Being a big girl in an Asian country can be a nightmare, especially when our culture justifies calling out those with “plus-sized” bodies. 

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Where can I unsubscribe from these constant reminders???

It’s tough enough as it is dealing with opinionated aunties who just adore poking their noses into other people’s businesses, but it’s also an uphill battle when it comes to fighting the misconception that all Asian girls are petite. I’d like to have a talk with the person who has been spreading this around. *rolls up sleeve*

For clothing brands out there that still need a reality check: We’re not all smol, so it’s about time you start embracing inclusive sizing, and yes, that means going beyond size ‘L’. 

When you’re constantly being put down by family members and told what you should wear to hide your curves, it can have a detrimental effect on one’s self-confidence and overall wellbeing. Nithya, a 23-year-old Malaysian, shares what it’s like to be a curvy girl in an “Asian-sized” world. 

Learning To Filter The Fat-Shaming Aunties

Being the largest kid during family gatherings meant that I’d be flanked by a group of annoying aunties within a minute of me stepping into the room. These aunties don’t believe in “sugarcoating” their “words of concern”, nor do they even attempt to hide that they’re oh so blatantly sizing you up.

They wouldn’t even think twice about poking me in the sides just to prove a point. 

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Exactly how these aunties used to look at me

At just nine years old, I was already used to hearing, “You need to lose weight.” But that didn’t mean I was okay with it. Regardless of age, who would be okay with getting fat-shamed?

After many more years of getting called out for my size, I notice how our culture enables such behaviour. It’s at a point where even distant relatives I only meet once a year somehow feel like they are entitled to offer me unsolicited “health advice”. Are they really just showing their concern or are they just looking to voice out their disdain for bigger-sized girls? 

And what’s worse is that no matter how harsh their remarks were, I can’t talk back because, well, I’d then get called out for being impudent instead.

I wasn’t left with much choice but to try and turn a deaf ear, and I’ve given up trying to convince my relatives that beauty exists in all sizes – because frankly, nothing I say will change their minds. This may not seem like a good piece of advice, but any girl who has grown up in an environment like this knows how hard it is to even try to act like you are unfazed. 

The one thing I can do to save my sanity is regulate my response to their statements. I’ve come to terms that their statements are more of a reflection of their relationships with their bodies instead of mine. As long as I’m healthy and happy, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with my body and how it looks. All bodies are worthy and that’s that. 

Achievement Unlocked: Wearing Off-Shoulder Tops

I used to love buying the jeggings from Uniqlo when they first opened up in Malaysia, but at one point, I even outgrew their biggest ‘XL’ size. Now they offer additional sizes up to ‘XXXL’, and I remember being over the moon because I could wear my favourite jeggings again.

But there were still pieces of clothing that I could never imagine myself wearing – with the off-the-shoulder being the most “unattainable” in my mind. 

Seeing fellow curvy ladies on billboards and social media wearing whatever the f*ck they want really helped me gain the confidence to wear clothes that traditional magazines claimed to be big no-nos for plus-sized girls like me. This is why #representationmatters. 

Seeing these gorgeous girls flaunt their stomach rolls and stretch marks made me think, “Hey, if they can pull that off, I sure as hell can too!”

Introducing Ashley Graham, supermodel slash advocate who shows the world that curvy is beautiful too!

Thus, began my slow journey towards self-confidence and body acceptance. At first, even finding the courage to wear a skirt was hard. But I just bit the bullet and tried. 

Slowly I got more and more accustomed to skirts, and that’s when I went ahead and bought my first crop top… Slowly but surely, the shame I felt over my body transformed to acceptance, and even love.

Now I no longer shy away from bold choices – if that skimpy top makes me feel good about myself, I sure as hell am gonna get it!

One day, I did the unthinkable – I wore an off-the-shoulder top!

One thing I learnt from this: body acceptance doesn’t happen overnight. The change happened over many years, and that’s totally fine. As long as your relationship with your body is getting to a place where it’s built on a foundation of gratitude, you’re still making progress.

 

Me turning a deaf ear to the haters and just doing my own thing

I still have a long way to go, but being able to wear a sleeveless top without wearing a cardigan over it makes me think that I’ve made serious progress. And I think that deserves some applause. 

The Movement Is Just Starting In Asia

My earliest memory of being a large kid was not being able to get a Powerpuff Girls shirt of my own when every other “cool” kid in school had one. Even after dragging my parents to several shops, we still couldn’t find one that carried my size. 

Me when the shopkeeper brought out the biggest size

While things have certainly improved over the years with more and more brands becoming more aware of the existence of non-petite Asians, it still ruffles my feathers when the largest size a brand carries is a mere ‘L’.

I also can’t put my fury into words when I see sizing systems where L-sized crop tops are actually just S-sized. 

Fact is, while there are more and more Western brands around that carry bigger sizes, the body positivity or even body acceptance movement in Asia is still in its infancy. There are still a tonne of age-old prejudices against plus-sized bodies permeating our societies – and not even plus-sized, even non-petite sizes like UK 10 onwards are viewed as “chubby”. 

It’s unlikely that we are going to make great strides in just a few months or even years, but as a generation, we need to take steps to make sure the next generation of young people grow up in a safe and accepting environment. 

Going back to those traumatising statements made by my aunties, taunting my body just because it didn’t look like a stereotypically petite Asian body, I vow to never make the younger people in my life feel the same shame that I was made to feel.

And if enough of us make the same vow, hopefully we will be able to shift the needle just a little in the next few decades.