The fat girl in Thailand

d travels headshot

A look at the realities of being an overweight female in Thailand and a lifelong struggle with being overweight.
This post is a part of the year-long Comfort Zone Project.

“Oh, why you so pom pui?” People ask me. Strangers. Friends. You name it.

Pom pui.

You’d think one of the first words I would learn in Thailand would be how to ask someone’s name, or how to ask for directions. But, nope. One of the first words I learn other than “drunk” is pom pui or “fat.”

And that is because everyone asks me why I am fat. Or tells me I am fat. Or says I am soai  (beautiful) followed by pom pui. 

Fat AND beautiful. Now, that is a nice backhanded compliment. Thankyouverymuch.

Unlike in Western cultures, weight here isn’t one of those hush-hush things. It’s an in-your-face thing. Comments people make here that would make me cry if someone Western was saying it simply roll of my back. Or, they try to roll off my back.


After awhile, those “you’re fat” comments begin to take a toll.

Skinny is everywhere in Thailand. If you’re above a size 8 (and I think I’m being quite forgiving when I say that), you won’t be able to find cute clothes. I’m a size 10 or 12 (depending on the day), and yeah, shopping at the department stores leaves me feeling defeated when I look at a pair of pants that can’t even fit an arm through the leg, let alone my ass.

The only place I can shop is Tesco Lotus, and then it is clothing that is more like a tent than anything cute and form-fitting.

I’ve always battled with being overweight, and here in Chiang Mai, it is a constant reminder of those battles.

The Skinny Syndrome and Las Vegas

When I lived in Las Vegas, I lived in a world where beauty was directly attributed to a tiny waist, big bust (check), spray tan and hair extensions. It had nothing to do with anything else. You got further in Vegas if you were skinny, and I was not a fool.

Even when work asked that I get a headshot, the photographer worked magic.

Impress headshot of Diana Edelman | A look at the realities of being an overweight female in Thailand and a lifelong struggle with being overweight.
Just a tweak here and a tweak there and you’re perfect.

“I’m just going to make your nose a little smaller, your eyes a little bigger, your teeth a little straighter, your face a little smaller … oh, but you are beautiful,” he said, as he Photoshopped me to a younger illustration (or caricature) of myself.

After only a few months in Sin City, I began to do PR for a doctor who shall remain nameless because after years of following his business, I think he is the most unethical doctor I’ve ever met or heard of. This good doctor had a weight loss program that basically was a cocktail of diet pills and seizure pills that resulted in the heaviest of people transforming quickly into slimmer versions of themselves.

As I sat on the table after getting an EKG done, he looked at me and said “You’re going to be blown away by how fat you are.”

I kid you not.

Sure, I was tipping the scales at 200 at that time, but for a doctor to tell me that broke my heart. And yes, it is his job, but to say so in such a callous way …

He handed me two bottles of pills, a Phentermine concoction for the mornings and Topomax for the evenings, and prescribed me a weekly fat burning shot.

Yosemite 2005 Diana Edelman | A look at the realities of being an overweight female in Thailand and a lifelong struggle with being overweight.
Hiking in Yosemite. Down to a size nothing in 2005.

The shit worked. Within six months I had gone from a size 16 to a six four. I had gone from fat to toothpick. It was a miracle drug, but it had its prices. My vision became blurry. My heart would race like I had just snorted an entire eight-ball of coke for breakfast. I was skinny, but it wasn’t me.

New Years Diana Edelman | A look at the realities of being an overweight female in Thailand and a lifelong struggle with being overweight.
Ringing in the New Year in 2006. Just look at that neck.

As the good doctor put it, I was now sexy. I had newfound attention from men. I had gone from the ugly duckling in the corner watching all of the couples snuggling to the girl with guys at her side. I had gone from the girl who hid her body behind enormous, billowy shirts to the girl wearing tight dresses. I had the body I had always dreamed of.

Until I didn’t.

After nearly a year of taking the pills, I decided to stop them. Cold turkey. Within months, my weight shot back up and I was back to the loose clothing.

People would look at me with their brow furrowed, casting me their deepest sympathies for my weight gain. I was back to being the girl in the corner.

It was then I made the conscious decision that I would not let those stares ruin me. I would not let those stares define me and my body. I would take control. I enrolled at the gym and started working out. I didn’t get back to a size four, but I made sure I could have control over my weight.

The thing about weight-loss is, you have to be all in, or not at all.

I had worked out for about six months when I started to get depressed, and soon even lacing up my sneakers was a challenge. So, instead I ate. Papa John’s. McDonalds. I drank. I did whatever I could to camouflage my insecurities by doing something I could control — my intake of food and drink.

January 2009 | A look at the realities of being an overweight female in Thailand and a lifelong struggle with being overweight.
The Great Weight Gain: 2007 – 2009. Taken Jan. 2009.

But, when your intake trumps your exertion, you gain weight. So, I ballooned back to the weight I was when I arrived in Vegas.

It’s all about control

It wasn’t until I left Vegas and relocated to Atlanta that I finally was able to control my weight again. For at least six months. Then, depression again. Weight gain again.

A look at the realities of being an overweight female in Thailand and a lifelong struggle with being overweight.
Four months later … skinnier in Atlanta, thanks to hour-long cardio and personal training most of every week.

I thought traveling would make me skinny, so when I set out for my career-break, I decided I would lose weight. I lost a little — there’s something to be said for walking places with a huge backpack on your back that causes those calories to just burn, burn, burn.

I returned to America a smaller version of myself, but still not happy. I looked in the mirror and saw a fat, fat girl who hated herself for not being able to control her own body.

A look at the realities of being an overweight female in Thailand and a lifelong struggle with being overweight.
“You’re pretty, but I don’t date big girls and from this picture, you look like a big girl,” one guy told me via e-mail. Photo: Ronda Churchill.

Of course, the normal lose weight-gain weight battle once again ensued upon my arrival back to Vegas. I was up to five days a week at the gym, busting out an hour of cardio a pop, followed by yoga or pilates. I was counting calories. Cutting down on the booze. And, then, I wasn’t. Again. Because it is all cyclical.

The expat life

When I moved to Thailand, I was the heaviest I had ever been. Standing in front of the mirror in my room at Smith, looking at myself naked … I would burst into tears.

