Love My Body

By Zhe Cheng

I step on the scale, glance at the digital 135 and sigh silently.

“Hi, listen,” my boyfriend’s words ring in my mind, “I want you to lose weight. Immediately!”

I know I am a bit bigger than most Asian girls, but I never thought I was “fat.” I do want to lose weight to “look good,” but it is just so hard. Now, this stupid man, who is 5’10 and 110 pounds, who thinks of himself as “fit and charming,” sees me as “overweight.”

And my mind wanders back to a girl who smiles sweetly and says, “If you were thin, you would be very pretty.” My lips smile back but my mind glares. I’d already thought I was beautiful.

Mother wants me to lose weight, too. She claims I haven’t because I’m not insistent.

Although I love my body, although I am a feminist, although I try to ignore the thin girls around me, I am shaped by my society. Sometimes I feel upset when I see my round belly. And I feel guilty when I eat too much.

But I worry about dieting. Courtney Martin, who wrote Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters, says that 25% of dieters develop eating disorders. One of those disorders is especially dangerous: 7.4% of anorexics die. Then she tells us about Janet who says, “Even after my friend had a ministroke from taking Ephedra, I sometimes wonder if I can search the Internet and find some on the black market.”

Why risk death to lose weight?

We watch TV and see slim heroines, we pick up magazines and see skinny models, and we learn that thin is hot. We accept what society wants, and deny ourselves.

We accept superficiality over the inner beauty of independence, wisdom, and achievement.

Men don’t face such strict standards or such close scrutiny. My father is a bit overweight, but no one judges him by his body. Yet men feel free to judge us.

Martin suggests a solution:

If a women of any size is able to stop her negative self-talk and accept herself, she may experience the world with a little peace of mind.

I see my body in the mirror. It is so perfect. I face my boyfriend and stare at him, “If I wanna lose weight, I would. But I just think it is so stupid to lose weight because my boyfriend thinks I’m fat.”

I say to him, “If you don’t like my body, then don’t even touch me!”

He stands there shocked, saying “sorry” with his eyes.

This was written by one of my students (who is perfect weight and perfectly beautiful) and posted with permission.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on October 24, 2012, in body image, feminism, gender, psychology, sexism, women and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

  1. Empowering! As I stated before, it’s articles like this where I’m pumping my fist in the air and thinking, Yes! This is what we need to realize!

    What people need to understand is that not all men like skinny women. There are tribes in Africa that find obese women attractive. The more fat she has, the more beautiful she is seen from her potential mates.

    After reading this article, it reminded me of one of my classmate’s question that still baffles me: she had asked me what was the beauty standard in Samoa? From her understanding, it seemed as if Samoans too liked women on the more thicker/fatter side. I was completely at a loss as to how I should answer her question and found myself promising that I’ll get back to her with an answer later that week. The only answer I was able to provide for her that day was the fact that Samoans are like everyone else: we all have our own preferences.

    I asked around my family as to what they believe is the beauty standard was for Samoans and all came up with the physical attributes of possessing long, black, thick hair and thick or big calves. In my culture, the bigger the calves of a Samoan girl, the more she is valued for dancing purposes and tattooing purposes.

    I am a Samoan female who is seen as “obese” from society’s standards but all my exes have been on the thin/skinnier side of the spectrum.

    Whenever my dad tells me I need to lose weight, I casually just throw in his face, “You know there are men out there who actually like fat women?”

  2. Yay Zhe! 🙂 I don’t know what you look like… but you do sound beautiful and perfect!
    In my world, the only sizes are fun-sized, Just right, and me-sized.

  3. I have a friend who has a boyfriend that tells her she’s fat in certain parts of her body. She never knows if he’s kidding or not. She is now obsessed with having the “perfect” body and I tell her she’s crazy! “There is more to than meets the eye”, a lot of people now at days care about looks over personality. We are influenced to think that being thin makes you prettier but I’ve seen a lot of people who are bigger that have qualities that I would like. In ads, tv shows, and etc. most of the women are skinny. I used to feel that being skinny would make me better but now I workout just to become stronger.

