When I Discovered I Could Take Selfies With my New Phone (Ottawa, March 2013)
When I Discovered I Could Take Selfies With my New Phone (Ottawa, March 2013)

As I felt my life was spinning out of control, I reacted by punishing myself with one of the things in life I love best—food. I am not sure how it started but skipping meals soon became routine with Mark. I didn’t have time to eat, anyway. It became a vicious circle. Not eating is actually pretty addictive.

I know—it’s fucked up.

“You’re so thin!” I heard from friends and strangers alike. I didn’t see it. I didn’t look at myself. I was simply annoyed that my clothes were too big. I wasn’t trying to lose weight or to reach a particular so-called “ideal weight”. I just didn’t want to eat. Of course, here lies the big how-to-lose-weight-easily secret I discovered for you: don’t eat and you won’t gain weight.

It could only last so long.

In France, I ate. In Mexico, I ate. In Central America, I ate. I had to. You can’t really walk miles and miles, climb volcanoes and pyramids and enjoy life on an empty stomach. You can’t really travel without sampling local foods and specialties—at least I can’t.

Getting used to eating again wasn’t easy.

I knew I was going to gain weight. I wasn’t sure I was okay with that because in a way, it meant losing control again. It meant accepting a new body image.

I chose not to think about it too much. I mute the nagging voice counting the calories.

When I came home, I had to trade my shorts for my usual pair of jeans.

I didn’t bother asking Feng if he had shrunk them on purpose while I was gone. I had obviously gained weight. Oh, they fit. But they were definitely tighter.

Strangely enough, it didn’t bother me that much. Deep down, I had known that I wasn’t naturally thin—whatever that means. I was thin because I wasn’t eating. Not exactly healthy and not exactly sustainable in the long run.

I thought about it for a few minutes as I buttoned up my jeans. Had I enjoyed food the past few months? Yes. Would it have been worth it to starve myself? No.

In this case, I decided, gaining weight wasn’t a big deal.

Maybe I wasn’t supposed to be a size 6. Maybe at 5’6, I wasn’t supposed to be 52 kilos, the lowest I had been since… well, since well before junior high. Some people are naturally lean and thin. I am not one of these people. I know it. I wasn’t at my healthy weight, whatever it is if such magic number exists.

Interestingly, I learned a few things when I was the skinniest I have ever been:

Clothes don’t fit any better when you are thinner

Seriously. Don’t ever try to lose weight for fashion. Some brands, no matter what size you pick, have awful cuts and some trends aren’t flattering, period. Sizing also varies a lot between brands. When I shopped in France last summer, I was a size 42 at Naf-Naf, which is pretty ridiculous if you consider I wore size 6 Levis jeans.

Being skinny doesn’t make you more attractive

Feng wasn’t a huge fan of seeing my hip bones and my ribs sticking out. When you lose weight, you also lose curves…

The numbers on the scale don’t tell the whole story

At 52 kilos for 1.70 m (that’s about 115 lbs for 5’6), I looked skinny. Yet I wasn’t officially “underweight” and I think my BMI was still in the “normal” range. But trust me—it wasn’t a healthy weight for me.

The same nasty people who make rude comments about “fat people” make the same comments about “skinny people”

I had some strangers telling me I should eat more [insert whatever food group here]. “Oh my God, you’re just skin and bones!” isn’t nicer to hear than “wow, you should exercise more!” Come on people. Body shaming is never okay.

You know what your healthy weight is

Some people have a high metabolism or are naturally lean, much like some people have more curves, some are short, some are tall, etc. You know your body. You know what your healthy weight is best.

It’s in your mind as well

Even though the scale stated otherwise, on bad days, I felt fat and ugly and no one could have convinced me I wasn’t.

I’m now around 60 kilos, a healthier weight for me. But I still have a love/hate relationship with food. It’s like food is the one thing on which I shift my worries and my insecurities, the one thing I can control. Frankly, my own behaviour drives me crazy.

I’m better at eating—when I eat, that is. When travelling, I felt like eating. At home, not so much. I’m busy, I’m focused on Mark and I don’t take care of myself as much. I love food but eating makes me anxious. And it’s a vicious circle: the less I eat, the less I feel like eating.

On the positive side, I stopped weighing myself and I truly don’t care about my weight anymore. I have never cared about the weight per se but rather the inexplicable changes which made me feel like I was losing control. Well, that worry is gone. I’m also more liberal about what I eat and how much I eat.

Let’s put it this way, I’m still not the right person to invite for dinner.

I’m working on it, I swear.

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  1. Mel April 28, 2014 at 10:44 am

    So not time to ask you out for all-you-can-eat sushi?? :-p

    1. Zhu April 28, 2014 at 10:47 am

      Well… unless you want me to watch you eat, probably not 🙁 Mark would be happy to eat anything on your plate though.

  2. Lily April 28, 2014 at 11:51 am

    “The same nasty peo­ple who make rude com­ments about “fat peo­ple” make the same com­ments about “skinny peo­ple.”
    Thank you for this!!!!! I’m 45kg (100lbs) for around 1.60m. The BMI formula says I’m (seriously) underweight… but I’m always been tiny (well you saw me). I’m healthy, I eat well (and I’m saying this snacking Maltesers) but I’m just not in the usual “Western body range”.
    I don’t have nasty comments anymore. Most people thinks I’m way younger than I am (asking my ID at LCBO for instance… I’m 30). But when I was a teenage, other kids were pesting me about my supposed anorexia, or how I was probably “starving” myself to be thin.
    It’s good to remind people that it hurts as much a thin person as an overweight person that he/she looks different. And for the clothes, you’re so right… and it’s worst in North America where clothes size are aven bigger than in Europe.

