As the second wave of Black Lives Matter protests sweeps the U.S. in a nationwide uprising, I have been reflecting on the shared history that brings the U.S. to this point, and the history that brought my family and me into this story.
I am Vietnamese and Laos. Naturally, we are born with the expectation to be skinny and lighter skinned. My dad grew up in Thailand and my mom is from Saigon. My dad was way darker in skin toned compared to my mom, I have pictures of them on my Instagram. I was always small ever since I was born. I was 2 lbs and 4 oz. I had to be hospitalized for being so hyperactive and skinny.
“I was always small”
Fast forward to when I was six, my dad passed away and I didn’t know how to cope. I moved from my hometown of Portland, Oregon to Atlanta, Georgia to live with my grandparents until my mom could get back on her feet to work. I managed to eat a lot. At my lightest, I was 66 pounds. In seventh grade, I was 99 pounds. By the time I was in ninth grade, I was at my heaviest at 131 pounds and I am still this weight four years later. I have struggled with trying to lose weight, changing my diet, getting into sports, going to the gym; yet nothing has worked to make me smaller. I don’t have any muscle, just fat. My thighs are huge and I always felt really uncomfortable about them. For a quick and easy solution, my mom said I should try a slimming tea. She’s also insecure about her stomach so she thought if she drank a laxative, it would help. We weren’t on detox teas for very long. The process was painful, and going to the bathroom every five minutes was not a nice “cup of tea” at all. Detox teas literally push everything out of your system and while it feels nice to slim down, there is so much internal pain.
“While it feels nice to slim down, there is so much internal pain.”
“I was always hungry and irritated, and going to the bathroom was so unpleasant. I kept drinking it because I wanted fast results. I wanted the insults from other asian women to stop. Slimness is prized, and I was ready to buy my way in, paying with pain. I still cry when I still see people who are skinnier than me, but who do not go to the insane lengths that I would have to. My friends would yell at me when I went on hunger strikes and drank tea that just did nothing but squeeze my insides out. I’m off the tea now but when I was on it, I was not in a good mindset. Would I go back to drinking it? Only if I was desperate enough. But, now I’m going to a gym and drinking more water and green tea and other drinks that are safer, and healthier.
“Would I go back to drinking it? Only if I was desperate enough.”
I’m nowhere near my body goal but I don’t know, I hope one day I can realize my body is different and that I shouldn’t care about how I physically look. I hope one day I will not punish my body for looking different. Deep down, I know I do not have to. Everyone tells me I do not have to. It is a struggle to be bigger than everyone expects you to be.I do not under any circumstances recommend detox tea. It hurts not only physically but mentally as well. Asians grow up constantly being told that they are not good enough no matter what they do. Depleting your body of nutrients will only add to that. Will it be culturally acceptable to be bigger than what society wants? Probably not. But all we can do is start small and work further in. Am I still hateful towards my body? Who isn’t? It isn’t just a one month resolution into the new year, it is a lifestyle change that is slow and requires discipline and support from others.
“Am I still hateful towards my body? Who isn’t?”
I have not gone back to the gym or changed anything due to other responsibilities and constraints, but I am determined to change my ways so I can feel better about myself and not worry about the never-ending criticism from my parents or someone else’s parents. Sometimes, I feel as if my mother is an enabler. She constantly talks about how her stomach looks like she’s three months pregnant but it’s very hard for her to lose weight when she’s working and consuming only fast food to give her a little energy to continue her job as a nurse in the intensive care unit as the hospital but her also being desperate, has tried a body shaping waist corset that promises to slim and hide away fat. Those will ultimately squeeze and constrict your organs, making them unable to function properly.
Overachiever Magazine was started by Rehana Paul in October of 2018 to give a platform to all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities.
Our name is poking fun at the stereotype that all Asians are overachievers, especially Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. It’s also in recognition of all of us who have had no choice but to be overachievers: managing societal expectations, family obligations, and educational opportunities, all while fighting the patriarchy.
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