My butt is a bubble. My arms are somewhat flabby and the cellulite on my legs jiggles a little more than I want. I have become used to (although I despise) being called “Short Shit” and “Munchkin”. I have been riding this roller coaster of weight gain and loss since I was 23. I am now 29.
My first experience of the weight issue occurred when I moved to Taiwan. I read that the Taiwanese don’t eat many sweets so chocolate would be scarce. Being a connoisseur, the thought of having no chocolate devastated me. I was living in Holland and decided to eat all the chocolate I could. I didn’t know when I would be able to eat them again. On arrival, I was surprised to find Kinder chocolates in the 7/11 and wanted to kick myself repeatedly. Not one of my smartest moments, I have to admit.
I started dating a Taiwanese guy. After a few months he started dropping hints like offering to buy exercise equipment and workout clothes. I had met his family and thought everything was fine. Later, he started making comments like, “You should exercise more,” and “You should wear high heels.”
One day, he kept staring at my chest in public and, even though I should be used to that, it made me wonder. He told me that nipples were taboo and that he kept noticing men staring at my “goods”. Tired of strange men staring at my breasts, I asked him to take me to buy bras. At the department store, a clerk took me to the bra section, grabbed the tape and started measuring me right there in the middle of it all. Even though I was clothed, I never felt more naked! Locals gawked as the woman kept wrapping the tape around me and muttering in Chinese. She told me I was a double D. A double D! In America, I’m a B at most! A few months later the guy told me his mom didn’t approve of me because “I wasn’t thin enough or tall enough.”
I dumped him soon after.
When I visit family in Holland, I spend over a hundred Euros on underwear and bras because I absolutely refuse to buy an L or an XL. My confidence may be at a minimum and I refuse to lose any more!
Fortunately, I am not the only one in this situation. I have talked to a few expats (women and men) who have had similar experiences. One girl (who is super thin to begin with) was told she was too fat when she asked for a medium shirt. I have also been told by an older woman that I should stop going to yoga and take some special aerobics class because “it will my burn all the sexy fat!” That got me laughing – why would I want to burn fat if it was considered sexy?
I now have a boyfriend (he’s Taiwanese) who loves me dearly for who I am! He makes me feel good about myself and only worries about my health and NOT my stomach size. His mom thinks I don’t eat enough and always encourages me to have more. He loves my round, well padded behind and I do, too! I’m beginning to love my curves even though there are days when my students still laugh or I wish my arms were smaller and that I could fit into jeans again. I may still have to go pants shopping abroad but I’m finding more stores here that sell American sizes. I walk my dog for an hour every day, have cut out sugar and eat more fruit – Taiwan has wonderful fruit. I try to go to yoga as often as possible, not only to help strengthen my body but my mind. These methods are not miracle weight loss cures and I have not lost a lot (if any). I do it because it makes me feel better on the inside. If I lose weight, great! If not, at least I am starting to feel better about myself!
I cannot tell you that you will find a man or woman in Taiwan that will love and cherish every curve on your body. I cannot give you any advice on losing weight and becoming as thin as the Taiwanese girls we see on TV, at clubs or even at work. I cannot tell Taiwanese people to stop calling us fat and I certainly cannot give you any hope of any kind. All I can say is if you want to live a happier life in Taiwan despite your weight, just do the things that make YOU happy and forget everyone else.
Author: Breanna Alexander
Published: GuanXi #1 – Summer 2010