South Korea's Girl Idols, Unrealistic Expectations, and Fried Chicken

Today I will talk about fried chicken even though I am a vegan, because I'm flabbergasted at how businesses use (yes, use) girl idols and the image their bodies portray.

For those who do not understand Korean:

Girls of AOA (Korean girl idol group) weigh themselves in the morning. They have to weigh no more than 50kg, approximately 110 lbs. Seolhyun, one of the AOA members weighed more than that. The girls scold her for having gained weight and take away her sweet potato. Then, they go to work, where their colleagues bring chicken. Seolhyun is tempted, and others encourage her to eat just one bite. So she takes one bite. The executive of the entertainment company walks in, and scolds her for eating fried chicken when she weighs so much.

According to my Internet search, Seolhyun's height is 167cm. It's not uncommon for the entertainment companies to provide inaccurate stats about female entertainers, but at least to me, this seems about right. At that height, if she weighed 50kg, she would have 17.93 standard BMI, or 18.04 in New (height-adjusted) BMI. She would be underweight. Her actual weight was not revealed in the first video, but I assume she was in a healthy weight category. She was scolded for being healthy. This is not new at all, but still, what the fuck?

Few years later...

AOA girls are now "chicken mania" (the term "mania" is used to describe a person who is an enthusiast of something in S. Korea)

I'm not even going to mention the problems I have with the actual commercial, that's whole another story. Irony is an understatement. This is beyond ridiculous. In order to be popular they are forbidden to take just one bite of fried chicken, and then their popularity is used to promote fried chicken.

They bite into fried chicken at the end of the 2nd commercial. How did that make them feel? Did they feel glad that they get to take a bite of chicken because it's for commercial? Did they just pretend to take a bite and then spat it out? Were they even given real chicken? One thing is for sure. They are not "chicken mania", and they never will be as long as their idol careers last.

But still, they were chosen to promote fried chicken franchise. They must be skinny, but they also have to eat fried chicken, too. This is not new. The Internet and pop culture denounces those girls who are on diets and wouldn't eat (insert fatty food) for being uncool, but at the same time they praise the "perfect" body that cannot be achieved without saying "no" to fatty food on a regular basis.

This obsession about thin, pretty girls eating tons of food is unreal. JTBC even made it a competition, although it was short-lived and received a lot of criticism. Another idol group Girl's Day was criticized for refusing to eat dumplings, among other things, and had to make an apology video.

This is essentially what was said about 'cool girls' in Gone Girl.

Men always say that as the defining compliment, don’t they? She’s a cool girl. Being the Cool Girl means I am a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and anal sex, and jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth like she’s hosting the world’s biggest culinary gang bang while somehow maintaining a size 2, because Cool Girls are above all hot. Hot and understanding. Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want. Go ahead, shit on me, I don’t mind, I’m the Cool Girl.
Men actually think this girl exists. Maybe they’re fooled because so many women are willing to pretend to be this girl. For a long time Cool Girl offended me. I used to see men — friends, coworkers, strangers — giddy over these awful pretender women, and I’d want to sit these men down and calmly say: You are not dating a woman, you are dating a woman who has watched too many movies written by socially awkward men who’d like to believe that this kind of woman exists and might kiss them. I’d want to grab the poor guy by his lapels or messenger bag and say: The bitch doesn’t really love chili dogs that much — no one loves chili dogs that much! And the Cool Girls are even more pathetic: They’re not even pretending to be the woman they want to be, they’re pretending to be the woman a man wants them to be. Oh, and if you’re not a Cool Girl, I beg you not to believe that your man doesn’t want the Cool Girl. It may be a slightly different version — maybe he’s a vegetarian, so Cool Girl loves seitan and is great with dogs; or maybe he’s a hipster artist, so Cool Girl is a tattooed, bespectacled nerd who loves comics. There are variations to the window dressing, but believe me, he wants Cool Girl, who is basically the girl who likes every fucking thing he likes and doesn’t ever complain.
The only thing I would disagree is that I wouldn't call other women 'pathetic' but everything else seems pretty much accurate.

