Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Obsession with weight loss


The other day my parents’ friends visited and I had to socialize with them. One of the males offered me some sweets, which I politely declined because I didn’t feel like having some sweets at the time. He said with a smile, “I understand. Young women are always watching their weight.” I tried to protest his claim but he just laughed it off as if he was 100% confident he had read my mind.

Another woman asked me, “Oh my god you’ve lost so much weight since I last saw you! How do you do it?” I've actually gained 95% of the weight back since I've returned from my India trip, but I told her about my daily Ashtanga practice (back home then and now I only practice a few days a week) + eating only 2 meals a day (brunch and early dinner) + not snacking on junk food + a bit of food poisoning.  A tan also provides a visually slimming effect. She nodded, stayed silent for a while; about 20 minutes later she abruptly declared that yoga must be easier for me because my mother took me to dance lessons when I was a small girl. I said I didn’t go to India to practice yoga just for weight loss. My aunt, who was also present at the scene, missed the negation word and asked loudly, “What? You went to India to practice yoga just to lose weight?”

I have trouble staying calm whenever these older adults mention about me and weight loss and wouldn’t give up on the subject. A rush of anger uncontrollably arises and I always have to suppress it with all my might, but they seem totally oblivious of it.

I’ve been reading up a lot on psychology lately. It seems that the reason I get worked up so easily with my parents and their friends is that I keep getting invalidated. If I try to express how I feel, they would tell me I shouldn't feel that way. When I honestly express my reasons for doing something, they can't accept my words for what they are, but instead they come up with explanations for me and conclude that they are correct. If we're debating public issues or religion or culture, then fine, everybody has their own opinions. However, we are talking about my actions and my feelings. Being invalidated and dismissed cause serious  damage to my feelings and my relationships with these people.

Because they grew up with the cultural belief that feelings don't matter and their personal believes that old people cannot change their ways, I need to change my way of thinking/dealing with them before I go insane. So if I put myself in their shoes, I guess they are struggling to understand what's going on in their children's heads. The Taiwanese media portrays young women as 100% dedicated to nothing but  looking good, maintaining youth, and losing weight. The commercials, the talk shows, dramas, and even the news seem to spread the same message. Not only has the TV, magazines and newspapers successfully brainwashed most of the young people, the older generation seem to have concluded that these superficial goals are the only things that young women care about these days. Weight loss and staying pale (skin whitening = looking good) are two ideas simple enough for them to grasp and understand. Somehow it got through to them that I don't care about whitening, but weight loss is something that they kind of shove down my throat (because my body frame is larger than the average Chinese woman) and they believe I deeply care about.

So I hate interacting with the older generation because I feel like they keep assuming I'm constantly trying to lose weight. However, they are merely trying to be friendly, and losing weight is the only topic they think I'm interested in that they feel they can discuss with me. This is sad but I feel like the elderly are completely out of touch with the modern world. They went through a time of war, so their whole lives were about obtaining security by getting married, having a family, finding a stable job and stay in it until retirement. They are very confused about young people today pursuing countless hobbies, picking jobs based on personal interests (and switching careers when they get bored of what they're doing), realizing personal dreams, and attempting to be in touch with personal feelings. The Internet, human rights, fair trade, global warming, energy issues, recycling, gay marriages, etc. did not exist during their times, and they seem to have trouble wrapping their heads around these topics. Weight loss is one issue that they can understand, so that's what they'll talk to me about because they think they can connect with me this way (and avoid talking about any of the topics I mentioned above).

So weight loss with family friends = weather small talks in western culture. I should stop getting so worked up when they bring this up with me next time. 

8 comments:

  1. This is a post which probably resonates with many of us. It could be a generational thing. I remember my own grandmother constantly critiquing my figure growing up and she felt it was perfectly acceptable to do so.

    On the other hand, the problem is exacerbated by inescapable photoshopped images of women's bodies (check out the "Killing us softly: Advertising's image of women" series on youtube). Yoga's increasing popularity in the West might well have something to do with this sort of marketing- a way to achieve that lean, svelte "yoga body." Maybe it's no wonder that even people of our own generation think that these are the reasons underlying our yoga practice.

    It is frustrating, though!

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    1. Thanks for your comment wandering mb. I do think that many people join yoga for the purpose of re-modeling their bodies into pictures they see in magazines rather than learning to breath better and get in touch with their bodies. I think the older generations are stuck in a mind set that we need to live up to the society's expectation of woman and can't get out of that way of thinking.

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  2. Invalidation is such a common response tactic nowadays. Apart from the traditional adults I think the rest simply don't know how to properly respond, and it's infuriatingly patronizing. I get really prickly when I hear invalidating phrases as well. I think "What do you mean I can't or shouldn't be like this? I just told you exactly why and I'm certainly feeling such. Just because you don't give a sh*t doesn't mean I'm the same way."

    I just give the offender a glare and let the ensuing silence hover ominously. I love doing that.

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    1. A lot of people don't seem to realize that we can't control what we FEEL. We only have control over how we behave and how we react. When someone says something like "you shouldn't get mad at your parents", we all know that, but I feel angry anyways. All I can do is not speak and act directly from this anger. The healthy thing to do is to acknowledge that I feel angry, process that feeling (my stomach is knotted, my face feel flush), taking a deep breath, try to relax and allow the tensions in the body to go away, and then act civilized towards the patients. Unfortunately the Asian culture teaches us to suppress our feelings and pretend we feel fine. So we ignore all the signals in the body associated with the negative emotions, and we become totally out of touch with our feelings. I should write a blog about this :)

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  3. Your post mirrors how I feel when I talk to my relatives as well. I constantly feel invalidated, sometimes before I even see them. I anticipate the feelings from what I anticipate will come out of my relatives' mouths. I think one thing that might help us when we feel this is way is to remember that it's their loss that they can't understand why we do things. What we get out of our actions remains with us and is not less valid just because they don't believe it's possible.

    I'll try to remember what I said instead of spazzing the next time a relative tells me not to eat something because it'll make me fat, or that I've gained/lost weight (both comments, but especially the former piss me off and ruin my whole day, and most of my week), or that they are dieting or exercising in a stupid way to lose their own weight (e.g. drinking weight loss tea). I will probably forget to suppress my spaz. In that case after my time with relatives is over you and I can binge on noodles, boba and dessert while discussing our first world problems after seeing a film on modern third world issues :)

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    1. Haha. Your comment reminds me how much I am enjoying my life NOT interacting with my relatives and being commented about my weight. I keep thinking next time I meet up with them I will be able to keep my grace about this, until I actually meet them. The first time they make a comment I can brush it off. By the 5th time I hear about weight "issues" I explode.

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  4. Wow, this was so wonderful to read. Heartbreaking, funny, empathetic.

    Thank you.

    -Fellow female-chinese-american millenial

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    1. Thanks fellow Chinese-American Millenial. And 4 years later the world is even more complicated but the older generation still stay the same... such is life.

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