Asian Girl Problem #123: 6 Products That Shouldn’t Count as Food

I think I’m going to be on a diet until I have kids. But my diet doesn’t have rules, and doesn’t feel like deprivation, so does it still count? I say yes, because I strongly consider everything I eat, and I will possibly never feel thin enough. But I have accepted this lifestyle.

A few years ago, I had a huge appetite and little understanding of moderation, which led to some weird weight-loss habits. This is a farewell to the shitty “food products” I binged on whenever I felt out of control.


Like most diet foods, this is mostly air and sawdust. It might taste like food when you douse it with nutritional yeast, soy sauce or sriracha, which makes it very alluring. Like an ex-smoker who needs to carry a pack around for security, I always have a bag of kernels in the pantry.

100 Calorie Snack Packs

I’ve never bought these bags of sweet air, but a former office I worked in used to have these in the kitchen. They taste like communion wafers, but you’re better off saying a prayer than eating them.

Sugar-free Light Ice Cream

Mostly air and chemicals–but not the good trippy stuff. My mom, queen of fake desserts, keeps this in her freezer. Which unnecessary because it never melts.

Sugar-Free Light Yogurt

This double-whammy does a number on my digestive system while leaving a regrettable aftertaste.

Low-Calorie Noodles

Smells like fish, and tastes like rubber bands. I bought these a couple times when they first came to the U.S. market from Asia, where they’re a very popular weight loss food.

Rice Cakes

In grad school, I used to buy ast least three bags of these at a time and eat them for dinner. If you start with a savory flavor like cheddar or ranch, and end with caramel or chocolate, you can pretend you’ve eaten a three-course meal.

And because I’m now hungry, this is the end.


Asian Girl Problem #55: Fat for an Asian

Though I forget to mention it, I had a whole posse of Chinese friends growing up. We just didn’t see each other very regularly after my parents moved to the suburbs. We’d play every few weeks, occasionally more during my brief stint at Chinese school. But when we did get together, we raised hell building forts, playing dress up and generally tearing the house apart.

I was always the largest among my Chinese girlfriends, and for some reason, my dearest bffs were always the thinnest girls of the pack. They would eat tons of candy, ruin their appetite, and race around the apartment while their parents chased them begging them to eat a bite of dinner. Meanwhile, I’d sit at the table, hungrier after the candy appetizer, hoping no one saw how many dumplings I was eating.

Aside from the comments, diets, feeling like a ogre and repelling boys, being fat for a Chinese girl brought with it a lot of little annoyances. It’s not until I stop to relive them that I realize how the label affected little parts of my day:

– Getting a carrot cake for my birthday because my parents thought it was healthier.

– Having the frosting scraped off every year.

– Unwritten rule that I was the husband or Ken whenever we played make-believe.

– Being told I look older than my friends.

– Or mistaken for a boy.

– Not being allowed to wear white, light colors or horizontal stripes (particularly hard in the 90s).

They’ve left indelible marks on me, affecting my thoughts and actions to this day. Sometimes cake makes me nervous and I feel wrong being “girly” and I’ll never wear white in a million years…But the self-awareness that comes with age brings some relief. These worries don’t carry the same weight they used to–I see them as wee neuroses that might mess with my head but can’t do any real damage.

It’s human right? Our minds want to connect the same dots each time. On good days we try to break the pattern. On others, just noticing is enough, especially considering how slowly it takes to break/form a habit. Noticing is not nothing.

Asian Girl Problem #48: Keepin’ it 100

When I told my mom I was hungry last night, she advised me to fill up on water instead of having dinner. She read somewhere that the Japanese like to skip one meal a week for good health, so she of course feels immensely superior that she skips dinner every night. If she’s peckish, she drinks juice (bleh). Though she doesn’t care much about weight, she is a health freak and has hovered around 100 pounds her whole life.

I was 100 pounds in fifth grade, and at least 20 pounds heavier than her today. Ever since I outgrew her, I’ve been able to pick her up and swing her around, which kind of screws up the whole parent-child power dynamic (especially since I’ve had to take care of her other health problems). Somehow none of my grandmother’s appetite, sociability and visceral fat was inherited by her, and I got a double helping.


That one time I weighed less than my mom.

Grandma’s a prime example of how Asian women can be curvaceous, but most I know are like mom. It’s no secret why she’s still 100 pounds. Between skipping dinner, hating heavy/sweet food and worrying away any extra calories, she doesn’t have to give a thought to dieting. According to her, she felt chunky once in her early 20s. but started drinking green tea instead of eating snacks and returned to 100 in a few months.

“Eat what I cook for you, and you’ll be skinnier than you ever wanted,” she said when I used to live at home. Her plan for me would be boiled vegetables, yogurt and occasional lean protein–just like many celeb diets, although she’s never read or cared about that. Unlike me, who’s gone through obsessive bouts of starvation as a teen.

Being heavy when you’re young sucks. Just one more confusing thing to deal with and loosen the screws in your head. One of the best things about growing up is realizing there are more important things to fill myself with. Opinions matter less. I’m not surrounded by stick figures. And I start feeling like I should be bigger than my mom and I’m ready to take care of her if need be. I’m ready to put 100 on the shelf.

Asian Girl Problem #41: Shame Your Way to Skinny

I don’t know about you, but dating always puts my weight on a rollercoaster ride. When dealing with someone I really like, I start by losing my appetite for about two weeks. Whenever I eat something, my stomach cramps up, and the first few dinners with the dude are always a challenge to not appear eating disordered while keeping my food down.

Assuming the relationship gets past two weeks (rare in my world), and we continue eating out, I get more comfortable and quickly gain the 5-10 pounds of water weight I initially lost. This is always a slightly disappointing time, but also a good way to shed our rose-tinted glasses and slowly reveal our vices–which in my case is gluttony.

If only the men in my life cared enough to withdraw their affection when I gained weight. Now I’ll never have to worry about yo-yoing again, thanks to a Japanese app that humiliates girls. I can pick one of three identical-looking anime guys to share my diet endeavors with, who will deliver thinly-veiled insults to motivate me into looking like someone they’d consider dating. Apparently, the version for men features hot chicks who provide encouragement, but they figured women need more tough love to accomplish anything other than baking and getting manis.

Since these guys look like teen girls and oh yeah, they’re animations, I’m hoping the next version will have a more tangible punishment/reward system to motivate me. Such as charging me a fee every time I eat a donut, or morphing my phone into a giant penis that will boff me when I reach my goal weight.