I never liked the way my body looked in a swimsuit. In my teens, I also did not like crop tops, tank tops, spaghetti straps, shorts, bodycon dresses, jeans, and well, you get the picture.
People in countries with four seasons talk about having a “summer body”. In a tropical country, however, I have a summer body daily, 365 days a year. In the humid heat, it is a natural tendency to shed off layers of clothes, showing the most natural lines of the body with summery clothes.
I didn’t like this at all, mostly because I didn’t like my body. Even now, I can still hear the disapproving voice in my head that criticises my body from time to time.
“Are you sure you want to wear shorts when your legs are so fat, they look like tree trunks?”
“Why are you trying to squeeze yourself in these jeans? You look like a Teletubby.”
“You may have fit into these shorts, but look at your muffin top, you just squeezed the fat elsewhere.”
“Look how big your arms look when you bare them, how flabby and unsightly.”
“Wearing a spaghetti strap top? With that armpit fat?”
“Wow you really look like the Michelin man in this dress.”
The voice inside my head was exacerbated by the offhanded comments people in my life would make, from relatives to strangers who thought they had the right to comment on my body.
From then to now
Nowadays, almost two decades after I first contemplated that I was “too fat” in primary school because people called me “fei mui” (fat girl), I would like to think that I am a lot more comfortable in my body. I happily wear crop tops, shorts, and the rest now to deal with the yearlong humid heat.
This is not because my arms are now toned and my legs have slimmed down, but because the rolls, marks, and cellulite do not bother me as much as they did before.
Unfortunately, there is no magical switch for people to automatically love their body. Loving your body, like any other relationship, is always a work in process. However, there were steps I took that made loving my body easier, such as:
Finding and being a part of a loving community
I was raised in a community that thought nothing of letting me know that I have gained weight, or that I have flabby arms or a big belly. Culturally, I understand that these comments are made as small talk, but my mind magnified these comments to be my personal flaws.
It did not help that people thought anything about a size 0 was “fat”, and “fat” was made out to be a terrible thing to be.
I count myself fortunate to have since found friends that do not use body changes as small talk and have been supportive in helping me love my body. They have helped drown out the negative voices, especially those in my own head.
Distancing myself from toxic/ “well-meaning” people
There are people who make comments on your body shape to bring you down. Naturally, we should stay away from them, or block them on social media. They deserve none of our time and attention.
The second type of person to stay away from are those who believe they truly mean well when they tell you you have gained weight or look fat in a certain outfit. The general rule of thumb is, if you did not ask for their opinion and they offered it anyway, you should stay away from them.
Looking at bodies in real life instead of just social media/ the media
When consuming media or social media content, it can be easy to forget that the bodies shown are filtered, worked on, and altered to suit a certain aesthetic.
For example, watching the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show for years had me feeling less than happy about my own body. While I know it, I also temporarily forget that the Angels probably workout daily, do not eat the same meals I do, have different genes to me, and are paid to work on their bodies while I am not.
In real life, bodies come in all shapes and sizes. It is important to remember that size does not dictate attractiveness at all.
Appreciating my body for what it does
Most importantly, I learned to appreciate what my body does for me, instead of focusing on what I think its flaws are. So what if my legs are chunkier than the ideal? They help me walk, run, swim, and hike my way through this world, for which I am grateful.
Honestly, life is too short to hide yourself because you think you do not conform to society’s beauty ideals. Hey, another pandemic could come along and keep you from wearing the cute clothes you wanted to wear for years, but never dared to because you thought you would look fat in them.
Whatever your body shape, this summer, make sure to enjoy it with your summer body. You only have one, and I hope you love it whatever the seasons you find yourself in.