"I Will Never Forget Learning The Meaning Of 'Tabachoy.'"
The earliest memories I have are of me being called "tabachoy," which roughly means "chubby person" in English. This phrase, said to me over and over again when I was a little girl, has been embedded into my mind and has forever shaped the way I see myself.
Growing up Filipino, I rarely saw overweight women, and since I had sisters who were rail thin and cousins who were pageant-perfect, I always felt like the odd one out. As early as age 7, I can remember feeling self-conscious about my weight and my body. None of my friends looked like me, a chubby-cheeked girl with thighs that would touch. I wore sweaters over my uniform even in the summer; I pushed in my chin with my fingers and stretched out my neck before taking any photos, hoping I could hide my double chin. I was the shy and sweet best friend of the group, in hopes that I wouldn't get bullied about my weight.
Through middle school, I hated gym, getting undressed in front of other girls, having to run the mile, and, on occasion, having my body fat measured in front of everyone. All my friends would give one another their results, and I would just lie. Once, in high school, I thought things would be different, I thought that the baby fat would just come off like magic. When this didn't happen, disappointment sunk in and the pressure of adolescence started to rear its ugly head. As I got older, my friends started dating one another, while I just stood there on the sidelines. Any of the boys I professed my love to would immediately turn me down, stating that I was like their little sister.
The summer of my junior year, I wanted so much for it all to change; I wanted to be a different girl. That was the summer that I took diet pills, exercised more, and ate less. But I was still miserable. The diet pills made me irritable, and my life at home wasn't any easier. My parents unknowingly broke my heart when they would say, "Anak, you should really lose weight." At 16, I was your average girl, but in my culture, I was husky. I know that my parents didn't mean any harm, but the constant berating of my weight only intensified my need to be skinny. My parents saw a change in me that they didn't like, and eventually my dad found my diet pills and yelled at me for my recklessness. Tears ran down my face as my dad hovered over me, forcing me to flush the pills down the toilet.
Months later, after talking to a boy online, we met in person. Hanging out at the mall, he said, "You would be so much prettier if you lost 5 pounds."
We stopped talking, but this interaction triggered depression, self-mutilation, and self-hatred. Being a Filipino girl meant I had to be skinny; I shouldn't have thick thighs or full breasts. I felt inadequate; I believed that I wasn't good enough for anyone. Being a teenager definitely felt like living in a level of hell that I couldn't escape from.
But now, even at 27, I am still on this journey to loving my body. I struggle with the fact that self-worth is not measured by my dress size, and that the opinion of others regarding my weight shouldn't affect me so adversely. But I still have my moments. Recently, I cried because my wedding pictures came out, and they were less than perfect. In my wedding dress, I was reminded of my protruding belly. During these episodes of doubt and hate, I am reminded by my husband that I am beautiful, and that his love for me is not based on what I looked like, but for who I am. Our society still passes judgment on others based on their appearance, rather than their character, but I still have hope for change. I hope that my experiences will make me a stronger person, and that I can one day love my body for what it is.
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