Monday, December 8, 2008

I've cracked the nut

Same size as always (mind the hideous clothes, I was going on a treck)

Due to another cold, visitors in town, and a kind of hectic schedule, I suppose you can say that I have been neglecting my training lately. It hasn't been on purpose, oh no, really, it hasn't. I love working out and for every day I haven't gone to the gym I have felt a bit bad. But sometimes your days are just too full of 'committments' and also, I think it is kind of rude to sneak off to a spinning class and let my visitors get lost in Suzhou on their own... Anyhoo, now the visitors have left, the cold have subsided (yey!) and although my schedule is still kind of hectic (the result of me going home over Xmas and having to do a whole lot of Xmas shopping), last week I decided to make a gym-comeback.

Since I haven't been going regularly for the last month, a lot of my muscles (especially on my upper body) have vanished and left me feeling... kind of soft... Yuuuk. So, when I arrived to the gym last Thursday I decided it was time for a full-on, full-body weight training session. While I was sitting on a bench in the free weight section training my non-existent-biceps, one of the Hunan boys came up to me.

-You Na! Wow, Long time no seen! Where have u been?
-Busy... Sick... well you know.
-I haven't seen you for ages!
-Yeah I know. I think it's been about 2 weeks since I was here last... yeah OK, I know. I have been bad. But now I will try to come more often. I have lost all my muscles,
I said and pointed at my sad looking arm.
Then came something I hadn't been expecting to hear:
-Yes you have! Lost your muscles and become a bit fat! So u better exercise now! I leave you to it.
-Eh... OK... thanks?!

Hm... OK. That was not what I was hoping to hear from my trainer friend during my first day of the great 'gym come back?' Oh well. Maybe he just tried to push me for a bit? Inspired by the thought of getting fit again I went back the following day for a cardio session.

-You Na! Long time no seen! This time it was the other Hunan by (alias Rocky) who greeted me. -Yeah I know. I have missed training... I started.
-I can tell! Your face is so round!
-It is?!?!??!
-Yeah, u must have put on some weight.
-I have?!

Holy s****, two comments on my weight during the period of only two days?! This HAD to mean something? I decided that I had to get to the bottom of this. Had I really, gained so much weight without noticing myself, meanwhile everyone else saw it?! I knew that I had lost some of my muscles and that my arms felt a lot softer than usual, but rounder face and visable excess weight?! Where had all of that come from? In only 2 weeks?

So I asked my bf:

-Am I fat?
, he said without looking at me.

Bad call. He would never say 'yes' even though he thought so.

-But come on, have I put on weight? I tried. You can be honest, I won't be angry and it is not a trick question!

He looked up from his book and gave me a suspicious glance.

-No, you haven't gained weight.

Hm... OK, but boyfriends are biased. If they tell you you've put on they know they might be in trouble so u cannot shallow his words hook line and sinker.

I decided my second option: the scale. The scale and I have a very simple relationship simply because I've been the same weight more or less since I was 15... or OK, maybe not really, but it feels like that. And this day came with no world-turning numbers. My weight was about the same as always, even 2 kg lighter. But then again, who cares about what scales says... Muscles weighs more than fat and ra ra ra... So.... I went to the third option, namely a measurement tape.

Now this might sound a bit obsessed to you. I bet most people DON'T know their hip/waist width. But I have a fully acceptable reason for knowing. Over the years I have been doing some odd jobs, and one of them has been working as a 'fitting model' for different clothing companies. NOTE: THIS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE REAL ART OF MODELLING. A fitting model simply tries on a pair of pants/ a jumper to see that the size is correct before the company purchases it (in a mass quantity) from the buyer. There are not photos or posing involved with the job... U just try on clothes and tell the company what they feel like. I am a size 38 (on the tall side but still) and therefore I happen to know my hip and waist measurements. So, there u go. Please don't call me obsessed now.

The measurement tape said what it always said. I hadn't gained, and I hadn't lost. I was still a size 38.

So, I decided to go for the fourth and final option, who I know wouldn't be able to lie to me: my skinniest jeans. Jeans, so skinny, that on a 'fat day' (girls know what I am talking about) I cannot always get into them. In fact, I rarely wear them because they are so damn tight, but I still like to keep them as they are the best way to keep track on sudden weight gains.