    1. Zhu April 28, 2014 at 4:01 pm

      I remember you were tall and pretty lean but you certainly don’t look unhealthy! People are strange. It’s never good enough, anyway.

      The BMI formula may be a good generic guideline but there are certainly exceptions. This is why I strongly believe we each have a “normal” weight and it differs vastly depending on your body type. I know for me 52 kg was ridiculously low. But it may be a normal weight for someone else. And I know some people who weight 80 kg but carry the weight very well and are very fit.

  3. I Say Oui April 28, 2014 at 1:58 pm

    I like how you always know when people are being impolite or judgemental, and you blow them off (in your mind, if not aloud). I think it can be easy to let other people make you feel bad about not being “normal” in any aspect of your life. I sometimes have to remind myself that other people’s opinions are exactly that– their opinions.

    1. Zhu April 28, 2014 at 4:01 pm

      I must admit that sometime I blow people off… out loud 😆

  4. Isa April 28, 2014 at 8:20 pm

    During my last year depression, I lost a lot of weight in 2 weeks, maybe 5 or 6 kilos! I couldn’t eat, I just couldn’t. I wasn’t hungry (which is very unusual for me), I wasn’t attracted by food, even the good one (which is even more unusual for me), the only thing I could do, was cigarettes and wine. You talk about a healthy lifestyle! Eventually, I lost a lot of weight. I wouldn’t say I have a overweight figure, but I’m not very thin neither. My common figure is 62kg for 1m62 which is supposedly a bit overweight, but I can’t be thinner, I just can’t. So I really liked my body during that time… It fit me well, I found myself beautiful, the clothing was better, I loved my body.
    But… It couldn’t last. Because a few months later, I started eating again, and I found myself with my 62-64kg range. And fuck that. I realized that IT IS my healthy figure, that it is who I am when I’m good. I guess I will never be totally okay with it but that’s just who I am. And the most important thing is to be healthy, that’s for sure!

    1. Zhu April 28, 2014 at 9:24 pm

      I saw pictures of you and you certainly don’t look overweight, chubby or anything like that to me. You look… good 🙂

      I’m like you, I can be thin… if I don’t it. But that’s not a way to live, right? I think you made the right decision… and you are a smart woman for realizing it and saying “fuck it”!

  5. Dennation April 28, 2014 at 10:22 pm

    Well, that settles that, I definitely won’t be shopping in France, ever. If you’re a size 42 over here then there’s no way I would fit into anything.

    I’m lucky too that my husband also likes curves. He never tells me when I have gained weight because he never notices, seriously. Now if only the scale wouldn’t notice…

    In the past few years I have changed my thinking about how naturally thin people have it so easy. And I’ve tried to be more sensitive to women who have small breasts or few curves. I used to think it was great to have small breasts because it is easier to fit into bathing suits (there are so many bathing suits that tie behind the neck and if you have bigger breasts it hurts your neck), but now I try to think about what the woman with small breasts and few curves would feel. I may have too many curves, but at least I definitely feel feminine. I’m not saying that they are not feminine, not at all, but that since curves and breasts are identifying features of a woman, that they may suffer from not feeling feminine enough.

    Good job on the weight gain. The important thing is to feel good in your skin and you seem to be on the road to finding that balance.

    1. Zhu April 28, 2014 at 11:02 pm

      It’s so funny how the grass on the other side always looks greener! I know women who complain about having big breast, small breast, a big butt, no butt, etc. 😆

      The worst part is… no one notice the so-called “flaw”. I’m so surprised when I hear X or X think she is “fat” or “too thin”. To me, they are X and X, not the “OMG so skinny woman” and the “gee, fatty” woman.

      It really is in our head.

    2. Zhu April 28, 2014 at 11:03 pm

      Oh and BTW… it’s not “luck” that your husband likes curves. He likes you… AND your curves 😉

  6. noemagosa May 1, 2014 at 12:27 pm

    We are the same height, but I have always been in the upper healthy BMI weight… (I am a fat bottom girl — pear shaped) 😀 I will be very happy when I’m back to between 70 and 75 kg.
    BMI is stupid anyway because muscles are heavier than fat. I have been working out regularly for months without losing weight though I’ve notices changes on my body. I look healthier but the balance still says that I’m “overweight”. Sigh. Fortunately I don’t seen any doctor here. The one I had back in Ontario was a nightmare with her charts and know-it-all attitude.

    PS: I miss the all-you-can eat sushi places!!! Do go there and eat some sushis for me!!! ha ha

    1. Zhu May 1, 2014 at 12:31 pm

      You also had three kids (including twins) relatively close, which shows that your body did a great job birthing three great kids 🙂 Meh. As long as you are active and feeling good, the numbers on the scale are just… numbers. I was much heavier in my teens but frankly, I didn’t “look” overweight.

  7. cynthia May 4, 2014 at 7:35 am

    I guess that the only true measure is whether you feel good or not about your body. My BMI is smack in the middle the normal range but my fat percentage puts me in the obese category!

    1. Zhu May 4, 2014 at 11:45 am

      … and having seen pictures of you, I can attest you certainly don’t look obese! This is the perfect example where numbers or whatever formula used doesn’t paint the true picture.

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