The Deal With Korean Females Being Thin (Part 2)

Someone recently commented on my post The Deal With Korean Females Being Thin and I was replying to the comment but realized I had a lot more to say than I originally expected.

It’s been almost a year since I last wrote that post and I so, I decided to write a follow up about how I’m doing now concerning the obession of being thin (in Korea). If you haven’t read the post, read it here or else this post might not make as much sense as it would if you read the previous one: https://jennikim.wordpress.com/2010/02/22/the-deal-with-korean-females-and-being-thin/.

I’m about 5’4 and my lowest weight that I achieved (a couple months after that post) was 109lbs. I used to think thinner was better and I didn’t think anything was wrong with me, especially since I was still eating three healthy meals a day and excercising, yet what triggered an alarm in my brain was the fact that I wasn’t getting my period anymore. I found myself obsessed with calorie and fat intake as well, making it hard to enjoy eating in general.

My current weight now is around 130lbs. When I was at my lowest weight, I was almost ‘underweight’ so I decided it was unhealthy and I intentionally gained some weight. I feel fat and not as pretty now, especially since I can’t fit into some of my clothes from my thinner days, but I’ve been told I look better and that I look more curvy. Despite this, I want to lose weight again but it’s obviously easier to gain weight than lose it. But looking back, I saw a full body picture I took of myself and when I had first taken the picture I was nearly underweight yet thought “Eww, I still look fat” yet looking back on it now, about 20lbs heavier, I realize I looked way too thin. Almost like a toothpick or stringy little girl instead of the teenager/almost-woman that I’m supposed to be.

I just want to let others know that it really doesn’t matter how much you weigh in Korea. It’s more about your body structure. I know some girls who are 5’4 and 130lbs yet they look overweight because of their body structure of either having more fat stored in their thighs, hips, or arms (basically genetics of where fat gets stored first). Excercise really does work but please don’t lose weight just to drop the pounds. I became so overly obsessed with losing pounds that I didn’t focus on my own health and body. Focus more on the fat around whatever area you want to lose weight with and just be satisfied when you see the centimeters/inches slowly disappear.

I actually really hate my weight gain and have even stopped weighing myself daily (I don’t think I’ve touched a scale in practically a month), but just be happy with yourself, I think that’s the best thing to do when you feel like your weight is never good enough. Because whether you’re thin or fat, you’ll feel unsatisfied with yourself, so eating as healthy as you can and living a good healthy lifestyle is what’s best.

Sorry, I will edit this post later so it can make more sense and make it sound less…demanding/judgmental (if it even does sound like that). I just really wanted to get these thoughts out since I’ve been there. Feel free to share any experiences you’ve had dealing with this topic, whether you’re dealing with anorexia now or are recovering/have recovered from it.

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19 thoughts on “The Deal With Korean Females Being Thin (Part 2)

    • You are fucking stupid!!! Please stfu. The most important thing is that she is healthy,it really does not matter how much she weighs as long as she is eating healthy (not overeating) & exercising regularly. Stop body shaming her asshole

  1. Hey! I have always wanted to be like one of those skinny girls that you always see in SNSD and I came across your blog feeling really depressed about not being THAT skinny. I am not fat nor am I overly obese; but I consider myself a healthy weight overall. Sometimes I think I would love to be skinny but I think that having some curves isn’t too bad! But really I think being beautiful is not how you look, but the confidence or the way your hold yourself. I’m not gonna lie; I still desperately wish to be skinny but I want to show that there is an alternative way of looking at things. I really like your blog and its very interesting!

    • Thank you so much! Now I am a healthy weight (still around 130lbs) but I started having more bad habits with eating so I’m trying to cut back and still eat a lot, just more healthier foods. I completely agree about how being beautiful isn’t about being thin or the physical aspects, but being confident. When I was thinner I still felt self-conscious of my body and my own self-image, but I’ve grown to at least accept who I am and to try living life as fully and happily as I can about myself. Thanks so much for your comment!

