Hi. My name is Samantha Wu and I weigh 135 lbs.
I’ve got tummy fat and the remnants of sprinter legs (for those who have little experience with track, that means my thighs are thick. The better to push off the starting block with). I’ve got a younger sister who is skinnier than me despite the fact that we’re mistaken for twins ALL THE TIME. I’ve got a mother who has been thin forever. I’m an Asian American woman who isn’t petite and tiny.
I’ve recently moved into the adult world, the Brooklyn version. On the subway home one day, a woman was reading a magazine. The title of one of the pages caught my eye: “Most Impressive Transformations”. And every single comparison was of a woman who used to be fat and how great she looked skinny. I’m done and I’m angry. Why do we let ourselves be shamed about our size and weight? I wish that instead of focusing on people dropping sizes, skeleton-to-healthy transformations were spotlighted. I wish that instead of highlighting size at all, it was health that was the measure of impressiveness. Did they take control of their lives and drop unhealthy habits? Great! Let’s feature them. Some people are just born bigger and they don’t deserve to have shame dropped upon them simply because they don’t fit into a model’s jeans.
When I was traveling in China and Taiwan, I was not the tallest or the biggest but I was among the larger women. Here, in the USA, there are people constantly yelling at me for being skinny. I can’t win. I’m big and I’m small. I’m never just me. And I’ve decided that I’m going to work on not caring what people say about my weight or size anymore. I weigh between 133 to 138 lbs. I used to watch my weight rise and fall depending on my meals, time of day, season, etc. But I’m going to pay attention to being healthy, instead. Rather than focusing on the number of pounds I gain or lose, I’m going to focus on being able to walk up eight flights of stairs without losing my breath. I’ll focus on tangible goals that will measure my health and my stamina, rather than my size or weight, so that I’m rewarded for being healthy rather than society’s approved size. Instead of working to reach and maintain 130 lbs and making myself lightheaded in the process, I’m going to focus on being healthy enough to play Ultimate Frisbee all day long.
Now, the problem is: NYC has fantastic public transit. Unlike the college world, where I walked/rushed everywhere, I can take a subway or bus to within a few blocks of most locations. But from this point on, I will walk as often as I can in my daily routine and, at least once every week, the Brooklyn Bridge (both directions). Who knows, maybe one day I’ll upgrade to running it (probably not in the next year, though). And if I’m traveling, I’m going to try to walk all over. Let’s be real, you see so much more of the culture and location on your feet than on your butt in a taxi. That’s when you find the best restaurant around, the one hidden around the corner with an old, worn sign but a menu worth drooling over and returning to. Or the little street filled with the best fruit of the season, for the best price. And those secret streets that hide gems of artistic design–either natural or from human hands.
But the most important part of working to ignore the media and pressure to be of a certain size and weight is working to stop judging and pressuring others. The hardest part will be traveling, meeting people and seeing them for who they are, regardless of size. Worrying about friends because of their unhealthy eating or exercise habits is a far better cause than shaming them for being healthy and natural but larger or smaller than society wants them to be. Women come in different sizes all around the world and I’m not going to let myself miss out on great people, food and cultures because they aren’t the “right” size. If enough women around the world stop and help others stop, we could change the skinny standard into a healthy standard. Celebrating each other because we are healthy is something I can get behind. Claim your weight and healthy life, no matter where you are.