Can a girl be thin while eating fried chicken sometimes? Absolutely. However, scolding them until they are in tears for eating little bit of fried chicken on camera, constantly pressuring them to stay underweight, and then trying to convince the consumers that these girls love fried chicken is just shitty. Also, it's borderline cruel to make them eat high calorie food for profit because that means they have to make significant adjustment in their diet and exercise to make room for it, which could be very difficult for busy idols who have to maintain their underweight figure.

This is absolutely ridiculous.


Questions I Get When People Find Out I'm Vegan

Usually the first question is, "Why?", but that's covered in my about me page. Long story short, I first went vegan for environmental reasons but I came to know more about animal rights and now I'm vegan for everyone. Animals, humans, the planet, and myself.

1. But what about (nutrient)?

People are concerned that I might not get enough protein/calcium/iron or some other ingredient. Many nutrition expert groups including but not limited to American Dietetics Association state that well-planned veg(eteri)an diet is healthy. For example, soybeans (dry) has more protein per unit mass than pork, and they're much, much cheaper, too. Zinc, iron, calcium, all of those can be found in plant foods. The only thing you should be concerned about on a whole-food plant-based diet, or any diet, is vitamin B12, which can easily be supplemented. I've written more on B12 in my "So How Much Nutrition Do I Get on a Vegan Diet?" post. I also supplement vitamin D, only because I'm a hermit and there is no way in hell that I'm getting enough vitamin D from sunshine.

2. Don't you miss meat? What non-vegan food do you miss the most?

Not really. I guess if I happen look at a steak commercial and think, "Yeah I remember eating that, it was delicious", but I don't feel like I 'miss' anything, at least not enough to ignore the animal suffering and environmental implications. Besides meat kinda smell like blood to me now. I don't know if it's real or if I just feel that way after seeing slaughterhouse videos... What I miss is how easy it was not to be vegan. I could go to any restaurant and order anything on the menu, I never had to check labels, things like that. However I have access to vegan alternatives so it doesn't really matter.

3. Do you hate non-vegans?

Love the sinner, hate the sin, I suppose. I used to not be vegan, and I can understand why they are the way they are. I thought I could never be vegan, but hey, here I am. Maybe, hopefully, what happened to me will happen to them and they'll change.

4. Then what do you eat?

Grains, beans, vegetables, nuts, seeds, fruits, mushrooms, things like that. Before going vegan, every dish I've ever known other than tofu and salad contained animal ingredients, so I get why people have to ask this. I came to realize that most of those dishes can be made without those animal ingredients. Pasta I've had before going vegan usually had meat or dairy, but now I love to throw in bunch of vegetables and tomato sauce to make pasta.

5. Does it bother you when other people eat meat in front of you?

I guess I don't like it, but honestly I don't think about it that much. If I were to get upset every time anyone ate any animal products in my sight, I would be upset all day every day, and I can't afford to do that. Also, some think that it makes me uncomfortable because deep down I want to eat meat (huh?) and they are rubbing it in my face or something. That's simply not true.

6. Would you date a non-vegan?

I am currently in a relationship with a meat eater. Again, love the sinner, hate the sin.

7. Bacon.

Wait, that's not a question… But really, I don't get this bacon thing. If I am going to (hypothetically) eat meat it's gotta be better than this greasy, salty mess.

8. What's the hardest part of being vegan?

People would think that having limited options would be really hard but it really isn't. Some people can be very hostile to vegans and that does bother me, but I can get over it. The hardest part is being fully aware of the implications of eating meat, dairy and eggs, and being fully aware of how normal it is in this world to do so.


April Will Be a Month of #ZeroWaste for Me!