I. Am. So. Fat.

Sri Lanka | A look at the realities of being an overweight female in Thailand and a lifelong struggle with being overweight.
At my heaviest in September 2012 in Sri Lanka.

Thoughts would race through my mind. I will never find someone to kiss me again. I will never find someone to sleep with again. I will never find someone to love me.

The worst part about living in Thailand and being overweight, is living in Thailand and being a western women. The chances of finding a guy are nearly zero.

I’ve always operated with the belief that beauty is everywhere … that I shouldn’t have to be skinny to fall in love or to have someone fall in love with me. That no one should be anyone they are not … that as people, we are all gorgeous, whether skinny, fat, short, tall, etc. I’ve dated men who I wasn’t initially attracted to, but as I got to know them, they turned into the world’s hottest people.

Attraction is important, yes. But, there are other things, too. And, I always held tight to the belief that people would like me simply for me. For my heart. For my mind. For my passion. Not because I am or am not a size four.

I guess I’m not everyone.

A look at the realities of being an overweight female in Thailand and a lifelong struggle with being overweight.
A year after Sri Lanka and 20 lbs lighter

Even as the pounds began to fall off — a total change in diet (cutting out meat), along with sweltering heat and sweating my weight out of me daily — dropped the scale about 20 pounds. But, it didn’t matter. People saw me the same. Fat. Pom pui.

And soon, it became just a part of my life. Everyone commenting (and I mean everyone — strangers, friends, people I see everyday and can only exchange bits of broken Thai or English), even when their comments were not asked for or welcomed.

I have no idea why anyone thinks it is ok to tell someone they would be so much prettier/better/etc. if they weren’t fat.

Sometimes, it boggles my mind.

I don’t look at them and say, “you know, you would be better if you pulled that stick out of your ass and completely rearranged your face?” It would certainly not be met with an understanding smile. So, why the double standard? Why is it OK for someone to give you their opinion about what makes you “not worthy” of being loved? And since when does weight become the single most important factor in any part of life?

I know people here don’t mean it to cause pain. It is either no big deal since calling someone “fat” is normal, or they tell me because they think it can help me become a better me. But that doesn’t mean it just rolls off my back. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t impact my self-esteem. Or the way I feel about myself.

Today, I’ve grown accustomed to being “fat” even though my weight continues to drop. Men here still don’t look at me. And, I still get judged as to the person I am based on my clothing size.

Is it disheartening? Yes. Is it defeating? Yes. Is it life? Sadly, so long as I live  here, it is. No amount of weight loss … no amount of lifestyle change will ever amount to me having the Thai version of a perfect body.

While it used to make me sad (hence, staring at the mirror in tears), today I look at myself and think “fuck you. Really. Fuck. You. If you don’t like me for who I am, cellulite and all, then please. Do me a favor. Fuck yourself and go find a skinny woman who will be your everything.”

A look at the realities of being an overweight female in Thailand and a lifelong struggle with being overweight.
January 2014. Still losing weight and now time to get healthy.

Because I am worth more than my weight.

At the same time, I want to give myself a chance to kick this once and for all. I want to look in the mirror with confidence, even if the people around me don’t see the beauty I possess, regardless of whether I am 100 or 200 pounds.

It is one of the reasons why I started The Comfort Zone Project — because I want to push myself to be the best version of me I can be, and give myself the best version of the life I am living.

I enrolled in a gym. I hired a personal trainer. Drinks are cut down to twice a week. Smoking is going to stop.

Either I will be a fat girl in Thailand and embrace the shit out of it, or I will do my damned best to be the not-so-fat girl in Thailand and love myself. Because, you know what? I deserve it.

Published by dtravelsround

Awakening the soul while traveling ... a story of being on the cusp of adulthood.

155 thoughts on “The fat girl in Thailand

  1. A great, intimate post. Your statement that you are worth more than your weight is spot on! One’s true beauty is on the inside, as we all know the external stuff will change. This Comfort Zone Project you’re doing is brave and beautiful. Just be sure to love yourself on the inside, regardless of what’s happening on the outside 🙂 You’re gorgeous!


  2. Really great article – and anyone who doesn’t see you for you… well frankly it’s their loss and very much your gain! 😀 But wowser you look GREAT (in all of these photos, truth be told) – but you look really well in the 2014 shot – well done you! xx


  3. People who choose to ignore you because of the way you look are really missing out because you are incredible. You are so dear to the two of us and we both think you are such a beautiful person. We love you sooooooo much!!!


  4. Literally a lifelong battle…one of my earliest memories with you is at a WW meeting in sixth grade. Such tough stuff but I will be here reading and rooting you on!


    1. Wow!! I remember those weigh ins at WW! It really is a life-long battle. It is sad that we even felt the need as sixth graders to go to WW. I remember how vicious kids were back then (and probably still are). Sometimes I wonder if it wasn’t for all of those bullies, if I would have such issues as an adult with how I look at myself. Thank you so much for the support, Michelle. I appreciate it so much!


      1. Yup, I always wonder if that was even the right way to go so young. I remember going to a weigh in and running into our 6th grade reading teacher. OUCH.

        My daughter came home yesterday with a BMI assessment that shows her as “overweight.” I literally had to stop myself from tearing it up. She isn’t at all and…ugh. Anyways.


      2. Ugh. I don’t have kids, but I can imagine how you felt. You always want what is best for the people you love. And you don’t want them to endure a moment of sadness.


  5. It is surprising how similar and yet different personal experiences can be. I lived in South America and had the same comments. Kudos to you for choosing health! Treat yourself as kindly as you do your friends. Take comfort in the fact that you are not alone in this. Above all, live a life that is authentic and true to who you were created to be.


    1. It is like that in SA, too?!? NOOO!!!! You are right — I do need to treat myself as kindly as I treat my friends. With this project, I have started to be nice to me, and it is an odd thing. I never realized how much I do that doesn’t make me happy, but makes my friends happy. There needs to be a balance — and boundaries — and that is all part of the project. Since I started it, and started working out, I have noticed how much more inclined I am to just hang out by myself, to get lost in my own thoughts more, and to give myself permission to just be selfish for a little more of my time and focus on me. It feels really, really good. Thank you so much for the kind words and the support.


