After I writing about my recent fitness journey, I figured I’d talk about my struggle with body image and share that with others. Throughout my fitness journey I was trying to figure out why I would constantly start and stop working out. Unfortunately, my answer is a bit sad.
I was the tiny girl growing up, short and average built. Come puberty (11ish), which came earlier for me than my friends, my chest area grew quickly and I started putting on weight. Looking back it wasn’t a lot of weight but my parents along with other relatives and family friends started pointing it out. I wasn’t the typical skinny Filipino girl, which caused me to be self-conscious about curves. I was the one with the chest and badonkadonk. Add to the fact that my relatives and family friends would say “Oh when I came to America at 23, I was 100 pounds. I had 2 kids already.” “Oh when I was your age I was 85 pounds.” At the time, I’d tell myself (instead of responding to my aunt’s comment) well she lived in the Philippines where it’s hot and while family wasn’t struggling, they didn’t eat all the food we do here. But their words still haunted me. I was defined by a number. FYI – I teetered around the 108 – 115 pounds, throughout my adolescent years. I was definitely in awkward phase and had that baby fat in my face going for me. Also, my parents always made me feel beautiful and never made me feel ugly; however, my weight was always mention, making me conscious.
In middle school to look like everyone else, I purposely skipped lunch for a month or two in an effort to lose weight. It didn’t help. When my mom found out she yelled at me for not eating. She has worked in the medical industry and was concerned that I was causing myself more harm internally. But bless my mom, as much as she is concerned, she is an instigator too. She, until this day, will point out if my gut is big or I’m gaining weight and tell me to workout. She says that she’s concerned about my sugar intake as diabetes runs in our family. Maybe she is concerned. Maybe it’s vanity. As I was slowly gaining weight, my parents tried to get me to run (dad was a runner) or do aerobics (mom kept me busy with her 90’s aerobic workouts on VHS. oh boy!) with them during the summers or after school.
Freshman year of HS. Baby fat cheeks. Awkward phase for sure. Average built right?
But it wasn’t just my family or family friends saying it. In 9th grade, I was setting up for a school dance and as I was walking away from my group of friends, I heard a boy whisper to my friends that my ass looked like a basketball. My friends all snickered. And I? Well I continued walking and made my way to the bathroom and cried in a stall. How could my friends laugh too? High school is cruel! My friends never said anything to my face, they may have behind my back, but surprisingly it wasn’t as painful as my family or family friends. I wasn’t lazy. I was active playing volleyball and soccer and busy with student council and show choir (glee clubish). I was so upset and convinced that I was cursed with my dad’s booty and my mom’s chest. Why couldn’t I be skinny like everyone else? (side note: This was obviously before J.Lo or Beyonce. Could you imagine if this was 2002 – 2005? Amongst my peers, I may have been #bootygoals. JK, but I don’t think I would’ve been ridiculed as much as I was back in the late 90s.)
Fast forward to senior year, I moved back to the states and J. Lo and Beyonce were embracing their ass-ets (ha! pun-ny!). I started feeling confident, but my relatives kept trying to pigeon hole me into this skinny mold of what a Filipino girl should look like. I started working out in the mornings and was making some progress, but that didn’t stop them for teasing me. Then I started my freshman year of college. I had a boyfriend at the time who didn’t mind my curves. BUT my family poked at my weight at times. Then that summer of my freshman year, due to heartbreak, I lost 20 pounds within a matter of weeks. It was the skinniest I had been in years. My family then said I was too skinny. Too curvy? Too skinny? WTH do you want from me? I gained the weight back, only to lose it again the next summer due to heartbreak (yes same guy). Then my future husband walked into my life and filled my heart with so much laughter and my stomach with Wendy’s. 😛 (We were poor college students!)
Freshman year of college. At my skinniest… not healthy at all.
