Why do I emphasise on being a fat “Chinese” woman in Hong Kong, but not just a woman in Hong Kong?
It is because being fat in Hong Kong is different from being fat somewhere else...
According to the Hong Kong government website – Centre for Health Protection, it states,
“For Chinese adults living in Hong Kong, BMI from 23.0 to less than 25.0 kg/m2 is classified as overweight, and BMI 25.0 kg/m2 or above is classified as obese.”
As a Chinese person, I am already classified as obese at a BMI of 25 or above, and not 30 (WHO definition). It means if I am 5’5 (165cm) and weight over 150.5lbs (appx. 68KG), so I am not just overweight, not obese, at 200lbs, I am extremely obese and it’s life-threatening.
“Obesity increases the risk for a number of chronic diseases, such as hypertension, heart diseases, hypercholesterolemia, diabetes mellitus, cerebrovascular disease, gall bladder disease, osteoarthritis, sleep apnoea and some types of cancer (breast, prostate, colorectal and endometrial).”
According to the Gov website, and so as most of the people’s conception and belief that fat/obese = unhealthy = die faster = worthless person. I have been told my whole life, that I am an irresponsible person, I am unhealthy because I am fat. Although, not because I have any illnesses or diseases, but because potentially I am going to have all of the above as I am “extremely obese”. Which means, I am going to suffer when I get older, I am not going to make it when I age.
My knees are going to give up on me. I am irresponsible for the people who love me. I need to get health insurance because nobody else will take care of me and that I will become a burden to my family. These are not my own words, these are words I hear constantly, spoken by my family and people in the society. Health and weight are almost the only topics to discuss over the dining table among women and the ones who gossip. Basically, they keep reminding me that I am going to die sooner than everyone else and suffer a horrible death, apparently, according to the government’s directory about my BMI.
This kind of comments and misconceptions are causing me great distress and pressure, I think it has stopped me from living a life I enjoy, and also stopped me from growing up, because of the way I am seen and being treated.
I felt that I have not had a normal childhood, youth or even into my adulthood. I didn’t socialise or date like a normal person but I didn’t understand why.
I have never dated in my life until almost 30 years old. I was really much bigger than everyone around me in the 90s and 2000s in Hong Kong, and men find me intimidating, so I never developed the social skill I needed to feel normal in the society.I find it harder to get jobs with local companies too, and if or when I do, I get bullied constantly because of my weight. Even though I am an active person, work hard and not lazy, I am constantly the one being called out for being slow. I stop growing up and want to become invisible, as I need to conform to my society. I then found my way living in the westernise community. I started working for expat bosses, and westerners only. Then everything gets better for me.In the west (ironically, where there are also Chinese people living in it), it is using a different scale. If I surround myself with people growing up using that scale, I am instantly released from the extremely obese, and they hardly notice about any health condition I may or may not have, so suddenly, it feels ok to live and experience different things.
People think I am normal in this side of the society.In the west, I am of average size, a US size 14, which is over 60% of the population, and I also deem attractive, cute, even petite and beautiful to many people. I have more success in romance, I can date a large portion of the singles in the pool, if I want. I started to realise I am a sexual being and have doors opened for me to try out many things, that I have never tried before. But somehow, I am living in both worlds and I am constantly struggling to understand who I am and wonder how “healthy” I really am. I become obsessed with food, counting calories, had eating disorders throughout my 20s, I was being promiscuous, and addicted to male attention and sex. It took me my whole 20s to figure out who I am to be happy, and spending my whole 30s still trying to define who I am, and learn my place.
Now, almost in my 40, I am getting older, my body appears to have more irregular issues, and every single one of them reminds me of my own death. I am not sure if I have any conditions, I actually rarely get sick, and in good health, but the idea of dying of illness is looming in front of me. These thoughts are bothering me, every single day, and I have panic attacks because of them.
Tomorrow, I am going to have my first therapy session, where I will finally talk about this fear I have been having for the past 5,6 years. It is a very long and hard road, being a fat person, spending most of my life overthinking things and at the same time, having anxiety attack all the time, while trying to heal.
Being seen as obese, ill, sick, a responsibility even though I am working nonstop like a workaholic to proof my existence as a useful human being in society is giving me mental illness. It certainly will shorten my life if I have anxiety like this in the long run.