This isn't exactly PCT related, but it's something that has been on my mind since last summer when I was hiking. After reading my friend Kim's post, I feel finally compelled to share my thoughts with the public. I know that most of my readers are women, and I would be happy to hear any of your thoughts and feedback on this topic. I'm not trying to offend anybody, it's just something I feel very strongly about based on my past. First of all, the PCT is extremely male dominated. Even though the trail is bringing out more women as of late, the dudes seem to travel in large hubs, especially throughout the bubble. I cannot begin to tell you how many conversations I had overheard about men making comments about women's bodies, objectifying and demoralizing them. I am keeping this very vague because I am not here to slander anyone. I love the dudes but at times, it was just too much for me.
Fast forward to my current status, living a normal life in the city. I am surrounded by media, culture, fashion and wedding season. All this talk about "losing weight, trying to fit into bikinis, working out, going on diets, bbalhalbalh" is really overwhelming. I love talking to all my best friends about this topic bc it is so interesting to me. It seems as if most women have this lifelong struggle with "trying to be pretty" and it's not something that can just be shaken off. Not to mention, comparing yourself with other women which will ultimately rob you of your joy in life.
I have shared this in past blogs before, but it's not something I tell the whole world about. I've been overweight my whole life. I've never known anything else. I never cared about looking a certain way and had always been happy with myself. However, in the Asian world, being fat is very looked down upon. Most Asian girls are super tiny even though they eat fried food and mochi all the time, but good for them. I'm just not like them and that's fine, but my family didn't care. Most of the verbal abuse I got growing up was from my mom and my dad's side of the family. They would always tell me to lose weight or exercise. My mom even told me she would pay me to lose weight, fucked up, right? They would also tell me these things in passive aggressive ways, but I never listened. The more people that tell you how to do things, the less likely you will listen. The saddest part is that these words cut deep, especially from family. It's interesting how this is the bulk of what I remembered from my childhood, eh? I also have never been called names growing up for being fat or anything but recently because I am in the public, I've been trolled with "fat chick, ugly Asian, big girl, etc." Obviously, those names don't mean anything to me, but it's just interesting how our culture and society is.
It wasn't until I became an adult and learned about health and nutrition. It's funny how all these Asian people want me to be skinny but don't know shit about processed food. Never once was I taught about cooking all of my meals with whole foods only. Why is it that the Asians want me to be skinny but their love language is food? They get mad when you don't finish your plate yet expect you still be a size 0. I just don't get it. o_O Anyways, since I was chubz my whole life, I never knew the other side until I decided to change my life around so that I could finally do the things I wanted to. I wrote a huge blog post back in the day about that, but it's now gone. Maybe someday I'll rewrite it, but for now, it's not that important. It also wasn't until after the fact that I discovered I had an eating disorder my whole life that I didn't know about and to this day, still struggle with but that's a whole other story as well. It's a lot of the reason why I choose and try really hard to eat well on a daily basis but it is actually quite challenging.
So okay, I never cared about my body image and still really don't, but it's definitely something that's come up within the last few months. I got off trail last August in my most tip top shape. I was averaging 27 miles at my normalcy and feeling like a million bucks. No real soreness nor pains and could climb whatever was in front of me. Then you have a freak accident, break an ankle and have to sit on your ass for 6 weeks in a boot. All of my muscles in my left leg were deteriorated, and I literally had to learn how to walk again. I used to able to walk marathons every day and carry 30 lbs on my back and now, I could barely walk around Greenlake without a great deal of soreness and fatigue in my ankle. It was quite humbling to start from square one, but I also gained almost 15 lbs in just two months. Crazy, I know. So I've always been at the high end of the scale but have never experienced this whole up and down thing of my weight, and what a weird feeling. This was probably one of the first times where I truly felt "unhappy" with my weight/physical being. I never understood what it meant for clothes to feel tighter and things just not fitting right because you packed on some pounds. The feeling kinda sucks, I get it now. I recently had to try on some bridesmaid dresses and NOTHING zipped. I even went to the highest number that the department store offered, and the fit was just terrible. I hadn't had to try on a formal dress since forever, and it kinda just brought back some old memories in like high school when I always had trouble finding clothes that weren't so tight on me. It's not that the clothes didn't fit me. It's because I was afraid of having to overflow into the double digit sizing. However, being in this situation has really helped me recheck my mindset about all of this with not wanting to fall into that deep, dark hole of self-worth via your body image.
(women talking to each other)
"OMG, her body is amazing, I want to be where she is."
"She's so pretty, I love her ____, ____, and ____."
"Wow, you look so skinny and amazing!"
"Have you lost (gained) weight?"
Granted, there's nothing wrong with women admiring each other or aspiring to have similar qualities as someone they look up to, but there's something very toxic and unhealthy when all of our conversations are based on someone else's appearance. You never know, but your comment about someone's body image may or may not be sending them into deeper issues/validations. But this is where the comparison comes in. I completely understand if we're trying to get back into shape and fit into our clothes again, but it's how we approach it. No, I don't think you should be unhealthy and full of sloth your entire life and totally stand behind wanting to change your life, get into shape, eat well, etc. But all of those fitness/body image comparison Instagram accounts just rub me the wrong way. Again, not trying to be offensive here. I recently discovered that tons of women follow these people and wished they would someday look like them. I mean, I'm sure they probably help with fitness goals, but I think it's all in the mindset. I know I was once that person obsessed about the number on the scale, but I don't want to be that person, ever. I don't want to fit into a certain size nor ever strive to look like someone else. I want to measure my fitness goals on how fast I can climb a mountain, how much weight I can lift and how much stronger I feel after pushing myself and to do better next time. Can we as women encourage each other in their goals in ways other than commenting on their appearance?
"UGH, I've gained like 30 lbs, this is the worst."
It's funny when my mom friends say things like this as if being heavy/having extra weight is the worst thing ever bc their heaviest is my lowest/current weight. o_O Love you, moms.
Why do I feel so passionately about this? Mainly because of our youth, the girls. The girls who are struggling in high school because they don't look like the chicks on whatever magazine/tv. The girls who are addicted to social media and suffer through FOMO. The girls who are starving themselves at lunch every day. The girls who are doing 500 jumping jacks in the bathroom on the bath mat in the middle of the night so their parents don't hear them. The girls who are afraid of eating a cookie because they want to see their collar bones/thigh gaps. The girls who are counting calories without even needing a calculator because their mind is obsessed with the number on the scale. These girls are only 14 years old. Their struggle is REAL, and it's something they will grow to deal with for the rest of their lives if they continue believing these lies about themselves. How can we share with them that their worth is not in what they look like? They are loved indefinitely even when boys don't pay attention to them. They are strong, intelligent women and should never be afraid of being themselves and going after what they want.