  2. Pingback: The Deal With Korean Females and Being Thin « Jenni Kim's Thoughts & Rambles

  3. Dear Jenni, I may not have experienced life in Korea before, but being an Asian myself, I can fully empathise with your situation. I used to be obsessed with losing weight. It got so extreme that I was skipping classes just so I could work out at the gym, and I would be super conscious of the nutritional labels on food. Eventually, I developed an eating disorder, and I wasn’t able to eat out with my friends because calories = poison to me. Yes, I may look good being thin but I realized I was losing a bigger and more important aspect of my life – my social circle and daily activities were affected. I was unhappy even though I looked skinny. That was me, 5 years back. Now, I’ve gained close to 15lbs back but I’ve managed to learn how to deal with being on the ‘heavier’ side. Friends positive support and encouragement really matter, and at the end of the day, those that are true to you will never judge your appearance. They will love you for who you are, and your great personality will win over the hearts of everyone. I hope you’ll manage to overcome these obstacles eventually, as I did 🙂

    • Oh yes, I’m glad you understand what I had been going through. When I became obsessed with losing weight, I had started going to a new school so the whole social life and friends didn’t impact me as much as it does for others (that sounds so pathetic and sad, but it’s true!). Although I admit, when I started making friends and they saw me only eating half a sandwich with a measly slice of turkey for lunch I would make excuses and say I ate most of my lunch throughout the day (so not true). Those nutrition labels were truly my enemy. I didn’t care about calories, but if anything had more than 0.5g of fat I would not touch it.

      I’m glad to see you overcame all of this along with the support of your friends 🙂 I completely agree that having a positive mindset and personality is what makes a person beautiful, not how skinny or fat they are, tall or short, or anything like that. Thank you so much for sharing your experience!

  4. I really appreciate your posts about this issue. I have struggled with eating disorders since the age of 11. I’m American born of Italian and Persian descent. Quite a mix. I got the big eyes and big nose along with the big ass. 😦

    I’m 5’8″ and hover between 120-126 lbs. Coming from a big Italian family, they always tell me to gain weight (and constantly attempt to sabotage my diet). My family pet name is ‘magra’ (literal translation = ‘skinny’). Although I don’t consider myself skinny at all and am constantly restricting and exercising to get back to my lowest weight (105lbs).

    For Mediterranean people, curvy=beautiful. Now by curvy I mean Kim Kardashian type. I don’t know, but I guess growing up in an area where looks are everything and everybody looks amazing all the time, you become very self-conscious. I would give anything to get rid of my big hips and big butt. But no matter how much weight I lose, they barely diminish in size because at one point, I’m trying to reduce bone. That’s just impossible (without surgery, of course.)

    I traveled to Asia recently (Hong Kong, Tokyo, Thailand). I felt like an absolute giant. I towered over most of the people (especially the men) and I got quite a few stares. In Japan, one woman asked me why I was so big. I was thereby tempted to ask her why she was so short. I did get some odd compliments. Mostly on my eyes, my eyebrows (wtf?) and my big nose. The last I don’t understand at all b/c I have the typical Romano-Greek profile.

    I haven’t visited Korea yet, but want to very much. I am huge KPop fan but looking at those girls like SNSD, geez, I feel obese. Funny thing is my brother doesn’t find them attractive. He’s always complaining that they’re too skinny with no butt, hips, or boobs. He’s typical Latin man, likes the curves. Also, he’s 6’3″ and 185lbs of muscle so he needs a bigger woman. LOL

    I’m so jealous of Asian women. I wish I had your small petite bone frame. I have been attracted to Asian guys in my school (some are taller than me, too). But I think I’m pretty much invisible to them. I am definitely not their type so I don’t even try to go there. :/

    • I completely understand. Now I’m living outside of Asia and the USA, in an area where there are many Hispanics, so they also embrace curves and some extra ‘fat’. I’m starting to accept myself more and more, but in a few weeks I’m going to visit my family in Korea and I’m afraid of my view changing again. I don’t want to think that I need to be a stick again but pressure from society is always hard to resist.

