Discovering a New Standard of Beauty
By Siyun (Tiffany) Ai
For a long time, I believed that it was a misfortune for a woman to be more than a size 2.
In China, a beautiful girl meant someone with pale skin, slim legs and a skinny figure. Because I was born in Kunming, a city with high altitudes and sun exposure, my skin tone was relatively darker than people from other provinces.
I used to be a sprinter and basketball player, so my legs were stronger and bigger than other girls’ legs. These two physical traits were considered “deficiencies” and distanced me from the standard of beauty in China.
This idea was like a drug, affecting my mind and my self-perception for more than seven years.
People suggested that if I only I had slimmer legs and brighter skin, I would be beautiful and charming. I wanted this, so I started to improve myself by purifying my face and losing weight.
I went to beauty salons all the time, bought expensive cosmetic products that had skin-whitening functions, ate one meal a day, stopped doing leg-strengthening exercises and took diet pills.
At that time, we had a very intense class schedule because everyone was preparing for the GaoKao, the Chinese college entrance exams. I was trapped in a vicious circle of using food to control my emotions and academic stress. I overate and gained weight and then deprived myself of food and lost weight. I refused food even when I felt hungry.
I kept a tape measure at that time, using it to measure the circumference of my thighs and track my progress as I grew skinnier. As a consequence, my face broke out with acne because of the anxiety that came from the fight between my desires for food and my desire to be slimmer.
After being complimented about my body, food occupied my mind even more. But the more I tried to distance myself from the luring of the food, the more I ate.
I didn’t know much about eating disorders at that time, but what I do know is that I gained more weight despite my intention to eat less. Whenever my friends would judge me for this, or tell me I was becoming fat, I would stop eating.
This self-struggle persisted for many years, and I took diet pills when I went to college.
I learned of a “magical” diet pill, famous for reducing hunger, stimulating metabolism and cleaning up waste, that was offered at Yanhee, a well-known international hospital in Bangkok. The hospital is popular for its cosmetic medical services. Two of my best friends bought the pill and convinced me to buy one.
I started to take the medicine the first day I received it. I remember the exact moment I swallowed it into my throat. It was as if all my fantasies of becoming slim became true.
But after I took it for three days, I found that whenever I smelled delicious food, I still wanted to eat. The thing that kept me from eating wasn’t the pills, but my consciousness of not wanting to become fat.
I started to reflect on what I have done to my body in the past years and how silly I had been.
I started to ask myself why I cared about what other people thought of me? Why did the size of my body matter more than my heart?
I realized that my body would always be with me, and I would always need it, regardless if I was slim or fat.
Ever since then, I stopped refusing food and let myself eat intuitively. Now, when my friends judge my body or my legs, I talk back, fearlessly.