Trista Yuan

BSc, ’22

I’m a Chinese international student in UBC Dietetics. China is known for a variety of mouth-watering foods and there are creative dishes coming out constantly. I grew up having my tastebuds pampered, but I want to talk about something that flows under the flourishing and ever-evolving food culture.

I was born and raised in China until the age of 15 and had a complicated relationship with food and my body. I was an overweight kid and then teenager living in a culture that normalized extreme thinness, and I felt the pressure to lose weight every single day. Most of the time, I was told that I need to become healthier, more active, and eat less.

But the fact? I was healthy except for the negative impacts of weight stigma. I was active as I learned and played 10+ types of sports. I wasn’t eating that “badly” since I had a balanced diet and I felt how I ate was scrutinized by others around me. I wasn’t really allowed fast food even though it was a way for teenagers to socialize.

I was just living in a larger body…but most people assumed I was unhealthy.

What did I do when there was an overwhelming amount of pressure? I complied and used unhealthy ways to lose weight. I became one of the skinniest people in my school, I got praised for how I looked, and yet that was when my health hit rock bottom.

The bigger problem is that every Chinese woman I know worries about gaining weight. Weight loss + health is one of the most common topics among conversations while the side effects are swept under the rug.

And I want to change that.

My experience growing up seeded my passion to dismantle diet culture and promote body acceptance and I am grateful to be in the right major/profession to pursue my path.

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