“Eat, or the neighbors will think I’m not feeding you.” That’s the phrase I grew up hearing from my mom while I stared at my barely touched food. I guess the physical contrast between my mom and I slightly bothered her because she thought it was a reflection of her parenting. I never felt that way; food was always provided and I am forever thankful for that. But I was already full. And like most kids, I would rather run around the streets or climb trees with my short, bony arms. Yet I sat there, watching everyone leave the table…until I fell asleep.
I looked nothing like my parents at the time; my brothers looked Chinese just like my dad and my sister looked like a replica of my mom. I, however, had a wavy bowlcut, slim frame, and tanned skin. My siblings always joked around saying I was adopted, and for a long time, I really wondered if I was.
Now, let me tell you how excited I was when I learned about puberty. WHAT?! WE GET TO HAVE A TRANSFORMATION?! I was sick of the body I was in and I just couldn’t wait to finally start filling out my clothes. “I can finally wear juniors’-sized pants and reach 3-digits…” I thought to myself. I watched my peers transform from looking like a 10-year old to looking like a high-schooler after one summer. Wow. How does that even happen?! I guess puberty does that to some.
Then there was me— maybe I grew half an inch, but that was pretty much it.
Back in my algebra II class in high school, this football player asked me how much I weighed and after telling him that I was 80 lbs, he stood up, put his hands on the sides of my arms (while I was sitting down) and literally lifted me up towards the ceiling. I was just kinda hanging there trying to figure out what the heck was happening until I heard my teacher yell “put her down!” Then we all busted out laughing.
I never really knew what to think about my body. One day, someone will tell me that I’m so lucky because I’ll never have to worry about getting fat then the next day, someone will ask me if I was anorexic. Man, that made me so mad growing up. No, I don’t have an eating disorder, I’m just naturally like this, ok?
I remember this guy back in freshman year of high school who got butthurt about me not being interested in him. With disgust, he said “whatever, you’re too skinny anyways.” I also recall giving someone a hug and they told me: “it feels like I’m hugging nothing.” They probably don’t remember saying those things but it stuck with me until now. It’s crazy what hurtful things we say, casually or out of spite, that can have long-term effects on the receiving end.
To this day, when someone says “oh my gosh, you’re so skinny!” I never know how to reply. Thank you? I don’t know. Sometimes, people assume that just because I’m skinny, I have everything else easy. No, much like everyone else, I have trouble finding clothes that fit well and I have days when I feel really unhealthy because of what I’ve eaten and/or because I haven’t been physically active.
Over the years, I’ve grown more comfortable with being slim but now my focus is towards being stronger and having a fit frame. Now that comes with all sorts of difficulties too. For those that think working out is a bad thing because I will lose more weight…No, I focus more on strength-training to gain muscle, which weighs more than fat. For those that tell me I’m lucky that I have it easy because I’m already skinny…No. a HUGE NO. Gaining weight for someone who is naturally thin (without drinking protein shakes) is so difficult. At least for me. As great as it sounds, eating whatever I want and doubling my calorie intake to gain weight is exhausting and not very realistic for my current lifestyle. I’m still trying to figure out how to do all that because it really is a lifestyle change–much like any long-term physical goals.
While we can modify our bodies through diet and exercise, our starting materials (our genes) also play a huge role on what our body naturally can and cannot become. I don’t have a big chest, that hourglass waist, or much in my trunk. It can get frustrating, but most of us work with what we have. Sometimes, you just have to be aware that the other person beside you is also working with what they have.
I wish people would just be more aware of what they’re saying to others, on and offline. We all have insecurities and we all have bad days. We all complain from time to time, and sometimes that’s okay. However, it doesn’t give us the right to deem other people’s feelings irrelevant just because we think we have it harder.
Be kind. It matters.