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 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.