Friday, August 24, 2007


I've been reading some sites on the pressure to be thin in Asia and it seems that they're all in agreement with one another.

A friend of mine who was considered medium-built in Indo moved to Holland a few years ago and since then she'd received so many compliments on being tiny (she's lost weight over the years, so she's now considered average-built in Indo). She said that whenever she went back home to Indo, again she felt the pressure to watch her weight more carefully since she didn't feel slim or tiny in Indo.

One of the things I "hate" in Indo is what they considered to be "normal chit-chat topics". The "normal chit-chat topics" would be:

1. Marriage:

In wedding parties, you'll hear that question: "When's YOUR turn?" (especially if you've got a boyfriend and you've been together with him for more than three years and you're both old enough to get maried)

When old friends meet one another (they're old enough to get married), then usually they'd start by asking, "So, what do you do now? Have you got married? Kids?"

The worst thing is that when you're single at the moment and people keep asking those questions to you. And then before you reach 30, your mothers become more and more worried about your life and then she starts introducing you to the sons of her friends or friends of friends. Well, I know that it happens to single guys, too...their mothers start panicking and ask around to find "potential" girls for their sons.

2. Kids: This is one of the most annoying "chit-chat topics" EVER!!!

Imagine that after just being married for a year, everybody starts asking, "When are you going to have kids?"

The situation gets worse if you're a Chinese and your husband is the first born child in his family and your in-laws are DYING to have a grandkid. YIKES!!! It gets even worse if your husband is also DYING to have a son whereas you're dying to have a daughter. It gets even worse if your husband THINKS there's something wrong with you since you haven't gotten pregnant yet even after a year trying and then he wants her to take some tests to make sure there's nothing wrong with you. It gets even worse if your mother starts pushing you to take the tests since your mother thinks that your in-laws are DYING to have a grandkid from you. And then it gets worse when everybody you meet (friends, relatives) starts asking the question. Pressure, pressure, pressure!!!

I mean, COME ON, give them a break! I've read somewhere that 80% of marriage couples who have sex regularly without any protection can conceive in a year and that 20% of them ARE NOT going to conceive within a year!!!

It's not over yet, you know? Then if your first kid's reached 1,5 years old, everybody starts asking, "When are you going to have the second one?" (gladly usually they stop there as they assume you'd want to have not more than 2 kids)

3. Weight:

Some people, upon noticing someone getting a bit plumper, say, "Hey, you've gained some weight, haven't you?" or "Hey, you look plumper!"

Nice going!!! I never really had a HUGE problem with my weight (initially), but after some people mentioned that to me, I started to think I were such a fat cow! I hated those remarks. Once I realized that they'd really gotten into my head, I was ANGRY!!! I was feeling okay with myself, but I let their remarks make me feel bad. That's NOT okay. I've been healthy and my weight is still within my normal body weight range. How dare I let them make me change my mind about it?

The funniest thing was when I contracted lymphoma tuberculosis and my doctor said that my normal weight should be 44 kg, whereas some people had told me that with that weight, I looked chubby. Right! Ever since then, I decided that I'd decide what the best weight range for me (HEALTHY weight range) and I'd exercise regularly and stay healthy and I wouldn't let anyone else make me feel bad about myself, INCLUDING MYSELF (as long as I'm healthy). Period.

And you what the worst thing is? It's that they DO NOT compliment you when you've lost the weight you've gained.
I think my friend's right. She said that Asians didn't compliment a lot, whereas westerners did. After moving here to Finland, I've learnt to give more compliments than when I was back in Indo.

Well, speaking of weight, I read something that made me COMPLETELY shocked. It was an article written a few years ago, yet I think it's still relevant enough to link here.

Read here: Asia's Killer Diet Pills

Here's the headline:
Singaporean actress Andrea De Cruz needed a transplant to save her life after the diet pills she took damaged her liver

This is also what I read here: Calorie Count Forum.

My mum would call me from Indonesia and ask "Are u thin or fat?" We are chinese, and it's important to be a perfect daughter.. I gained so much after I came to the States, I guess it has something to do with less pressure that we have over here.. Over there, I was 96 lbs and they can still call me chubby. :( I even feel afraid to go home because people always say: OMG What happen with u????? What did u eat???? I can't recognize u anymoreee


A women I knew/know who is very wealthy and japanese has threatened to cut her 21 year old daughter out of her will if she doesn't lose X amount of weight in X amount of time. I was horrified when I learned this! Until this point I never knew how bad it really was for some in the culture.


i also happen to be asian and have lived in both asian and western cities. local asian people can be so unforgiving sometimes. for example, my aunt from hk who had come to canada to visit me was like, "omg! your arms are so fat now! how much do you weight?" when i said 115, she was like, "omg, when did you hit 100? you were so skinny back there!"

i wanted to say '...yeah, that's cause i'm a grown woman now...not a kid.' it made me want to crawl into a hole and die.


