By most measurements and standards, I’m still fat.

The Gap stops selling jeans one size below the one I need. Forget finding anything at Zara. Uniqlo only just became accessible to me, and I’m a size XXL in its extra-stretchy legging jeans.

There would be more options for me if I still lived in the U.S, but Hong Kong is a constant reminder that my body type is unknown and unsupported.

In spite of this, I’ve never felt more confident about myself. While I still have a lot of progress to make, and more work ahead before I reach my goals, I’m no longer disgusted by what I see in the mirror.

I look at my tummy and see how it’s shrunk.

I look at my back and shoulders and see how they’ve become toned.

I look at my face and notice it’s gotten sharper and less chubby.

To like what I see is a new and strange feeling that I’m still not used to. Appreciating my looks makes me feel vain and stuck up. Having confidence makes me feel like I have a big head and that I’m too obsessed with myself. I try on my clothes and notice how they’re hanging on me, having formerly been too tight here or there, making me feel self-conscious whenever I bent over or sat down.

For so long, my weight was just another symbol of why I wasn’t worthy. Not the reason for or result of, simply another factor that made me undesirable and made love inaccessible.

Now, I’m 20 lbs lighter, the result of more than a year of healthy eating and regular exercise. I enjoy going to the gym now, now that I’m no longer just running on the treadmill by myself. I have friends I work out with, trainers who lead me through each exercise and offer support and encouragement along the way. I even participated in the Spartan Race, something I never thought I’d do (I did end up in the hospital, but that’s another story). I’ve done all these things I thought I didn’t have the strength or stamina to do.

It’s made me angry. I look at old photos of myself and get frustrated. I get mad that I was ever that size. I think about the way people used to treat me and get upset – the boyfriends who dictated my food or who told me my thighs were too big. I get mad that they treated me like that and that I let them, afraid I wouldn’t find anyone else. There was nothing wrong with me as a person – I was just bigger. I get upset at the stares and comments from when I lived in Korea, where people thought it was perfectly within their right to disparage me to my face. I get mad that people thought it was acceptable to insult me for my size when that never encouraged me to change, only hide.

I feel proud when I can do more exercise than I used to – kettlebell swings are no problem for me. I can deadlift like a motherfucker. Hell, even burpees don’t scare me as much as they used to. It’s gratifying to see that I can lift more than I used to and it makes me feel powerful.

I’ve learned that my weight has nothing to do with my self-worth. I know that exercise isn’t a punishment but rather, a celebration of what I can do. I know that things like burgers and nachos aren’t off-limits – just treats, since they won’t help me with my goals. I’m unhappy that I spent so long hating my body, when I should have just been learning more about it.

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