100 lb. Club - Back from El Salvador




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Goddess Jessica
01-01-2008, 06:28 PM
Hello all!
http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2061/2156058570_00d0e2d78a_m.jpg
(Me on the left, my friend on the right!)

I'm back from my visit to El Salvador to visit my friend in the Peace Corp. It was a fantastic vacation. We hiked all the time and spent the evenings philosophizing about saving the world (by the way - no solutions yet but I'll keep you posted). There was some odd soul searching while I was there because of the different situations I was thrown into and culture shocks.

El Salvador has a really interesting culture and the people are some of the sweetest human beings you will meet on the planet. Because of the history of civil war, I think they go out of their way not to offend people. Except in one area: fatness. They will openly make comments about a woman's weight, ask her how much she weighs, etc. Not usually shouted across the street but nevertheless, it was shocking.

For example, my friend is a marathon runner. When she joined the peace corp, she could have stopped running since it's not an activity that most people of El Salvador participate in and the streets (mostly cobblestone) aren't really set up for running. However, every morning she gets up and runs. People look at her strangely and the children run around pretending to be her but she still does it everyday. When I arrived, her male neighbor yelled across the street while we were walking - he was laughing and saying that I should run with her so I wouldn't be fat. And he continued to make these comments every morning. He wasn't trying to be cruel, he thought he was bonding with us! It's just part of their culture.

Luckily, I am a thick-skinned woman but it was WEARING to hear these comments all the time. I think it was worse for my friend who got upset to the point of tears one day (after a comment on a bus) because she wanted to shake them and say, "You don't know anything about her. She hikes volcanoes! She runs triathlons!"

But isn't that the point? No one knows anything about YOU. No one knows your story, no one knows your motivation. Judgments have always been made without that knowledge. Whether it be about your financial situation, the people you love or the size you are - no one knows your story. Which make those judgments... well... it makes them ridiculous.

So here's my challenge: stop listening to those judgments.

There are times when we care about what other people think when we just shouldn't. It could be walking into a fitness class for the first time (or the gym) or it could be painting when you've never learned how to paint - whatever you decide to do - make it YOUR decision.

During the 2600 homemade stairs I had climbed on a volcano in El Salvador, I made friends with our young guide, Steven. He was trying to learn English so he was asking me a ton of questions. At one point I stopped because I needed a break and he made the comment, "Eres fuerte!" I made my best bodybuilder pose and said, "Yes! I am strong!" And he said, "No, really! I have never seen someone fat hike this volcano before. I am impressed." I laughed and thought, Kid, I am much more impressive than this. I'm just getting started.


BattleAx
01-01-2008, 06:47 PM
Very good post, Jessica. I have experienced the same type of comments from people of other cultures.

You just blew right past that tour guide's stereotyping, and gave him something to think about. Not that it was necessarily the goal of your trip, but shaking things up can be a fun byproduct of an adventure.

By the way, you are looking quite a bit slimmer in the pic. You look great. Very healthy. You looked great before, too...just want to throw that in.

fiberlover
01-01-2008, 07:13 PM
Just another story of how we get judged (incorrectly) by what's on the outside.
I love that pic of you two - what a great background!


knitsforfive
01-01-2008, 07:35 PM
Provocative post (and great photo). It reminded me of the ways I have struggled with weight while living in other countries. As I consider the exchanges I experienced concerning weight while living abroad, I am also remembering that I was also apparently quite attractive to many people...even those who commented on my weight. It makes me wonder if maybe we are just a much more touchy culture in terms of this topic in particular. If my memory serves me, it was commonplace to be very direct in all 3 of the other countries I have inhabited. And yet, in retrospect, I really don't think people were being judgmental in their directness. I think they were just stating a fact...like..."Wow -- your hair is so long now" or "you have really blue eyes. " I think in a lot of situations I was the one who was turning the remarks about my weight into a negative thing, when they were probably just stating a fact -- not one that judged either positively or negatively -- but just a simple fact: "You are such a fat American. America has really good food."

The thing is that we Americans have turned "fat" into a dirty word and so it disturbs us to hear something like that. It is like when a child comments on size (like when my daughter walked up to my post-shower naked butt, grabbed it, and said, "Jiggle! Jiggle! Jiggle!" or when my son asked me why my stomach is so much larger than my friend's stomach). It is typically (unless the have influenced otherwise) not a critical comment -- just a statement of fact, but through our fat-phobic lenses, we might see it as critical.

Wow -- it would have been so much more pleasant and freeing to me had I thought all this through while living in the other countries. Hindsight is 20/20. Thanks for the opportunity for reflection Jessica.

