Monday, July 9, 2012

Love Letter to All My "Not Skinny" Chinese Sisters

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I came across this discussion thread in a healthy lifestyle forum, from a young girl.  Normally, I wouldn't really have the patience to reply to posts like this but it hit too close to home, so I answered her.  Since this posting, her identity's been suspicious because "her" new blog has totally different statistics from those detailed in the profile of the writer of this note.  The only thing in common is that both the person who started this thread and the person who writes on that blog are obsessive about their weight and have very unhealthy attitudes about their body image.  Regardless of whether or not it's the same person, if I could just help one person - her or a passerby who reads this - have a healthier and more positive attitude about themselves, I would be really grateful.  Here it is:

Hey guys! 

New one here. But need some opinions. Basically. I have always had a low esteem! My family members, like my Aunty's. Not my mother or sister. They have always said I look fat. Always commenting how I'm a fat chinese girl. And that I am fatter than my sister. So ever since I was young I have hated my body figure. 

I've mentioned this to a few friends recently and they said I was being silly and I'm not fat. But i don't know who to believe!

Recently I have been dramatically reducing my food intake to sometimes less than 1000. I try to go to around 1300 but when i go over 1300 I feel so bad about myself! 

I've even cut out all the junk food and have done for 2 months until last week. I binged all week. Binging as in scoffing a whole pack of biscuits, cookies, crisps in one sitting! And ended up forcing myself to be sick. I know it's wrong. And I should NEVER do it again. But when I eat that much I feel like I should! 

Anyways. What is your advice before it gets out of hand? Also your honest opinions? Do I look fat like my family keep telling me? 

(*Author's note: there was a link that she posted here, but it no longer works; it showed a photo of a girl who was thin and petite.)

I'm 5`2 and around 113lbs. I checked I am in the healthy range of BMI.

My response:

I hear you, sister. Take it from one "not skinny Chinese girl" to another - albeit the fact that I'm WAY more "not skinny" than you are. :P

I don't understand why many Chinese elders think it's acceptable to criticize the weight/appearances of their younger female relatives. My mother and I both grew up under the disapproving gaze of my grandmother. We grew up with her telling us that we're fat, that we're SO overweight, with the implication that a fat woman will fail at everything in life and is good for nothing.

It's the most devastating thing to not only be bullied at school, but to be brutally and cruelly bullied at home as well.

That's not okay. When/If I have children, no one's going to be allowed to tell them anything is wrong with their weight - even if they are overweight. If they, God forbid, are overweight, their father, doctor and I will figure out a healthy, safe way for them to overcome that.  We will all work together to ensure that they will be on track to having a healthy childhood and hopefully grow up to be healthy adults. But I will not tolerate anyone trying to make my children feel bad about themselves.

My family aside, I have a lot of other Chinese girl friends who grew up with their families telling them they're fat. A close friend of mine was driven to anorexia, severe depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and a host of other problems. Another really good friend of mine...she was more defiant and willful so she's never had an eating disorder (thank goodness!), but it really upset me and totally broke my heart when she told me what her family has said to her about her weight.

I get that there are cultural differences between some (not all, I mean to say) "traditional" Chinese people and myself, because I grew up in Canada. But this is something that is intolerable and must change, and I'm breaking the cycle with all of my friends starting at our generation.

Annie*, you are not fat by any stretch of the imagination. You are at a perfectly healthy weight. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. No one has the right to make you feel bad about yourself, and you shouldn't feel bad about yourself because there's nothing wrong with your weight.

If you want to tone up, build some muscle to be fitter, make better food choices so that you're giving your body better nutrients - that's fine and that's awesome. Exercise, eat those whole grain carbs and lean meats and fruits and veggies. Feel free to get fitter and be healthier - that is good. But don't crash diet, don't feel that you're fat or even overweight because you're not at all, and don't adopt habits that will drastically reduce your weight. Feel free to get healthier but don't punish your body.

All that will do is make you miserable and mess up your health.

Hang in there!

*Name has been changed

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