Last year I went to Bangladesh for my brothers wedding and they have the exact same mindframe and belief that being super skinny is beautiful.

I am a UK size 8 (considered to be quite small over here) but when I was in Bangladesh I was made to feel as though I was obese! No clothes would fit me and everywhere I went people just looked me up and down. Even my cousins who live there were horrible because I wasn't a size 0 and therefore I wasn't beautiful. They completely screwed me up mentally and I've only just got myself back on track (only took a year!).

Looking back, they are just a bunch of malnutritioned mini's and I can't compete with that. I'd rather eat healthily and be healthy than starve myself to be one of them.


Hey another Asian here. I'm one of those out of the norm ones since i'm 5'11 and weight 140 to 150 lbs ( i dunno exactly how much i weight)

I agree that it's the type of food and cultural difference that makes Asians tend to be on the skinnier side. At least it's less likely to see a size 16 in Asia......Before i came to canada i weighted 130 lbs and i was i'm 27 and i've gained 10 or 20 lbs....i believe it's the food that's available to you....and eating has become a kind of social activity.

I know the media is pushing a lot of girls going insane because I'll be called VERY FAT if I lived in Hong kong. I wouldn't want to go out at all because I know i'll be pointed's really frustrating but I am in that culture background and I know it doesn't make sense but I am trying my very best to lose that 10 or 20 lbs....*I was already tall when i was 16.*

It's funny that all my Canadian friends call me too skinny, but all my Honger friends say (or imply) that i need to lose some weight.

And in Diet Blog, Bijou wrote this in the comment section:

i just wanted to add that the pro-skinny culture in Asia (especially East Asia) is much more institutionalized and vicious than it is here in the U.S. the young women there are supposed to be thin and fair-skinned, but never muscular. dieting is advocated while muscle-toning exercise is discouraged. my own mother warned me of developing bulky calves after i started working out. thankfully, my calves only got leaner. i actually avoid traveling back to Asia because it's like the parting of the Red Sea whenever i walk down a sidewalk - i can almost hear people thinking "Big American girl coming through, make way!" keep in mind, i'm 5'2" and 103 lbs.

I'm not really sure what I want to say by writing this post. Just letting off some steam, perhaps. LOL!!!

Just one warning, though:


Ahem. That's all I wanna say, I guess. ;-D


  1. Wonderful post! Most of my friends are from China, and I hear about the dilemma constantly. One, considered very slim here, was so upset that people were calling her fat (and that she had to have clothes tailor made) while she was over in China.

    But there is this (and apparently not just westernized) notion that Asian people HAVE to be skinny. I think I mentioned somewhere about what happened when my friend(different than the one above) and I went into an americanized chinese restaurant. These guys were sitting there, and one said, "wow, I've never seen a fat asian before" as we walked by.

    All three of those topics are also constant talk here, though apparently not quite as viscious.

    The 'fun' thing here is the Asian dating scene, as there is still so much prejudice. One guy wanted me to set him up with one of my friends. I found one that was perfect and interested - but she wasn't the right 'class' as he only wanted a Cantonese girl (who played badminton). But he preferred an ABC (American Born Chinese). There are many, many acronyms that I tend to forget.

  2. Amel
    Are you from Indonesia ?I am from India and know exactly what you are talking about!I got married at 27 and still dont have kids so I am on everyones gossip list!
    I have gained weight after coming to the US and people acted like I am a giant when I went home to visit!!I am about 15 pounds over a normal size for an Indian woman !!My deal is that i will lose weight to be healthy and not for cosmetic reasons !!

  3. I didn't realize this pressure existed in Asia. I thought the Asian women were thin because they ate the right way as opposed to Americans eating so much fast food and wrong things. I would be considered obese in those countries I suppose. I would like to lose a few pounds, but I would never want to look skinny. My husband says he likes to have something to hold on to!

  4. lol! ahh I feel a guy's input on this would be useful.

    1)Marriage. For a guy, it's easier I think. The older we get, the easier as long as it's not too late. But for girls, it's not as easy is it. Once you are too old, then guys don't want you particularly in a country such as China since guys have so many girls to choose from...

    2) Lol, absolutely no idea but it sounds about right hahaha!

    3) Well, I have to confess, I love slim girls. I have a hard time developing affection for the not so slim girls even though their personality are fantastic... I know, I am shallow... You can abuse me for the female species on my blog lol... But I understand. We should keep out comments to ourselves. Sometimes, a potato is better than a rose :)

    Lol, interesting article though, what is people thinking these days... god...

