*The following is NOT meant as medical advice. Simply sharing my personal story, opinions, and experience. They do not reflect any entity other than myself, and even then they only reflect my thoughts as I’m typing them, which is subject to change at any time without any notice. TLDR: Please see your health provider for advice on your health!
“You used to be fat?”
Once in a blue moon, someone says this to me. The first time this happened, I was taken aback. “No…?” I exclaimed. After all, I never self-identified as “fat” per se. Sure, my highest BMI was 29, which is just 1 below that of an obese BMI, but I didn’t FEEL fat. I mean, yes, I had belly rolls and my thighs touched and I was out of breath walking up stairs, but I wasn’t F A T… Right?!
Was I in denial? Or is being “fat” an experience rather than a weight? I don’t know. I suppose I didn’t think I was fat because I wasn’t bullied for it. I felt fine, I had friends, and from my observations of the social circles, I knew that personality was what determined popularity, not looks. Well, looks were part of it, but not really.
Anyway, this post isn’t about that. What is it about, you ask? After all, we’re 3 paragraphs in, and the average ig-er’s attention span has already dipped after the cover photo. HA but now you! You’re still reading, look at you! WOOoOOoooOoo. This post is about my weight change.
I was a fit kid – always running around outside and objectively the best in PE class. I steadily gained weight in middle and high school due to inactivity. In college, I continued gaining weight, especially sophomore year when my roommate and I would binge eat into the early mornings (rather than binge drink). My highest recorded weight was 173 in undergrad, when I was 5’5″. Maybe 5’4.5″…
I took a nutrition class, and it radically changed my view of food. Previously, like most people, I thought I ate pretty healthy. My parents cooked Chinese food daily, which consists of a large variety of vegetables (way more than American groceries had) and meats, with rice. We never ate out, had processed foods, or fried foods. I never drank anything but water. Weren’t those all the tenants of good eating?! Well, yes, but also… not enough. I had always thought of my body as being extremely efficient – perhaps through years of having to survive through famines as my parents’ and ancestors were barely surviving on food in rural China. So even though I ate relatively “healthy”, I was still overweight. The nutrition class I took had a bigger impact on me than I had anticipated. I started really understanding foods, how much “energy” they gave me, and paid more attention to the portion sizes others were eating. I noticed my thinner friends ate half the portion size I was used to – wait a second, was it possible that… they weren’t just genetically super skinny like I had assumed?! Was it possible that… they actually… ate… less…?! and that contributed to their not-overweight-ness?!
Food is an integral part of community in most cultures (basically every culture except America, amirite?!) especially in China. I mean, I had literal stories about food and how important it was in Chinese school. When I started being more aware of what I was eating, my parents didn’t respond well. Eating = love. The idea that Asians are more reserved with emotions is kinda true. As a first-generation Chinese-American family, my parents didn’t tell me they loved me. After all, words are worthless. Actions speak all. So love is expressed through cooking, and accepted through eating. When I didn’t eat enough of my mom’s dishes, she’d look sad and say, “Oh, you don’t like that?” so I’d feel bad and eat a lot to show her that actually, I did like it (she’s a great cook). Well, this culminated when I told her I was trying to portion control and got mad at her constant guilt-tripping. The dichotomy of Asian parents is interesting: the general cultural consensus is that being fat is bad, but my parents were more concerned about me having enough energy from food. They NEVER told me to eat less, only more… This, combined with my mercurial temper, culminated in a screaming match between me and my mom… Multiple times. It was frustrating. I felt like she was trying to force-feed me. In hindsight, from her side, it was probably her holding on to me through one of the commonalities we had shared all our lives – her cooking.
I should say, prior to #Veganuary this January, I have never been on any type of diet. In that I never restricted myself in any way. I never said “Oh, I’m cutting out carbs” or counting calories. I don’t like to restrict myself in any form, including food… I don’t like to break promises, and I know that most people who start diets break them. So why try? I sure didn’t bother. I slowly started eating LESS overall, and specifically less rice. I realized I didn’t even like rice that much. I mean, it doesn’t even taste that good? As my parents started having health issues like prediabetes and high cholesterol, their primary care doc told them to eat low-carb diets and less meat. They didn’t know that rice and other carbs turned into legit sugar in our bodies – my dad prides himself on not eating sugary foods. When I told him rice is sugar, he was SHOOKETH to the ground. Hahaha! So now, they’re more understanding of my eating choices, and they’re also more on board with healthier eating (as in smaller portion sizes, less rice). They still get on me about certain things, like I could NEVER tell them I’m doing veganuary because they will FLIP OUT about “not having enough energy” or “not getting all the nutrients” — my mom tells me I’m going to die if I don’t eat breakfast, and I should eat 2 eggs a day for energy. I just say OK now. SO don’t tell them I’m doing veganuary and that I haven’t died. Yet.
Honestly this needs to be a separate blog post altogether. OooOoh I know, the suspense!!!