If my body could talk, it would say:

Jen Xu
4 min readMay 20, 2020

“Sorry I’m not enough for you”

“Sorry that my ribs are too wide”

“Sorry that my hips are too narrow”

“Sorry that my tummy is too poofy”

“Sorry that there is too much fat on my back”

“Sorry that my glutes are still too small”

“Sorry that I weigh too much to do more than one pull-up, or even a good one at that”

“Sorry I don’t look the way everyone else looks right now”

“Sorry that I can’t be strong enough to melt away your pain”

And I would tell it that everything is okay because it has given me everything I need, even on the days that I think I hate it. Because I really don’t. I love it for everything that it’s done for me. It lets me walk, jump, spin and dance around. It lets me walk the dog, chase the dog, discipline the dog. It lets me hike the tallest mountains, walk the longest roads, swim in the coldest oceans. It lets me lift heavy weights, run around barefoot, and exert myself more than I think I’m capable of every single time. It doesn’t just let me do these things, it pushes me and reminds me how lovely it is to be alive and have a vessel that is so able.

Sometimes my body hurts. My back aches, my hip tightens up (seriously, no one ever thinks about glute tendinopathy but it probably happens a lot more than we think), my neck hurts. But then I realize that this is another way of being mean to my body. I have to give it rest, but I also have to push it. I have to respect that it’s strong and challenge it, but also stop when it’s simply too much. There are so many ways to hate my body and be unhappy with the way it looks, but there are so many more ways to love it. I don’t think about the fact that I am so able everyday, but when I do, I am incredibly grateful.

And I know that some of these things are genetic. I’m not going to be able to change the widths of my ribcage or my pelvis. But I can lose weight, I can make work hard to make my glutes bigger, I can do all these things — but the cool thing is that I don’t have to. I think that’s so special. I am the only one who is so hard on myself about all these things, I am the only one who gets to decide that I want to change things, and I am the only one who can put the work in to change things…if I want to.

Of course, my mom has been tough on me before. She’s called me “overweight”. Technically, by the very outdated BMI standards, I am quite overweight. I’m a 5'4", stocky, athletically-built (I’m not saying I am athletic, but I have a rather narrow, flat, board-like build, to be frank) Asian woman, which defies the nature of what looks “good” in Asian society. I explained to her that those BMI standards are not accurate and that calling me overweight is not necessarily the best thing to do for someone constantly who struggles with her body image. When you have 2 very slim sisters and you have already always been the black sheep of the family, you tend to hate yourself a little more sometimes. I’m not sure what came of that conversation, but…I guess we’ll see next time I’m home.

My parents have always taught me healthy habits, but being on my own has warped my brain a little bit. I’ve struggled with plenty of food anxiety (worrying if I have enough food with me if I’m at work, worrying if I’ve eaten enough), and it’s caused bloating and tummy aches and binge-eating. But I didn’t realize just how healthy their habits were compared to some classic American recipes. Recently I bought a 4-week subscription to Hello Fresh (each of these weeks were discounted) because I wanted some new recipes — and I actually really wanted to try them. I was shocked at the amount of salt I was constantly told to add, and the amount of butter I was supposed to use (P.S. Do NOT put butter in rice! I will cry if I witness it).

So, no wonder I always get headaches after eating at restaurants, with the amount of salt/fat that gets added to things that we don’t know about. That was a nice little lesson that I’ll be using to guide my future cooking habits. And shopping habits, promise I won’t buy a family-size chicken pot pie from Sam’s Club again just because it’s a rainy Utah day (hint: rainy Utah days do not last long) and I’m sort of hungry.

I am slowly learning to accept myself, and although there are days I struggle with binge-eating and feel-good eating, I’ve learned that I just love helping my body feel its best. And that’s through healthy eating, exercise and…well, I’m working on sleep, considering it’s nearly 1am, and we’ll get to that another time. But it’s really time to start treating our bodies better…and much better than they deserve. So stop and step away for a second, and see yourself the way the world sees you — perfect just the way you are, but open to change whenever you’re ready.

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Jen Xu

Athletic trainer, PhD student, coffee lover. I write about fitness, mental health, being Asian-American, and personal growth.