I gained the weight back, graduated, and off I went into the real world. Everyday, I commuted into DC, worked 9-6, commuted home, made dinner, ate around 8:30ish and went to sleep by 10 – 11ish. Wash rinse repeat. I had gained weight because of the late night eating, chained to a desk all day, and eating all the scrumptious food DC had to offer. After a month of adulting, I went home to visit my family for my sister’s birthday. During my sister’s birthday, my uncle said “What’s up with your belly? Are you pregnant? Your belly looks like buddha.” I was shocked, hurt and quickly walked away. My aunts yelled at him and he tried to apologize but the damage was done. My mom and my aunts said “oh don’t pain no mind to him. He’s like that with everyone.” … So I’m just supposed to be OK with it because that’s how he is? I went back to DC and started bringing lunches to work and started going out for walks at lunch.
I lost the weight, but I can’t say that it stuck. I switched jobs and was on the road quite a bit. Eating on the company dime was great but its a vicious thing because you figure why not eat the most decadent meals. I ate somewhat healthy but not really. Sometimes I’d leave the office late, so I’d eat dinner late. Lots of booze (I was in my early to mid 20s). Sometimes working out. If I did workout, I’d do it for a few weeks, but due to the travel and my oddball hours it was difficult to sustain (all excuses now that I think about it). If I saw my weight fluctuating, I’d workout to lose a few pounds because I didn’t want my family to say something when I visited them. As soon as I did lose weight, I’d stop. The ‘let’s get fit, but forget it’ cycle was a trend up until the hubs proposed. I lost weight for the wedding, but after it, the cycle continued. I was decent about walking when I was pregnant, but nothing consistent. I lost weight after Eva was born due to breastfeeding and moderate working out. After I stopped breastfeeding, I started gaining weight again and I didn’t care. I’d try to workout but I was a busy working mom. My excuse was I was too busy to workout. Until I saw that picture last year and said something needed to change.
In Miami for my bachelorette party. Somewhat fit/healthy skinny, but not really.
Truth be told, halfway through my first TIU 8 week challenge I thought I would give up. I was used to seeing results and stopping. It felt like enough instant gratification to keep the comments at bay. So after I completed the challenge, I was impressed with myself but was scared I’d revert back to my old ways due to travel. But I kept at it and I’m glad I’m here. As a result, I’ve reflected and figured out why I never maintained the fit lifestyle.
Conclusion? I wasn’t working out for me. I wasn’t working out for my physical and mental health.I was working out because of vanity. Because I wanted to fit in the mold that everyone, and that I, put myself in. The image that was engrained in me culturally, as well as by media and society. Filipino/Asian girls all are skinny, so that’s what you should look like. Especially if you haven’t had a child. They see models or actors on TV, skinny to average built, and say that’s what you should look like. This so prevalent in my culture. I’m not the only one. My cousins, my sister, my friends have all said at one point in time their relatives have done this to them. And as I sit here it’s so hard to swallow. Because I can’t help but think it’s a form of body shaming from your family. I know it’s not just my culture. It is a HUGE issue for everyone and the media doesn’t help as it is constantly painting the image of what a woman SHOULD look like.
To see all the campaigns about body shaming and body confidence is a breath of fresh air. It’s inspiring, motivating and empowering and frankly, I’m so grateful that we are making strides in teaching positive body image to girls and boys. Now that Eva is older, I’m more self conscious of how I portray myself in her eyes. I do not want her to be concerned with how she looks or her weight. Someone may tell her otherwise but I’m going to teach her not to give a damn. She is beautiful inside and out and all that matters is what she thinks of herself. I will ALWAYS tell her she is beautiful, inside and out, whatever shape or size and I love her for who she is not what she looks like. I will continue to make an effort to not be self-destructive and show her my insecurities. I will be confident and lead a good example of a leading a healthy lifestyle with fitness and a good relationship with food. I will embrace myself past, present and future with whatever or however I look. All of this for her… for me, as well as my mental and physical health.