All I can say is read through the amazing exercises they are doing with middle school girls in KTM. I’m sure this is just the surface of what is sure to be a life altering relationship between these young girls and this amazing organization.
Weight loss. Something a LOT of women worry about. Something I have had to really struggle with. Not because I am fat, obese, overweight…heck, I’m not even on the high end of a normal BMI. I struggle with not letting myself get too skinny. I struggle with anorexia.
Anorexia, I first learned about this in middle school. In some required health class we watched a video about it. And it had the wrong side effect on me and several of my friends. Instead of scaring us away from the horrible illness, it set of a light bulb. “Hey, we could be skinny too!” And so began the unhealthy competition that lasted well into high school. I reached my adult height by the seventh grade. Due to that insane growth spurt I hit in the summer between sixth and seventh grade, I hit that five foot five stature I currently hold. The difference? Back then, my weight hadn’t caught up so I was a meager 110 lbs. This happened to be the same summer my friends and I took our a health course. So, armed with a scale, a set of friends eager to stay equally skinny (read: light), and a BMI of 18.3 I dedicated myself to staying that stupidly tiny size. Afterall, we would reason with ourselves. Staying only a tad bit under “normal” BMI can’t be that dangerous. A normal BMI beginning its range at 18.5.
In high school I became an avid cyclist. Riding between 20-60 miles a week was the height of my life. It started out because my family would not allow me to have a car or drive (despite my high driver’s ed scores), so biking was my transportation, and it became my obsession. This obsession continued into college until a really rough car accident. It turns out that the permanent SI injury took away the cycling life I’d had come to love. I can still cycle, but not like I used to and what little I can do usually results in days of hip pain afterwards. But, what is a little pain for appearance? Women every day put themselves through pain for appearance. They pluck, wax, and thread their eyebrows. They force themselves into jeans one size too small and uncomfortable, impractical shoes. They wear under-wire bras and g-strings all to make their outward appearance more acceptable. So, what is a little pain from exercise? Especially, when “staying fit” is the reason and not a perverse need to be skinny.
After my daughter’s birth, my obsession with weight finally settled down a little bit. I lost the baby weight quickly and thought I looked good. My BMI put my 145 lb self at a comfortably “normal” range and I was just grateful not to suffer from the “baby made me fat forever” complex that so many do. Until this past summer. I don’t know why, but this past summer I gained enough weight to throw me up near 165 lbs. I was that weight only once before, when I was nine months pregnant and ready to pop. I lost it and between August and December of last year managed to diet and exercise myself back into my 145 lb region. And that seemed like an accomplishment. But somewhere in that time, I stumbled onto a blog post about a girl who’s Nepali boyfriend was advising her to loose some weight and perfect dudh chiya before the upcoming meeting with his parents. She was offended that her appearance should matter so much. When I read the post to Shiva, he agreed. He said there is no better way to set a good impression on future Nepali in-laws than being very very skinny and making a perfect cup of chiya.
I told him I was going to get back to the weight I was when we’d met and he said that was fine for him, but his parents would probably think I was fat. He suggested that if I really wanted his parents to consider me, I’d need to definitely lose a LOT more weight. It is this conversation that led to the goal of 125 lbs by the time his parents arrive. Now, the opportunity to meet his parents seems unsure at best. Still, I feel a need to meet this goal, just in case. They are so opposed to our relationship that I can’t imagine giving them any other reason to object. I argue with myself that 125 lbs is still a normal BMI and I’m not finding myself back in the anorexic days of middle and high school. Still, the calorie counting and daily exercise demands are bordering on….what’s a word for more than obsessive? Zealous? I shed the first 6 lbs easily, then gained 10 lbs, then lost 10 lbs and now I’m just holding and holding and holding. This plateau just will not yield.
It takes so much focus to ensure than I do not starve myself and my fitness pal keeps informing me that I need to eat more, but the thought of eating more just makes me feel sick. And on top of it, Shiva comes around and comments on how disappointed he is to see me losing my curves. Really? Why is it that your parents would need this?
I know I know, they should accept me for who I am and if they don’t I should just tell them to buzz off. But as I keep trying to explain to various family members, that is an AMERICAN/WESTERN perspective. And one part of being in an intercultural relationship is not mandating that one perspective is better than another. In fact, I sort of side with the Nepali viewpoint on this one.
Now, its a collection of emotional grief compiled over years of sexual and emotional abuse mixed in with a dash of western sexual social norms defining beauty and a bit of poor self image that has led to this perspective, but I fear being labeled fat. My family is not small, they are almost all obese. And if there was one thing I learned from them, its that I would rather starve than suffer the consequences of obesity. Its not just the stigma of being fat, but all the health problems that come with it. Type II diabetes, self-inflicted thyroid disorders, even poorer self-image than mine, cholesterol problems, heart problems, stroke, heart attacks, death. No, I’ll take not enough calories a day over that.
Basically, what I’m saying is that I don’t mind losing weight for the parents. And I keep being told that later, you can always gain it back. In fact, once you get pregnant its time to get really big. Who I am to say that this perspective is wrong? After all, what beauty industry is a larger world influence than the US? As for not enough calories, I don’t know that I believe MFP. I’m eating enough to feel full. I just cut out meat, upped veggies over carbs, cut out most beverages other than water, and cut portions. It doesn’t feel like I’m not eating enough, it just looks that way on paper. I don’t see a thing wrong with eating this way, even if MFP says Zumba class is costing 800 calories.
