138. I am shocked to see that number at age 32. It blasts me into the past, when I tumbled onto a scale during hide-and-seek at a birthday party. I think we had just had pizza and soda (standard kid fare). I thought about crouching down in the tub at first. Instead, numbers started to appear and grow like a souffle in an oven. I was too young, uninformed and not-obsessed-yet to calculate BMI, but I knew in the pit of my stomach 100 was bigger than average.

I read somewhere as a rule of thumb, the Japanese try to eat to reach the 80% mark of a full stomach. There are so many times I’ve indulged myself emotionally or mindlessly. Nothing is terribly bad for me, but I definitely bite off more than I can chew. I still feel like a yo-yo-ing Oprah sometimes. My mindset and my body acceptance could use some healthy improvements.

A few years ago when I was an on-air reporter at a local television station, I counted calories Bridget-Jones style through the MyFitnessPal app. I didn’t realize one opened serving of ravioli translated to only four pieces on my plate, far less pasta than my normal intake. Knowledge was supposed to be power but counting started to feel so restrictive and guilt-laden. I let that app and the consistent body shape I had go when I moved to Washington, D.C, when I became no longer betrothed (fancier for engaged). Sugar became my food drug — I felt like I absentmindedly deserved a cookie every time I went to see a friend or went on a trip. I wasn’t obese, but I was what doctors are sometimes concerned with among the Asian American population: skinny fat (plus, my grandma has diabetes).

Back to my childhood on Guam — I had a history of hoarding invisible food. I did non-alcoholic jello shots of Gushers, divided and conquered Sara Lee cheesecakes after school with my brother, and stopped by 7 Eleven before school for hot dogs and slurpees. You would think my parents supported a future career as a competitive eater, or starved me and my brother. There’s a photo of us both leaning against a skinny lamp-post one winter, my fat fourth grader face shaped into a dumpling.

So when that scale first zoomed past 100, I felt naked and unable to disguise my largeness. “Seeing” myself as fat for the first time, however, did not stop me. I was in denial. My new normal became feeling weak if I didn’t eat.

Luckily, I had that expected growth spurt and expended a lot of energy on team sports. Now with mindfulness as a practicing backdrop, I aim to understand food can be healing. Food is energy. It’s okay to be hungry, empty, patient or even lonely for a while. As my nutritionist also added, it’s okay to live a little — in all aspects of our lives — but we can reclaim some of our choices.

I’m reminded when I recently posed nude for an art class. I remember being nervous about how I would look on paper. Would I come off stocky? Would they focus on my stretch marks? I was pleasantly surprised as I sat there in full transparency and on full display. I became more comfortable in this sitting meditation, allowing my belly to protrude on each exhale and my entire to feel relaxed. My body could be a work of art.

We all have to reconcile our relationship with or recover from something. For me it’s about facing the facts, fully accepting who I am and being unafraid to come to terms with my own inadequacies, failures and cravings. That’s a triumph.

Originally published at konakafe.com