Some women look better when they gain weight. Some women look better when they lose weight. I was body shamed for being “too skinny”. I did my best to gain weight. Matters got worse. I want to share my story with you. Someday when you have time, please share yours as well.

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Most people who meet me for the first time say that I am very tall. At 157 centimeters, I’m not really tall. I give the illusion that I am tall because my waist down to my feet measures 103 centimeters while my waist to the top of my head measures 54 centimeters.  My hair is long and straight and I am small boned, as most Southeast Asian women are. When I was being body shamed, I weighed about 43 or 44 kilos, and my body measurement was 32.5-23.5-32, Southeast Asian size. (I keep on saying Southeast Asian size because our Northeast Asian counterparts, like the Koreans and Japanese, are bigger than us. For example, small size in Korea is medium size in the Philippines. Northeast Asians have the Mongolian genes while Southeast Asians have the Malay genes.) There. 

My weight should be around around 50 kilos, based on my BMI computation.  I did not compute it; that’s what Google answered me when I searched my ideal weight at 157 cms.

I did not really care much about my weight, because I felt that there was nothing to care about nor worry about. I felt healthy, I was active, I felt strong. That changed when two middle-aged women from our congregation started body shaming me. They called me payatot, which is a derogatory Filipino term for skinny. The term payatot includes the meaning starving, having  nothing to eat, dead-hungry. They said that my case was hopeless; I had no chance to gain weight. The would look at me from my head down to my feet, contort their faces, and call me payatot.

And so I started thinking about gaining weight. I heard from my friend that someone she knows started taking over-the-counter vitamins which made him gain weight. I took this vitamin and I started having an enormous appetite. I ate a lot. How much was “a lot"? Well, my brother once thought that my plate was the platter. He ladled some rice from it. Prior to my taking the vitamins, I also ate much, but not crazily much. A few days after taking the vitamins, I was like a bear preparing for hibernation, always on the lookout for food. 

After a few weeks, I started putting on more weight. The stomach was the first to get bigger. While my arms and legs were still small, my stomach was already big. 
Next, my breasts also gained weight. How about my arms and legs? They remained slender. My arms and legs did not gain weight.  All the additional weight settled on my stomach and lower abdomen. The width of my shoulders, hips, and waist were already the same, making me look like a walking vertical box. My breasts and stomach were both protruding.  And because there was a lot of fat in my stomach, I could not breathe well when I sat down because the fat would get squeezed by my jeans.  But anyway, I had to sit and stand erect. Because there was more effort in keeping my body erect, my spine was always painful. And because my hips became wider, my butt became flat as a wall. I don’t even know how that happened. To get the whole picture, just imagine a turtle standing on its hind legs. My back looked like the turtle’s front (flat) while my front looked like the turtle’s back (protruding). The weight I gained was unevenly distributed, and no amount of exercise solved the problem.

And so I realized that I felt much better when I was “payatot” than when I gained weight. I felt more agile, healthier, and I definitely looked better.

Taking the vitamins I guess made my metabolism work slower. When breathing became harder, I stopped taking vitamins and my eating was back to normal. After 3 months, I was back to my old form.

It was then that I realized something. The two middle-aged women made it sound like I was practically eating almost nothing, that I did not look good because of my weight. During those times when they would repeatedly call me payatot instead of calling me by my name,  I did not realize that I was being bullied and body shamed. I thought I really looked awful that’s why I vowed to gain weight the best way I could.

I realized that one’s happiness and confidence should not be dictated by anyone else’s standards. If you are healthy, it doesn’t matter whether you are plump, skinny, medium-sized, whatever. What matters is whether you are happy being you or not. In the universe, there’s only one me, there’s only one you. Let us all be happy in our own uniqueness.


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