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“Ooh, you so big! How many kilos?”

by | Mar 21, 2017 | BODY POSITIVITY, Cambodia, Mental Health, Plus Size, Travel | 36 comments

“Ooh, you so big! How many kilos?”

I’ve lost track of how times I’ve heard those exact words while traveling SE Asia. I didn’t get it as much in Thailand, which I figure means more plus size girls are traveling there. But in Vietnam and Cambodia, I can’t go more than 4 or 5 days without someone asking what I weigh.

Every day before I leave my hostel, I give myself a little pep talk.

“Do not respond with ‘fuck off,’ they’re just curious.”
“In their culture, asking about weight isn’t offensive.”
“You’re showing these people that there are many different body types.”
“This is the opportunity to practice being confident under any circumstance.”
“You got this girl, you can do this.”

I do this – Every. Single. Time.

Because when I didn’t start my day like this, I’d shrink back at the stares. I’d see people calling out and nudging others (even knocking on windows and then pointing at me). I would feel the constant stares and hear people exclaiming as I walked down the street and have to work real hard not be ashamed of my body. I’d hold my head high, pretending I didn’t see them and tried to ignore the negative thoughts my brain immediately went to.

Last week, it all exploded in one big crying session. I admitted on social media that traveling while plus size hasn’t been easy. That I was letting it get to me, and impact my trip, even though I knew I “shouldn’t.” The outpouring of love and support that followed warmed this weary traveler’s heart.

Truth is, I don’t know what people are thinking when they look at me. A friend pointed out that they’d probably be upset themselves if they knew they’d offended me. They are just looking. That helped me realize I am the one putting anything negative into it. I am the one who just wishes I could hide my body. This has revealed far more about the nasty things I still say to myself.

Body acceptance has been a life long journey for me. In elementary school, I gained around 40 pounds in one year because of an experimental drug I was on for my asthma. That’s when the bullying started. I was told not to let it get to me, that if I showed them it didn’t bother me, they’d stop. And for the most part, they did.

Then enter high school, and the cruelty of teenagers all lost in their own growing pains. Boys threw my binder in the garbage can. Girls would laugh in my face. Some random guy I’d never spoken to left a voicemail on my cell phone saying I looked pregnant and if they were me, they’d be too ashamed to ever leave the house.

That was when I got REALLY good at pretending. I’d shake my head and call them an idiot, or an asshole, or just roll my eyes. I’d go back to one of the million volunteer projects I did. I kept myself ridiculously busy so I never had the time to think about the pain I was in. Because as terrible as the bullies were, none of them could compete with mean, degrading things I used to tell myself every day.

My friends and family now are shocked when I tell them how I really felt back then. That proud, confident mask I wore fooled almost everyone. In reality? At 16, I spent many nights crying myself to sleep, feeling alone and worthless. The wrappers of the chocolate bars I used to numb myself would be hidden all around my room, and I dreamed of what life could be like “if only I was skinny.”

Then on my first trip to my university’s bookstore, I stumbled upon a book called “Fat! So?” I grabbed it and put it under my textbooks quickly, as if it was contraband. For weeks it would stare at me from my bookshelf until one day I finally worked up the courage to read it. When I did, my life forever changed. I started exploring what body positivity meant. I started being willing to consider that I may be beautiful. I’ve come a LONG way in the last ten years.

When I booked my ticket to Bangkok, I expected that I’d have some difficult moments. I’d hoped that it would show me how far I’ve come on my road to truly loving myself, body and all. Instead, it’s shining a great big florescent light on every single gap I have. It’s had me say the nastiest things ever to myself. I’ve had to face my own perceptions of beauty head on.

Let me be clear, I have had an AMAZING trip. The good moments far out weigh the bad. (Pun intended)

As I’m writing this now, reflecting on the tougher parts of my journey, the need to share overshadows any fear in being so vulnerable. I’m sharing not because I want reassurance, not because I need people to pat me on the head and tell me I’m beautiful and loved. I’m sharing because it’s important to me that we all step into our own greatness. To stop letting our body image fears hold us down.

I know I am beautiful, in my head and in my soul. This trip is about teaching my brain, my ego and my body the truth. They are fighting tooth and nail to drag me down, but this is me promising I will always get up. This trip is about acknowledging that part of me that defaults to hating my body, letting her know I understand her fear, but that it’s not going to fly anymore. It never really worked to play small, and I’m done with letting it run the show. I’ve got big dreams and plans for this world.

