Monday, June 18, 2012

My Take On: Weight and Body Image

Click on the photo to see the full size! All photos are unedited (aside from the logo in the bottom left most photo) so you can see the awkward pre-teen me in my entirety :)
I have been meaning to do a series in which I talk about something beauty or health related based on my personal experiences for awhile. I look at this as a cross between the blogging me and the "real" me. One day I had an epiphany to call this series "My Take On:". These posts are all based on my personal experiences and thoughts so take what I say with a grain of salt. For the topics dealing with things like appearance (like this one!) I will try to include unretouched photos because I think it helps tell my story. The point of this series is to start a conversation because every topic I will cover is something I have thought about and probably still think about frequently and I constantly try to fine tune my views in life. Now that I gave you a bit of background and disclaimer, let's get on with the topic of the day! This is going to be a long post... so I hope you can read through it all. If not, then that's okay too! I will bold all the major points I want to make in case you're a skimmer!

I decided to kick off this series with weight and body image because it is something that many people struggle with, especially in recent years. I have never been close to overweight but that does not mean I was always comfortable with how my body looked. My weight was never something I was preoccupied with until I was about 12 years old in middle school but I'll get to that later.

As you can see from my photos from my elementary school years to about 2005, I was a thin child. Personally I do not believe genetics are a major factor in determining weight but in case you're wondering, my Mom is about 5'3'' and 115 pounds and my Dad is 5'11'' and 140ish pounds. My dad is very thin and he eats a lot but never manages to gain weight. Anyway, I was never a picky eater but I was a hyper active kid who loved to play and in my mind I'd much rather be outside running around than at the dinner table eating. My Mom was a stay at home mom for ten years so she prepared most of my meals. Once in awhile she would bring me to eat McDonalds or something along those lines just to change things up but I mostly ate home cooked meals. My Mom rarely let me eat junk food so you would not be able to find many snacks in my child hood home. Like I said, I was a very active child and in the summer I would spend most of my days in public playgrounds and doing something that was burning calories. Since I was in kindergarten or first grade I started taking weekly swimming lessons at the YMCA year round. I took a break for a year or two because I kept getting sick (I remember being sick quite often as a child) but I pretty much swam weekly until middle school. I was always pretty tall for my age as well so that played a big role in how skinny I looked.

By the time I was in middle school my Mom went back to work and I had much more freedom when it came to my food choices. I walked home by myself or with friends after school and we would often stop at a deli or bodega to buy snacks.... Snacks were my downfall. Starbucks fraps to twinkies, you name it, I ate it. I think it was the combination of the somewhat good taste (I have not touched a twinkie since middle school and drink Starbucks perhaps once a year) but mostly the newfound freedom that triggered this junk food craze. I wasn't growing vertically as much anymore so I started packing on the pounds. The heaviest I ever weighed was about 118-120 pounds which isn't much, I know. But for someone who was always stick thin, it was very obvious that I had gained weight and it was all fat. I gained the most weight in my midsection (hullo love handles!) and arms. For some reason my legs never gain weight and I don't have any curves (darn you Asian genetics!). I stopped exercising as I got older because the internet starting taking over my life. AIM, Neopets (elementary school), and Maplestory (middle school) kept me sitting for hours upon end.

My parents and their friends (who I am very close to and consider my Aunties and Uncles, if you're Asian you can probably relate) reminded me whenever they saw me that I was "fat". They used to tell me to eat more but now they were incredibly critical and it was humiliating to be picked on at family gatherings. I can't exactly blame them entirely because my eating habits and lack of physical activity was unhealthy. But they did not focus on the health aspect but the visual aspects. I don't think I ever thought I was fat (maybe I did at one point but I really can't recall for sure) but I was mostly annoyed. I hated being made the center of attention for negative reasons. It was damaging to my self confidence which probably explains why I lived in tees, jeans, and hoodies for much of my adolescence.

My weight and the verbal humiliation lasted for a few years into my sophomore year of high school. You can see in 2008 that I had a bit of a gut and I was not very comfortable taking photos. Wearing clothing that was too small for me definitely did not help. In my first two years of high school I continued to eat horrible foods included lots of cup ramen and sugar glazed super sized donuts.... They were dark times....