  6. Yes!!! To all of it… I remember being destroyed by a boy at college when I rocked up in my awesome new outfit and he told me in all sincerity I would look really sexy if I lost a bit of weight. The only time I ever managed to get to a ‘happy weight’ was for my wedding ( I found myself a chubby chaser!) But the honeymoon in Vegas put paid to all that…. I, like you, am constantly struggling with my size, but always find myself drawn to the doors of the bakery. Since being in Chiang Mai I have had a few of the other school mums tell me how Pom pui I am. I have to admit I was quite depressed when I found out what that means. I always intend to lose weight and quit smoking, but I have no resolve whatsoever.
    You ARE beautiful, but I totally understand where you are coming from. If you ever find yourself in need of a reluctant over weight smoker for a gym buddy, feel free to get in touch!!

    I’m really enjoying your blog ( which I found shortly after we came here) , and I know how hard it is to write a personal story like this, keep your strength and keep telling those bastards to go fuck themselves because you deserve better.


    1. Hilary — I would LOVE a work out buddy. I go to Fitness Thailand — you game?!?

      I have been destroyed by guys in the past, too. I remember one guy I liked in Vegas told me how hot I would be if I just lost some weight — but not in my boobs or ass. Thank you so much for your support. I hope we do get to hang out and motivate each other!! Just shoot me an email!


  7. I lived in Thailand for four years, trained muay thai fulltime, was a size 6 and dealt with this all constantly. It’s tough and the damage stayed with me for awhile after returning to North America but it did get better. I’m glad you’re using this as motivation for lasting change – inside and out.

    I really enjoyed this piece – thank-you for sharing your experience.


    1. I think between the whole idea of people just being blunt and the single western women in Thailand thing — there will be lasting effects on me, well after I have left Thailand. It has opened up a lot of insecurities I have about myself that I didn’t really realized I had … at least not in the State or Europe. It is important to be happy with myself, and I have been unhappy far too long. I’m excited about working on me and appreciate you taking the time to weigh in. 🙂


  8. Diana you seem to touch me with every single post you write. I can’t imagine what it must feel like having people just say things like that outright (I mean, my Nana won’t think twice about telling me I’ve put on weight when she visits but, hey, that’s Nana’s for you) and I can understand why it hurts, regardless of whether the person’s doing it to hurt you (which like you said; not likely in Thailand) or because they’re trying to make you a better person.

    But then, does being thin make you a better person? No. Does having lumps and bumps here and there make you less of a person than someone else? No.

    I, too, have struggled with my weight. Both before I was travelling and during. I love running, but sometimes finding the time when you’re travelling is difficult, despite what some people might say about 6am runs on the beach. 6am?? No. Just no. I’ve been luckily enough not to encounter people being so blasé about the fact that I might not be a perfect size 8, whatever ‘perfect’ may be, but it is something I want to change. I’ve been trying to change this by signing up to some races and have one coming up in March in London.

    Even though you ARE worth so much more than your weight, I’m looking forward to seeing you take on this journey (I feel like there needs be a ROAR there – YEAH bring it on!) and am, as always, 100% behind you 🙂


    1. Thank you so much, Beverly! I think someone telling you you are fat, or suggesting you lose weight, is OK — depending on the person. My mom? Sure. My best friend? Absolutely. A stranger on the street? Not so much. But, it isn’t to be mean, and I know that. It just takes those insecurities swimming in my own head and puts them in my face, rather than tucked safely into the far recesses of my brain to deal with on a rainy day.

      I think a truly beautiful, good person is something that shines through — regardless of weight, looks, etc. It is the heart, the mind and the attitude.

      I think it is great that you are signing up for races! I have terrible knees and ankles and can’t run, otherwise I would love to do that.

      Thank you so much for your support. ROAR. ❤


    1. Seriously??! You are tiny!! It is a tough thing to get past the bluntness. I know no one means to cause pain, but you take a Western woman and put her here, with the background she has and the entire “don’t talk about weight” thing we have grown up with, and it is really hard on the self-esteem.


  9. Thank you for sharing this, I know it must have taken courage. First of all, I’ve gotta say YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL. Seriously. Secondly, you so have the right attitude about this. Health and fitness CAN’T be about wanting to look hot for the rest of the world or even for yourself. It needs to be about feeling good and loving yourself. This morning I motivated myself to take a run on the beach because well, it was a nice thing to do. It was a way to feel connected with nature, get my endorphins going, and have a boost of energy for my day. If I made it about punishing myself for the fried noodles I ate, the new flab I’ve acquired since leaving Costa Rica, or comparing my body to another woman’s on the beach, I’d never keep it up. Wishing you the best on this journey. I can tell you’re such a strong woman so just keep letting it roll off and keep loving yourself.


    1. Thank you, Camille. Good for you on motivating yourself! I always remind myself how good I will feel after I am done working out. Those endorphins kicking really have changed my attitude. It’s a good thing. And yes, you can’t punish yourself. I had three little oatmeal cookies the other day, and you know what? I loved the crap out of them! Thanks for the support. I truly hope our paths cross one day — you inspire me. 🙂


  10. Gosh, what a personal post, congratulations on just writing this. I can’t believe what the Dr did, loosing so much weight in so little time is not healthy! Remember though you are in Thailand and many women (if not most) are too skinny- the comment by Alana above mine summarizes it pretty well. More power you you!


    1. Thank you! The doc was terrible and completely unethical. It was not healthy, and yet he kept encouraging it. I remember one time, after I had lost about 30 pounds, he looked at me and told me how sexy I was and how sexy I would be … once I lost the rest of the weight.


  11. Congrats on a great post – you certainly have a lot of courage, more than me because I just don’t think I can write so personally on my blog. I wish I could and you’ve certainly given me some inspiration! Though not as bad as it sounds in Thailand, I get it in the Netherlands a bit – I am always an XL in clothes when I’m an M at home; people just seem to be beanpoles here. Thanks for a truly great read.