Trazey34
01-01-2008, 07:38 PM
great post! It's true, being in other cultures can be shocking! We were in Africa a few years ago and men would NOT leave me alone! hahah they wanted to marry me because big plus sized women don't have a.i.d.s , and in that culture it's very high status symbol to have a fat wife LOL

Purplefirefly
01-01-2008, 07:55 PM
Great post, Jessica, and glad you are home safe. I visited Israel like 8 years ago, maybe more, but was in Palestine on the west bank (it wasn't as bad as it is now, but was still dangerous)...and I stayed with the nicest, kindest family you could ever imagine. They were so sweet, but the women kept asking me how I got so fat. Finally someone who spoke more english filled me in that being fat was a good thing there, women wanted to be fat, but it was hard for them to get fat...mostly just the elderly women had some chunky to them. The younger women my age all envied my fat, imagine that :lol:

It was when I developed all my pictures from that trip that I frist realized I WAS fat, very very fat, and I was in such denial before that. Just walking up the hills and all was very tiring and my heart would beat so hard I feared having a heart attack there with no one to help me anywhere near. I wish I had started this process then, and I'd have been at goals years ago.

they walk everywhere there, lots of huge hills and they do it every single day. They don't have restaraunts anywhere near, you'd have to walk about a mile from the house I stayed in, wait for a taxi, drive about a half hour, and walk a little more just to get to the closest restaraunt, and it was by far not what we eat here, it was just a small place cooking same things they cooked at their home. The women did eat a lot in this family because they were extremely well off for the area...which is how I got there through my college...but, they walked so much, worked so hard, that they just couldn't keep on the weight they would have loved to have. That's why the elderly women got a little plumper, they still worked hard but didn't do as much as the walking at that age.

Sheila53
01-01-2008, 08:45 PM
Hola, GJ! Glad you had a wonderful time. You have always impressed me with your strength and insight and have done it yet again. I think we can all benefit from not listening to other people's judgements, and even stop making them ourselves. I know I have to figuratively slap myself when I make a (usually erroneous) judgement about someone else.

When I was in high school, there was an exchange student from El Salvador--she was a teeny, tiny little thing named Tita, who was from a very wealthy family. She would always ask me to spend the night when her exchange family was out of town. While we were fairly friendly, I always wondered why she asked me to stay overnight with her. Then I realized that I was the biggest one of the girls she knew. When I asked her about it, she said she thought I could protect her better than anyone else. Oh, if she'd only known what a weenie I was!

Glad you're back, and absolutely love the photo.

Nori71
01-01-2008, 10:07 PM
Sounds like you had a very fun, active and insightful trip! And your picture is great! You are so happy - it comes through in your posts and also your picture!

I've learned to become thick-skinned when it comes to people's "fat" comments - or other judgments for that matter. Imagine my shock when MIL referred to me (in front of me) as "her fat daughter-in-law" during my first visit to her house after we were married.:p Since then I've been called "big" and not "fat".

GirlyGirlSebas
01-02-2008, 09:40 AM
Kid, I am much more impressive than this. I'm just getting started.

Yes, you are an impressive woman! Welcome back!

famograham
01-02-2008, 02:26 PM
Welcome home Jessica :) You've been missed!

I'm always so proud of the way you handle everything. I would have avoided that trip if I'd known that would happen! In fact, that's one of the reasons I didn't go to Madeira with Rudy last year. His aunt had informed me that they call fat people "El Gorgo" there (and she's married to family from there). They did with her...and she's much smaller than me! I was too much of a wimp to take it.

You are awesome, and so strong and so brave.
I wanna be like you when I grow up!

xoxoxoxoxo
:hug:
Linda

Eves
01-02-2008, 03:10 PM
Welcome back! You look great in that picture.

Yeah, Latin American's aren't known for their political correctness. My first weigh in at a gym there included four other women and comments on how fat I was. At first it was embarrassing, then I felt empowered, and finally (after 11 months) I got annoyed. I'm glad that you came back stronger, keep us updated!

better health3
01-02-2008, 03:51 PM
You look so happy and radiant.

Thanks for sharing the story. I needed to hear it. Good for you for not letting it ruin your vacation like I probably would have.

This probably made you have some of the best workouts of your life. Use that anger to fuel your workouts. Show those jerks, sweetie.

