Sunday, May 24, 2015

Camera Shy

A few years ago (at Point Lobos Reserve in California). 

Is it strange that one of the things I get most anxious about with my upcoming transition to working adulthood is maintaining a healthy lifestyle (by which I primarily mean my weight)? Many young professionals in NYC have a hard time with regularly cooking weekday meals, and my record as a student suggests that I will not be an exception. I don't particularly enjoy exercise either. I hate how much of my mental energy is devoted to weight, thanks to the influence of pop culture and larger social pressures. An additional layer of pressure comes from my Asian-American background. Within the community and amongst family members, the standard for an "acceptable" weight and size is quite strict. 

I generally dislike being in front of the camera. I used to have a visceral negative reaction to seeing recent photos of myself because of body image-related insecurities. Back then, my distaste for photographs focused on how my face looked. These days, my tune has changed a bit, and I generally think of my face as reasonably photogenic most of the time. More recently, my insecurities center on the rest of me.

Learning to be confident about and happy with my body has been a long process, and I'm not all of the way there. Based on my own purely anecdotal experiences, it seems that more or less everyone I know has their own cross to bear when it comes to body image hangups. For me, its generally been my somewhat atypical (particularly for a Chinese-American woman) top-heavy body shape. My measurements are generally 36''-26''-37'', with much of anything extra accumulating in my chest first. Because I spent most of my teenage and young adult years being self-conscious about my chest measurement, I think that it photographs poorly and generally makes me look larger than I am. How it comes across in pictures varies dramatically depending on angle and pose. Or at least, I think so.

I'm not entirely sure what I mean to do by writing this out. I think a lot about body image issues and the way American society and media treats women and focuses on outward appearances. I know the pressure is, for lack of a better word, externally imposed BS, but its difficult to fully escape it nonetheless. 


  1. Its like you've taken the words right out of my mouth. Granted, I don't have to deal with any body related pressure from a specific community outside of my immediate family, but the rest of it? Pretty bang on. Given the way I seem to recall you having described yourself previously, I was picturing you as a very top heavy inverted triangle. Based on your measurements you're actually a pretty well balanced hourglass shape. Sometimes it really is all about the shirt you choose. I know for the longest time I felt like anything that was loose made me look like I was pregnant because it draped straight off my chest. I'm working on coming to terms with that, and choosing shirts that don't billow quite like that.

    As for the weekday meals, I try to do the bulk of my grocery shopping and meal prep on Sunday afternoon so that I can just throw stuff into a bag and go. If I neglect to do this, my eating habits go straight down the tube. I realize living in New York you'll probably have a much smaller kitchen, but you could probably still do a reasonable amount of prep. Even if it's just cooking up some meat to throw in different meals and chopping up some veggies for snacks, it'll still help you stay on top of things.

  2. Haha, ohhh the Asian mother body shaming. I'm Vietnamese-American - Totally know how you feel. I think you look great! I definitely also feel the same way about photos of me but am learning to get over that as well, mainly due to my boyfriend's reassurance.

  3. Picking out clothes that suit me has definitely been quite a learning process. I like the look of blousier tops, but like you mentioned, it tends not to work well with a larger bust. I'm also probably not the most objective person when it comes to assessing how clothes look on myself because of being self-conscious about my chest. I definitely feel like I've come a long way with accepting myself, though this past week or so I've been having another self-conscious period after noticing the effects of exam time stress-snacking.

    Thanks for the tips on meal preparation! It is a bit of a process for me because I had a ton of free time (both to cook and to work out) before I started graduate school. I was even pretty good about cooking when I first started school, but I never really learned about planning ahead in that time, and it eventually caught up with me, both in terms of wasted money on vegetables I wasn't able to cook and in terms of... getting takeout because I didn't feel like I had the energy to cook what was in the fridge.

  4. I've definitely gotten used to how casually parents and relatives comment on this stuff and I think I'm pretty good about not letting it get to me too much. I felt some of the social pressure a lot in college and high school, though I think I've outgrown it a bit, which is good. K is also good about reassuring me, which I really appreciate.

  5. Oh and a random addendum: in college I was 36''-26''-35.5'' or something more like that/my chest was definitely the widest part of me by a bit, and that might have added to my complex. My hips mysteriously filled out a bit when I was around age 22-23 with no particularly noticeable change in my average weight. To this day I'm not sure why (delayed development that would normally have happened during puberty?), though I think it helped me feel a bit more proportional.

  6. +1 on the overnight body changes. I noted curves coming in at 18-19, then a stabilization of shape at around 25-27.

    Your measurements sound really nice (especially if you ever want to try vintage clothing) but I am curious, are you petite otherwise everywhere else (height, shoulders, arm length?) I ask because there are some brands for which I am considered petite and others where I actually sometimes prefer the regular size. I find that barring button-downs which aren't as forgiving across chests, I struggle with shoulders on jackets which are usually cut for broader upper bodies than mine.

  7. I'm 5'3'' and definitely need petite pants and long dresses or skirts (short legs!), but I think that regular-height dresses and tops (and even pencil skirts, mysteriously, but that might just be personal preference about skirt length) generally are a better fit almost everywhere I've shopped. My shoulders are maybe a bit broad for my height - I've never noticed any particular problems with regular-jackets either, except that some have slightly too-long sleeves.


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