    1. Thank you, Caitlyn. You can write personally — just tell that voice in the back of your head to shush and let the words flow. I find it quite therapeutic to just write honestly and candidly. And then, to see the amazing love and support that flows from others just encourages me to continue to do it. I appreciate the kind words. Embrace that XL!! I always think to myself that I may be a 2X here, but at home I am a medium, and that makes me feel better.


  12. Diana….you are gorgeous!!!!!!! I would love to look as slim as you did at your heaviest. Lol I wonder what the Thai’s call me then. That smile of yours is awesome and what I notice most…even from a hundred metres away. Thanks for writing this for all us Pom pui girls 🙂 We are all worth far more than our weight.


  13. Great post! I can’t believe the differences in culture that would have anyone thinking calling someone fat is ok, it must be completely heartbreaking to face that everyday. Thank-you so much for sharing this so openly and candidly!


    1. When I first got here and people said it, I was with my boss. She told me not to let it bother me, and that it isn’t meant to be mean. So, I kept that in mind. It made it sting less, but it still wore me down and made me think about myself and what I think of myself and the issues I have about my weight. I think it is important for anyone coming here for an extended period to understand the cultural difference in regards to weight and commenting — for those who don’t know or understand, it is quite shocking and hard to deal with at first. For me, it has been a catalyst to get my ass into gear.


  14. D – I love this. Thank you for sharing. This is personal, and is is super brave of you to put it out there, and I have so much respect. We EACH have issues we are insecure about, and/or drive up to be really upset with ourselves. Hang on – that doctor!!!!! NO ! !

    Anyway, Im really excited to keep hearing from you. You have my 100% support, and I love the way you are taking care of yourself. With love, girl! 🙂



    1. Thank you so much, Sarah! I always want to be honest, and with this project, I need to be. Yeah, that doc was terrible. Thank you for all of the support and love. I appreciate it greatly!!


  15. Diana,

    I found you beautiful the first time I saw your blog. Now I know you have a beautiful heart also. Do not settle for anyone who does not find you beautiful. Love your bog. Love you.


  16. What an incredible post, Diana. I teared up several times while reading this one because I have struggled with my weight for years and spending the last 2 years in Asia really hasn’t made that any easier. I have actually lost about 50 lbs (best guess, I don’t actually weigh myself) in the past 2 years and would probably fit into a size 8 back in the States, and yet whenever I try to shop for clothes in this part of world it is always so demoralizing. I remember needing to buy replacement pants while in Chiang Mai and just breaking down sobbing while in the change room because no matter how much weight I had lost, nothing, not even the biggest Western brand sizes in the department stores would go over my hips. I’ll always be curvy, no matter how much weight I lose and I hate that I’m made to feel like such a whale here. Going to markets, I’ve had stall owners slap clothes out of my hand and tell me that I am too big and then show me huge gargantuan elastic waist pants while they crow “free size! Extra large!” Even when I’m not browsing I have shop owners call out to me that they have “big sizes” as if to remind me that I am SO FAT.

    So anyway, from one not-waif to another, thank you for being so brave and sharing this with us. You are not alone and I wish you all the best as you continue on your journey to get healthier (not skinnier!).


    1. Wow Steph, I think you are kick ass and a size 8 will never be fat in any quarter. Shopping in Asia can be demoralizing, but I always listen to the What Not to Wear duo, “it’s not you that’s wrong (your size or shape) but the clothes!” 🙂


    2. Thank you for sharing, Steph! I have had the same thing happens to me in this region, numerous times. It is tough and very demoralizing and emotionally damaging. Now it is time to take those words and let them bounce off. Because if I continue to let them sink in, to eat at me, it will cause long-lasting harm, and I value myself more than those words and opinions of others. Thank you so much for your support. ❤


  17. I visited ENP and stayed in Chiang Mai in 2010. I was doing some shopping on my first day there, and I couldn’t believe that I was getting chased out of shops by shopkeepers yelling, “NO BIG! NO BIG!” It was humiliating. I am a big girl (size 14) but really?

    In the US, I’m just average size. Not too big, not too small.

    I live by the words of Audrey Hepburn, “Happy girls are the prettiest girls.” And I have found a wonderful, sexy, loving man who believes that, too.

    You are beautiful. You have an amazing smile. You are a talented writer. Thank you for sharing such an intimate side of yourself.

    Good luck to you. Don’t let the Tiny Thai mentality get to you.


    1. EXACTLY. Beautiful quote. Perfect. Thank you so much for the kind words. I REALLY appreciate your comments. I try not to let that mentality get to me … at least now. I definitely have in the past, but it stems from my own thoughts on myself far more than their thoughts on me. Working on it. 🙂


  18. Wow, I wish I could have met you. I think we would have been good friends, you seem like such an amazing person. I was also conscious of my size while in Chiang Mai; wearing shorts in public is not something I normally do. I’m not sure if people were calling me names at all, but I did have more comments on my tattoos than I would have at home. Maybe they took the focus off of my size. I bought a few pairs of pants at the markets, forget about t-shirts though. My daughter is about a size 6 Australian and I had to buy her a large. I wish you all the best, just strive to be healthy not skinny. Be happy within yourself and things will happen naturally.


    1. Seana, that is so sweet! Next time you are in the city, let me know. 🙂 It is hard not to be conscious of your size while in CM, or anywhere in this region really. I remember when I was in Cambodia looking for a nice shirt to wear with Lek. The shop owner told me basically that nothing she had, or anyone had, would fit me. I was devastated. Quietly so, but all the same. Thank you so much for your support.


    It must have taken your all to write that and put it out there. I am proud of you.
    I really responded to end of the cycles. The ones when melancholia or depression washes over you and you just… can’t. And then that spirals and you are back to square one.

    And if there’s one thing I know, it’s there’s too many good women out there and not enough worthy men.


    1. So true!! You know … once I started to write this, I just kind of went for it. I had sent the post to my mom to read before I published it, and she commented that it was pretty personal, and was I OK with putting that out there on the internet. You know what? I was. Because I know I am not the only one who has felt like this, the only overweight women to walk down the street in THailand and be called fat. And, to be able to share my story, to let others know it isn’t just them, to prepare them for visiting Thailand … I’m glad I did it. The support and wonderful comments have been so wonderful … I have definitely shed quite a few tears from all of the love that came from writing this. It means the world to me to see so many people understand where I have been/where I am, and to share their stories, too.


