I have to admit I barely have any concerns about our move to Japan. Of course it will be different and it will take some time to adjust, of course I will miss my family and friends and not knowing where I will work makes me a bit uneasy, but I’m confident I will find something. The one thing that makes me sweat and keeps me thinking is just one thing: my weight.
I’m overweight and have been struggling with my weight my whole life. I can’t think of a time that I wasn’t on a diet and I started caring about it when I was only 11 years old. I am insecure in this regard and it is probably a result of a distorted self image (but that’s another discussion). Writing this on the internet makes me uncomfortable as well, because it is so very personal to me. Yet it is definitely a big concern and does factor in to my thought about moving to Japan.
From my earlier experience in Japan I am certain that I won’t find clothes that fit my size (or shoes for that matter – damn you big feet). unless I order them online or buy them in one of the few – and very expensive – special stores. Though if you are prepared and plan to visit your home country more than once a year I think that in itself is not that big of a problem. I’ll bring a lot of clothes and shoes with me and in the worst case scenario I can ask my sisters or my mom to send me something.
What I cannot really prepare for though is how people in Japan will think about me/my weight and how I will react to that.
The backdrop: When I was in Japan for a year I had about half a year during which I felt really good about myself. At that time my weight would still have been considered overweight, yet I was comfortable with it and did not think about it constantly. Then I started my internship and things took a turn for the worse. Sitting there 9 hours a day having little to nothing to do had only one result: me going constantly to the little shop next to the cafeteria (to get away and have at least the feeling of doing something) and buying chocolates and sweets. During the 6 months I was at my internship I gained about 30 (!!) pounds. Sitting around all day and eating junk food combined with only 4 hours of sleep per night had horrible effects not only on my health but also on my mood. The same thing happened again when I got promoted at my current work while still writing my thesis. I was (and am) constantly stressed and compensated with food. That added another 30 pounds…
So what’s the problem here?
The reason I am so worried about the whole thing is, that I am so very self-conscious about my weight. I know there are also chubby or obese people in Japan, yet I will be definitely bigger. Being quite tall, a foreigner and big, I know I will be looked at, wherever I go. Though most people probably will only be curious and not think about it much I know I will feel like they are thinking stuff like “She’s so fat and ugly.”
Granted, that is more a problem of my thinking than a problem of other people, and it’s not so different now in Germany, but it will feel so much more intense in Japan, surrounded by all those cute, tiny and stylish Japanese women. Especially when you have a look at the sizes that in Japan are considered “chubby”.
I just read the “Yeah, it’s pretty clear, I ain’t no size two” post from Bernie Low over at the gaijinpot blog about being obese in Japan. Though only one persons opinion, the included video from Rachel & Jun shows a “Chubbiness” Range that has only one picture I would consider slightly chubby.
Yet there is hope that even though the beginning might be rough I will be feeling better eventually. Rachel & Jun posted a video about “How to lose weight in Japan 日本でダイエット” and I could only agree with the comments. Tough I ultimately gained a lot of weight in Japan, while I was at the university I actually lost a few pounds. On my first trip to Japan for a three week exploration of the city I actually lost about 17 pounds without even noticing it. I didn’t try losing weight, I was just walking so much and ate differently than at home.
Though I will never be considered skinny I think if I could get to the weight I had when I went to university I would feel at least at ease with myself and not be so self-conscious when meeting other people.
For all that are interested, here’s the video “What’s overweight in Japan?” from Rachel & Jun: