Bet you weren’t expecting this sort of topic from me, but here we are and damn did I write it 😂 . There’s a lot to unpack. Let’s get right into it. Warning: I may have a tough love tone on this but know that I am here to help you and I’m on your side, so long as it’s about personal wellness / improvement.
If you have not seen it yet, I’ve ran a survey on Filipino individuals and their responses when friends or families take notice of their weight. This conversation is primarily about the Filipino culture although weight is secondary. I highly suggest that we be more mature and unbiased in this reading and also don’t be a peach ok? I’ve literally sat on this completed 2-part article for 2 months already. I was emotionally-charged the first time and if I released that first version, both sides of the argument would be raging already after the opening line.
Disclaimer: It's probably a good moment to remind you that at its core this is a blog site with lots of my opinions on it.
This article is for you if you’re curious about this culture that Filipino friends and families exhibit. If you’re not Filipino, I think this’ll still be interesting for you and you’d learn something new about us! If friends and/or family have taken notice of your weight before, this might be interesting for you. Lastly, if you want to know how other people react to these scenario, boy do I have some data (with visualizations and colours and stuff) for you too 🙂
For some people this is just “meh” for them when they hear it. For others, it’s a big deal and it impacts them negatively. One of goals in this article is to educate both sides of the argument on what and why the other side feels and acts the way they do.
The part 1 of this article is for people who receive these weight comments. Part 2 is all about me talking to the people who dish out comments like these.
History, for lack of a better term
So in the Filipino culture, if you are not aware, there is this tendency to take notice of someone else’s weight (notice I’m not calling it fat-shaming yet). Sometimes it happens when you attend a family gathering or sometimes you hear this when you visit relatives. It usually goes something like this:
* sees you from afar, waves at you *
* coming closer * Hi, kamusta ka na?! Uy, ang laki/payat mo na ha!
(EN: Hi How are you?! oh you’re big or skinny now!)
Note that them noticing you as “skinny” can go both ways: e.g.: they know you’re trying to lose weight and they’re acknowledging and congratulating you OR they’re hinting that there’s something wrong going on that’s causing you to unnecessarily lose more weight than (they deem) necessary.
Having lived in Philippines, it was never a problem for me. Maybe I was too young to care but then again I was there up until age 19. Maybe that was just my personality, that I didn’t care. To be fair also I wasn’t in any position to get big anyways. I was a teen (metabolism). It’s Philippines too so everything is manual, so simplest things become a mini-work out anyways. We don’t consistently have grand feasts too due to economics.
I knew and I noticed that it was quite funny even before where the first few sentences of a greeting involves weight right away. In today’s modern times, that’s one of the things people take notice: “why do you have to mention my weight (right away)?!”. As a kid it was meh for me, but now as an adult and as you hear it more and more it is puzzling why personal weights are part of the opening greeting. Older generations do these a lot.
Why DO they mention your weight right away?
Well what I’m about to write is just my personal observation and conclusion, from anecdotes/experiences. I can’t know the true reason unless I ask each and every Filipinos or read everyone’s mind. I am not explaining or excusing on behalf of them.
To me, I think it all boils down to them stating the obvious. Listen here, especially for those who claim they are affected when they receive comments like this.
With my experience in Philippines, there are those relatives who you see frequently and there are those rarely. I was blessed with relatives close by in the city, but there are those relatives that live in the province that we rarely visit. Remember that in Philippines/Manila, there’s tons of traffic. Going from city to city (which is less than 5km in reality) takes around 45mins (rough guesstimate); what more for places much farther than that. People get lazy (or most of the time they just don’t have the time/money) so they reserve those visits to those relatives far away for more important and relevant events.
So, I find that people tend to hear the weight comment from the relatives they see rarely. This makes sense to me: if I see you frequently, it’ll be difficult for me to tell if you are getting bigger or smaller. On the other hand, if I see you twice a year, I can see the drastic changes of now vs how I remember you before.
So going back to my initial point, they’re probably just stating the obvious (and what could be more obvious than that). Maybe it’s the weight, maybe it’s the hair, maybe it’s the height etc; but who complains with remarks like “oh you’ve grown much taller” right?
So, I THINK this is where it originated.
Take this thought experiment for a moment in this day and age: If you have just met someone who you have not seen or talked to in a while (should be easy, pandemic 2020), imagine your first few minutes with this person.
First you will exchange hi/hellos, and throw in the canned question of “how are you” and respond with the default answer of “good good” (without any further elaboration of how good you are or what you’ve been doing).
After that (or shortly before), both parties would then scan the other for some social queues. It makes sense. You don’t know this person much any more. You don’t know what s/he has been up to. You don’t know their current life story etc. So in an attempt to dig out from “awkward silences” to a meaningful conversation, you scan the other person for some queues and hints that you can bring up or talk about.
