…because not all of us have our Peking ducks in a row

Too Fat for China: Confessions of a Size 4 Chinese-Canadian in China

As I’ve said in a previous post, it’s a well-known fact and an utter phenomenon that Chinese women can eat twice their weight in food and never gain an ounce, while a woman who has grown up in “the West” will gain weight, if she stares too long at an ad for Tiramisu.

Anyone who knows me even vaguely will know that I’ve been trying to lose the last 5 pounds for the last 10 years, but am now 10 pounds heavier than I was in the same amount of time.  By doing simple math, we can therefore conclude that my metabolism now spends its time gorging on the all-you-can-eat beer and chip special over at Elks Lodge, despite my best efforts to lose weight.  Consequently, I’ve gone from a *gasp* size “sub-0” to a staggering size “4” and a “XS” to a “S”.

However, it wasn’t till I moved to China that I felt Jabba-the-Hut, no-man-will-ever-love-me-again fat.  I could not fit into any of the clothes sold in China: my head was even too fat to go through the neck hole.  Any shirt I tried on would get stuck mid-chest.  At 5 foot 2-1/2″ I towered over many of the men and looked like I could beat them up: the circumference of my thighs was the diameter of their waist.  And too many times, people spoke to me with the preface, “Oh, Susan.  You’re NOT FAT, you’re just big boned!”

If this wasn’t maddening enough, the tiny women in Taiwan, Hong Kong and China are obsessed with losing weight that they do not have.  Wherever I looked there was a plethora of weight loss teas, pills, spas and weight loss advertisements.  Whenever a group of Chinese women get together, it’s a competition to see who has the most weight to lose.

I became convinced that I was too fat for China.  It suddenly appeared that my floral dresses were wide enough to double as a queen-sized sheet set.  That “blip” of flab hanging over the waistband of my jeans suddenly became angry, viscous, molten lava flowing over the top of a volcano.  My thighs became inseparable. It took a full minute for my arm flab to stop waving once I did.

It was around this time that my spa was having a weight loss special: for about RMB315.00 (US$50.00) I could enjoy a full week of every weight loss method known to womanhood.  At the end of the week I was **guaranteed** to lose inches around my waist …or else.  For a paranoid fatty like myself, it was simply too good an offer to pass up.

The first course of treatment was to “Knead and Punch the Fat”  away from my midsection.  Two young masseuses would spend two hours kneading, scrunching and punching my midsection till my fat cells surrendered and dissolved.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  First, I was hooked up to a machine via some space-aged looking silver metallic pads.  The pads would inflate and deflate periodically.  I suppose  this was done to stimulate the blood flow – or cause paralysis to different parts of the body – as the pads were placed over the body VERY tightly. 

This process went on for about half an hour, during which time the masseuses talked about what they had for lunch and what they will have for dinner and why they cannot gain weight, despite the fact that they both eat like pigs ready for slaughter.

I have to mention that I pretty much looked like the woman in the picture hooked up to the machine with pads, except for the Chinese flag covering my head.  The wires leading to my body were too short to allow me to raise my arms and punch my masseuses in their faces.  I was pretty much immobile for the entire session.

After the spacesuit came time to “Knead and Punch the Fat” away.  For a full hour, my masseuses attacked my midsection with a vengeance, like it was their cheating husbands.

The idea is to “stimulate” the fat cells in the midsection, so that the fat would miraculously dissipate.  A heat lamp was also focused on my stomach to speed up the process.  And, even though the temperature in the room was over 30C, I was not allowed the luxury of air conditioning.

After the physical abuse, I was given a cup of boiling hot “Cleansing Tea” that smelled like gasoline, looked like swamp water, and tasted like stale straw and mothballs. As I gagged from the tea, my measurements and weight were taken again (they were taken prior to the abuse).  But my measurements didn’t change, as my stomach was red and swollen.  Thus ended my first session.

Because the first session was such a *shock* to my system, the next day was a day off.  Day 2 weight loss session employed only machines – one, a kneading machine that mimics the punching and kneading of the two masseuses the previous day; and the second, a laser wand that was supposed to “burn” the surface cellulite away.  After the procedure, my midsection was wrapped in layers of plastic wrap and ordered to sweat.

For the rest of the sessions, plastic wrap became an indispensable product.  I was wrapped from the neck down in plastic wrap then put in the sauna bed to bake for half an hour.

I was slathered liberally with some hideous herbal concoction, wrapped in plastic, then toasted with heat lamps.

As I lay quietly sweating on the massage chair, wishing for death to near – I looked much like the woman in the picture below (except the woman in the picture has no business using that machine) – I thought about all the other women who are laying on similar massage chairs having similar procedures done and drinking that hopeful cup of “Cleansing Tea”, waiting for that miracle to happen.

And although I’m not religious I realize that women like myself are looking towards these weight loss sessions as our savior, and we are all wishing for a miracle – some of us even pray for it.  But the Weight Loss God is unforgiving, and redemption may not come, even after we shell out thousands of dollars and go through cartons of plastic wrap.

