If you are hoping for a juicy post about my quest to share love with others, I'm afraid you'll be disappointed. This is about self-love and my journey, both physical and mental, to reach it.
My time in Asia was a roller-coaster in
more ways than one. Moving through foreign cultures is never easy but I
motion that for women it is just a tad bit harder. There is so much
weight (pun intended) given to a woman's waste line in Asian cultures
and though I am not an authority on these matters throughout the rest of
the world, Asia is particularly difficult to navigate with an
During my time in Mongolia I gained weight. In Cambodia I
lost much of it but still not everything that I had gained. And throughout this, living in countries where I towered over most other women
and outweighed them, too, was difficult. It ate at my self-esteem and
heavied my heart.
Personal comparisons aside, these inner sadnesses were met with real reinforcement.
I was met regularly with comments about how "fat" I was during my
service in the Peace Corps; flippant comments from laughing lips of
Mongolian friends. In Cambodia, I intercepted comments like "you are fat" from my students even on days I was feeling lean and fit. Still I don't quite know what to make of it when the girls in the dorm
would squeeze the flesh on my hips and cry "healthy! healthy!" Of course
it's a great thing to be healthy- especially somewhere like Cambodia-
but the snide and snorting tone they said it with ate at me. I know I
cannot hold onto these things, that they are born of cross-cultural
norms and joking friendships. But I still find them difficult to let go
And now I'm home. I remember walking through Value
Village the day after I arrived in Atlanta, marveling at how the clothes
actually fit me and how gargantuan I didn't feel. There were even
people there bigger than me! Many of them, in fact. And so I began the
relearning process again.
Since returning home I have nurtured myself on seaweed salad and
tofu, trying desperately to feed my body in ways I couldn't in
meat-and-rice dominated Asia. I have gone to the gym frequently and have been pleasantly surprised while shopping. I have found a man who loves the vistas in the
mountains and valleys of my body and am trying to accept that as true.
But the voices of Asian fat-shaming are not altogether gone. I find it
hard to banish the perpetually underlying image of outdoor markets in
which nothing ever fits. Pictures of the tiny jeans that my Cambodian
students wore float under each row of GAP pants or H&M tanks. I suppose the best thing I can do now is march forward with seaweed salad in one hand and my pride in the other, trusting that "healthy" is the best thing to be.