the side of the screen that caught my eye. My Fitness Pal is awesome in that there are message boards that users can post to, and the one thread that grabbed my attention was "Asians wanting to lose weight?" Curious, I clicked on the thread and couldn't stop reading. It wasn't so much about how to lose weight, but the struggles that Asian men and women have with the societal and cultural pressures to be thin and to look a certain way. I felt myself nodding and totally identifying with how the posters felt, and truthfully, getting a bit pissed off about ridiculous the whole thing was. One person posted a link to a blog that was solely dedicated to struggles with food and body image due to this crazy pressure on Asians to be thin. I ended up curling into a ball and reading this awesome blog called Thick Dumpling Skin for hours, reading post after post after post about people who feel exactly like me or who've gone through the same things - being told that they're fat, that they'll never get a boyfriend/girlfriend, relatives openly criticizing their weight and commenting on how unattractive they are...all the while pushing food at them saying "Eat more, eat more!" Relatives and older people were particularly cruel, which always makes me scratch my head as Asians are so unfailingly polite in all other respects! In the Asian culture, your appearance and weight are fair game and it's a no holds barred war against fat.
I'm sure most people are probably scratching their heads, wondering why this is any harder for Asians than it is for anyone else. Yes, the North American culture emphasizes thinness, but the pressure for Asians is exponentially higher. It's not just societal and cultural pressures, but familial as well. I know I absolutely felt a lot of pressure growing up because I was a heavy kid, and I'm sure this has shaped a lot of the way I felt about myself. I felt horrified reading the stories of childen who were put on diets by their parents, or felt sad when I heard of the humiliation some people went through. Having been to China a few times, I always marvelled at how few overweight people there are there, and now I realize that it's because it's the intense societal pressure to be thin.
By North American standards, I'm petite. Standing at 5'2'' and weighing a buck twenty, I'm not big...here. Now transport me to anywhere in Asia? I'm a giant and I would definitely be considered heavy. When we were in Hong Kong last year, I was taller than most and wore the largest sizes available. Women there are all sylph-like reeds...thin, delicate limbs on teeny, tiny torsos. Sometimes I couldn't believe how thin some of the girls were...like did they have any internal organs in there?! Here's an excerpt from an article by Mume Yoshiwara that was in Marie Claire about the narrow ideals of Asian beauty:
"If you were to create the ideal Asian beauty, what would she look like. She would be thin, of course, and her skin would be pale, unlined and babyish in it's softness and porelessness. Her hair would be thick, shiny, black or dark brown, preferably straight and certainly long....it would be an image easy to make because here's what you needn't bother rendering: hips, or girth of any kind (the idea of replacing the word fat with the more salumious euphemism of curvy never quite caught on with asians); skin that shows the marks that all other races have grown to, if not celebrate, then at least accept (freckles, moles, sunspots, even the occasional wrinkle); short hair."
Um. Yeah, I have girth...I have muscular legs and a butt because of all the running I do. I have broad shoulders for someone my height, thanks to all the pushups I do at bootcamp. I'm curvy and I have have boobelage (yes, I'm an Asian anomaly). And you know what? I wouldn't have it any other way. You know why? I'd way rather look fit, muscular and athletic than reed-like any day. I may not look like the epitome of Asian beauty (and no, I don't have long, silky black tresses either!) but I'm OK with it.
Huh. Maybe what's happening is that as I get older, I'm getting thick dumpling skin...but what I do know is that I'm glad I'm not alone.