Today I saw an instagram post from my Japanese friend, T, that her kid was taking pictures of her. Because of the pandemic, I have not been able to visit her and her family more so long so I asked her to show me the pictures and her response was the pictures were deleted right away because they only had a fat woman on. Then I asked her if she knew her BMI and her reply was
According to BMI I am below the average but still… I feel fat. My height is 158.4cm and my goal or ideal … target is 46kg. I was 43 kg when I was pregnant. -T
This is so wrong, T! – I wish she could hear me shouting. However, this is exactly how I measure myself.
I had so much to respond to T’s message and yet I didn’t know where to start. T is, a mother of a 6 years old, 36 years old. I have never seen her ‘fat’ since the day I met her in Shanghai (and that was 12 years ago), not even during her pregnancy. Back in Shanghai days, we and other 2 girls used to meet for brunch every weekend. Every week we took turns to find an interesting restaurant to try or revisit. We each had certain requests for a restaurant. It obviously had to have good food and preferably good ambience. Price was something we needed to consider too because we were all sort of expats just started working in Shanghai and the living costs in Shanghai were already pretty high. But
Our weekend brunch included love life updates and gossips of colleagues and people in Shanghai expats gang. And we always ended with coffee and cakes. Amongst the four of us, T was the one who loved chocolate cake the most and the only one who always had sugar in her coffee. And I probably was the one who concerned about the weight the most but it never stopped me from dinning out or trying new restaurants. As far as I know, T has never been on any kind of diet and she is not the sporty kind. I simply do not recall us talking about weight or diet and this is why I was surprised to know T is also trapped with THE IMAGE – skinny = good-looking.
I managed to stay ‘skinny’ (BMI slightly underweight) from my 20s for about 2 decades till 3 years ago. Growing up in Hong Kong, I was used to be told that I was a bit chubby or not too fat. But the fact is that my weight was always within the healthy range; and I was never overweight. And yet, I secretly tried different diets and even took pills that claimed to help weight loss. Not surprisingly, I did not lose any weight by those pills but almost collapsed in metro one day I was on my way to school. I dreamed about going into a machine that could even up the weight of fat and skinny persons and came out all slimed down. So when I finally maintained underweight, I was relieved, joyful and proud. My body size was not agreed by my family but I was confident and reluctant to listen. I never thought I needed to fight with weight again till 2 years ago.
About 4 or 5 years ago, I quitted smoking and picked up running. Then I started weight training 1 year later. Since then my weight has just been bit by bit going upwards and till this day I’ve gained 3kg. I’ve now gone from BMI slightly underweight to normal weight. Other changes with my body are my body fat which falls into the lowest range and my body muscle into the highest range of my age. When I look at myself in a mirror, I see muscle on my arms and abdomen first time in my life.
I have a list of my OCD with weight.
- I weighed myself every day since probably my early 20s and now I lose count with the times I weigh myself every day if I did not have a smart scale to record everything.
- I worry about going on holiday because it’s always difficult to track the local food.
- I travel with my scale if I can’t get the hotel to provide me a scale.
- I workout 5-6 times a week.
- I tell myself I want to live a healthy life and stay physically strong but 200g extra on my scale upsets me every time till it disappears from the scale.
- I used to allow myself to ‘overeat’ crips and cookies because I was prepared to go to toilet and make myself throw up the extra.
- I log in everything I eat on my food tracking app every day.
Growing up in Hong Kong, I’d always been haunted by weight. Weight is like a demon who presumptuously follows me day and night. It troubles me and agitates me. Lately I have shared my frustration with a few friends and women in my training group. To my surprise, my frustration is not unique to Hong Kong or asian women whereas is experienced globally. Women of different age groups, professions, financial status all have gone or are going through certain unpleasant levels of self-deprecating because of their weight. My dutch teacher, early 50, size 36, was depressed for over half year because she gained ONE clothing size during menopause. One woman, early 40, from my CrossFit training group, is constantly angry because she gained 6kg in half year and can’t shed it off. Then another younger girl, early 20, also from my training group, is clinically underweight and still wants to lose more. And my dear friend, T, who wants to stay slightly underweight.
WHAT IS WRONG WITH US? We need help or this world needs help?