I’ve been known among my friends and family for being adamantly opposed to most beauty products. I rarely if ever use make-up, maybe three times last year. I haven’t colored my hair since the one and only attempt I had in ninth grade. I don’t use wax, favoring threading. I pay big bucks for all natural glycerin based shampoos over the common sodium lauryl sulfate versions. I even spend $11 per tube of toothpaste for my fluoride free calendula toothpaste. And my gums, roots, and pores have never been happier.
So it is completely out of character to pursue the following silly activity of attempting hair coloring. Since moving from the deep south to the far north, I’ve knocked about four hours of sunlight out of my day in addition to having much lower exposure even during the few remaining hours of sunlight thanks to the overwhelming cloud cover. I have had natural blonde hair my entire life. Beautiful natural highlights have always graced these locks. So, I didn’t know what to do with myself when suddenly my hair looks brown with a lackluster dull appearance. And where did my highlights go?! I still have a nice golden touch to my skin, but my hair has always been by pride and joy. And suddenly, I don’t recognize myself with these light brown strands falling on my shoulders.
This leads to me to the heart of the story, henna hair color. I am so opposed to chemicals and hair dyes, even bleaching. I surprised myself after purchasing an “all natural” hair color based on henna. I thought I was safe. Of course, being a person not fond of directions (except the IKEA kind, they’ve proven themselves necessary) I just went ahead and applied to whole bottle to my fifteen inch long hair. I felt a mild tingle to my scalp, something I thought to be a typical side effect. Tea-tree shampoo even does this, so why worry?
Then I rinsed it and followed the directions to apply conditioner, which resulted in a burning sensation. I felt a little unhappy about this new development, but didn’t worry too much. That was, until I rinsed out the conditioner and about a months worth of hair brushing hair loss exposed itself in about three minutes. My hair was falling out in clumps. Freaking out does not do the scene justice. More like rocking in a corner like an insane asylum veteran is probably closer to the image you might have witnessed had you been here. The picture of a bald cancer patient would not leave my mind. After, pacing my apartment for about twenty minutes, I finally brought myself to Google this.
BAD IDEA #1!!!! I found pages about people who had severe allergic reactions to henna that resulted in days of agony, itching, and burning pain that resulted in severe hair loss. And immediately, the somewhat already severe panic I was suffering, turned into complete utter ridiculous idiocy. It didn’t take long before I was on the phone with poison control.
I made this guy’s night. He looked up the product I used and assured me that no severe reactions could be associated and all the ingredients were completely safe. Then he went on to question why my zip code was not in accordance to my cell phone’s area code. I explained that I moved about two months ago. He asked if I knew that people in my region were subject to a lack of vitamin D. I had heard a thing or two about this, but never thought much of it. Did I also know that this takes about 60 days to take effect? Is it any wonder that day 60 in my new home takes place this upcoming Sunday? Oh, and had I been under any uncommon stresses? Um, does moving across a country and breaking up with a long term relationship, graduating college, and finding a new job count as uncommon stress? I was informed that under high stress circumstances hair loss can occur between 30-60 days after the major stress is introduced and especially if it is ongoing.
The next part is probably what made me feel the most silly about my poison control call. “Did you brush your hair before using the product as it recommends?” Why yes I did. “Do you normally brush your hair before shampooing and showering?” Um, no, I don’t. “Do you normally lose hair in your hair brush when its dry?” Um, yes, I do. “Would you mind brushing your hair to see if this is a typical amount?” So, I brushed my hair, and almost no hair came out at all.
The rather kind man on the other end of the phone at poison control informed me that my hair loss is probably due to brushing my hair before the shower, which is not something I would normally do. In addition, people in my new zip code are subject to vitamin D deficiency that can cause some hair loss problems. He also mentioned that stress can cause additional hair loss. After adding that he lives with his wife and three teenage daughter and still feels like they must have skinned an animal after all the hair they lose in the shower, he believes that I’m 100% okay. At the end of the call he thanked me for lightening his night. (You are welcome?)
It’s good to know that I’m a hypochondriac at worst and a completely healthy individual at best. (Of course by health, I imply physical health, it would seem mental health is in question.) As for Henna, it remains a safe alternative to chemical hair colors. As for me, I’m going to return to my general rule of avoiding beauty products, natural or not.
I absolutely enjoy reading nepaliaustralian’s posts. This one especially. I don’t definitely agree that women get preferential treatment, but she gives some good examples of times when I do believe women probably are getting the better end of the stick.
I am all for women’s rights and everything that goes with that. Then sometimes, things happen in my life, I wonder if that is true that women have it better.
This morning I went to a service station because my car’s tyres needed some air. Normally I put the air myself as most service stations have a machine where you can enter the tire pressure and off you go. But this particular service station had an old style air pump which I didn’t know how to use. I parked the car and I was just looking at how to use the machine. I must have looked dumb and confused so out of nowhere this guy came and asked me if I needed help. I definitely did, so I said yes. He was kind enough to help me and fill air in all the four tyres. I thanked him and drove…
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