It’s time to celebrate my curves, not hide them.

I thought about waiting until “after” to share how great it felt to strut my stuff with true confidence. Instead, I’m sharing the messy middle part. Because maybe my story will inspire someone else. Maybe someone else is in the middle, or at the beginning, or starting all over again in their journey with self love.

 

If that’s you – you got this. Keep going. And consider traveling solo to a place that scares the shit out of you. It’ll be worth it, I promise.

 

Don’t let your weight stop you from experiencing this type of pure joy.

36 Comments

  1. M

    I cannot get enough of your blog Susie.. xoxo!

    Reply
    • Susie

      M!!!! I’m so glad you’re reading it! You were the first friend I truly made traveling. You showed me it would be easy to meet new people and have amazing conversations deeper than “how long are you traveling for?” ❤❤

      Reply
  2. Dawn

    You are truly amazing!! I know we haven’t spoke since delta many many years ago but out of all the people who came and went from there through my fourteen years. You I remember, as your positive attitude and your out look on life. regardless of how your journey has been you were a very happy cheerful lady, so happy I meet you. Keep up that amazing journey your on. Beauty is sooo much more than size.

    XOXO

    Reply
    • Susie

      Wow, thanks Dawn! Working at the Delta was such a struggle for me, but I loved having you as my supervisor. You made me feel included and our chats were the favourite part of my day 😊

      Reply
  3. Craig Addy

    Thank you Susie. Beautiful you are indeed. I knew well the trials of secondary school. I was bullied too for different reasons and those anguished nights you speak of were mine too.

    I am reminded of my cousin’s experience when she taught in Vietnam for 2 years. She was what we would call a normal weight by North American standards. Everyone thought she was fat. So there is an actual perception in parts of Asia that are truly outside our view it comprehension.

    When I visited Sri Lanka for a month I really got what it was to be a visible minority. Because I was staying with a Sri Lankan family right in the heart of a community far away from tourist areas my pale skinned self was a true novelty. People would just unabashedly stare at me. It became quite annoying and then I just accepted it.

    Reply
    • Susie

      It really has been such an eye opening experience. Every time I find myself annoyed or frustrated I think about the countless others who have been the visual minority. That this is their life everyday. I admire their strength now more than ever.

      Reply
  4. Shannon

    You are AWESOME!

    Reply
    • Susie

      Thanks!

      Reply
  5. Hans Ruch

    I love you Susie. I love who you are for yourself and for the whole world. Keep shining brightly.
    That is all I wanted to say 😘

    Reply
    • Susie

      Love you too Hans, thank you ❤

      Reply
  6. Quisha

    You’re beautiful spirit fully loaded with all the love in this world. I celebrate with you for your joy, triumph, freedom and soul. Thank you for your courage, light and being…you.

    Reply
    • Susie

      Thanks lady! You see a reflection of you, and since I see those exact things in you that must mean we’re both kick ass fantastic ladies 😉 Not that we ever doubted that! I’m so proud of both of us for jumping on a plane and having these journeys. Love ya girl ❤

      Reply
  7. Carleen

    Amazing post… Your vulnerability and openness is inspiring.

    Reply
  8. David Sarich

    Wow, Susan that is an amazing blog! Sorry we missed you in Bangkok. Keep up the wonderful writing!

    Reply
  9. Michelle

    You are beautiful inside and out.

    Reply
  10. Holly

    Thank god for people like you who are brave enough to share the messy bits. Real life IS messy! Thank you for being brave!

    Reply
  11. Cassandra Gagnon

    I am so proud of you for solo travelling and being open to all the ‘gifts’ you receive while stepping outside the box. You have certainly stepped out and UP!!! Thank you for sharing your truth:)

    Reply
  12. Wendy Chamberlain

    YES!!!! I have no words. You said it so good!

    I lived in Korea for a year. Same kind of thing. I was too big to fit into much of anything. Even shoes. Darn my big feet!

    Culture differences. Move On. RIght?!!

    Keep ROCKIN it!

    Reply
  13. Christina

    I love you a bazillion Susie. What a beautiful read. Keep Shining Bright!
    PS Holy Eff you look hot in purple!Muahhhhh!

    Reply
  14. Sue

    Love it! Thank you for your transparency!