  20. Weight is such a tough thing. I hate being overweight, and I completely understand how frustrating it is to try to lose that weight. I do NOT understand why some people think it’s ok to tell you you’re fat! Even if they don’t mean it as an insult, it still seems crazy. Your weight really shouldn’t define who you are, and there really are guys out there who will love you no matter what. It’s just harder to find one of those guys where you are right now, a smaller pool to pick from. Good luck, I think it’s so important to learn to love yourself no matter what, and from there you will have more strength to tackle your weight. I need to figure out how to do all of that myself!


    1. The thing is, they don’t realize here it isn’t OK. That it isn’t what Westerners are used to hearing. It is their culture, and in their culture, it is said with a smile. I know it hurts though. Damn it hurts. You are right, there are guys out there who will love me for ME … just not in Thailand. 🙂 Thank you so much for your support, Ali, and for sharing your thoughts. <3


  21. My God, sweets. This post was beautiful, brave, full of ‘fuck yeah’. Really touched me.

    People often think because I’m short and kind of hourglass that I don’t struggle with my weight, but I have.

    I was an overweight teenager and Asian, so you can imagine how much I got kissed in a town where skinny girls who were blond were the standard.

    It wasn’t until I left small minded Calgary for Vancouver that I realized I wasn’t half bad looking. People told me I was. Really? I thought. Is that true?

    I was with my ex for years and my weight ballooned up and down, after we broke up, I lost 25 pounds and became a size 4 for the first and last time in my life. I, too, had the same things you talked about. Men really started to pay attention to me, want to date me, sleep with me, buy me drinks. It was disturbing that who I was never mattered to them really.

    But I had a lot of confidence boosting moments, not so much from them, but really committing to health finally – eating food that made me feel good, stopped smoking (I use to too), realized I really enjoyed a bout of exercise. Those are the very positive things I got from that period.

    After that, I had to stop running because of bad knees and gained about 10 pounds back. I realized to physically maintain a size 4 for me is impossible, I’d have to do intense exercise 2 to 3 hours a day. It’s jut not how my body is made.

    Quite a few months ago, I stupidly looked at my BMI, according to the North American BMI, I am technically overweight. My 5’1″ frame if it were stretched out would be the perfect BMI.

    I realized many things over the past 2 years, that somewhere in the ideology of many cultures, not just ours, that a way a woman looks is melded to her value, to either, get to know her, sometimes be her friend, or f*ck her. Somewhere becoming a woman, not a girl, aging and being mature has not become acceptable for women. It’s okay for a boy to become a man, in fact he’s rewarded for it, but for a girl to become a woman means she’s insignificant, old, useless, someone nobody wants to be erotic with, let alone love. When you add the emphasis on appearance, my effing God.

    I dare anyone to look at photos, even movie posters and what you’ll see are the male images show men with wrinkles and grey hair = sexy, and the women, especially if they are over 35 are airbrushed to death, and fucken hell, they better be skinny or else. How do women fight these images?? It’s awful, makes me sick actually.

    I’ve felt the same things you mean in China. In fact, my own mother use to say how fat my arms were, but that’s Asian culture, if you aren’t a stick figure with no hips, you aren’t considered attractive.

    I’m the opposite. I’m short, very hourglass and can never flatten my hips if I tried.

    So, what did I do? How did I learn to love who I am, accept who I am? A lot of hard work, a lot of breakdown of messages.

    1. I do not read fashion magazines, stopped that years ago. They are meant to make people feel there is something wrong with them and hey, I should buy this anti-aging cream. Bullshit. I like my wrinkles.

    2. Read this amazing essay by Susan Sontag, she talks of the way women are not allowed to age and what you should do: tell the truth, in other words, fuck you all.

    3. This Facebook page says it all, Healthy is the New Skinny: Being healthy, does NOT mean being skinny. It means taking care of your health by eating food that makes you feel good and exercising when it feels good.

    4. Body shape and size has NOTHING to do with skinny. You cannot change the biological way you are built and it’s high time you, or anyone stopped feeling ashamed of it.

    5. I frickin love this chick, Style Has No Size: She shows women who are inbetweenies and that feeling pretty and wearing clothes that make you feel good are for EVERYONE, not just skinny people. She also shows images of plus size models with bodies like mine and 80% of the world looking sexy and attractive, feminists hate that about plus size models, but I think it’s high time to show real bodies as they are: free, beautiful and erotic (sometimes).

    6. As for love, I read this amazing book: The gist, there’s nothing you need to change about yourself to be loved. You are as good as anyone, you just need to find a person that meshes with you, and he won’t give a shit what size you are. In fact, my site designer is a plus size model and her boyfriend is hunky.

    7. Finally, my daily mantra is: “I love my body, I am comfortable with it, and it doesn’t matter if others are not”.

    8. When I eat or exercise, it stopped becoming a way to be skinny, but a way to be healthy and feel energetic. PERIOD. Once you see it that way, losing or gaining weight becomes so NOT important.

    After arriving to all this, I notice my overweight BMI body still attracts guys, but now, it’s the right ones.

    You will too, I promise. Embrace how beautiful you are in the inside my dear and none of their words or those other things matter. You’ll start to meet the right guys, instead of the ones that just wanted a size 4.

    I am sorry to leave such a long winded comment, but thought I’d share the resources that have helped me. I came to a conclusion a long while ago, and that’s nobody, women, gay, straight, whatever, should ever feel ashamed to be themselves, and yet were are taught to be and this is wrong!



    1. Jeannie — I don’t even know what to write. Thank you so much for sharing this. I can relate so much to everything you wrote (except about being 5’1 and Asian). You are beautiful. Stunning. And so amazing. Thank you for sharing the links, thank you for sharing your words. Spot. On.


  22. Thank you so much for writing this. It’s hard to be in the “limelight” as a travel writer and to talk about the weight issue. I see myself in your story oh so much- but thank you for being so brave to share this. I hid for a year being depressed and battling an eating disorder; going from skinny mini to pom pui. I come from a Hispanic family that discourages me losing weight; that being fat is “healthy.”

