I don’t post a lot of pictures of myself, because I’ve never felt comfortable being in front of a camera. In fact, I’ve avoided pictures like the plague for about 15 years. However, this past tomb-sweeping holiday I went to Shanghai, partly for the trip and partly to celebrate the fact that I have lost 70 lbs since coming to China in 2014! I still have a long ways to go, but I’m so much healthier than I was before.
Probably 1/3 of my weight issue was the fault of a childhood accident, 1/3 due to stress and lack of sleep, and 1/3 was my own stupidity and love of cooking/sweets (especially when stressed).
I was actually really energetic and active as a child. However, when I was 11, I accidentally crushed one of my feet in an exercise bike. It severely shattered most of the bones in the front part of my foot (where you put pressure if you wear high heels), and my doctor didn’t believe me when I told her it was broken. Claiming it was a bruise she had me try methods that actually worsened everything. It ended up being permanently damaged and to this day I cannot wear heels and my foot swells a lot if I’m not careful. I’m not supposed to run really at all even now and for years walking long distances would cause me a lot of pain in that foot. Trying to protect my foot, I threw out my whole body structure and let’s just say it got bad.
It kept me from exercising for many years and I starting packing weight on ridiculously. Matters were worsened by the fact that I genuinely love baking as a stress-reliever and often cooked with the kids around me for entertainment. My specialty (if you noticed on my site) was treats and that is not conductive to an exercise-less life. Still, I had lost about 60 pounds when I left high school. Then I hit college, and while I was finally starting to get back to exercising through rehab for my foot, the stress began to hit. Since college started, I’ve averaged about 4-5 hours of sleep a night and tried handling 21 hour semesters. Now, I genuinely had no time for exercise even if my foot could handle it. And I was eating at the school cafeteria every day (and ours was a good cafeteria tragically). At first I lost a little more, but then I started pounding it back on again. Entering law school then made my life a misery of epic proportions, saved only by my visits abroad.
I discovered that I actually was a lot healthier whenever I went abroad. The first summer in Japan and Korea, I walked and walked and walked and walked and climbed stairs and walked some more, climbed mountains, hiked tourism streets, climbed temple stairs, and walked a little more again. I found that eating with chopsticks just naturally causes me to eat less, if only because my hand gets so dad-blamed tired before I finish anything. 😛 And the food around me was healthier. I don’t particularly care for Asian treats and there are so many vegetables and fruits and fresh foods added to it all that I just naturally ate better. It also seemed to do wonders for my breathing and other health issues that I experienced in the States. I’m just genuinely more healthy almost the moment I enter Asia. I lost 30 pounds the first semester (gained back in the following year of law school) and then 40 pounds the second semester (gained back in the following year of law school).
It would have taken an idiot not to realize the pattern here, and so I decided to take the leap and just move abroad. My house here has no kitchen so I never make treats anymore. Perhaps a loss of entertainment, but better for me in the long run. I walk everywhere and have been doing my foot rehab exercises regularly (at least I try). I eat lots of fruits and vegetables (Hot Pot in China is the BEST!) and I try to avoid snacks too much. It’s been a long road, but the Chinese have been amazingly supportive.
You know it’s funny, but we all know that most Chinese are fairly thin. Not all of them (apparently that is more of a Southern trait than a Northern one), but still. The highest size (1x) in a Chinese shop is on average a medium in the US. When I first came, I couldn’t wear anything Chinese. And I really, genuinely thought that it would be hard for me emotionally to try to live here. I thought they would make comments or treat me weirdly, but really they have been incredibly supportive.
My students and the locals in the area genuinely worried about me when I first came, but they were never ever rude about it nor do they try to ply me with sweets as a “show of friendship.” I’ve had students randomly come up and say “teacher, we need to go for a walk today.” “Teacher I think you need to eat more vegetables so here are some tomatoes.” “Teacher, you drink too much soda, it’s bad for your healthy. Drink this water I got you” “Teacher, you are too round. You are so beautiful and you will be even more beautiful if you are less round.” It probably sounds mean to you, but for me it is incredibly wonderful. They never say it out of meanness–they genuinely care and want to help. The little old guy at the convenience store started giving me free water because he wants me to stop buying soda. They add fruits and vegetables to my plate. They never ever try to take me places with lots of sweets or get dessert. They frequently call me up and ask to walk with me in the afternoon because it is “a beautiful day.” They encourage me to go to the track with them and to do activities. Instead of repeating how I need to lose weight if I want to find a man, their response is more along the lines of “you will find a much richer man if you lose weight.” The suggestion being that I am okay now, but will be better later. They worry about my stress instead of adding to it. They tell me to sleep more, ply me with soothing teas, encourage me to drink hot water, etc.
Their approach to my weight has been a weird mixture of brutal honesty “You have gained too much weight this week, I think no dinner for you maybe? Yes?” and unfailing kindness “Here is a new tea that will help you lose weight. Now drink it every day and I will give you some more. It will make you more amazing!” And it’s been great for me. I walk with them, my stress levels have dropped so much (My blood pressure was in the normal range this week!), they take me out to eat healthy meals, I’m happier and just all around more healthy.
And finally, the results are showing! I’ve officially lost about 70 pounds since I got here, and I am so much more fit than before. I can keep up with the tours and hikes, fit through all the stupid skinny gates, wear actual Chinese sizes (the bigger ones, but such an improvement), I’ve lost one shoe size at least, I’ve lost at least 3 US clothes sizes. I am actually dressing up and feeling attractive for the first time since I was in High School. I’m putting on make-up, posing for pictures in front of cameras, agreeing to photo shoots and interviews for local activities. I went this week for my annual physical and it was like night and day! I don’t take up extra room on a bus anymore. I was not only able to easily sit in the airplane seat, I had to pull the seatbelt tighter. You don’t know how close I was to crying on that plane to Shanghai.
I even flirted with a guy in Shanghai. Yes, me, flirting. Who would have thought! And he flirted back! 🙂 SO awesome! My confidence levels are so, so, so much better now!
My trip to Shanghai was to celebrate this, to enjoy the changes and to try something new as a new woman. And to honor that, I’m sharing with you the first real picture I’ve posted publicly in years other than my required professional one! Thanks for my readers. You all didn’t know it, but you are part of what encourages me to be better. I want to be healthier so I can take more trips, share more pictures, and find more beautiful things to share with you. You steady readership has been a great benefit. Thank you!