    Reply
  15. Megs

    Thank you Susie fort sharing, and being so raw,and real. Thank you for providing a space and sharing what there is to say about weight, bullying, loneliness, and everything in-between. And, to share the mess inside of it making a difference for another human being! I love your and I am honoured to have you as my friend! Thank you for who you are in the world (literally, the world!) You ROCK my world Susie!

    Reply
  16. Heather Ordell Hunter

    I love the photo of you under the waterfall. Pure Joy!!! What a journey eh…interesting people to get to know, fabulous places to explore, an adventure you have had the moxy to take on. I’m in awe of your sense of fun, persistence, & your pure authentic spirit. Where will all this take you next I wonder? Stay tuned world…Suz is a force to be reckoned with. Sending tons of big warm hugs. xoxoxooooooOOOOOOO

    Reply
  17. Jane Courtney

    Transformational words from your heart. Love this post. Love you.

    Reply
  18. Katy johnson

    Suz,

    I love this and I adore you for sharing. In my eyes you’re one of the most beautiful women I’ve encountered. thanks for your share and your courage to do so, it will help more than you think! Thank you! Keep doing what your doing and most importantly keep loving yourself and the skin you’re in! xoxo KJ

    Reply
  19. Adel Cotichini

    This is so well-written, Susie. Thank you for sharing, and please don’t stop! The world needs more of this. xoxox

    Reply
  20. Kirsten

    Hi there,
    Your Dad emailed me and said I should check out your blog so I did.
    It’s wonderful.
    It really is.
    What you are doing is blazing a trail for others.
    I wish you so much luck and I too am now following your journey.
    X

    Reply
    • Susie

      Hahah, gotta love proud Dads! Thanks for checking out my blog. I just checked out your facebook – I LOVE your post about loving your body and showing it off with your kids. STUNNING! You all look so happy and loved <3

      Reply
  21. Linsay

    Oh man, I feel like high school me and high school you had a lot in common. People used to tell me all the time how they loved my confidence (some even finding it attractive.) But there I was, laying in bed at night, trying to will dreams of skinniness into my head. Once, I even hid from my friends in the mall to go cry in a fitting room because nothing was my size.
    I got so good at faking confidence that it turned into a wall I built up around myself so no one, good intentions or not, could get in.
    Luckily, I had a great group of friends who snuck in through the cracks and helped me realize how much confidence I could really have.
    I’m hoping that after my 2 months around Europe, I’ll have the guts to do SE Asia…because that’s the place that scares the shit out of me lol

    Reply
    • Susie

      Definitely sounds like we had a lot in common! It’s so important to have friends that will support us and bring those walls down with love!

      I HIGHLY recommend Asia. I’ve had an amazing trip and love it so much! Just do it, you won’t regret it 😉

      Reply
  22. Houda

    Thank you for this amazing post, i always skipped on the best opportunities because of my weight. I always felt like that annoying friend that took too much space in a car when we were traveling. Always hid my body in boys huge clothing so people thought i a tomboy while i loved dresses and nice clothing (i could never wear them). Always and always told myself i can’t possibly go to Asia if i don’t lose the weight because every bit of confidence im trying to build is going to collapse with a small comment from someone. I have always felt huge i felt like others looking at me immediately meant disgust and pity. During all my life i have never felt beautiful until the past year and posts like yours inspire tremendously. It is a process and a journey into self acceptance thank you again loved your post and felt like i needed to let this out of my heart.

    Reply
    • Susie

      Thank you so much for sharing this ❤️ I’m so glad that you’ve found that things have started to shift this last year and reclaim your beauty and your life! What kind of adventures are you going to get up to this year, now, with this new outlook??

      Reply
  23. James

    Travel on! Never let the opinions of others stop you from being you. Gloriously, unapologetically you!

    Reply
    • Susie

      Thank you for sharing my article, I so appreciate it! Off to check out your blog now 😉

      Reply
  24. Joy MacTavish

    You’re amazing Susie. I loved you from the moment I met you. I’m so glad you shared the messy middle. Your courage to write will make a difference to every single person who reads it. Much love, Joy

    Reply
    • Susie

      Wow, thank you Joy, that means so much to me ❤️

      Reply

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Hi, I'm Susie! Welcome to my travel blog. Join me as I travel SE Asia and reconnect with myself - body, mind and soul!

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