As I finished the final session of my week-long weight loss plan (pedaling furiously on the exercise bike for half an hour while wrapped in plastic and surrounded by high voltage heat lamps) – I realized that China is no place for someone who’s larger than a size 2, and that I belonged in the land of Krispy Kreme, bacon-wrapped foods, deep fried cheese, and all-you-can-eat buttermilk-battered fried chicken.  A land where a size XS is sometimes still too big for me, and people may preface their conversations with, “Susan, look at you!  You’re just a small little thing!  You can afford to eat this piece of (double-chocolate fudge cake/deep fried butter wrapped with bacon).”

And this, dear readers, is why people call America the land of opportunity.

24 comments on “Too Fat for China: Confessions of a Size 4 Chinese-Canadian in China

  1. Carl D'Agostino
    November 12, 2014

    I am not giving up ice cream or pasta ! Thanks visit my blog. Hope you enjoy the cartoons.


    • lostnchina
      November 13, 2014

      Thanks, Carl. Looking forward to reading more of your fun stuff!


  2. Mengsha Liu
    October 29, 2013

    lol… My mom always concern that I’m too fat. :p She told me,” no food after 9pm or u gonna gain weight…”
    my skinny jeans are usually size 3. I’m 5ft5 and back in China, guys actually call me fat…


    • lostnchina
      October 29, 2013

      Wow…you are NOT fat. Actually, now you mentioned it, you are really making ME feel fat. Thx for reading!


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  5. Sherry
    February 2, 2013

    It was so nice to read this and have someone share the same feelings as me. I was born and raised in the US and have never been to China. Since I am graduating college this year, my parents decided it was time that I visit where our family is from and such. For some reason, the thing worrying me the most is my size! I’m only 4’11” and I don’t weigh too much, but the size of my thighs (probably from all the burgers and fries I’ve grown up on lol) are probably bigger than the two legs of a Chinese girl combined! And my roommate who has been to china several times says that people there are no ashamed to make rude remarks as they stand next to you! I’ve been working out more but I honestly don’t see it possible for my petite body to lose weight unless i take drastic measures. But at the same time, I’m not sure I can have a thick enough face to handle the pressure of being in china for my size!


    • lostnchina
      February 3, 2013

      You know, Sherry, I always thought being Chinese and having thick skin go hand in hand! LOL! In the early 90s o a Taipei bus I’ve had a middle-aged woman come up to me and tell me what HORRIBLE acne I had on my face. Seriously. And being young and naive then, I couldn’t think of a good comeback line, but today I’d probably say something like, “At least it’s better than being old with bad breath!” People in China will stare, but it’s more their problem than yours. Besides, not all of China contain petite little nymphs. In the north, women are big boned and appear much more “normal” sized. In the south where I’m at, I, at 5’2-1/2″, am considered TALL! Imagine that!


  6. the ashen apple
    November 7, 2012

    Nice cautionary tale. Note to self: Pack heels, corsets, and a thick skin when visiting China.


  7. jessicajhill
    October 24, 2012

    I can completely relate! I’m in China now and have been too scared to try any clothes on, but have yet to find a pair of shoes that fits my size 8 foot. However, I felt obese in Thailand. Whenever I would walk into a clothing stall and hear, “Oh, we have big size, big size for you!” I would walk back out. I know they’re being nice, and that talking about weight isn’t as culturally unacceptable in Asia, but it still makes me want to give up shopping completely.


    • lostnchina
      October 24, 2012

      I think people in northern China are a little bigger boned than the Chinese in the south, where I am, so you might have some luck finding clothes that fit you. That being said, people in the south are built like garden gnomes (people say that I, standing at 5’2″, am TALL!), so the basis of comparison is a bit skewed to begin with.


      • jessicajhill
        October 24, 2012

        I’m also in the south – near Guangzhou. Where are you?


        • lostnchina
          October 25, 2012

          I’m in Zhongshan, about 1.5 hrs from Guangzhou. It’s a much smaller city than Guangzhou, but the clothes are just as small 🙂


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  9. Come November
    July 26, 2012

    I can totally relate to this…my mother is from Thailand. My father is a foreigner. I’m by no means fit nor morbidly obese either. I am a size 10 or 12 US. Those sizes don’t exist in Asia. In fact…people that size probably don’t exist in Asia 🙂


    • lostnchina
      July 26, 2012

      I’m 5’3″ and I *tower* head and shoulders above most of the Chinese (including the guys) when I’m over in China! But then, coming back to the States humbles me (although it is nicer to be considered XS in the US and XXL in Asia!)


  10. aditiangiras
    July 25, 2012

    Haha, I know this is no laughing matter and certainly not when there’s such torture involved.. but I loved the way you’ve written the article. Subtly sarcastic, neat!


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  13. ashleyjillian
    October 19, 2011

    that literally sounds like toture


    • lostnchina
      October 19, 2011

      It’s pretty painful…and the only thing that got skinnier was my wallet.


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This entry was posted on October 18, 2011 by in China, Humor and tagged , , , , , , .
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