On Feeling Fat, plus a Recipe for Shanghai-Style Braised Pork Belly

I think we all experience days when we feel gross, ugly, and maybe a little bit “fat”. Here are signs that I am about to have one of those days:

  • My pants fit fine, but they somehow feel like they’re made of an unforgiving metal material that is cutting into my belly;
  • Muumuus suddenly look really fashionable, and I have 4-5 different ones queued up in my Etsy cart;
  • My belly, inner thighs, arms, and cheeks (areas that have a little extra meat) are all insanely itchy;
  • I look in the mirror, cringe, and dramatically ask, “WHY!?”;
  • I convince myself that I’m going to become a martial arts master and lose a zillion pounds, even though my brain knows all of that is ridiculous.

These feelings often have nothing to do with weight, size, or appearance. I’ve discovered that my overall feeling of self-worth (which includes appearance) is inextricably linked to productivity, and whether I see myself as intelligent.

I’m rather mean to myself, which may or may not be obvious at this point. I think my obsession with personal/professional growth, my consistent desire to be prolific and competitive, my general state of anxiety, it all stems from a deeply embedded belief that I am not naturally good at anything, not naturally smart or gifted. I’ve built this narrative that positions Yejin as someone with no raw talent, but also as someone who can overcome that misfortune through practice and hard work. Without my industrious and near-OCD behavior, I feel like I would be left with the core of my being, which is nothing more than mediocre. I constantly dare myself to do better and be better because I want to prove myself wrong. All this to say: when I am stripped of my possibly superficial layers of self-confidence, I feel unintelligent and uninspired. And ugly. I don’t bring this up so that others will say things like, “Awww…that is so untrue!” In fact, external validation does little, for me. And my whiny little pity party doesn’t need any additional guests, believe me. I mention this overly exposed and vulnerable mess of an overshare simply because I’m proud…proud that I’m working on being nicer and more understanding, proud that I’m getting better at practicing a more profound compassion for myself and for others.

If I caught one of my loved ones saying this shit to themselves, I would grab them by the ears, drag them to a mirror, and gently scream at them to see what I see: a beautiful, thoughtful and amazing human being (this is why I would be a terrible counselor, by the way). Rather than continue on this destructive and unsustainable path, I’m trying to figure out how to be kinder and less dramatic, and how to convince myself that I don’t need these additional layers of ‘accomplishments’ in order to prove that I’m worthy of my own confidence, pride and love. And, guess what helps? FOOD. PORK BELLY. Obviously.

When I’m hating on my body (read: feeling unintelligent/uninspired), what makes me feel better is not “healthy” food, but fatty stuff. It’s counterintuitive, I know. But on the occasions I’ve made myself eat nothing but raw fruits/vegetables, quinoa, tofu, tempeh, etc., I felt like I was punishing myself for something. I created an archetype of what a “successful” person would eat, and I ended up hating the food and feeling even worse about not being the kind of person who would genuinely enjoy eating exclusively healthy things (in my brain, those are the same folks who enjoy a zillion mile run at 6am).  Which is terrible, because those foods are also delicious. So, as I mentioned in my entry on cravings, I had to find a way to dissociate punishment from food and eating. My current strategy: to make myself something that really delights me, something that makes my body feel warm and cuddly and squishy and comforted…something fatty. Of course, eating fatty and delicious stuff isn’t and shouldn’t be a permanent solution to my self-inflicted woes, but it does make me happy, if only for a moment.

For a super tasty pork belly dish, check out the recipe below.

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Shanghai-Style Braised Pork Belly
Adapted from The Woks of Life
Servings: 6-8
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 75 minutes

Ingredients

1 ½ lbs of pork belly, cut into ¾ inch pieces
3 tablespoons of canola oil
3 tablespoons of sugar
6 tablespoons of shaoxing wine (I used dry sherry)
4 tablespoons of soy sauce (original recipe calls for both light and dark soy sauce but I didn’t have any dark soy sauce on hand. It tastes yummy this way, but the sauce is lighter in color and less ‘authentic’)
4 cups of water

Directions

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and blanche the pork after boiling for a couple of minutes (this will get rid of some impurities and start the cooking process). Drain the pork and set aside.
  2. Put your wok over a low heat, add oil and sugar and stir for 1 minute. Add the pork, and raise the heat to medium. Cook until the pork is lightly browned, around 4 minutes.
  3. Turn the heat back down to low and add the cooking wine, soy sauce, and water. Cover and simmer for about 1 hour until the pork can be easily pierced by a fork.
  4. Once the pork is tender, there will still be a lot of extra liquid. Uncover the wok, turn up the heat, and let the liquid reduce for about 15 minutes, stirring frequently. The pork will reduce to a shiny, thick, brown sauce.
  5. Serve over rice, and EAT EVERYTHING.

I served this with rice, sauteed bok-choy with garlic sauce, and soy sauce eggs.

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Note: I recognize that I may be using the concept and feeling of “fatness” in a pejorative way, at least when it comes to analyzing myself. My intention is not to be fat-shaming, but to show the ways in which my general feeling of self-worth determines the way I feel about my body (in a society that is, in fact, fat-shaming). 

One thought on “On Feeling Fat, plus a Recipe for Shanghai-Style Braised Pork Belly

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