      It’s so crazy, here I’m an okay normal body shape but once I step foot in Asia I will be considered large and overweight. I’m actually not very petite, so I’m also jealous of Asian’s body structure. I want to attract an Asian man too!! lol

  5. Ah hah. Sometimes I think to myself I want to lose weight and become leaner, and then I read stories like these where weight loss becomes an obsession and consumes every other waking minute’s time of thinking …and suddenly, I come back to my senses that it’s not the end of the world to be a little pudgy right now. Just focus on one little thing at a time (eat more healthy veggies) because the world isn’t going to end. My extra 10lbs isn’t going to cause the ice caps to melt. My extra 10lbs (or loss thereof) won’t save the whales nor help find a cure for cancer. Honestly, there’s bigger fishes (problems) to fry. Since losing 10lbs cannot be done in one day, I think it’s unnecessary to obsess about it so much. It’ll come off with time and by loving your body by feeding it good stuff. Thanks for your post on the pressures in Korea, very enlightening

  6. I know what you mean. Even though I live in California, most of my friends are asian, and everywhere we go I’m always the heaviest girl. My mom tells me that I cannot be as skinny as my asian friends, but darnd it! I look good skinny, I feel good skinny. Skinny-slim looks good on me. I started doing green juices, and I’ve been feeling very full. Look up green smoothies online. Fruits and veggies blended with water = good for skin, good for your health and low in calories. I don’t advocate being underweight, but the BMI scale for asians IN ASIA is lower than the BMI scale for Americans. If you also look mixed Koreans will not hold you up to the same exact standards they have for people who are full Korean.

  7. Hello, I somehow landed on your site and I read both of your articles. I found it so helpful because I think I am going through the same thing. I am probably denying it but what you were doing, I am going through the same thing too…

    I also stopped having my menstrual period after being 110 @ 5 4… After you have gained some weight and started eating more, Did you get your period back? I have been going to the doctors about this problem and it seems like my situation very similar to yours.

    • Thank you for taking the time to read my posts.

      Yes,when I gained weight (around the 120~125lb range) my menstrual cycle started regularly again (every 28 days). If you were having your period regularly before you started losing weight, then that’s probably an indication that your body is being deprived of the proper amount of nutrients. Hopefully it is a similar situation, because if you recognize the issue early enough and are concerned, then you still can reverse the effects. Some people are happy when they lose their period, but it really isn’t good if your menstrual cycle stops. Hopefully if you decide to gain weight, do it healthily, like by eating healthy foods in the right amounts. Don’t eat junk food or sweets just for the sake of gaining weight! You could gain too much weight and it just isn’t good for your body.

      Anyways, keep me updated if you find out if the issue relates to your weight. I hope it isn’t anything more serious, but it’s good that you went to the doctors just in case.

  8. Dear Jenny!
    I’m a Korean girl living in Australia. I’m going back to Korea for the first time in years sometime soon and started getting concerned about how everyone would see me when I’m there. I definitely do not fall within the “thin” category, though I also definitely wouldn’t call myself obese. The last time I went to Korea was just before I entered my senior year in High School and back then I remember feeling like the fattest person everywhere I went even though I definitely fell within a very healthy slot on the BMI scale. I felt self-conscious about entering stores there thinking that the shop assistants are judging me and thinking that I wouldn’t even fit into their clothes anyway (even though I never ever tried to because I wasn’t there to shop), and even when I got on public transport, like I was taking up too much room.
    There’s just something about the environment there and the atmosphere where (not to be too harsh) everyone seems to lose their individuality and dives straight into the latest trends whether it be a new coat, handbag or a new face shape.
    I obviously don’t know you personally but reading your measurements it definitely doesn’t sound like you’re even slightly overweight and I’m really glad you found the courage to tell yourself, this isn’t healthy and I need to look after my body.
    For a split moment I started getting concerned again about being judged and that feeling of shame once I got over the excitement of travelling again, but reading your posts made me realise that what’s sick or disgusting isn’t my body, or my weight but rather, the fact that a whole nation can have such a skewed view of what is considered ‘thin’ to a point where the thought of going there can make me want to starve myself for the next few months leading up to a trip there.
    I’m really glad you are back on a healthier route for yourself (both physically and mentally) and wanted to tell you that you helped me remember why I don’t put my body through unnecessary stress in the first place – as long as I’m happy with myself (and of course “fit” and “healthy”, not “korean-thin”) I shouldn’t worry about what this country thinks about me.