    Now, I’m an expat in Holland where tall, slender Dutch women surround me, and I am just the opposite- a short, curvy, American/Spanish gal. I am SO lucky my boyfriend (Who is damn tall and skinnier than me) is supportive and understanding as to how this weight came on so quickly. There are good men out there that appreciate a beautiful woman- inside and out.

    I’m compelled by this article and motivated to be healthy. For me, the journey to weight loss starts with the depression/stress/anxiety and of course- getting a Dutch bike!


    1. Thank you for sharing your story, Teresa. I hope one day to meet a good man … but first I want to become a better me — inside and out. 🙂 I really should get on a bike, but the traffic in Chiang Mai scares me soooo much!!


  23. So many things I want to say right now, D…. first of all, I love you! That’s the most important bit.

    Next, I appreciate you sharing your story. Most people could learn to live with more compassion and I think seeing another person’s journey first hand like this is a great lesson. My mother has had a similar struggle and writes a blog about how she’s finally found peace in overcoming her food addiction — I’ll send it to you. It breaks my heart to think how many people are prisoners in some way to their physical appearance. For me the journey has been two-fold. Half of it is learning to treat my body with respect and give it the care it deserves. The other half is accepting that even when I do those things I’m not going to be a Victoria’s Secret model — and accepting what mother nature gave me.

    And finally, Thailand is a crazy, weird weight vortex. I consider myself a petite person and I’ll always remember a time I was browsing a stall at Chatuchak looking for jean shorts and realizing they were all too small for me and then saw there was a sign saying ONE SIZE FITS ALL. And the woman looked at me looking at the sign and she turned to me and said “…. but not you.” Ha.


    1. Aw, I love you, too! Thank you, Alex. You are tiny … for someone to tell you that you won’t fit into a pair of shorts just makes me shake my head. I understand genetics, and body types around the world, but still …

      I would love to read your mom’s blog. And, you are right — it is important to accept what mother nature gave each and every one of us. I embrace my big boobs and ass. And my frizzy hair. 🙂


  24. Hi, Thank you for sharing. I can’t imagine what that would be like, I wonder why they feel like it is okay to be so superficial in their culture. It seems that you have realized the most important thing is that the inner dialogue you have with yourself is kind.
    My best friend in highschool was Thai and I couldn’t understand why she freaked out going from a size zero to a two because of American food, I guess maybe she was dreading the comments upon getting back. Anyways, thank you for sharing-your honesty is beautiful. Keep your chin up!


    1. It is really hard to have a kind inner dialog with yourself when you aren’t happy with yourself. But, it is something I have worked on a lot … all of my life. There are times I look in the mirror and am angry, and think I am ugly and fat, and times I look at myself and think I am pretty. It depends on the day, the mood, the moon … you name it. 🙂 Now, I am trying to be kind though.

      The pressure here to be skinny is everywhere. I have Thai friends who are a normal (aka Western normal) size, and they are constantly told they are fat, too. I remember one night, I was on the motorbike with my good friend here. We are around the same size, and the woman at the bar told us she didn’t know how we could ride the bike together because we were both so big. My friend laughed and smiled. I silently told her to fuck off. It’s just different here … a part of life … and as a Westerner, it can be really hard to adjust to it. I don’t think I will ever be OK with it, but I know I won’t be as bothered by it once the weight isn’t such an issue in my life. The more I let myself feel bad about myself, the more the comments hurt. I have noticed since I started working out, and even a little before that, when people say I am fat, I tend to just have an inner dialog in my head that tells them I am working on it, and I know I am not skinny and will never be skinny, but I will be happy.


  25. I have so much to say about this that I don’t know where to start. Let’s begin with you.

    I have a confession to make. Do you remember when you ran up to me at TBEX Steamboat and hugged me and I said “wait, who are you?” Yes, I was a bit drunk, but the real reason I didn’t recognize you is because you have freckles and in your photo-shopped photos I had seen of you, the freckles were completely erased. You were so much prettier to me in person. No buts. I was only sad that you felt you should be photoshopped at all.

    While I’m sure Thailand is much skinnier and skinny-focused than Argentina, I had these same problems in Argentina. I also wear about a size 10 (give or take depending on brand and fit). When I moved to Argentina, I was actually at my thinnest ever. Why? Because I went through a really horrible breakup, lost 7 pounds in a week WHILE training for a half marathon. I ran 2 half marathons in 2 months all while not really eating more than maybe half a protein bar a day. I looked like a bobble head. My round face, big bust, and big butt remained while my waist tried to suck in more and more. When I finally gained the weight back in Argentina, my friends admitted they liked me so much better that way and told me I looked so strange being as thin as I used to be. The people in Argentina, however, had a lot to say about my weight gain. My landlord came into my apartment, a mere hour after I had finished an hour long boot camp class followed by a 45 minute Insanity workout – and she said

    “Rease, you must really like Argentine food. When you got here, you were like this (holding up a pinky finger) and now…you are much bigger. You’re chubby”

    I stared at her, mortified. Suddenly thinking of ever delicious medialuna I had eaten and all the amazing ice cream. I said “you know, i work out for at least 1 hour every day. Hard work outs. I work really, really hard” I felt proud to stand up for myself, but I cried the minute she left.

    Also, I totally understand the clothing thing. I once spent an entire day shopping for pants in Argentina. The last store I went into I went right up to the counter and said “I need the biggest pair of pants you have” The pair they gave me wouldn’t even fit over my thighs.

    You know what? That was ok. I called my mom, she went to some stores in the US and shipped me clothes. Inconvenient, but fine.

    I don’t weight myself AT ALL. It’s pointless and stupid. Sometimes the doctor will tell me I have lost or gained weight. I never care. I do measure my waist on occasion, to keep myself in check. I work out regularly and focus on how I feel in clothes. This is about YOU.

    You are beautiful, no buts. I hope you always remember that. And if you need someone to buy you clothes and ship them to you, I’m your girl 🙂


    1. You are so sweet. Thank you, Rease!! I waited an entire year to weigh myself – and the only reason I did was because I was at the hospital getting my “check up” for my work permit, not because I was gunning to get on a scale. I tend to look at clothing and how it fits me to see if I am gaining or losing weight. It’s just a number. Some of us carry it better than others.