Going Zero Waste for a Month

It's on my 25 before 25 list. I care about the environment very much and I'm generally pretty mindful about it, but I'm not perfect. I can't only focus on the environment 100% of the time. At least for a month I would like to challenge myself to push even harder to make sure that I reduce my environmental footprint. Starting tomorrow, April 1st, I will abide by these rules until the end of the month. It's basically reduce, reuse, recycle, just more hard core.
Here are my rules.
  1. Recyclables do not count as 'waste', but I will try to reduce them, too. I will collect them in boxes to see how much recyclables I have at the end of the month.
  2. Unlike regular trash, in South Korea 'food waste' is collected separately and often aren't sent to landfill, so I will not count them as waste. I will still try my best to reduce food waste.
  3. When I'm at home I'll wash with water instead of using toilet paper (TMI?) but when I'm outside I'll have to use toilet paper.
  4. Other than exceptions stated above, no waste for me. Nothing goes into trash. If I do end up creating some waste, I will donate 10000 won to an environment NGO every time that happens.
I'll be posting weekly updates to see how I do. At the end of the month there will be a recap post, so look out for that, too!
Here are my plans for reducing waste.
  1. When I forget to eat before I head out or to pack my lunch, I end up buying something on-the-go from convenience store or fast food joints. That creates waste, or at least recyclables. I will make extra sure that my food is prepared so I don't have to do that.
  2. No packaged food, no drinks other than water. Soda, bottled juice, things like that. Just good old water, it's best for my health, too. I carry around a flask for water so I'll be drinking water out of it, and nothing else. As for packaged food, I will stick to packing whole food based meals and only eating that.
  3. Less shopping. Specifically, less online shopping. I don't shop much and I buy second hand whenever possible, but I usually buy online and the packaging, protective fillers, and bringing the product all the way to my home leaves carbon footprint. If I don't need it, I'll live without it, and if I do need something, I'll try to find something from local thrift store or flea market first.
I hope that this will be a change to rethink and re-evaluate my previous lifestyle and improve. Even if I stop aiming for 'zero waste', I'll still keep on with good habits I picked up on my journey, and that's the purpose for this little experiment of mine.


This Is My New Work / Study Anthem

So I am the QUEEN of procrastination, and that damaged a lot of things.

I asked myself, what the fuck is wrong with me? Why do I do this when I know how destructive it is? I just couldn't stop. But there's always light. While extreme procrastination can be a sign of emotional distress and may require professional psych treatment, I think I found my cure.

I usually don't listen to music when I work or study. It doesn't really help me, especially when it's loud(ish) music like this. White noise does help sometimes, but that only helps when I'm willing to concentrate. However this, really works. "JUST DO IT. YESTERDAY YOU SAID TOMORROW" really, really gets me. Whenever I lose my focus just enough to notice the lyrics it slaps me back into working hard.

So thanks, Shia LaBeouf and Songify, you saved my work ethic.


Tips on Transitioning to Vegan

Educate yourself.

It's so much easier to be vegan when you know what you're doing and why. Cowspiracy, Forks Over Knives, and Earthlings [TW: I thought this one was a little graphic] are common documentary recommendations. I prefer books, though, and these are the books I recommend.

Now that we've covered the 'why?' part, let's move on to what you're doing. This is a lifestyle overhaul. You will likely need recipes. There are tons of lovely recipes availble on the world of the Internet (including this blog) but if you are in search of vegan cookbooks:

I don't use cookbooks often but they do come in handy when I need something new. Here are few other books that might be helpful.

Take one day at a time. No, one meal at a time.

"These are the list of things you won't eat and you will never eat them, ever again!" Sounds pretty terrifying, if you ask me. However it doesn't have to feel that way. Maybe cutting out all animal products altogether may seem drastic coming from a society where it is perfectly normal to consume meat, dairy and cheese, but you can definitely eat vegan pasta instead of steak for dinner today. For just one meal you can make a vegan choice, it's not that hard. You can pick up more vegetables instead of meat on this grocery shopping trip. You can drink fruit juice instead of chocolate milk for today's snack. You can pass on that buttery cake this one time. If you keep making these tiny changes each and every time, then voila! You are vegan.

Connect with other vegans.

Becoming a vegan used to be unfathomable to me. Then I saw dozens of other girls my age on the Internet who are successful vegans. That made it so real. Something that I could do, since other people just like me are doing it. Also, you can share information and support each other! Utilize social media and the Internet in general to find other vegans and communicate with them. I'm always available at my Instagram @livingafiction (shameless self-promotion) and this blog is open for anyone as well.

Decide where to draw the lines.