    • Christine,

      Thank you for taking the time to comment and talk about your experience! I felt exactly the same way before. When shopping in stores I felt so self-conscious that the store owners and customers would judge me, wondering why I’m shopping at a place where most things wouldn’t fit my ‘massive’ (what I thought was big at the time) body.
      And it’s true, I feel like Korea’s society and environment is very demanding. Have to be thin, but still have the S-line body line, while having ‘honey thighs’ and a v-line face with double eyelids, etc. I could ramble more but it’s true that they have many expectations, and the pressure can really get to people. All cultures and societies have their unrealistic expectations of what beauty is for women and men, but between living in both the US and South Korea, in Korea is where I really felt that pressure compared to America.
      But not to bash South Korea’s society, it also depends on a person’s mindset and determination. For me, I fell under that pressure because of my lack of confidence, body image, and knowledge about having a healthy body and mind. I really believe that confidence is the key to living a happy life (not the weight, looks, clothes, etc.) First impressions are always the physical looks, but the impression that’s most important and lasts the longest is personality (being confident and happy about who you are). It probably sounds cliche, but like most cliches, it’s very true!
      I wrote this blog post to reach out to others who felt the same as I do/did, so I’m really glad that this helped you to get over your thoughts about your weight and going back to Korea. I know I’m not the only one who has these thoughts, so I want others to know they aren’t alone either. Thank you so much for the support, I wish the same for you! I hope you have a wonderful time during your visit back to South Korea. Enjoy time with your family, eating delicious food, shopping for clothes and other fun stuff without caring what others think 🙂

  9. I don’t live in Asia, and I’ve only ever been to Asia for a brief holiday in Thailand (and I can assure that I wasn’t thinking about my weight then), and for a four-hour stop in the Kuala Lumpur airport on my way to Australia. A lot of focus on Asians and their weight, mannerisms, and other generalist things like that lately, have made me realise that the eating habits of the western world that I know, come from, and live in are deteriorating even as I write. Our produce is not always fresh, and hardly ever local. Almost everything I eat contains additives and is inorganic, and while I definitely don’t overeat, I don’t look as thin as I should because of all of the chemicals in the foods that I eat. This bothers me, but I am still in high school, and I have no real say in what meals my mother cooks for me. She does not purchase her groceries at any special organic store, but rather at the local, fatty supermarket with imported and unhealthy produce.
    We also definitely have things like cookies, varieties of chocolates, chocolate cookies, biscuits, crisps, etc. in our kitchen, and my father’s philosophy regarding food is: “Life is short, so eat what you want.” So, obviously, my parents’ eating habits and their point of view on weight is not very helpful, let alone inspiring. So, really, it’s not my fault that I consume such theoretically unhealthy foods, but the fact that I do bothers me… and, worse still, I don’t know what I can do about it. I can stop eating for a while, and I’ve tried that, but it’s terrible; being so hungry that all you can think about is the physical pain in your stomach because you so desire and need food. I do not know what to do about my situation, and while it bothers me, I feel rather helpless. Is there anything that you would recommend? Please don’t suggest eating fewer meals a day, because I only have three, and I couldn’t go without all three of them.

