Growing Up Fat in a Skinny Asian World

When you’re a child, all you want to be is like everyone else. You feel the pressure to fit in and be cool. You don’t want to be noticed for being different. As a little Asian girl, you feel the added societal pressure of being skinny and beautiful. 

Growing up, I was not “like everyone else” or “beautiful”. I was overweight and unattractive. In the Asian community, which envies and almost requires you to be stick thin, your weight, my weight, everybody’s weight is a highlighted topic of scrutiny. 

I stuck out like a big fat sore thumb for everyone to shake their head at. An easy target for negative comments and criticism that I could never escape from. 

“All Asians are skinny” is a commonly known stereotype. The feeling that everyone was staring at me and wondering what was wrong with me, for not being like all the other skinny Asian girls, plagued me throughout childhood.

I felt like the only one who didn’t fit the skinny mold I was supposed to be born into. I knew both Asians and non-Asian’s alike were swimming with questions about how a little Asian girl could be so fat. 

It didn’t help my case that both of my parents and my Brother were thin. My Mother is tiny, a size 0, whose height stops at a little over five feet. My Dad has always been thin and lanky, except for a recently growing beer belly. My Brother, who took after my Dad, never had an once fat on his lean body. Next to them, I looked completely out of place.  

It made me feel so ashamed to be overweight. I could not be the beautiful skinny Asian daughter that my parents deserved. I was the fat girl that plagued their almost picture perfect family.

The Asian world looked at me with shame too. To them, it probably seemed like I was eating around the clock. As if I was a the product of laziness and inactivity. When in actuality, I was a very active child who played outside with friends everyday after school. A child who was struggling to lose weight and keep the weight I had lost off.

Unknown to those looking in from the outside, both of my Aunts on my Dad’s side were and are overweight.  I was constantly told while growing up that I look like them. It took me years of questioning to realize they did not mean my facial features. They meant our body types looked the same. The three of us have fuller figures that carry fat more easily. I am more genetically predisposed to be this way.

There was more to my fat story than what people saw but no one knew or tried to understand. Everyone simply reads from what they see when it comes to beauty. For me, they read that Angela is Asian and should be skinny but is not because she is lazy and eats excessively.

“how long can someone stay happy about their body, when everyone tells you, you shouldn’t be?”

Even now, a confident adult who loves herself, I have really bad days.  I look in the mirror and the only words that come to mind are ‘ugly’ and ‘fat’. I grab the flab on my stomach and shake my head at it. I look at my arms in disgust at how big they are. Wondering to myself, why I was cursed to a life of always being considered “bigger”.

On the bad days I can’t help but think, I am all of the horrible things that people think about me. All of the old comments and criticism about my weight flood back and torment me. I must not be working out or eating healthy enough. I must be doomed to being fat forever, so why even try? 

“Ugly” and “fat” easily and quickly turn into more hateful words like stupid, lazy, and good for nothing. Hating the reflection in the mirror easily spreads to hating all parts of me. From how I am a horrible writer, to how boring I am, how I’m chronically single, to how horrible my life is and why I’m a failure for not being where I thought I would be.

Fortunately, I have learned to shake these negative feelings. All the other days I love myself and the body that houses it. I look in the mirror and think fierce. A smile sits on my face from ear to ear, knowing top models have nothing on me. I now know how to take care of my body. Exercising it physically and mentally so that I don’t befall to as many hateful days as I did growing up.

But how long can someone stay happy about their body, when everyone tells you, you shouldn’t be? How can you stay and be in a state of confidence when you are dragging around the baggage of negativity people placed on you since childhood? 

We need to teach ourselves to stop all of the self-hate so that we can set an example. A beautiful example for those who are ashamed of themselves. 


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