From junior year onwards my self confidence was better and I starting standing up for myself against people who criticized me for no reason. I ate junk food less but I never put myself on any kind of diet or weight loss plan. I just kept living my life. I also did not exercise anymore than I did in the years before that. My weight still hung around the 118 pound mark but I felt that my body proportions were more flattering and my overall mindset was better.

Then in the summer before my first semester of college, I lost 10 pounds. It was unintentional and to this day I have no idea how I did it. I was on summer vacation with my family and family friends and we were in Myrtle Beach, SC. It was a glorious day by the beach and everything was going really well. Then it was dinner time and we went to a seafood restaurant and I love my seafood. Then I completely lost my appetite and I ended up having a mental breakdown which included a lot of tears. It was incredibly embarrassing but I did not regain my appetite for a few days and by the time I returned home, I was 10 pounds lighter. I expected to gain all the weight right back because I had a few occasions where I stopped eating because I simply couldn't, lost weight, then promptly gained it all back. I clearly remember the first week of sophomore year in high school I was extremely stressed out (probably due to having to wake up at 6 AM for school and it was a sudden change from my summer schedule) and I literally did not eat for a week because I did not feel hungry. I was not hungry at all that whole week and everytime I tried to eat I felt like I was going to throw up. I even went to the doctor because I thought I was going to die but the doctor laughed at me instead of giving me real advice.... Thanks doc. Anyways, I lost 10 pounds which brought me back down to 110 pounds.

Two years later, I'm still 110 pounds and it's my ideal weight. I do not believe in fad diets or diet programs. A diet is a way of eating for life. In the last year or so I have been more attentive to what I eat and I do not eat as much fast food as I used to when I was a pre-teen. I eat fruits and vegetables daily and I try to eat less meat (mostly from animal reasons and less for health reasons). For a few months last year I was pescetarian which was interesting to try. I might go back to that kind of diet some day. I'm happy with where I am now only I need to work on exercising a bit more for the sake of my health.

It's more rewarding to think about changing your body for health reasons rather than vanity reasons. I wish I had more confidence to stand up for myself earlier in life rather than let people weigh me down and inject negativity into my self esteem. Instead of ignoring the changes in my weight and body shape, I should have tried to understand myself better and clothed myself in better fitted pieces. Hiding and continuing to eat more than healthy amounts of bad-for-you foods was much worse than confronting the issue and ending it. 

Watch the video below to hear me speak about my experience and advice for those of you who went or are going through similar problems.


I am very interested in reading any of your thoughts or reflections about this topic as well as any suggestions you may have for future "My Take On" posts. Please post your experiences with body image in the comments below to get the discussion going!

8 comments:

  1. This post took me by surprise! But I guess if anyone I was following was going to do something similar it makes sense to be you since you've been sharing a lot more of yourself lately. I actually found this a very interesting read/video! Usually you wouldn't know this part of someone unless they're your close friend. I applaud you for all this courage! >__<
    I've always been on the chubbier side and whenever I saw people/photos of all these fit..not even..just not overweight and in 'normal' shape the first thing I think is "I wish I was like that" then "they probably wouldn't know how it is to be chubby". But of course...posts like these show how naive my thinking was.

    I kind of agree with you that part of those who are on the heavier side is their life style but I think it is different for all? I know...well based on my baby pictures/childhood photos...I was always a bigger baby/kid. Of course I don't know how I was fed back then but I think that it could have/was partially been due to genetics. Then as I grew older I think whatever extra weight I put on was then how I ate and the lack of exercise I did.

    I also had those kind of relatives/family friends! I hated how they always called me fat. Whether as a joke or because they were judgmental. But after a while I just started to ignore what they call said especially when I wasn't even close to them. They were stating the obvious and I felt like there was nothing I could do that would make me less fat. Since I was heavy all of my childhood, I felt I was embarrassed to play or learn sports and I just wasn't good at them anyways. Then as I got older body image became a bigger thing I felt ashamed almost of how I looked, which probably is part of why it takes so long for me to be close with people :T Physical appearances...how everyone wants others to look and how I felt in my own body hindered me a lot and I guess in many ways continues to.