    By the way, I have also personally observed that Koreans (not 100%, but definitely the great majority of them) are very skinny/thin/whatever you want to call it. I’ve always just swept this under the rug as ‘genetics’, and that Asian people are genticially inclined to have slighter, leaner bodies, to be shorter, and to have higher metabolism rates, and while I still hold onto this belief, I don’t that that’s the entire reason behind the apparent ‘skininess’ of Koreans.

    • It’s a bit strange that you stopped getting your period. Your BMI at that point was 18.57, so you were at the lower end of the normal weight category, but you weren’t underweight. Usually one has to be much thinner than that to have amenorrhea. I’m not saying I don’t believe in you, just saying it was unusual.

      Personally, I don’t think anyone with an 18.5 BMI is skinny. In fact, that isn’t considered skinny even by medical standards. If you take a look at the World Health Organisation’s website you’ll see the BMI’s underweight category is divided into 3 subcategories: mild thinness (BMI 17-18.49); moderate thinness (BMI 16-16.99); extreme thinness (BMI <16).
      So, medically speaking, and focusing only on the BMI, someone with a BMI of 17 is only mildly thin.

      It seems to me, and there are studies that point in that direction, that our views of what's thin and what's fat are distorted by the fact that we (in the Western world) live in a society where the majority of people around us are overweight or obese. Soon that becomes the new "normal" and what really is "normal" (from a health perspective) becomes "skinny".

  10. I am South Asian and people here really want to be thin. Every one has this perception that it is natural for a young female(adolescent to early thirties)to be slim and slim being, not having feminine curves. While tons(actually) most of the young females around me are slim to really, really thin(like K pop idol thin) I myself was never that thin and had a more curvaceous figure. There are times when I want to be thin but I understand that even if I starve myself I feel like I can never be that small. I have wide shoulders, wider pelvis, bigger face(it’s because of the bones); even if I whittle myself down to a 110 pounds, I’d still be bigger than a naturally small girl. While a lot of these girls are naturally thin, a lot of them are trying to be that thin- they have dull, dead tired eyes, dull, brittle hair, dull complexion, no energy and some of them experience stunted growth. That is horrible and plain sad. However, people here are also hard to figure out as they also embrace feminine curves. On one hand, I’ve had compliments when I lost weight and on other hand, I’ve had many men find me too thin and not curvaceous enough. It is sooo contradictory sometimes! So, right now, I’m really focusing on eating healthy and being active. I do not want to go to college and go blank and not be able to concentrate because I am not eating enough. I want to have the energy to do all the things that I want to do every day and not spend half the day sleeping because I’m so tired. I do not want to black out just because I haven’t eaten anything for the last 10-12 hours(except for black coffee or green tea) and was trying my hardest to cram for a tough exam. I don’t want to go to a store and feel ashamed because their skinny jeans are only for girls with hips smaller than 34 inches. Right now, I want a healthy, toned, fit body, with long, lustrous hair(which I had before all the unhealthy weight loss) and a great, clear complexion. Even though I still hate my body, I still love all 126 pounds of it too. While I find East Asian celebrities to be gorgeous, I find women like Christina Hendricks to be just as gorgeous and sexy. I think every one is beautiful- trust me even if I hate myself, I cannot remember a single girl around me that I found ugly or undesirable. Every one’s is so friggin’ sexy and that is coming from a straight female. If only I knew that and if only I understood that and believed that about myself.

  11. I can totally understand the fear. I was born in Korea but have never visited ever since I’ve flown to live in Canada. I don’t know when I will visit, but I am hoping that when I do, I wont have any reason to be distracted from fully enjoying my visit there. One of the biggest fears about visiting Korea was the fear that I’d be judged for my weight. Too many people have posted/blogged about not being able to buy any fitting pants because of the utterly tiny clothing sizes. I’m at my lowest weight currently but I’m afraid that it will never be low enough to be the ideal. It’s really ironic though that there are plenty of positive messages around food whenever I’m around my Korean friends. “When your food tastes great there is zero calories” etc. As a foodie, THAT really put out the fear of going to Korea quite a bit.

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