Thick Dumpling Skin

Co-founder Lisa Lee

By now, you’ve probably heard about Thick Dumpling Skin, the new community website focused on Asian Americans, eating disorders and body image. The website curates stories not only from notable guest contributors, but publishes stories from anyone and everyone – finally giving those in the Asian American community struggling with this ofttimes silent disease, a voice.

I’ll be honest – I’ve never been called fat, except perhaps by my loving family, in the way they might pinch a baby’s cheeks and say “awwww, so chubbbbbyy!” But since I’m so petite (height, not weight), I’ve always been concerned about my weight – when you’re as small as I am, every pound seems to be magnified, and that “last 10 pounds?” Looks like 20 on me.

I’m still lumped in the category of “tiny Asian girls” (the office’s nickname for me is ‘Little’), but I definitely have felt the pressure of having to actually deliver and be one of those 80 lb., stick-thin girls – especially since, let’s be real, there are a lot of them out there. I’m just not one of them, and I don’t have the metabolism or the willpower to be one.

So it’s wonderful to read Thick Dumpling Skin and realize that, while the problem is persistent and sad, at least there’s a place to go to realize you’re not alone. It’s even more meaningful considering that the co-founders of the site, award-winning actress Lynn Chen and Hyphen magazine’s publisher Lisa Lee, launched the site this February by sharing their own struggles with weight.

The wonderful Lynn Chen spoke to KoreAm about how she linked up with Lisa Lee, her current relationship with food and what she hopes Thick Dumpling Skin will do for the community.

How did you come up with the name “Thick Dumpling Skin and the tag line “it’s what’s on the inside that counts”?

We wanted something that was specifically Asian, and had to do with food.  I started thinking about dumplings, their ingredients, and *poof* the concept of having “a thick skin” presented itself.  Once we had the name, it was very easy to come up with all sorts of puns – like our tag line!!!

How did you connect with Lisa Lee and embark on this project?

I heard Lisa on NPR talking about an article she’d written for Hyphen Magazine about her past struggles with food and body image, and how being Asian specifically played into her obsession over being skinny.  Initially, I didn’t even know what I wanted from Lisa, but I felt compelled to start something. I’ve been looking for something concrete regarding Asians and body image for years. When I first began my own eating disorder therapy in my 20s, I had contacted various national eating disorder groups to see if there were any support groups for Asians. I was left at a dead end, and the messages I got over the next decade were that eating disorders and body image were not problems that affected people in my community. I immediately knew that Lisa and I needed to connect, and less than a few weeks after talking over email/phone, Thick Dumpling Skin was up and running.

You blog about food at “The Actor’s Diet” – how did that blog help you deal with your eating disorder?

I began blogging because I wanted to hold myself accountable when it came to binge eating and anorexia. I figured if I channeled my obsessive mind about food in a public forum, there would be no hiding.  Doing the blog has allowed me to come clean about my past, without shame.  I certainly hoped that I would be successful and inspire others, but when I initially began I had no idea what was going to happen. I felt it was important to show that if somebody whose career depended on how they looked could come to terms with the truth – that size/weight/outer beauty isn’t important – be honest with herself, fall down and make mistakes, and still persevere, then maybe that would inspire/help someone who was struggling with food as well.

How would you describe your current relationship with food?

Balanced and peaceful.  I no longer label foods as “good,” “bad,” “clean,” “healthy,” or “junk” like I used to.  I try my best not to feel any guilt about what I’m consuming – over everything from nutritional content to whether it’s organic/local to how much it costs.  I enjoy absolutely every type of cuisine and find a lot of enjoyment figuring out why we eat – to nourish, to celebrate, to comfort, as a reward, as an adventure, to be social, etc.  Food plays many different roles in our lives and I get a lot of pleasure exploring those reasons.  It’s taught me a lot about myself, and others.

What are you hoping Thick Dumpling Skin will do for Asian Americans who are struggling with eating disorders?

I want all people – Asians both in this country and worldwide – men AND women – to know that they aren’t alone.  Not only people with eating disorders, but anyone who is interested in the topic of food, body image, and culture – which affects us all.  For some of us, it’s more of a struggle, and I want Thick Dumpling Skin to be a community for anyone who feels that pressure.

How can people submit their own stories?

They can send stories, poems, pictures, art work, music, videos, etc. to, or use the submission form on our website:

Hear more from Lynn and Lisa (the dumpling dames), in the following videos for the “Let’s Talk About It: A Project of NOW Foundation’s Love Your Body Campaign.”