    Now...even though I've curved my junk food habits a lot compared to when I was younger and was pushed to work out after some medical/health issues, my weight seems to plateau and not dip and lower. It is a total blow to my confidence especially when I know I can get lower since I was once at that weight and I want to lose it but the pounds just doesn't come off...I totally understand your tees, jeans, hoodies stage when you were less confident! I felt..no..feel most comfortable in them in my body frame and it's so hard to bring myself to not where something that'll cover up everything. For many years when I was younger I dressed in layers even in the summer so I could hide bulginess through tanks and tees together :X But now especially after discovering all these blogs and fashion trends it kind of motivates me again so I can where different types/styles of clothes. I admit I want to lose weight more for aesthetic reasons but in the end it just comes to whichever motivation prevails...right? >__>;;

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    1. Right now I think I was over outside negativity a long time ago and more internal. It's so hard to get over myself and how I think people look at me and how I feel when I'm in public/with others. Gahh, I don't think it is possible for me to step over this huge hurdle until I lose the weight...sadly =.=

      I've never been on a diet nor have the intentions to as of right now...who knows what might happen in the future if I'm desperate :X. But I think diets are so...depriving. Maybe I just don't have enough self control but for me when I limit something (let alone limiting to an extreme) and it isn't a natural process I tend to do/want more of it.

      I had a total LOL moment when I read maplestory :P You didn't seem like someone who played. But then again a lot of people our age was very into the game! haha ... Oh the evils of the internet/computer age!!

      Sorry for bombarding you with all this info and just talking about myself >__<;;! & Thank you for reading it ^__^ I am hesitating whether or not to publish this but I felt like sharing after you shared your story...Must be what all those anonymous groups feel like? lol

      Oops...my story was too long for 1 comment! Double sorry :X I had no idea blogger had a comment character limit -.-

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    2. Thanks for taking so much time to share your experiences Mandy! I agree, eating healthy can be hard especially if your parents do most of the cooking (that's how it is in my house). It's interesting how you mention that being heavier makes you think negatively and it impacts your lifestyle (e.g., not playing sports and wearing layers). If there was some way that you could not be as self conscious, it could help you in attaining your desired image. I'm not sure if that makes sense.

      I started going to the gym recently and I never wear makeup to the gym because I'm going to sweat and makeup doesn't belong in the gym anyway. Yes, I know I look like a total dork with my glasses and acne and I have to look feeble in front of a bunch of muscular guys. But I just think about the end results and I think to myself how nobody in the gym is going to remember me the next day. Don't worry too much about how people perceive you because more often than not, they're worrying about how they're being perceived as well!

      I used to spend hours on Maplestory a day but I was never good. I can be a total dork :) Haha, the internet is definitely the best anonymous group. We should meet up one day (in real life) to talk some more :)

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    3. I also don't wear makeup to the gym. It feels weird with too much stuff on my face and it'll sweat off anyway! I'm not as hestitant to go to the gym (in my neighbor) since it's divided into the weights and the cardio machines. I don't feel as embarrassed in the machines area since mostly older people are there xD Ah..it's a hard habit to break :X
      We should definitely meet up! But I'll have to warn you...I'm very awkward...heh >__>

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  2. this is a brave post :) i like how open you are to topics like this
    i was also thin as a kid, then i gained some when i went to college like when i was 16 i gain then i lost it again so back to thin, but since i worked in the office i gained 10lbs :(

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    1. Thanks aMz88! I think it's important to show my readers and viewers a less shallow side of me. Wow, you went to college really young! I'm staying at home for college so I don't eat as much junk as most people who dorm. A office life can be stressful and it's hard to exercise when you're working. Hopefully you can lose the weight if you want and reach your ideal body :)

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  3. I am always happy to read this kind of post. Sometimes I also feel tired being an asian where you need to be thin to be considered not fat at all. Some people must know that not everyone can have those stick-thin kind of body. I lost many Kgs in the past 2 years and I am happy with my weight now. I am not stick thin but I know I am healthy :)

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    1. Congrats Memoiselle on reaching your target weight and being happy with your body :) It takes a lot of mental and psychological work to reach that phase sometimes!

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