Illustration by Sylvia Park
“Over the years, I have tried a bevy of things in the name of beauty that range from cringe-inducing (Sun-In to lighten my hair) to medieval torture (cramming my wide feet into pointy-toed high heels). However, nothing tops what I’ve done in the name of weight loss. Eat only meat? Check. Cabbage soup? Check. Two shakes a day? Sure. Starvation? Absolutely.”
These are words from Giyen Kim’s blog, where in this particular entry, she tests out the celebrity-endorsed Suddenly Slimmer wrap treatment. Her entire body was basted in mineral solution and mummified in Ace bandages in the hope that she would Lose inches in an hour! Guaranteed! In the end, she was sans $125 and a few inches. Did it stick? No. But it sure made for good blog fodder.
Kim, 35, is on a weight loss journey and has no qualms about letting the world ride along in cyberspace. Her blog, Bacon Is My Enemy (www.baconismyenemy.com), chronicles her triumphs, missteps and everything in between, from her compulsion for hoarding “skinny clothes” to her occasional indulgence in a Tat’strami sandwich at the local deli.
So far, the 5-foot-4 Seattle mom has shed 16 pounds since she first weighed in at 192 last summer. She documents her weight loss every Monday, posting full-body photos on her Flickr page, complete with chest, waist and hip measurements.
She’d ideally like to get back to her pre-pregnancy weight of 120 pounds, but says her bigger goal is simply to remain healthy and active. Her refreshing candor captured the attention of editors at CNN.com, where she now posts video updates on her progress. Blogging has become a source of income for the freelance writer and nonprofit consultant, but more than the money, it’s about connecting with others through honesty.
“People will be turned off if you try to be something you’re not,” says Kim, sitting with her laptop at a local Starbucks. “If you are thoughtful about putting something out there, there is an audience for it.”
Her blog is about much more than simply cutting out the bacon. It’s about her journey of self-discovery as a single mother, as an estranged daughter and about her self-esteem issues. And it doesn’t involve “religion, a guru or psychedelic drugs,” she has noted.
Kim was born in El Paso, Texas, and grew up in Coos Bay, Oregon, a rural town of 10,000. Her childhood was a rocky one. Her parents divorced when she was four. Her mother was an institutionalized schizophrenic and died a few years later. Her father quickly remarried a woman Kim now refers to as “Nazi.” Writing has always served as an outlet. As a teen, she’d write in her journal about family issues and about being Asian in a predominately white town. All the while, she turned to food for comfort. Her weight yo-yoed between a size four to 14.
At age 19, Kim became pregnant. Two years after her daughter Paige was born, she and her boyfriend split.
For Kim, parenting has offered a lot of healing. It has in some ways filled the void of not having a mother most of her life. Now, as her daughter plans her freshman class schedule, Kim laments in a recent blog entry about the terrifying idea that in less than five years, Paige might be “that girl passed out drunk on the bathroom floor of a sorority house.”
“Being a single mother is really hard,” she admits. “But it is really empowering. I was the first of my siblings to be able to buy a house and I did that as a single mom. That’s nutty to me. I’ve discovered as a mother, you find a reserve in you that you never thought you had because you’re caring for someone else.”
Kim’s writing journey started last spring with an epiphany one sleepless night. At the time, she was working 60 hours a week as the director of an affordable housing nonprofit organization. Her work wasn’t fulfilling, and she eventually had a “What the hell am I doing?” freak-out session and quit. Then she wrote about it.
Despite its title (she originally wanted to call it “I Heart Bacon,” but the domain was taken), Kim didn’t intend for her site to be about weight loss. But in January, Kim was reading CNN.com and saw something that caught her eye. The user-generated news forum iReport was asking readers: What is your new year’s resolution?
Through her home webcam, Kim created a video blog about how her resolution was to lose weight and say ‘yes’ to more things in life. The next day, Kim got a call from CNN editors who said they wanted to follow her weight loss journey. Now, Kim provides video updates on her progress, from her 10-pound milestone to getting back on track after grieving the loss of her uncle and aunt, who both recently passed away. On her blog, she teeters between the humorous (“My large calves are definitely a product of a generation of women that worked hard labor in the rice paddies of Korea”) to the reflective (“When I don’t deal with the things that are hard in my life, it manifests itself in weight gain. I store all my emotions in the cushions of fat that have insulated me from feeling anything too deeply”).
Kim is currently writing a memoir and serves as an online panelist on the video site, Momversation, alongside some other popular bloggers such as “Dooce,” “Finslippy” and “Work It Mom,” all of whom she dubs the “rock stars of the industry.”
“It’s strange and heartwarming that an umbrella of motherhood unites us all in feeling that we simply want to do the best for our kids,” Kim says. She adds that Paige does not read her blog, but provides encouragement for her to do what she needs to be happy.
Kim receives a lot of e-mails from other Asians, who tell her they really wish they had pursued something artistic. Kim tells them they don’t have to jump off the cliff like she did; they just have to make the time for it.
“There are not enough Asian writers out there,” Kim says. “You can be creative in ways that don’t take a lot of time, but still provide benefit.”
Kim says launching her blog has been a leap into the unknown, and she has since stopped trying to be in control of everything in her life. “I am more accepting with how things are and less attached to how I want them to be or how I got there,” she explains.
“Anytime you put your intention out there, whether in a journal or online, you’re creating some kind of vision for yourself. It comes back to you and you are more likely to do some of those things that feed your soul.”