And to my big surprise: I had no problem what-so-ever to slip into these jeans.

So... with these four factors (bf, scale, measurement tape, and skinny jeans) I think I can say that I really haven't gained any weight! And, if my face is rounder, it has to be temporary swollen or something? Anyways, it can't be because have gained weight... then I would have noticed.

This leaves me with a big question though: 'long time no seen! Oh You Na, you have gained so much weight!" -what is that all about?
As usual, I will present you with four theories:

1. Is that just something you SAY when u see someone u haven't seen for a while? (if so, it's a kind of stupid thing to say)
2. Or, do u say it to make the other one feel guilty for not being to the gym lately (in that case the comment is successful)
3. Or... is it a friendly gesture meaning that we have known each other long enough to joke about each others weight?
4. ...or have these 2 boys thought I was 'fat' all along?!

Please fill me in on this one because I am starting to feel seriously confused about this whole 'you look so fat' thing in China?' Not only do I find it strange that my acquaintances are telling me this, but I also sort of strongly dislike it. And judging from these last 2 comments, it just a load of bullshit?! Why bother?! (and don't blame me for bothering to care. I don't know any girl who wouldn't after two guys told her she looked 'fat')


Anonymous said...

I think it's combination of theory 1 and 2. I know it's stupid, but I believe they don't meant to offend you. It's a typical Chinese culture.

Rambler said...

I think it's mostly 1 with a bit of 2. And a gym is still a business. Maybe they're trying to use scare tactics to keep you coming.

The Chinese seem to innately know how to time their comments to really throw you off. They never come when at a time when you can take them. It's always at a moment to make thing feel weird.

Anonymous said...

I think it's simply because talking abt weight is not a big thing in china at all, just as the English like to talk about wthe eather, the chinese people may talk abt weight to start a conversation. You may feel offended because you are not a chinese.(young morden chinese girls may feel offended too, since this talking habit is gradually out-dated, and your trainers come from the countryside)
Also, i think the chiense talk of weight is way of expressing friendness, because we only judge our friends' weight in front of them.

Anonymous said...

I think it's just the usual Chinese logic. You haven't been for a while so you MUST have put on weight, just like it's December so it MUST be cold and people dress according to the calendar and not according to the actual temperature. Okay, December is a bad example because it is actually cold, but let's say early November, when it wasn't. Plus I guess it's part making conversation so I would not read too much in to it, seriously, you look fine!

Anonymous said...

Like everyone else, I think their comments were just a way of being "friendly" with you, but I know I would be pretty ticked off too, culture gap or no culture gap!

I once had a boyfriend (Chinese) tell me I had lost weight and then tell me I had gained weight all in the course of 5 minutes! I felt like slugging him! In fact, I had neither lost nor gained weight: I was swollen (something which happens to me a lot, unfortunately).

I bet it was a combination of slight swelling and some loss of tone that made you look a tiny bit heavier -- and those guys at the gym made the most of that tiny bit! Maybe you've been getting more sodium than usual without realizing it?

Anyway, good luck getting back to your normal self. I am sure it won't take long!

Jonna Wibelius said...

yeah I know u guys are right.. I just wanted to share this story as I find it kind of interesting that I was told I had put on weight, and rather than just feeling like a pig, I looked into it and realised I hadn't. So... No need to feel bad about comments like this in China I sps.. Next time they tell me I am just going to shrug my shoulders and say:

"Yeah, so have u!"

...with a big smile. Since we are such buddies they won't mind will they??!

Flyingfish -swelling/being bloated is awful. I had a lot of problem w that before but since I moved to China it has more or less vanished.. thank lord. I feel for u!

Anonymous said...

Even as a guy I get commented on my weight, and I'm fairly athletic. Like you said, it really doesn't hurt as much as it just confuses me that such comments are considered "conversation starters".

What kills me is when I begin teaching adjectives in the elementary classroom and all of the students tell me that this one girl in the room is very fat. This girl, instead of crying like one might in America, looks at me with indifferent eyes and says "Yea, I'm a little fat."

Sticks and stones, I guess. They must have a much better grasp of it here in China, though.

Anonymous said...

It is just like WoAi said.

Since you have not been to the gym for some time they automaticly think you have become more fat.