If you see a ring, “oh wow, you’re married now? congratulations! (then elaborate on that). If you see a toned arm, you ask “You still into basketball? Do you hit the gym? You still play basketball like old times?!”. You get the point, right?
So what Filipino friends/families are doing are essentially the same. I mean, a person’s size is just way obvious and too in your face to not ignore. Is it a good idea to bring someone else’s weight though? That’s another question that I’ll tap below.
I didn’t really get comments like that when I was there(Philippines), when I was a kid. But I had a variation of that I’d like to mention. Since I was a growing boy, I’d get into those situations and they would say something like:
“uy, lumalaki ka na ha”
(EN: “hey you’re getting bigger“)
In this context when they say bigger, it’s more akin to “you’re growing”, not so much of indicating the fat content of your body. It can also be in terms of height.
“Well what’s the point of this Dan?”
My point here is again, they’re just stating the obvious/fact and at the same time there is no malice in the intent on their part. I can’t guarantee you that any/everyone who mentions your weight has no malice like in my experience. Yes of course I recognize that there are some people who are just douchebags out there who actually mention your weight (and even phrase it as an insult). Some people are trying to push you down because of their own insecurities. I’m not talking about those guys. Yes if people say something like “oh he probably can’t run/play ball/etc because he fat” then yes that’s clear (possible)discrimination and stereotyping.
I’m just saying there’s a lot of facets and perspectives to consider and critically think about. Don’t be an SJW or keyboard warrior and just yap and complain. I’m all for equality, justice, all the next-gen stuff, but boy does it grind my gears when someone’s easily offended (especially by words).
I didn’t want to classify this as a “Filipino culture”. A tendency or a trend, sure. For the past couple of years Philippines has been producing lots of films about infidelity and cheating. Is that part of our culture now too? I’m not trying to tie two and two together. I don’t even know how an act gets to be classified as a “culture”. You can interpret and classify this all you want. For me, it’s not there yet. All I’m trying to say is that, while I tried to explain the innocence of the greeting, do you really want this to be tied to ‘our culture’?
I also would not automatically assume that if someone mentions this to me, that they’re out to get me or something or mean it in a negative/insulting way. Yes I recognize that different people process different things in different ways. You do what you do and you process it however you want, but once you realize/remember that:
“You can’t control other people’s actions. You can only control your reactions to them”
I say it’s wiser and it makes life less stressful for you if you just don’t let it phase you. Toughen up man/girl. Life’s gonna give you more shit than this so if this one you can’t conquer, boy/girl do I have news for you lol.
Another option is that if you are what they say you are and you want them to stop, maybe change your diet and exercise to reach your desired physique? Like really. All of these changes as for your benefit anyways. If you’re serious and committed, you can even just easily and simply start with how to eat better.
Of course this goes without saying, if you have any medical condition prohibiting you from getting to your desired physique or you’re in any situation where it’s out of your control, this article/advice of course does not apply to you. Maybe you’re going through something in life, maybe money’s tight, maybe you just have more important things to worry about, maybe it’s mental/emotional. It doesn’t apply to you and fuck those people even mentioning it without any consideration. You do you. Take care of yourself first. Take care of yourself and take care of the more important things in life rather than thinking about your physique and what other people think.
If also you’re going through something, it could be from a breakup or loss something/one, then of course it also goes without saying, it’s understandable. Go for it. Go through it. Demolish that Nutella like it’s no one’s business. Don’t worry about your shape. But unlike medical conditions where there’s a clear impediment, this one can be tricky. There’s no clear line of “what caused it” and “what marks it as solved”. If you’re going through something raw, deep, emotional, heavy, etc, then yea by all means. Do what you wanna do in order to cope and full come out of that hole properly. But if you’re like milking the excuse that you’ve broken up with someone or “you’re busy”, and you’ve been saying this for seven years AND you hate it when other people state the fact, the obvious…BRUHHH….like bruh…BRUUUUHHHH
BRUUUUUHHHHHHHDon’t make me write shit about you
My Peeve on the Matter
Here’s my peeve on the matter: the way I see it is if you wanna be you and you wanna be chonky, that’s fine. There is nothing wrong with that decision but don’t let other people’s comment phase or affect you. Conversely, if you’re letting it affect you and other people’s opinion is important to you, then do something about it. It peeves me up to the heavens when someone’s evidently big in relation to their body size AND they don’t want to admit that it’s unhealthy AND they make a big deal of it when someone mentions the obvious fact AND they don’t want to do something about it. It just…it wreaks of insecurity, denial, and just…~omfg Imma stop now.
“Ok, so you’ve never experienced any fat shaming then? What gives you the authority to talk about this then?”
I did actually. It wasn’t until when I got here in Canada (hello North American fast food) and it wasn’t until maybe like 3-5 years ago? When I received comments about my weight a handful of times (“tumataba ka na ha!”–EN: “you’re getting fat huh”). I was admittedly big and heavy. I was able to down 2 boxes of pi~you know what: point is, I was big and I knew it; the complete opposite of the LMFAO song.
