Often on English-language KPOP entertainment sites and blogs, people will comment or write about how Korean girls can be too skinny, need more meat on their bones, junk in the trunk, etc.
I was one of these people, thinking that having that bit of fat here and there looked fine attractive to a certain limit.
Yet, while living in South Korea these past few years, my point of view has changed.
Now, this is comming from an American girl who’s used to seeing overweight, obese women who can still look pretty and curvy. I’m not saying it’s bad to be overweight, but in Korea, the pressure and standards are a lot different.
I feel the need to write out my own experience because I feel that some of blogs and people who comment about Korean girls being too skinny don’t have the right to make such judgments when they haven’t been exposed to the pressure and self-consciousness. But I’m not here to point fingers and say that those people are wrong, but I just wish to show a different point of view to foreigners/those unfamiliar with how modern Korean society is like.
In the USA, I was average weight. Maybe a bit overweight, but certainly not obese.
Comming to Korea, I found that I was horribly overweight and I started becomming self-conscious of my body and image. I didn’t let it bother me the first year living in Korea, but over time I was getting frustrated with the lack of larger, pretty Korean clothing and feeling fat by just eating out in public compared to the thin, ‘beautiful’ Korean girls.
Koreans are very judgmental about first impressions as well, or basically their first impression of your outer image. If your fat, they think you have no self-restraint and bad eating habits and are basically an ugly person. Things like this are what Koreans usually think.
Now, I’m not saying ALL Koreans think like this, but I’m sure if you go to Korea and ask someone about this, they might reply with something to the same extent.
Back to the subject, I wasn’t only feeling pressure from the public, but also indirect pressure from the media. Seeing all these thin KPOP girl groups (SNSD, Wonder Girls, 4minute, KARA, etc.), I had this feeling of wanting to be thinner so I could be more attractive, not only to myself, but to society as well.
Now, if I was still living in the States, I wouldn’t give a rat’s ass about being thin. Sure, I might want to lose a couple pounds to slim down a bit, but I probably wouldn’t care as much about the fat on my body since every other American girl has extra flab and fat. I’d probably be satisfied with losing 10 pounds and being able to fit into some older clothing of mine.
In Korea, losing 30 pounds isn’t enough for me. Being able to fit into that skirt that I wasn’t able to fit into a year ago isn’t enough for me. Being a few sizes smaller in my jean size isn’t enough for me. In my mind, there’s this voice telling me I need to lose more pounds even though I already got rid of the extra 30lbs.
I’m don’t binge/throw up my food, starve myself, eat once a day, or any of those unhealthy methods that just disgust me.
At times I might think about doing that to lose weight, but when I think of the health effects in the long run, I decide it’s not worth it.
I eat three meals a day (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) and I excercise daily. Sure, you always hear this from people that that’s what you need to do to lose weight, but I kid you not that if you want to lose some of your extra flab that eating healthy (also watching your calorie and fat intake) and excercising really is how you can lose weight.
I remember watching a Korean documentary on Korean females’ weights, where the first half was about an obessed Korean female, the other half was about an anorexic, bulemic Korean female.
I don’t overeat and stuff myself with unhealthy food like the obsessed Korean and I certainly don’t use unhealthy techniques to achieve weight loss like the bulemic Korean girl, but sometimes I wonder if I’m not any better than the anorexic Korean. I can’t stop thinking that I need to lose more weight. I keep track of whether I’m average weight with a BMI indicator, and so far I am. But I can’t help but think what will happen if I start reaching the ‘underweight’ scale on the BMI chart and still thinking I’m fat.
Will it matter if I still eat healthy foods? Will it matter if I still excercise? Will it still matter if I don’t starve myself and make sure that I eat enough where I feel content but not overly full or deprived?
Although I’m not a full Korean (only half), I can fully understand why Koreans want to be so thin and slim. The environment, society, and even the media brings pressure to have the body of a toothpick to be considered ‘attractive’.
I want to be one of those toothpicks.
And that scares me.
EDIT: Here’s a follow-up post (or part 2) nearly a year after this post. http://jennikim.wordpress.com/2011/02/16/the-deal-with-korean-females-being-thin-2/