BabyNicole
01-02-2008, 07:25 PM
Welcome back! I'm a Spanish teacher and have gone to Ecuador for a month. Let me tell you that in many Spanish speaking countries calling a girl (or guy) "gordita" (fat) is NOT perceived the way we think it is, so don't get offended. Here is the US we give the word "fat" a bad connotation, they think of it as healthy. I explain it to my students this way...when we squeeze a baby and say what chubby cheeks they have, we are calling that baby cute and healthy, not fat. ;) It's very hard to understand here in the US. I even have to remember how the culture is different.

Believe me, though...I had a similar experience and was kinda annoyed over there, but I just realized that it wasn't meant to be insulting. (I went to get my nails done. The lady smacked my leg and said, "gordita.") :o LOL I wanted to say, o geez thanks, lady. Oh, and she was pretty gordita herself! LOL

Oh...I forgot to say...I dated an Ecuadorian in college when I was 135lbs!!! He used to call me gordita! I WISH I was that "gordita" now!!!! Can you imagine being 135 being called gordita? I'm just really darn healthy now! LOL

kasmin
01-05-2008, 06:37 AM
Oh, this thread just made me laaaaugh and brought back so many memories. Not about your trip Jessica, that sounds like it rocked, but of course all the "fat" comment stories. Where I live too, the culture is such that you comment on these things to be "friendly". Not only fatness but other perceived faults. Of course in my case, the fat comments are by far and away the most prevalent, being the most visible "fault":p. One day, early on in my stay here, a Korean acquaintance whom I worked with commented on my size. By this time I had heard this from everyone of my acquaintance and I knew another bigger girl was getting none of these comments, so I was feeling rather sensitive about things as a result. So I said to him (to my shame) "You know, I have a mirror. My size is no surprise. But why don't people tell <the bigger girl> this? She's bigger than me." He looked at me in complete surprise at my response and replied, "But you're nicer!":lol: Part of the problem is that I apparently have a smiley and friendly demeanor (or so I've been told) and so the people here want to be "friendly" in return. After having been here now over 10 years, I now have caught myself feeling slighted when my weight hasn't been commented on:lol: :lol:

BabyNicole
01-05-2008, 07:50 AM
Oh, this thread just made me laaaaugh and brought back so many memories. Not about your trip Jessica, that sounds like it rocked, but of course all the "fat" comment stories. Where I live too, the culture is such that you comment on these things to be "friendly". Not only fatness but other perceived faults. Of course in my case, the fat comments are by far and away the most prevalent, being the most visible "fault":p. One day, early on in my stay here, a Korean acquaintance whom I worked with commented on my size. By this time I had heard this from everyone of my acquaintance and I knew another bigger girl was getting none of these comments, so I was feeling rather sensitive about things as a result. So I said to him (to my shame) "You know, I have a mirror. My size is no surprise. But why don't people tell <the bigger girl> this? She's bigger than me." He looked at me in complete surprise at my response and replied, "But you're nicer!":lol: Part of the problem is that I apparently have a smiley and friendly demeanor (or so I've been told) and so the people here want to be "friendly" in return. After having been here now over 10 years, I now have caught myself feeling slighted when my weight hasn't been commented on:lol: :lol:

LOL wow! That was a great story! I think I'm gonna move! LOL :D

nelie
01-05-2008, 08:28 AM
Jessica,

Welcome back!!

SuchAPrettyFace
01-05-2008, 12:36 PM
What an inspiring story! Glad to have you back!

stacylambert
01-09-2008, 03:08 AM
Hi Jessica!

Sorry, I'm a little late to the party but I just want to tell you how inspirational you are to me! First the triathlons and now this! Just for you I'm going to go to yoga class. Yea yea, I know it's nothing big but I've been wanting to go for so long and didn't because I was afraid of what people would think when I can barely touch my toes ;)

Thanks Hun :)

Oh btw, shoot me a pm if your still interested in getting together sometime. With the semester and holidays and everything over I'd definitely be up to it!

djs06
01-09-2008, 11:05 AM
Jessica,

You look great in that picture. Thanks for posting this, it's interesting to think about how fat is perceived differently. Even knowing that it probably would have been gut wrenching for me, but it is great that you're so thick skinned and don't let it get in your way. Good for you!

(Stacy, as a sidenote, i regularly go to yoga and love it. I'm by far the biggest person in my class but after the first few times, I stopped caring. It's not too easy to watch other people while you're tryng to do the poses anyway, so it's all good!)

midwife
01-09-2008, 11:56 AM
Welcome back, Goddess. What a wonderful trip, post, etc. You rock!

Sandi
01-09-2008, 03:52 PM
Welcome back!! Your attitude and outlook impress me so much!!! Your awesome!