  5. Just got back from my in-laws since yesterday, so I've been falling behind in the blogosphere.

    Vic: Glad you enjoyed it, Vic. So you have lots of Chinese friends?

    THX for sharing your story and your friend's stories. I guess there's the notion that Asians "have to" be skinny 'coz they tend to have smaller bones than westerners???? Hmmmhhh...

    Frasypoo: Yeah, I AM from Indo. So you understand it as well, eh? It's CRAZY about the gossips, eh? Tsk tsk tsk...And YES, I TOTALLY agree with you that we OUGHT to stay healthy, not because we have to fit an idealistic version!

    Kathy: Yeah, the pressures exist. That's why I wrote them down so that people understand it as well. I'm GLAD your hubby wants a curvaceous wife he he he...

    Shan: Yes, for a guy when it comes to marriage it IS easier he he...

    I have NO problem about guys who like slim girls. My problem is GIRLS who are SLIM already who THINK they need to lose more weight due to society's pressure. Or girls who are HEALTHY though feeling the pressure 'coz they don't look as "slim" as society's ideal.

    My problem is also those PEOPLE who think that chit-chatting about such topics are fine simply for the sake of chit-chatting, not because they REALLY care about the other person. He he he he...Now I'm fuming again. LOL!!!

  6. A great post Amel. I work with women from Thailand and Hong Kong and both have commented on how heavy there are, even though they are still tiny by western standards <120lbs.

    I'm just really tired of the pressures women face to be 'perfect' almost everywhere. I've decided not to renew the couple of subscriptions I have to glossy magazines, because I am tired of seeing images of what the ideal of beauty is. I'm also tired of bad behavior - Lindsay Lohan, Kate Moss, et al I'm talking to you - being rewarded with highly paid endorsements. What example does this set. It's becoming incredibly tiresome.

  7. Fish: Glad you enjoyed it. Ah, I know that people who've gotten in touch with Asian women would understand this post he he he...Well, most women would, anyway. ;-D

    I understand what you mean. I'm also tired of the "idealistic version of boombastic perfection" the media spreads. It's really crazy, especially when VERY young girls (who are GROWING still) are concerned about their weight and they become so caught up with it. IS frustrating indeed he he he...

  8. It's interesting (and sad) that these "social norms" are popping up in different cultures. There is so much pressure facing young women today... weight, marriage, babies, success... can anyone ever really win and have it all? Judging by the story of the actress' surgery, I'm guessing there's no "happy" endings if you're not able to define happiness on your own terms.

  9. Paper Fan: Yeah, I also think the actress' story is TRAGIC!!! She's one of those people whom "regular people" think HAVE EVERYTHING, right?

    You're SOOOOOOOOOO right. Happiness doesn't come in one SAME IDEALISTIC TWISTED package defined by society or the media.

    I hope that more and more people realize that as time goes least I still think that it's never too late as long as you still have can still find your own happiness and contentment and not let yourself be carried away by "society's norms". ;-D

  10. In Dubai the normal figure is a slightly curvy one but whenever I go back home it's scary to see how everyone is obsessed with losing weight.
    You are so right when are you not married the question is when are you getting married when you do it just changes to when are you having kids. I've been married for 8 years the number of times I have been asked this question is hysterical.
    Great post!

  11. Hello Amel.

    What an interesting post! I wrote an article for a magazine about the new wave of eating disorders which was emerging in the Middle East when I lived in Oman, and the girls I interviewed all pretty much said they found the pressure to be slim came from the introduction of Westernised satellite TV, the glossy mags etc.

    Originally, to be fat out there was a symbol of status and wealth - hence why, still, a lot of the men are portly. However, the women have succumbed to what appears to be globalisation of insecurities.

    This is possibly one of the most interesting videos you could ever watch about how women (and men nowadays) are being pressured by the media:

    As an aside, when I was about 28, and a UK size 12, I visited a shop in Singapore where I asked how their sizes equated to the UK. The size I wanted, I was told, by a shop assistant in a very loud voice, was EXTRA EXTRA EXTRA LARGE MA'AM. I didn't buy it, but I certainly legged it!

  12. Amber: Yeah, I can imagine how often you've been asked about kids. So everybody's also obsessed about losing weight in your hometown? this a global "disease" or something?

    Agnes: THANKS for dropping by. I checked out the site you gave me. SPLENDID!!! THANKS SO MUCH for sharing it!

    THANKS also for sharing your own experience. GEE...that's TOTALLY inappropriate for the shopkeeper to say it that way!!! *frown*

  13. Hello Amelia!

    This post adresses good points: indeed, people like to put pressure on others, overlooking the effect that that pressure will have on's a shame!

    Anyway, I came to say that you have been awarded! Check it out at:


  14. Max: THANKS, THANKS, THANKS SO MUCH for the honour, Max! ;-D