Ever since I was born, I only remember being big.
My thighs were always together, and I always wore clothes that were bigger in size than those of the same age. Whenever I met my relatives or saw them through video chats, they always either said “you’re chubby as usual” or “you’re fat as usual.”
When girls around me started reading fashion or teen magazines, I was into drawing or reading novels. And when they were going on diets to be skinny like models they saw, I was into delicious foods and coffee.
One day, I thought, “What’s so interesting about the fashion magazines that people are reading?” and went out to go buy Seventeen, the first book I bought besides novels. It was filled with a variety of columns, such as “Makeup for Beginners”, “Date Outfit Ideas”, and “Popular Models’ Off-duty Style Ideas.” My first impression of the magazine was, “They look so pretty.” I was excited to buy the magazine every month, but there was something that became clearer every time I bought them.
That is, I did not see anyone who had the same body size as me.
No matter how many pages I flipped through, all I saw was thin girls. They are thin-framed and I could see the other side from between their thighs. I also occasionally saw special features, such as “Our Ideal Girlfriends!” and “Workout Ideas.” In a cover story that featured some models’ off-duty style, they discussed the differences in appearance when they wore sizes extra small, small, and medium. On another page entitled “In-depth analysis of popular model 〇〇”, there was a list of the model’s height, weight, the thinness of her arms, thighs, and calves, and the size of her eyes, etc.
I was just baffled by the fact that I had nothing in common with girls that were considered cute. Fortunately, since I lived in the U.S., I never struggled to find the size of my clothes. Even though I wore something that I found cute, Japanese magazines criticized the style with comments, like “These type of clothes would accentuate the stomach and body line, especially if you’re chubby,” and featured them as “Ugly Style” or “Fashion Turn-Offs for Boys”.
Because I’ve been thick since I was little, I often heard comments about my body.
However, when my relatives told me, “Aren’t you overweight?” or “Why don’t you lose some weight?”, I never got hurt because I thought to myself, “They’re probably concerned about my health”: I simply thought it was a good opportunity to re-evaluate my diet and lack of exercise. There were times my classmates and cousins told me senseless words, but I always had a variety of responses, such as “You can only talk about appearance, poor thing”, “What’s the point of talking about something that you can’t fix for me instantly?”, “Did my body shape ever cause any inconvenience to you?”, or “And?” etc. So if anything, I probably hurt them because they were talked down by a fat person like me (LOL).
However, when I’m on the internet and social media, I often encounter people expressing unsolicited opinions about others whose figures look “non-standard”. Those commenters are the ones who only talk about others’ figures and assume that “It’s lack of effort” and say, “I never wanna date them” etc. It's absolutely none of their business, especially because they are not even related to or in close relationships with the person they talk about.
Something similar happened again: on March 18th, Hiroshi Sasaki, the creative director for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics opening and closing ceremonies, resigned. It’s said that the decision was due to his derogatory proposal about Naomi Watanabe’s appearance (which apparently involved having her wear pig ears posing as an “Olympig.”) Without a doubt, there must be countless people who were hurt by the news reporting about this incident.
In this case, thicker people were forced into the narrow social standard of beauty. However, it’s not only the plus-sized people who are considered to be “not beautiful” or “deserving of criticisms” because they look or have body shapes different from the “standards”. This incident must’ve also hurt those who can’t easily gain weight and feel inferior about being thin. There are many people who’ve been severely hurt by comments made by their friends, relatives, and those on the internet and have developed eating disorders. In fact, I know several people who have told me that “no matter how much I lose weight, I feel ugly” because of comments they’ve heard in the past.
“You would be pretty if you lose weight/gain more weight.”
“You’re skinny, so you must be stress-free about your body shape.”
“You should first lose weight before you even start thinking about makeup LOL.”
“You just need more self-control.”
“It’s so embarrassing that you’re out of shape.” Have you heard, seen, or said any of these things? Have you mocked someone’s appearance or seen, laughed at, or remained silent around people being commented about their body shape?”
If you’ve said any of the comments or didn’t intervene, then, unfortunately, you’re one of the reasons why this type of negativity still exists today. Whatever the reasons might’ve been, you can’t change what you ignored or said. You can’t change the past where you hurt someone or how you were close-minded.
However, you can contribute to making a body-positive society moving forward.
Instead of comparing yourself to others, try to look for strengths that are unique to you, and be proud of them.
Regardless of gender, your body can be larger or smaller than the “average”.
You can lose or gain weight at your own pace.
Let’s try to love our bodies, even if they don’t fall into the social norms and standards.
Let’s all love ourselves just the way we are.
I want to be someone who can embrace another’s character and uniqueness, instead of judging them based on their appearance.
I want to actively learn and seek knowledge on issues, even if they don’t directly involve me, so I can better support those who are indeed affected.
I want to be able to admire and compliment others, instead of looking for their flaws.
There’s no need to care about the standards and expectations that others and society demand us to satisfy.
Because it’s more important to be able to love yourself.
I decide what I want to do with my body.
I make those decisions. And so can you.
Instead of comparing yourself to others, try to look for things that you love about yourself. It’s normal that your body is bigger, smaller, fairer, or darker than the “average” regardless of gender. It’s totally okay to gain or lose weight at your pace and comfort. Even if you have a different point of view than others, fearlessly speak up for yourself. And even if your body doesn’t fit the “average,” love your body for how it is and yourself for who you are.
In hopes that Japan becomes more inclusive, to a point of extinction.
In hopes that everyone will be able to live the way they want to.
And most importantly, in hopes that people will be able to love themselves the way they are.
I am writing this series, “I Love Myself” with these hopes in mind.
Translated by Mutsumi Ogaki
Graphic by Ayumi White