      I know exactly what you mean about standing up for yourself and then crying after. Goodness knows, I have done it.

      I am getting new pics tomorrow. Promise not to photoshop them 🙂


  26. On my recent trip to Zimbabwe I think it was the first time that someone that I didn’t know ( a private tour guide that I had for the day) came right out and asked why I was fat and if I worked out and why not. I was stunned that this person I didn’t know would say that to my face. My knee jerk reaction was to try to explain to him my thyroid problem and blame it on that like I always do. He pretended like he understood but I still felt like he was judging me the whole time.
    Other people on my travels want me to hike a million steps to the top of mountains and volcano craters, which I can do. But obviously because of my weight it might take me a bit longer. I’m no athlete but they pressure me to go faster and get annoyed by my slowness. It gets really frustrating.
    I don’t want to be over weight and I tell myself every day that I need to do something about it, but I’m really good at finding excuses to be lazy. I also know that I will probably never be happy with my size big or small. I remember back to high school looking in the mirror and thinking I was fat. I see photos from then now and I was soooooo skinny. Our brains and popular culture really fuck with our personal image.
    You are brave for writing this article, power to you! Tell those people to get lost, you are beautiful no matter your size and right now I would kill to fit into a 12 or 10! 😉


    1. I have noticed the more people comment on my weight, the less I trust myself to do active things. I get nervous, like I won’t be able to do it. I know a lot of it stems from not believing enough in myself and trusting my body to not mess up, but it has really impacted how I travel. I tried paragliding, but freaked out and ended up falling off of a cliff because I didn’t believe enough in my ability to “fly.” I won’t learn how to drive a motorbike. I love to walk, but know that I am not in good enough shape (and am conscious of that) and don’t want to do hikes with my friends who are more athletic. It is something I really want to work on.

      It is so easy to find excuses. I ALWAYS find excuses.

      You are right, popular culture, Hollywood … all of it really impacts the way society looks at those who are plus a few pounds. I love seeing women who are women, who have shape, curves … I think it is beautiful and for other people to judge a body instead of a person just really bugs me.

      I would go hiking with you any day. Just, no steps. Or hills. I hate them. 🙂 ❤


  27. I had the same thing happen to me in the Philippines, people kept asking me if I liked to eat and when I went back to Canada if I was going to eat a lot. I asked a man I worked with and he said – well yes you are far too big for me. I was 120lbs at that point. I was only 23 so it really damaged my self esteem at that time but now I look back and laugh.


    1. As a westerner, it is really, really hard to receive comments like that when arriving to another country. It can seriously damage fragile self-esteem, even if it wasn’t meant to be cruel. 120 lbs? That is nothing!!


  28. Such a powerful post! As someone who went on my first diet at 8, I understand every word of this. I can’t imagine what it would be like to have it thrown in your face by strangers daily, as if your own internal dialogue isn’t harsh enough. Good for you for switching the dialogue to “fuck you!”


    1. So true. I am my own worst enemy, but when others (even strangers) decide to chirp in, too, it can be so dangerous to emotional stability and self-esteem. Thank you for the support!!


  29. This is such a beautifully written and honest article! Sounds like you’re doing the right things to be healthy in the best way.

    I trying to get on the same plan, and it’s tough! Hope to make it happen soon.


  30. You do deserve to be happy! No one deserves to hear that they are unloveable in any way, shape, or form. You are BEAUTIFUL! You are strong and determined. As long as you love yourself, that is all that matters. 🙂 Thanks for sharing this very personal story. Your strength is admirable.


  31. Brian is forever getting his belly touched in SE Asia as it’s bigger than normal. He put it down to looking like a buddha & it being goodluck! Turning the negative into a positive.

    A lot of asians are not happy in their own skin. Have you seen the amount of ‘whitening’ creams you find in all Asian shops?

    Maybe they want to be bigger in size?

    If we all looked the same (apart from twins etc) it wouldn’t be an interesting world!


    1. I love how Brian turned that around! That is fantastic!

      You are right — they are trying to change themselves here with the whitening creams, nose jobs, eyelid jobs, etc. Society in so many countries focuses on looks, and Thailand is no different. It is a shame that so many people cannot be happy with how they are and that we are such a looks driven world.


  32. This is a really great post Diana, thanks so much for writing it. I had an almost identical experience growing up in Indonesia as a pretty big kid (at 14 I weighed upwards to 200 pounds) where people would just come up to me in the street and say:
    “Wow, you are sooo big!” or “I can’t believe how fat you are!”
    I’m sure you can imagine the utter embarrassment I felt going out everywhere, as if it wan’t bad enough being a tall, blonde growing teen in a foreign country. It took me a long time to get on top of it, but in the end I managed and I feel much better now at a weight that’s healthy for me, not for what others think. I still have trouble finding clothes, and I hate it when tiny shop assistants tell me: “No sorry we don’t stock anything that big.” But like you I think that there comes a time when every person has to accept who they are not who other people want them to be. I’m happy with where I am now, and I know that I’ll never be a skinny girl, but I will be what my body type is: healthy, fit and muscular. And that’s more than enough.
    Good on your for getting through it though, I am right there with you!
    Again, thanks for writing 🙂


    1. Thank you so much for the support. I really appreciate it. I wasn’t sure if I was going to publish it, but I really wanted to share my experience here with others since it is something many of my readers would probably like to know. I can only begin to imagine how damaging to your self-esteem your experience in Indonesia must have been. I mean, as a child growing up in the States, kids bullied me all of the time for not being skinny, and I know that even to this day, I have issues from that. Acceptance is not an easy thing, it takes time and a hell of a lot of strength. I am so glad you are happy with where you are now. It sounds like you are kicking ass!


  33. You nailed it! I am 48 and always dealing with the same thing, everywhere. We are in Spain and the old ladies comment to me too. When I was in Thailand about 22 years ago, they would shoo me out of the shops with “you too big, you too big” and I was much smaller back then.

    We are heading over to SEA in July for about 10 months, so I will have to toughen up by then. I am a big girl and always have been. I don’t think I have ever been smaller than a size 12 from 12 yrs old, so I couldn’t ever been skinny enough for Asia.

    Embrace your energy and passion and don’t try to please others. Love yourself and settle for nothing less than the best in the people that you surround yourself with! Thanks for sharing this and being so open.


