Thursday, November 12, 2015

Do These Thoughts Make me Look Fat?

How McDelivery Works in Singapore
It is a stereotype that Asians are thin and Americans are fat. Obesity is increasing in Singapore at the rate of 1% per year and after a week I realized people here are not that thin, at least not the ones under 60. Most are doughy, somewhere between Anne Hathaway when she's not training for a role and Lena Dunham in any role. I blame the snacks that are everywhere. In Singapore train stations smell like curry puffs and fresh bread. In the U.S. they smell like pee.

But still I expected people in Singapore to be thin so before moving to here I lost 5 lbs because I didn't want to be The Fat American. And then after living in Singapore for two months and walking to the Fair Price with my trolley for groceries and to the MRT I lost another 5 lbs, so suddenly I am thin. I have wanted to be not just thin, but skinny. A skinny that, when I see pictures of myself shot from any angle, no matter what I am wearing, the body part I look for first in pictures still doesn't look fat. I have wanted to be a skinny that concerns people, the kind of skinny that my husband calls "dirty skinny." 

I can savor the deep satisfaction and pleasure of my thinness here in Singapore. If I were in the U.S. I would be hearing things like "Well you don't want to get too thin" and "If you get too thin it will age you" and all the other things women say. "But perhaps we have different standards of what looks good" I think. That's what people miss when they comment about being too skinny. They assume you are dealing with a new and more vicious demon but it's entirely possible that you left an old one behind. 

I have reached a thinness rapture three times in my life; once in college, once about eight years ago, and this one. Though even at my fattest I was never technically overweight (if you believe BMI charts), thinness is privilege and ecstasy. If you've never been thin, I highly recommend it. It's freeing, like having a wallet full of gift cards you can spend everywhere if you want. Magical even. At a certain point my brain flips. I stop being hungry all the time, stop thinking about what I should and should not eat, and stop thinking about when I can eat next. And on the occasion when I do have pancakes for breakfast or my very own dessert after dinner, it's all the more exquisite because there is no guilty aftertaste.  

Everyday there is a new clothing high. In Singapore it's too hot to wear my skinny jeans so I try them on periodically, an idea I got from a UK expat who lost a couple of kilos after moving to Singapore. I turn the aircon down a couple of degrees and try on my skinniest jeans with heels, the pair my husband bought me three Christmases ago, only now they look as they are supposed to. Citizens of Humanity. In my pajamas I get glimpses of my arms and legs, shaped differently than they used to be, and I cannot believe they are mine. And I own three pairs of shorts that I wear with sandals and silk camisoles, a coup because for three decades I hated myself in shorts so much that I dreaded casual summer weekend outings--also maxi dresses and hot shoulders didn't exist in the 90s. When young girls in clothing stores tell me right away that they have small sizes I think to myself "I am wearing a size Small in a brand from Taiwan." I want to hug them when they show me a diminutive dress, even though it has one of those Peter Pan collars I hate. 

My brain tells me that the reason for the weight loss is that I am walking in the heat instead of driving in aircon, but there are parts of me afraid that the thinness will be taken away, a temporary reaction to the stress of moving to a new country or to the heat. I hear from other women that they lost hair from the move or from the humidity and heat, and their hair is only now growing back. So I worry that someone say at my next meetup will say, "Don't worry. You gain it all back. And then some." So I am cautious. I want to buy a food processor so I can make my recipes again, but then I think "What if the weight loss was not having the homemade bread, vegan chocolate chip cookies, and endurance crackers around the house?" So I haven't. And though most of my clothes are too big for me now I am procrastinating finding a tailor. At home every single piece of clothing would have been altered already, which is what I tell everyone else to do when they lose weight because it's only the feeling of wanting to loosen your clothing that keeps you from eating more, but I haven't looked for a tailor. 

If it seems like a small thing to worry about five pounds or two kilos, not worrying about it, or not addressing it, can lead to big things. Because if every U.S. adult reduced their BMI by 1 percent--the equivalent to a weight loss of roughly 2.2 lbs for an adult of average weight--this would prevent the increase in the number of cancer cases and actually result in the avoidance of about 100,000 new cases of cancer. A pretty good argument for skinny jeans.

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