“Sam, you’re gaining weight!”
“Sam, don’t eat doughnuts.”
“You need to exercise more.”
“Samanta, do crunches in the morning. Your stomach is getting big.”
I hate all of these comments referring to my weight. My parents and older relatives remind me every time they see me that I’m gaining weight. I look at myself in the mirror every day, and I feel like I’m normal size. Sure I’m not the 96 pound girl from high school and college, but I mean I’m in the healthy range. I exercise and watch my calories, but I don’t starve myself. I like eating and trying out new cuisines to satisfy my curious palate.
In the Filipino culture, being below one hundred pounds is the ideal. If you’re not, then you’re taunted and teased until you lose weight. Before being fat in the Philippines was considered a sign of wealth but the result of three centuries of colonization and the Western media changed that value. Now when you watch Filipino channels such as The Filipino Channel (TFC) or read magazines such as The Philippine Star, many of the celebrities ascribe to the American ideal, light colored and stick thin. It’s uncomfortable because many Filipinos I know are dark skinned and cherubic. Also, many of the celebrities are mestizo- which is considered more beautiful in the Philippines than the average Filipino- and are heavily Photoshopped.
My mom tells me to exercise more and to eat less, while my dad smirks and tells me that I’m getting fat. Usually I ignore it, but sometimes it gets to me. My parents aren’t thin, and they aren’t healthy eaters. My mother eats her emotions, while my dad buys chips and beef jerky instead of vegetables and fruit. If my parents had healthier diets, I would understand where their weight comments came from. Since they don’t, I end up feeling resentful and insecure.
It infuriates me that majority of the fat comments come from my mother. Out of all people, she should be empathic, she’s obese! She tries a variety of diets such as Jenny Craig and Nutrisystem, but they fail her because she doesn’t follow the instructions. Instead, my dad and I eat the diet foods because they sit on the kitchen table collecting dust. She exercises, but doesn’t eat well. Instead after a workout, I’ll catch her eating ice cream or cakes she bought from the store.
I understand that my mother is uncomfortable about her weight, but I hate it because she transfers her body image insecurities onto me. I tell her to cut junk food in order to lose weight, but she often tells me she’s too old. I tell her that my kindergarten teacher, who is the same age as her, lost weight, but she tells me she’s different. I dislike how she believes losing weight is out of her control, but it’s not. Not only does she lack belief in herself, when she sees someone who is overweight, she stops and asks my dad or me, “who is bigger,” her or the other person. It’s embarrassing and disrespectful.
My mother believes that if she reminds me to exercise and watch my weight, I won’t end up like her, pre-diabetic and unhappy. I want to tell her that weight is more than fat. It’s composed of muscle, water intake, bone density, and others. I actually have more muscle than fat in my body, but I’m still not the ideal Filipino weight to her.
I still want to lose weight, but it’s because I want to stay healthy. Telling my parents to stop asking about weight is like pulling teeth. They tell me I’m too sensitive, and that it’s out of care and not spite. It’s annoying, but I can’t change my parents, especially my mom. I can only change myself.