    1. I can’t believe that happens in Spain! When I was there, no one ever said anything to me, or talked about me in Spanish. When you come here, it is definitely important to be aware of what goes on, but also to remind yourself that the culture here is far more open about weight, and they don’t look at what they say as a mean thing, but more of a ha ha, you’re fat and cute thing. Not that it makes anyone feel better about themselves. I think the most important thing for anyone coming here is to know what to expect, and to be secure enough with how they feel about themselves to not let it bother them.

      Thank you so much for your support. I look forward to meeting you when you get to Thailand!


  34. You are beyond brave for writing this. The road to healthy is hard for pretty much everyone, whether they are skinny or fat, but you just have to deal with people noticing if you haven’t worked out recently. It’s so hard to keep up. But every time you do run or exercise or choose the vegetables, it does something, even if you can’t see the culminating effect.

    I hope you can concentrate more on how healthy you feel and what you’ve already accomplished and less what people around you are saying. And if you get the chance to move to a country that isn’t so in-your-face about looks, then maybe take it. Because as much as you can deal with the comments now, it’s probably still something that sets up a barrier for really being yourself all of the time. I think leaving Thailand might be a breath of fresh air you didn’t even realize you needed…

    Anyways, keep up the good work, taking care of yourself, writing and otherwise! 🙂


    1. Thank you, Sally. I am really working on this. It is important to me to be kind to myself and to honor myself — it is something I haven’t done in a long time. For now, I am staying in Thailand. I’m not ready to leave here yet. 🙂


  35. I read somewhere the other day that in Vietnam when locals call you fat, what they’re really trying to say is that you look healthy. Not sure if this is entirely true, or if the same applies in Thailand, but I could quite imagine they don’t mean it as a bad thing!

    If you do want to lose weight, make sure you do it for the right reasons. Do it to be healthy, do it to boost your confidence, but do not do it to make other people happy. We can spend our entire lives trying to please others, and in the end some people are always going to disapprove.


    1. I know they don’t mean it as a bad thing. I am losing it for me, and it feels really, really good. I love looking in the mirror and seeing the changes already! 🙂


  36. Wow. I just read this post and I have to say that through the photos that you posted on this post with your fluctuating weight, you truly do look like a beautiful woman with a beautiful soul in each and every one. As someone who has struggled with my own weight for my entire life, it has taken me a very long time to become happy and comfortable with my body. I applaud you on being able to write a post like this and for taking charge of your health and happiness. Best of wishes on your journey!


  37. Wow! What an honest post. I’m sure it look a lot of courage to write it. I’ve lived in Thailand all my life and also find it strange that despite Thais’ kind and considerate nature (also the feeling of Kreng-jai) that they still openly call people plump or poum pui or just blatantly Oun (fat). They don’t mean harm but I’m sure as in your case, the effects are deep and hurtful. Anyways, I too believe you are more than your weight. Confidence is beautiful. All the best! 🙂


    1. Thank you so much! I’ve never heard the word “Oun” … or at least never noticed it, which is probably a good thing! I appreciate your support!


  38. You’re amazing Diana, keep up the great work and continue being a better version of yourself. Your post has made me feel worthy and that my weight should’t define me. I’m currently struggling with my weight due to having depression and it’s been hard to keep off the weight. Because I keep finding comfort in food and then it becomes cyclical. I know what you mean when you’re regularly called “fat”. Because being a vietnamese girl, I get it a lot from family or other people (especially vietnamese) who don’t know me. It’s been hard hearing those hurtful comment and they by saying those things will help me change. However, just lowers myself esteem. But after reading your post, I have been inspire to try to leave those comments behind me and work toward getting healthier. So thank you for your honesty!


    1. Hi Julie — thank you so much for sharing your story. I know entirely what you are going through. Please take the steps you need to work out your depression — once you do, it feels so amazing to not have the weight of the world on your shoulders, and to be able to put things in perspective. I struggled with depression most of my life, and it is so hard, and so defeating. You are as amazing as you think you are — so believe it in your heart and do what you need to do to make yourself happy. I’m always here for support and encouragement!


      1. Thanks for your support and encouragement, Diana!
        I’m getting the help I need to get better. The challenge is changing the way I think.
        It’s easier to get attack when you’re vulnerable because it’s like a validation to your insecurities. It’s a work in progress and you’re living proof that if you change the way you think you can get healthier mentally and physically. Keep inspiring others and always be happy!


  39. Historically women have been expected/conditioned to take up as little space as possible – in some societies this is still a major thing, generally reflected through weight/the worship of skinniness.

    As for the (foreign) men there – would you really want any of them?

    I have lived in Asia for 14 years.I so hear you.


  40. Thank you for writing this. I am moving to Bangkok for a month in about a week and this was so good to know what I’m coming to as a plus sized woman in the US. I had an idea but it’s good to know as well that I am not alone in the way I will be treated. Thank you!


  41. Ohhhhh, I know EXACTLY how you feel! My Thai yoga teacher makes a point of suggesting we do a class of more vigorous ‘weight loss yoga’ every time I go! And it’s definitely only for me! Weirdly, she also poked at the flabby bit under my arm once during Warrior II. That was kind of off-putting! I probably would have been upset if it hadn’t been so absurd.

    I really found myself nodding along with everything you’ve written here, I can totally relate. I also worked in PR before I left to travel, and I’ve also found it a struggle being a fat girl in Thailand – everything from trying to find clothes to coping with the heat. I’m even staying at Smith! Ha! 🙂

    But I’m also working to turn things around – going to the gym, eating much smaller portions and tracking my weight and measurements every day (with an app me and my husband made, no less!) to keep me mindful and on track.

    It’s reassuring to hear I’m not the only one. I’ll be following along with your brilliant Comfort Zone Project and cheering you on.

    We can do this!


    1. You live at Smith?!? We are neighbors! I don’t live there anymore, but am still close by for now! I have been working on turning everything around for almost two months and have done really well. I am starting to see muscle, my facial structure … it is fulfilling and makes me really happy to be doing something good for me and being able to see the results so quickly. What app did you do? I’d love to see it! And, I’d love to meet a neighbor!


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