Wednesday, October 15, 2014

No Perfect Goddess

I've never been thin; in fact, I am overweight and have been since childhood. It's a painful admission as I feel like it is a character flaw. Though I don't eat poorly and I walk daily, I should be eating better (no more chocolate, no more chocolate, no more chocolate) and exercising more (specifically: sit-ups and whatever gets rid of flabby underarms).

In America, we like to dance around the topic of being overweight. Don't call people fat—they are heavy. Curvacious. Bootilicious. Big Boned. Whatever. No one likes to be fat; it means you are lazy and gluttonous and worst of all, ugly. In China, it seems to mean something different, though I'm still trying to understand what. People use the word fat so freely here that it doesn't seem to carry the same weight of an insult as in my homeland. I've wrote about this a bit before. But whatever the intended meaning—good, bad, or neutral—the word stings when I hear it, though I hear it less and less lately.

Being overweight, being fat, is the new normal in eastern China. Still, women strive to svelte. Dieting is popular, though it takes a different form than what I'm used to. There are weight loss coffees and teas, but other common techniques include cutting out all meats and skipping meals. No Atkins, no South Beach, no Paleo. I don't know if any of this is very effective. I've always found exercising and restricting oils and sugars to be most helpful, call me old-fashioned. Unfortunately, even during my most disciplined dieting days, I never was able to achieve what you'd call skinny.

Yesterday I came across a very helpful chart posted by a Chinese friend on WeChat (for those who don't know, WeChat is the current Chinese social media of choice that is like facebook, twitter, and skype wrapped up into one). Anyways, here's the chart:

Vertically, you find your height in centimeters. For example, I'm 5'4'' which equals about 163 cm, we'll round down to 162. The numbers within the chart are all in Chinese jin (which equals half a kilo or 1.1 pounds). Horizontally, at the top, you will see three different categories, under which is a figure of weight in jin. The category on the left represents a “Perfect Goddess Figure.” In the middle, you have something loosely translated as “Ordinary Pudge” (correct me, fellow Mandarin readers, if you can come up with a better translation) and to the right is a full out “Chubster” which is sometimes illustrated by images such as the chubby hamster below:

I am well, well into the Chubster category. In fact, according to this chart I need to weigh about 100 pounds to consider myself a true goddess. I haven't been a goddess since the 4th grade then and I fear I will never make it down to 100 or even close. Maybe I should feel bad about this, but I don't. Not really. I know a lot of Chinese people believe that a woman should never top 100 pounds, but I can't imagine myself, or most of my western female friends, being that thin. I rather not get too hung up on the numbers. At this point, I would rather be healthy and happy than a teeny, tiny goddess.


martalivesinchina said...

Chinese women are so obsessed with their weights! In my office there were some girls who would suddenly decide that they were fat and skip lunch. But not one of them was fat! They were normal, healthy body types. I don't get the skinny ideal of beauty. But well, I've never been skinny either. I'm 176 cm and I don't remember when I've weighted less than 60 kg (when I was younger than 12 maybe).

rosieinbj said...

It's really worrisome to me. Why are they under the impression that skipping meals is healthy? Especially for these women who weigh 45 kilos (less than 100 lbs), which is often the case. And the sad thing is that these are grown women. I remember having that kind of weight loss mentality in middle school, but after the age of 15 or so I felt my friends and I became more practical/realistic about losing weight/exercising and it also became more of a personal issue. It's annoying and immature to go on about how fat you are and how you shouldn't eat lunch.

Sarah said...

The standards on the chart are unreal -I honestly can't believe them. I have a friend who eats cucumber for dinner, and that's it.

It's great to see a mix of body shapes and types in China these days (compared to a few years ago), but sad to think that it means more and more women are beating themselves up for not being a 'goddess' :(

rosieinbj said...

It is kind of sad. My friend that posted this is a US size 00 (xxs) and she said she is about 10 pounds too heavy to be a "goddess"!