Written by Frank Li
A little more than one year ago (on June 15, 2012), I published this article: Obese: to Be or Not to Be. Two big things have happened since then:
The article has been a major hit, with almost 5,000 page views, so far.
So it’s time for me to re-visit the subject with additional insights …
A college classmate of mine in China retired in early 2012, when she reached 55. She spent about two months touring around the U.S. in the summer of 2012. It was her first time in the U.S. and she was deeply impressed. Among many things, America’s natural beauty and the richness in natural resources were most impressive to her.
However, she also remarked negatively about America. Here is a conversation we had:
Friend: The U.S. is too rich in natural resources for China to compete against.
Frank: Yes, that’s true.
Friend: But I find some hope for China.
Frank: Oh, what is it?
Friend: There are just too many fat people in America.
Frank: Why is that any hope for China?
Friend: Being fat means a lack of self-control. When you have so many fat people, it reflects the culture and the nation that way: a lack of self-control.
What an astute and insightful observation! As a Chinese-American, I can easily see her viewpoint …
Here is a highlight from a recent U.N. report on obesity:
Prevalence of obesity among adults (2008)
No wonder my Chinese friend felt “Americans are fat”: 5.6% vs. 31.8%!
But does the fact that “Americans are fat” rise up as the biggest factor to determine the winner of the head-on competition between the U.S. and China, as my Chinese friend thought? Let’s reason …
To me, here are three main reasons Americans are so much fatter than the Chinese:
Life style: Obesity is a life style – eating too much; exercising too little! Unfortunately, many Americans are looking for excuses, blaming anything and everything but themselves!
Culture: Americans embrace freedom, including the freedom to be fat, while the Chinese emphasize greater self-control, from Confucius of more than 2,500 years ago to today. Many differences between the two cultures are reflected in the subject of obesity, from the reality to the attitude toward it. The single Chinese character shown on the right is perhaps the most important character in the Chinese language to convey the Chinese philosophy and wisdom: it literally and pictorially means to put up with everything, even if it means to have a knife stabbed at your heart, in order to be successful. The Chinese credo is pretty tough, huh?
Prosperity: America has simply been far more prosperous than China! Yes, the Chinese are becoming fatter and fatter, thanks to their newfound prosperity and the relentless invasion of western food (and culture) …
Bottom line: the Chinese will be fatter as they become more prosperous, but they will never catch up with Americans in obesity for many reasons, not the least of which is the difference in culture!
Obesity is very bad – It’s the root cause for many health problems! When you have 1/3 of the adult population obese as in the U.S. today, it’s clearly a national problem. It’s quite possible that this problem can be so bad that the race for superiority between the U.S. and China will come down to this: who can avoid obesity better?
My fellow Americans, here is a clear choice for our weight: more self-control or more government intervention? I like the former, but we seem to be heading in the direction of the latter …
Oh, for those Americans who blame everybody but themselves, here is some good news from the U.N. report: Although the U.S. is still the most obese nation among the “countries in developed regions”, our neighbor Mexico is now one full percentage point ahead of us (32.8% vs. 31.8%)!
Now, for those who blame prosperity for obesity, look at Japan: 4.5% vs. America’s 31.8%!
Needless to say, obesity is such a complex subject that it’s simply impossible to cover it in a short article like this – I have just given you another perspective – at least consider it!
Want to read more? Here are three articles I read before writing this article:
Oh, in case you are concerned about the PC (political correctness) of this article, I am not – I hate PC! For more, read: America: What The Heck Is All This Political Correctness?