  4. elizabeth rankin

    It is true that we are socialized to think that the ideal body as being thin. This is evident from mass media advertisements and commercials we see in magazines and television. As a society, we have become infatuated with the idea of women being thin and women will do anything to achieve this idea although it can lead to unhealthy lifestyle habits. However, if one wants to lose weight it needs to be done for all the right reason such as health reasons, the desire to feel better about oneself, or feel in control of their body. It is seldom that men have never really dealt with this type of issue because the male body has never really been the center of attention like a woman’s body.

  5. so yes i agee

  6. 135, is a healthy weight to me! I weigh 130 and my boyfriend and some other people i know tell me to loose weight also. I look at myself and I feel fine. I do not understand why the tell me I need to loose weight. I also told my boyfriend if he thinks I am fat, then he does not need to talk to me yet touch me. WE fight a lot about my weight because he thinks he is perfect since he goes to the gym every night but the fact is …. He is fatter than me! I do not get people, like why speak if you have nothing nice to say. especially with young women, we watch our weight like crazy. I feel like pain that you are in.. I do not understand why people call each other fat, it causes people to be anorexia or have other eating disorders. Hope you feel better 135 is a healthy weight, do not feel fat because you are bigger than most asain girls.

  7. Hi there. You stopped by my blog some time ago and I’ve just gotten around to returning the favor. I like your blog–a lot! I love this piece by one of your students and I’m sitting here spitting nails that the young woman’s boyfriend demanded that she needed to lose weight. Baby-girl needed to do only one thing in response to this arrogance: put him out with the garbage! Anyone who catagorizes another human being by their body, but leaves out the quality of their soul and spirit is a cave man. Oy! All the best. ET

  8. I would suggest that anyone who struggles with the ridiculous expectations of the thin obssesed culture go live on the so-called other side of the tracks for awhile if she wants a crash course in body love. For a number of years I regularly crossed the culture line (and the literal geographic line) on a frequent basis. Early on I noticed my posture was different depending on where I was. On the Black/Brown side of the line (where I lived) I stood up straight, head held high and with my back slightly arched, the better to strutt my butt. On the White/Asian side (where I worked and where I was raised) I would tuck my tush and scuttle about like a crab, minimizing my assests (so to speak) and not taking up too much room. I later married a man from the B/B side of the line; my body image skyrocketed and I’ve never looked back. He thought I was hot stuff and my girlfriends would nod with approval, “Mmm. Looks like you’ve gained some weight.” I now live back on the “you can never be too thin or too rich” side and frankly, it’s gross to see so much skin and bones exposed to the open air. (A friend of mine once said. “Why do skinny people want to show it off?”) Women are supposed to be women, not stick figures.

    As to that boyfriend, when I was a kid we had a joke, “Q: How do you get rid of 180 lbs of ugly fat? A: Get a divorce.” That might sound harsh to some of your readers, but there’s no sense wasting time with people who wil only criticize you for imagined flaws while they hold themselves to a different standard. (He demands that she lose weight now? Really?) Hopefully her BF will grow up (and fill out, ugh) before he completely tanks that relationship. (Sounds like he might have some of his own anorexic issues.)

    Good for your student for sticking to her values and her sense of self worth. It doesn’t sound like it’s easy where she lives.

  9. I’m sorry for silly mistakes… is just english is not my native language…

  10. Oh, I agree–beauty is engendered from within, not the crap imposed on us from without.

  11. I think beauty is relative and is not about weight. Is good to take care about our health but beauty depends largely on what everyone thinks about himself. It’s only my point of view.

  12. Good for you Zhe! I don’t care for anyone who makes skinny/slender/thin the ultimate measure of “hotness”. Unfortunately, I have run into too many that do that very thing – both men and women! And good for you for not falling victim to every diet craze out there. I was anorexic in high school up until I was in my 20’s. I finally achieved awareness of what I was doing to myself, and started building my self-esteem. I quit smoking at the age of 36 and have since gone the other direction weight wise. For the first time in my life, though, I feel healthy. I’m overweight, but I’m working on it…because I want to and because I want to be fit and healthy for the rest of my life. It is coming off slowly, but it is coming off. I’m doing it safely. And if no one likes me like this, then I don’t want to be around them! I no longer gauge my happiness on the thoughts of others.

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