Thick Dumpling Skin

[It's what's on the inside that counts]

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My Chinese-Japanese Heritage and Body Image Struggles

Long story short, I was born and raised in Japan from Chinese parents, and spent several years of my childhood in Oklahoma and Finland. And while it all fits in a single sentence, this background of mine has brought about many challenges, some even risked my mental and physical health. I have practically spent most of my 19 years of life trying to figure out what was so “wrong” with me. My all-time goal was to be “the same” as everybody else, and belong somewhere, wherever that is. We don’t have a Chinese-Japanese community here.

I’ve always felt myself being insufficient, that I was not Japanese enough but not enough to be Chinese either. Though I was born and brought up in Japan, I hold a Chinese passport because that’s my mother’s home country. This is how it works in the Japanese system; your mother’s nationality automatically becomes yours, and China doesn’t allow for double citizenship. So on paper, I am just “Chinese” even though I speak elementary school-level Chinese and have never really lived there except for few visits to my grandparents’ house.

Everyday I look at my alien card (foreign resident card) in Japan and wonder who this person is. Since this convinces me everyday that I am not one of them, i have tried every other attempt to force myself to believe that I am a perfect Chinese. But every attempt has failed in various ways.

In middle school, I begged my parents to allow me to go to school in China, which they were very happy about. But this ended up exacerbating my identity crisis, because I literally was shut away from China. My Chinese was not sufficient to go to a local school, and I was denied enrollment to an international school in China because enrollment there requires a non-Chinese foreign passport, and the only passport I have is a Chinese one.
So I went on to a Japanese middle school, where together with my relatively shy personality, I was alone most of the time. I spent most of my time binging on sweets, crying myself to sleep, or trying to find out what was wrong with me. I would finish the lunch my mom made way before lunch time, together with a whole lot of other food, and go to first period bloated everyday. Almost all of my allowances went to snacks, which replaced proper meals. I even habitually stole my younger sister’s snacks, which I secretly replaced with new ones I buy after eating them. Whereas I spent most of my time eating, I was at the same time malnutritioned because I only ate sweets every day. They were the only things that kept me mentally alive.

In high school, I went on to a school with many native Chinese students doing study abroad in Japan. I had thought that this is going to end all my challenges. I was certain that i would find a place I belonged, because since I was “Chinese,” they should find me as one of them. What I didn’t know was that this experience would further worsen my situation. I didn’t blend with “real” Chinese. They openly showed me how different I was from them, convincing me that I have nowhere to belong. I felt then like I had lost my imaginary and spiritual hometown.

This was also when my physical health started to be even more at risk. It was when I developed anorexia nervosa losing half of my weight and most of my energy. On the two hour train ride to school everyday, I would very often faint, and find myself in the emergency room in the station. I couldn’t concentrate. I was always cold. I was wearing sweaters in July, and in the hot August, the heat deprived the very little energy I had left.

The somewhat stereotypical image of Chinese women in Japan is long legged, tall, slender women, none of which I fit with my height. Neither do I actually identify with the petit image of Japanese women; I am short but always saw myself to be overweight. Adding to this is my Chinese relatives’ remarks about my body. They would openly call me fat and overweight, and still force me to eat when I was not eating “enough”.

It was a gradual process, but when I realized, I was scared of the food that I had loved so much. But thinking back, I may have needed a better fashion sense, or a better hair dresser, but not a diet. Thinness is very valued in Japan, which was very stressful to me.

To be honest, I still suffer from my identity crisis, and while I now have enough food to keep me active, the anorexic mindset still haunts me at times, and I would resort to binging to deal with whatever stress. But I try at least to change the way I deal with those negative thoughts. I used to spend my nights crying because of questions about my nationality. Now, when someone asks about my nationality, I try to answer that I am a very proud citizen of Earth. And when old eating habits haunt me, I try to remember how beautiful and powerful Lynn and Lisa are, and maybe I can reclaim my life as well.

Together with their dumpling skin (I am also a reader of The Actor’s Diet), I hope that I would be able to enjoy food the way Lynn seems to.

This Fall, I will be studying in California, and as a big fan of The Actor’s Diet, I hope to explore many of the places Lynn shared.

I am extremely grateful for having found Thick Dumpling Skin, The Actor’s Diet, and the inspiring Lynn and Lisa. Theses really kept me alive.
Thank you.

H. | Tokyo | Japan

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"You need to lose weight." 

I thought I heard wrong.

Did the stranger I just walked by tell me that I need to lose weight? 

My steps slowed from its usual morning commute hustle. I felt my face starting to burn and my heart beat speeding up. 

I temporarily thought about turning around to give this man a hard look, but I picked up my gait again and continued walking.

I felt so angry. 

How dare this man, who I didn’t even know, say this to me? What right did he have? And what kind of a world do we live in where our bodies are at the whim of other people’s contempt? 

I just wanted to share this. I’m still processing it, and don’t have much more to say. 

