Covid Feeds Eating Disorders and the Dark Side of Asia’s Obsession With Beauty

At a recent doctor’s visit, my endocrinologist admonished me for gaining two pounds. “You’re not obese” — I’m not even close — “but it’s something to watch,” he told me.

I left the appointment equal parts indignant and unsure. It wasn’t the first time I’d encountered this level of frankness about my body or appearance since moving to Asia. When I was pregnant in Hong Kong, my Chinese teacher confirmed that I must be having a boy. “Boys give mothers beauty, girls take it away,” she said. Years later, my property agent in Singapore was relieved to hear I was pregnant with my second child: “I thought you were just getting fat!”

This hyper-attentiveness to appearances comes alongside a cultural love affair with food. Singaporeans often joke that they start planning lunch as soon as breakfast is over, and “Have you eaten?” is a standard way of saying hello.

Read More