Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Essay: Forever 95

Every Wednesday, I have an essay on any topic that catches my fancy!

People who've met me in real life have one complaint: my physique. Friends, family, and acquaintances keep on telling me I get skinnier every time they see me. My reply to them is that this is simply impossible because people have been making that comment ever since I was four years old. I'm currently twenty five. If their claim was true, I'd be as small as a Keebler elf. I don't think it's possible for me to shed more weight. But just to be sure, last week, I got on the weighing scale. Three years has passed since I last checked my weight and well, there's been no change. I'm still 95 pounds, underweight for my size and I'm still ineligible to compete in boxing. Not that I'm actually taking up boxing but I'd just like to point out that the lowest weight category, minimumweight, has a weight limit of 105 pounds. I suspect I'm also disqualified from participating in sports like judo or if I do, I'll get paired up against kids.

At this point, the question in some people's minds might be what's it like to be underweight. And the honest answer is that I feel normal. I mean I've been like this my entire life. I still do the same activities as "regular" people, it hasn't really handicapped me in any way. And you can ask people with other "disabilities"--I've read several interviews with authors who have dyslexia and they don't perceive their condition as a disadvantage despite what normal society might think. And I'm sure that's the case with other conditions, whether you're blind, deaf, or experiencing synesthesia. We cope, we adjust, and it's all well and good.

I found my optimum weight at 90 pounds in 1996. I didn't gain weight after that until I started consuming soya milk three years ago (it's the fiber--during a vacation to Perth, I shocked my relatives when I told them I only used the toilet once a week). My barong from my grade school graduation still fits me. Before that, my parents would entice me to increase my body mass by bribing me ("we'll buy you a new video game for every 10 pounds you gain"). Alas, as greedy as I was, my weight has pretty much been constant.

People usually wonder how I manage to stay thin. Is it due to the exercise? (I walk to work every day and it takes me 20 minutes to get there.) Is due to my diet? (For the record, aside from the soya milk, there's nothing special in my food. Except for the fact that I often skip lunch.) I'll come clean by saying it's my genetics and biology because I wasn't doing much of either when I was young. I mean hey, I was a kid who thrived on junk food, sodas, and played video games all day. Did you really think I was getting much exercise? (Of course the irony is that my cousins are all fat to the point that it makes Mr. Belvedere look scrawny.)

Unfortunately, at an early age, my parents sought to "remedy" the situation. The first solution they came up with was to feed me more food than the usual. If my sibling got one scoop of rice, I got two. This did not entice me to eat more and I told them I was full. Parents being parents, they did not believe me and expected me to eat more despite the protests of my stomach. You'd think they'd learn after I vomited my food (because my stomach can't take it any more!) time after time again but this went on for years (welcome to my childhood). No, I am neither anorexic nor bulimic. I do not like vomiting the contents of my stomach. The only time I vomit my food is when my parents force feed me despite my protests that I cannot eat more. Ever since I was considered an "adult" enough to determine how much food I'll actually eat, there was less stink on me. (And somehow, the logic of "I'll eat when I'm hungry!" eludes my parents.)

My parents did not stop attempting to "cure" me however. All the vitamins and milk (in which I develop a certain intolerance for lactose hence my current obsession with soya milk) in the world did not help me. When Western science (which is funny because to this day, my mom practices erroneous applications of science such as offering Gatorade to someone suffering from diarrhea despite me repeatedly telling her it doesn't work that way--and I've consulted my P.E. teacher and med students on this) failed, there was Eastern medicine in which I consumed strange concoctions (Fear Factor has nothing on me when you're forced to consume preserved bugs like, uh, cockroaches) or underwent treatments like acupuncture (uh, don't believe it when people tell you it's not painful and in my case, I wasn't allowed to eat after the treatment despite my protests of being hungry). If we weren't Chinese, they'd probably take me to a faith healer in some rural village.

Throughout the entire experience, the one stressing about my weight was my parents. As for me, I have no complaints. Gaining or losing weight wasn't really a problem for me. In fact, despite me being underweight, I didn't really experience any of the symptoms associated with my condition. I have low blood pressure and my doctor asked me if I have fainting spells and well, I've never fainted or even came close to doing so (well, there was that one time during ROTC--there's nothing voluntary when it comes to training for the army reserves here in the Philippines). Instead of fretting over my vanity, I'm more likely to be grateful for what I do have, and making the most out of being underweight (well it's summer over here so while the rest of the country is perspiring under the heat, it's a cool breeze for me).

Of course being a lanky male does have its advantage, everything from eliciting pity from muggers ("he's not worth it") to people not feeling threatened by you ("I can take him on!").

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