Just like when I was sick then everyone told me I got sooo skinny, even though I had not lost any weight. But you can pretty fast loose the outer muscle tones when not training for a while. I know I had, just finished my three weeks non-training restituion plan and I can easily see that my legs dont look beef at all, even though I know I have not lost any muscles.

m--e said...

This happens to everyone! They always say my husband is fatter. Usually I am told I am slimmer (even after eating hamburgers and steak in the US for 2 months!). Really, it means nothing.

When my friend came back from a long stint in the US, he was changing in the gym and chatting with a friend. When the guy saw his belly, he promptly poked it, cut the conversation off and ordered "Get out there!"

You are quite slim and I admire you for being so dedicated to working out!

Anonymous said...

Whenever I go to get some food at the local restaurant, the owner tells me I will crash my bike and die if I don't put more air into my tyres :-( *knock on wood*

It's very direct, and maybe they are just trying to motivate you into getting back into the swing of things. Feel the burn and all that, haha :-)

Jonna Wibelius said...

Josh, M-E, Lauren and Emil -thanks for sharing your experiences, it feels so much better when u hear that almost everyone are having similar experiences here. Like I said, I don't take these comments dead serious anymore (although I did the first time my Chinese boss told me I had put on weight -at that time I was living in Finland and had no idea about Chinese customs/culture) but I still find them kind of funny... M-E, if they tell u u look slim u are a lucky lady! I have never been told that one.. the closest to a 'body related' compliment I have gotten here is: "you have VERY VERY big bones but very little meat, so you look okay!"

hahahah.. makes me crack up when I think about it.

Josh -I feel for that small girl that everyone calls fat. When I studied mandarin level 1 there was a guy in our class who was one size (or ok, 4 sizes) bigger than everyone else and our teacher always used him as an example when she taught us adjectives, eg:
"Mike is handsome and James is fat". Even though she kept saying that she 'didn't mean anything bad about it' afterwards, I could see on James that he wasn't really enjoying being called 'fat' in front of the whole class.. But yeah, that's just the way they do things over here.

Hang said...

I agree with Anonymous that it's a combination of 1 and 2. I don't think it was their tactics to keep you coming. It's just some small talk.

Chinese tend to be casual and direct on these comments, which are by no means offensive on most occassions. I also make similar comments on my friends regardless of their gender. Sometimes these talks serve to start a conversation. Sometimes you want to make fun of a friend by saying them. For example, a man may flirt with his girlfriend (or a female friend) by saying "Hey beauty, long time no see, you seem to have put on some weight (which is not necessarily the case)". He is expected to receive a friendly punch from the girl or something, or the girl may pretend to be angry with him and expect him to say something sweet. Ha,ha ... I'm sure most foreigners are not used to these kind of things. Learning a language is relatively easy, learning what's behind the language is somewhat difficult.

Mark's Blog said...

Well, I think it is only a way of saying Hello, with little real meaning. Like the old 你吃了吗?Just a way of greeting. But it changes with time. I have not heard 你吃了吗 for a long time. But 你瘦了/胖了 is more usual now. Kinda like fashion.

yuyang said...

the best explaination i can think about is people tend to use 你看起来瘦了些/胖了些.你看起来气色不太好/不错 It's just a sentence to start a conversation and show they care about u, absolutly no offend. beside,they dont know fitness means a lot to u. It's not a big deal in china(while a large amount of ppl are still experiencing hungry.)

Jonna Wibelius said...

yuyang -if the comment would have come from a friend that I normally have coffee with I could buy your theory, but these guys are personal trainers.. if anyone is into training/weight control, it is them. Training might not be huge in China but the people that are into it, are REALLY into it, if u know what I mean.

And... since they have followed all of my running success/failure stories, they know how much I love sport too. In fact, they have often before made comments about me being 'very fit' and so on.. so that's why I was kind of shocked when they suddenly told me I was 'fat'... but but.

M J said...

Hi ...

Saying that you're "fat" in your face means two things in the chinese way of mentality...
1.. it's their nature to be blunt, and intrusive in chinese culture
2... Jealousy rides their mind when they meet someone better than them (doesn't it happens in all races/ethnic culture?)

Frankly, i find it rude that they bring up people's "flaws"/"imperfections" so unexpectedly...

They give other chinese people, (who don't think/act like that) a bad name. Shame on them!