So when people would take notice, my response is usually: “Yeaaa 😅”
I was enjoying this phase of abundance
(looking back: phase of scarcity mentality) and I know how physics and human physiology works so I knew (and I accepted and I was fine with it) that getting big was my eventual result. On rare occasions, I would get unsolicited comments about my weight in family gatherings. I remember one time I was so irritated by it because this one person gave me a comment AND also poked my tummy 😂.. To clarify I was irritated for two reasons: one was the person who gave me this comment, we rarely see each other. We rarely talk and we’re not blood relatives. In my head I’m like: “Bruh we’re not close. You should be cautious with comments like that (in general).”. Actually it’s the same with the tummy poking. We’re not close. “Don’t get too comfy buddy”, plus, you’re in my personal bubble.
I remember responding: “Don’t worry about my fat, worry about yours”. He was fit so what I’m trying to say is just keep worrying about yours and let me handle mine. He got the message. There was a brief awkward silence and then he moved along. It wasn’t meant to be a zing (though that was a good one), but it was more so “I’m a nice guy but don’t abuse it. We’re not that close. That was a warning shot. I will shred your balls if you come any closer. Wag ka assuming, as they say.
So yes I feel you guys but at the same time not really for the same reasons. Was I offended with the content of their question (them stating the fact that I was big)? No. I knew that that was the fact and I accepted and was fine with the consequences of my actions. Was I offended with how they phrased it? No. Am I letting this affect me? No.
I was only peeved because that guy assumed we’re close. We’re not. But anything else, if it’s an unsolicited weight comment from immediate relatives, or lolo’s (grandpa’s) or lola’s(grandma’s), or just anyone else who I haven’t seen in a while, my response would be the same:
“Yeaaaaaaaa 😅 “
Now going back, should people mention these to begin with? Was it socially smart of them to bring it up in the first place? No, and I’m getting there, don’t worry 😉
Don’t get me wrong
I’m not trying to defend or excuse them. I’m just trying to explain them (Filipino older generations that habitually dish these out).
I feel like at this point in my writing everybody knows that I mean well but I’m sure that for others even if they know I mean well, there’s just a fraction of their ego who just wants to come back at me. So let’s make this even way clearer than it already is:
So, body positivity, if I loosely translate this (correct me if you feel I’m wrong) is that it is the celebration, empowerment, and embracement of the fact that everyone has different shapes and sizes. There’s no one way of defining what beautiful is (supermodel figure). One can be plus size or slightly bigger and be equally attractive and in-demand compared to the supermodel counterparts. This is also not just trying to changing how society views you, but also how you view yourself. Ultimately, it’s about you being happy with whatever size you are and just going with it and not giving a fuck what other people think.
This goes both ways too wherein the movement tries to defend skinny people as well. It doesn’t mean that just because they’re skinny they’re about to snap or get blown off by the wind.
Now adding my take on it, I definitely support and encourage body positivity. There is nothing wrong with the concept and the movement and honestly, it talks about beauty standards and relative concepts, so yes, what is beautiful is actually relative. So long as you’re healthy (as in if you go to the doctor and the doc says you’re fine and healthy), it’s all good. And yes “healthy” looks different from different people. They can be naturally big-figured or skinny looking but for their body type and shape, that is ‘healthy’.
My problem is with the people who misconstrue this concept and understand it as celebrating obesity. Imm’a let these two wonderful and smart people break it down for you. You are fine and you are happy with your size? Awesome. I support and I’m happy for you. Oh you don’t look like Thor (the ripped Thor), that’s fine. Oh you are medically healthy, no problems, no injuries, no PREVENTABLE diseases, you’re fine. You don’t want to work out since you’re medically ‘healthy’? You’re fine, go for it. I am happy for you and I wish you the best.
But if you’re experiencing painful injuries doing the simplest motions, or you’re panting like hell just going up a flight of stairs, or your sleep quality is suffering and you’re experiencing sleep apnea, you’re sluggish during the day, your professional/personal performance are suffering….BRUV. C’mon now, BRRRUUUUUUUVVVVVVV.
I’ve been there man. It is not fun. Taking care of yourself (health and fitness) is a lifelong endeavour. It’s like freedom; something you have to constantly check and uphold. Sometimes you slip, that’s fine, but just don’t lose motivation to stand up and be better. I’m even going in and out of this at the moment 😅.
Fat (or skinny) Shaming
Fat shaming is straight up just not right. You shouldn’t be doing this. Statements like: (for skinny) “oh it’s windy better put some rocks in your pocket” or (for fat) “oh he fat he probably doesn’t love himself or he’s less of a man”. These are just destructive statements with no good news for anyone on the other end. I am against it for sure.
Anyways, I don’t want to dump it here because I’ve actually written an entire part 2 for this to discuss the other side. It would be an article aimed at people who casually throw these weight comments around. Click it.