The world can be a harsh place, and sometimes it seems like you need to have the perfect body in order to achieve success and happiness. We are always worried what others are thinking of us, but in reality, they are too busy thinking about how they look. We are are own worst critics, and that is something that everyone around the world can relate to. Body image issues affect people across the globe, but different cultures approach body image differently. Growing up or living in a certain culture can influence the way you eat, how active you are, and the way you perceive yourself. I talked to Fairfield University sophomore Morgan McKean, who has lived in six different places and has experienced six unique cultures. Living in these various places has had an affect on her life in many ways, one being how she see’s herself.
Q. Where all have you lived, and for how long did you live in each place?
A. I was born in Texas and I lived there for 3 weeks, I moved to Arizona and lived there until I was 2 years old, then moved to Tokyo, Japan and lived there until I was 6 1/2 years old, then I lived in Pennsylvania until I was 10 years old, and Colorado to present (19 years old). And I currently go to school in Connecticut.
Q. Where was your favorite place to live? Why?
A. Japan! I really loved experiencing a different culture. This is where I formed my first memories and because I was so young I experienced my preschool and elementary years here. I still keep in touch with the friends I made in Japan because many of them were from the United States too. I went to an international school so there were people from all over the world at my school and we were always doing activities and having festivals at school that represented every country. I really enjoyed getting to learn about Japan’s culture as well as my friends from around the world! It was so much fun to live in Japan! (I wish I could go back).
Q. What cultural differences did you notice in the different places? (i.e. socially, school, clothes etc)
A. First of all, I started preschool when I was 3 years old and I was in kindergarten from ages 3-5. The Asian culture starts kids in school at a very young age (which is why they are all so smart). At school we wore uniforms but when we were out around town our clothes weren’t much different because most kids shopped at the same stores (Gap, Next, Zara, etc.) but at events like Taiko drumming parades or street fairs, many Japanese wore traditional taiko drumming outfits or kimono. My sister and I had those outfits so we could dress like everyone else. Since I was so young, I interacted with kids like any toddler would. I played and didn’t really notice the difference between us (but I knew it was weird to bring a PB&J to school for lunch instead of a box lunch with rice and curry).
Q. How did you deal with the transition from one location to the next?
A. Luckily I had my sister, Ashley, who is 3 years older than me. We were very close to each other because we were the only constant (other than my parents) in our lives as we kept moving from place to place.
Q. Did you notice any sort of difference in the way that each culture approached body image?
A. In America the approach to body image was the same but honestly I didn’t really pay attention to it until I moved to Colorado. Dieting is often encouraged on TV ads but eating disorders are discouraged and the line is very fine between these two. In Japan the women are very petite and work hard to keep their body image. From speaking to my mother her friends would usually eat one large meal a day. If they went to lunch they would eat their miso soup, sushi, rice, and dessert but that is all for the day.
Q. Did living in several different places and experiencing different cultures have any affect your body image?
A. Living in various cultures affected by body image because as I grew and my body changed, so did my location. I was a very cute kid in Japan. Small, blonde, a model for Japanese magazines but when I moved to the US after Japan I puffed up. I became very chubby and although I was involved in sports and eating well I could not lose weight. In middle school I started swimming and I also begin to grow taller, which helped me thin out. My mom took me to a nutritionist to understand how many fruits and veggies I should eat every day and I have never really struggled with trying to lose weight but I also didn’t feel the need to keep losing weight because I was always very active.
Q. What do you think Americans can learn from the Japanese, as far as eating and exercise habits go?
A. In Japan, they eat almost every meal with chopsticks. This makes them eat slower and feel full sooner, which keeps them from overeating. Japanese people tend to eat smaller portions because they are taught to practice “hara hachi bu,” which means to only eat until you are 80% full. Most people – especially in the US – tend to eat until they are stuffed, which is much harder on your body. Another concept that the Japanese live by is “ishoku-dogen,” which translates to “food is the key to health.” I was born in Texas and I lived there for 3 weeks, I moved to Arizona and lived there until I was 2 years old, then moved to Tokyo, Japan and lived there until I was 6 1/2 years old, then I lived in Pennsylvania until I was 10 years old, and Colorado to present (19 years old). And I currently go to school in Connecticut.