I can shake this off, but I don’t want to. Because it is not ok. 

- Lisa

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Art for a Cause!

Are you an artist?  If so, you may want to submit to the National Eating Disorder Association’s Birthday Card Contest, running now through July 31st.

Contest Details:
Birthdays are special and we are giving you the opportunity to help the National Eating Disorders Association celebrate the birthdays of our wonderful supporters.  Here is the chance to have your creative artwork or photograph featured in NEDA electronic birthday greeting cards.  NEDA intends to send electronic birthday wishes to our supporters using the top five winning birthday card designs on a rotating basis.  Only individuals who have submitted their birthdates to NEDA will receive birthday wishes featuring one of the winning designs by email. In the future, our plan is to have the winning designs available for our supporters to purchase from the NEDA online store.  Spread the word to everyone you know and get involved in this exciting contest!

This contest is open to everyone.  Experience in arts or photography is not required.

Enter via the form on their website.

Filed under NEDA artist birthday card contest

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Save the Date! M.O.M. March

The first ever Mothers and Others (M.O.M.) March will take place in Washington DC on September 30, 2014:

The inaugural M.O.M. March will be a historic unification of moms, families, advocates, sufferers, and eating disorder organizations collaboratively marching on our Nation’s Capital. The mission of the M.O.M March is both simple and powerful: raise awareness of the prevalence, stigma, and devastating consequences of eating disorders; unite people from around the country to advocate for those affected by eating disorders; honor those who have lost a loved one to an eating disorder; celebrate those who have struggled and recovered and unite our voices to educate Congress and influence federal policy related to eating disorders.

The M.O.M. March  is about collaboration and our goal is for all eating disorder organizations to unite with moms, families and advocates in the fight against eating disorders as we demonstrate to Members of Congress that we are a large, united and powerful force that will continue coming to Capitol Hill, raising awareness of eating disorders and their devastating consequences, until change is effected.  The M.O.M. March culminates on October 1, 2014, in a day of advocacy at EDC National Lobby Day and their Congressional Briefing that will be dedicated to moms. The time has come for us all to join together in the fight against eating disorders. Together, through the M.OM. March and advocacy, we will make a difference and ensure that not one more precious life is lost to these treatable diseases.  

For more information, visit their website.

Filed under eating disorders families activism washington dc

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On Our Radar: Food Shaming

The April issue of Women’s Health Magazine describes “food shaming” and the issues associated with it.

"It’s normal in our culture to obsess about food this way and to judge our choices and to label foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad,’" says Michelle May, M.D., author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat. “Here’s the problem: When we judge food as being ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ we also judge ourselves and other people as ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ depending on what we ate.”

The more we listen to this food shaming—whether it’s coming from ourselves or someone else—the more detrimental it becomes, say experts.

"That belief that ‘I’m a bad person’ has a really negative consequence because the truth is that if we believe we’re a bad person, then what the heck—why not keep overeating?" says May. Then, after over-indulging, many people will try to earn their way back into good standing (as mandated by our culture’s food rules) by restricting and depriving themselves—which is one of the most powerful triggers for overeating, says May. The result is something she calls the "eat-repent-repeat cycle."

Ultimately, spending so much time focusing on what you “should” eat and beating yourself up about consuming things that don’t fall into that category gives credence to the harmful belief that you can’t trust yourself and your body to make your own food choices. Eventually, it can lead to an obsessive and dysfunctional relationship with food and, in some cases, even more severe problems like disordered or secretive eating, say experts.

Read the full article here.

Know something that should be On Our Radar? Contact us!

Filed under body image body love body acceptance food shaming eating disorders

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Dis/Orient/Ed Comedy in LA


They’re baaaaack! And we are too - as a Media Sponsor - once again.  Get tickets for the Los Angeles Anniversary show of DisOrientEd on Saturday, July 12th by entering discount code THICKSKIN for $5 off (UPDATE - Extended through Thursday July 10, 11:55pm).


Disoriented Comedy Los Angeles 2nd Anniversary Show + Benefit for Tuesday Night Project

Friday, June 12th - 7PM Community Mixer - 8PM Standup Comedy Show 

The David Henry Hwang Theatre in Little Tokyo Los Angeles


$35 General Admission Tickets 

$30 Pre-sale Tickets (PROMO CODE: “THICKSKIN”) (tickets on-sale now)

Group Tickets available for $20 per ticket for groups of 10 or more!

Refreshments available for purchase

Tickets Purchase:

Facebook Event:


Facebook Page:

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On Our Radar: 7 Cups of Tea


7 Cups of Tea offers “Free, anonymous, and confidential conversations with trained active listeners. All conversations are deleted.”  You can check out profiles before connecting, or support forums if you’re not ready to talk.  You can even train to become a listener yourself.


Know something that should be On Our Radar? Contact us!

Filed under depression mental health help 7 cups of tea