Being vegan is pretty straightforward for the most part, but there are obstacles and grey areas, and at some point you will have to compromises. If you already own leather items, do you throw them out? Do you throw out non-vegan foods in your pantry? Do you have to take medicine? In most countries they're tested on animals so they're guaranteed not to be vegan. The Vegan Society, who coined the term 'vegan', defines veganism as "Veganism is a way of living that seeks to exclude, as far as possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing and any other purpose." so if not taking medicine is not possible or practicable for you, do what you need to do. While some contend that using non-vegan items you already have 'normalize' use of animal products, not everyone can afford to replace them and I've kept my non-vegan items myself. Bottom line is, try your absolute best not to cause any more avoidable suffering.

Learn from your mistakes.

You will make mistakes. At first I made a ton of mistakes, too. Eating something thinking it's vegan and then it turns out it's not vegan, buying something without scrutinizing the label, things like that. Just learn from your mistakes, vegan police will not take your vegan badge away :P


What I Eat in a Day as a Vegan: March 23, 2016


I was (again) in a hurry and ended up leaving my home without breakfast. So I bought this, because I know what skipping breakfast does to me. I would crave sugar like crazy. I don't like to buy packaged foods but oh well. This keeps me going until I can have lunch.
Forgot to take picture until I was almost done lol
For lunch, I had made simmered seasoned tofu in the morning to bring as my lunch. I brought rice with it. Looks kinda weird because the container was tossed and turned around in my bag but it tasted good!

For dinner I steamed up some frozen veggies with rice. I added some spices for flavor. It's an easy, convenient, healthy go-to meal. I had some orange before dinner as a snack. but I don't have a photo.

Cronometer nutrition info
My nutrition intake today.

I feel like it would have been a more nutritious day had I eaten a proper breakfast, but it was still a good day. See what I said about nutrition yesterday? I got 199% vitamin C today as opposed to 78% of yesterday, so it all balances out.


So How Much Nutrition Do I Get on a Vegan Diet?

Whenever I mention that I'm vegan I am met with "but what about (insert nutrient here)?" I do not know why people think that you must eat animal products to get proper nutrition, that is absolutely false. So I decided to put in the amount of food I ate and see what I'm getting. I don't bother with it because I know I eat balanced diet, but I wanted to prove it. I ate fried rice for lunch and pasta for dinner. I skipped breakfast today :( As you can see, I am getting enough iron, protein, calcium, etc. I supplement vitamin D and vitamin B12, and the B12 supplement also has folate.

And for those who think "well, isn't it unnatural that you have to supplement?" or "We need animal products because B12", let me explain. B12 is created by bacteria. Naturally, humans would get enough B12, because naturally, we do not wash our food spotless like we do now. Since modern food industry is so pristine and sterile, there is no B12 left on most of our produce. So the problem isn't vegan diet, it's just contemporary world's obsession with cleanliness. (See an article about B12 by John McDougall, M. D.) And that applies to animals people eat, too. They live in cement factory farms and get injected with antibiotics regularly. Many livestock animals eat B12 fortified feed or get B12 injections. If you eat animal products, you're simply getting B12 supplements second-hand. It's much better to take those supplements directly.

And when it comes to vitamin D, there is no (natural) dietary source that provides enough vitamin D, whether it be animal product or plant food. Dairy milk may have some vitamin D but that's because it's fortified with it. You're supposed to get vitamin D from the sun. However, during colder season it is difficult to get vitamin D from the sun, and unprotected UV exposure (which does create vitamin D) is inadvisable anyways. So supplementation is a good idea.

I don't aim to get 100% of RDA 100% of the time. Sometimes I get more, sometimes I get a little less, but it all balances out. For example, my vitamin C intake was rather low today. But most days I eat more than enough vitamin C from fruits. I just didn't feel like eating much fruits today, and one day of less fruits isn't going to affect me.

The only thing that concerns me is that I consumed a lot of sodium today. I accidentally used too much soy sauce in my rice, and I ate a lot of seaweed. (Although some of the sodium would have washed out when I cooked the seaweed in water and then poured the water out so the number above isn't 100% correct.) I'll be careful tomorrow not to eat much sodium, then. That's just how it is.

I'm not perfect. This is obviously not the representation of the best diet. In fact it's not the best representation of my diet, because I don't eat chocolate or drink soda every day. Today I had a bit of sugar crave from skipping breakfast. (Which is why it's so important to have breakfast!) But still, I got pretty good nutrition. Vegan diet can be very healthy and I do not need animal products to have proper nutrition.
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