Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Koreans are the thinnest among all the people in OECD countries. Fattest people? Take a guess.

In all seriousness, allow the Korean to put it this way. The Korean Father is about 5'10", and used to weigh around 180 pounds. When the Korean was growing up, the Korean Father was BY FAR the fattest person the Korean has ever seen in his life (excluding some people on television.) Then the Korean Family came to America. The Korean Mother one day decided to check out the Big & Tall store for the Korean Father, and soon realized that being big in America means an entirely different thing from being big in Korea. The Korean also vividly remembers when he saw the first 300+ pound person in his life -- and he was totally, totally blown away.

Of course, all of this is more than 10 years ago and there are a lot more overweight Korean people now. But really, America could use a lot of work losing some goddamn weight.


  1. To be fair, the woman in that poster may be a little chubby but is not fat. (The massively obese wouldn't fit on a Segway.) You don't know the distance she is going. If she is going, say, 12 miles, it would very slow to walk and worse for the environment to use a car. Given that you can't bike on the sidewalk and some drivers like to target cyclists, I wouldn't feel safe strapping the baby to a bike, either.
    Americans in the aggregate are too fat, but East Asian people are also just genetically more likely to be skinny. I've read that East Asians may begin to be at higher risk for things like diabetes and heart disease at lower BMIs than Caucasians are, so there may be health reasons for East Asians to be thin.

  2. Wanda, that's the thing, this woman on the picture is not fat by American standards, but she's fat (not morbidly obese, but definitely fat) by anybody else's standards.
    And genetics are not an excuse, last time I checked, White Americans are genetically similar to Europeans. Not even mentioning all the fat Asian Americans around...
    If you look for something to blame, genetics is the guilt-free answer (in other times, people would have said it's destiny), you should rather look into the direction of terrible lifestyle and eating habits in the US (and the US food industry in general that should be put on trial for crimes against humanity).

  3. I want a HT!.. ;)

  4. No HT, the Korean saw it on his own first.

  5. "Americans in the aggregate are too fat, but East Asian people are also just genetically more likely to be skinny."Adding to David's refutation, there is no single fat gene. There are many, many diverse genes that regulate metabolism and fat storage. These genes can be switched on or off according to the environment, including the prenatal health condition of the mother. In fact, I just read in today's science news that genetically identical fat cells will store fat very differently according to how much insulin there is in the bloodstream and how the body metabolizes it.

    To understand why Americans of all races are so much heavier than Koreans, one need only to compare supermarket shoppers. Most Americans drive door to door and 90% of the money spent is on processed food items. A significant number of Koreans walk or take public transport, and most floor space is occupied by produce, meat, and fish.

    Most overweight people got that way because of their lifestyles, not because of their genes. And as for the common belief that healthy food is too expensive, don't get me started on that one. I pay $1.40 a pound for bone-in poultry, which yields both lean, high-quality protein and delicious stock, and $1 a pound or less for cabbage, kale, collard, carrots, and onions. I drink reverse osmosis-filtered water (33 cents a gallon) and tea. Not a drop of nutritionally empty soda in the house. Koreans spent a larger portion of their income on food, yet they manage to eat well.

  6. Koreans might be thinner, but I wouldn't say they're healthier. One of my coteachers was telling me about how her 9 year old daughter didn't eat all day because she was worried about her weight. My coteacher wasn't phased by this at all. Also... young Korean people are pretty lazy when it comes to physical fitness. Most don't play a lot of sports... I rarely see young people hiking all the beautiful mountains. In addition... the diet in Korea is changing. I see my students eating cookies, candy, and ice cream every day. Also, if you ask a Korean kid what their favorite food is, you'll get the occasional person saying Kimchi Jjigae, but the overwhelming majority will say Pizza, Hamburger or Fried Chicken.

  7. Well, if more exercise equals greater health, then I'd say Koreans are healthier since they get alot more walking exercise compared to Americans during their daily routine. Also, Korea has alot of mountains and that means alot of slopes to walk up on.

    But all these daily exercise benefits may be negated by the relatively bad air quality, I dunno.

  8. I only know of one country in which you go hunting on a full stomach: America!!!

    Need I say more?

  9. Well, there's no doubt that too much of America is overweight, but Korea shouldn't be overly excited by this study. The OECD report mentioned in the Korea Times talked about the rate for adults 15 and over. But the Joongang Ilbo pointed out that for children under 15, the rate is almost 14%. Still not close to American standards, but a marked increase. (joongangdaily.joins.com/article/view.asp?aid=2902864)

    I'd agree with Lisa on this one. Most children are spending far too much time studying to get any exercise and, when they do have time off, they spend it online.

    I personally have become much less healthy since moving to Korea years ago. In the US, I had extensive bike paths near my house, lakes and to swim in, and grassy soccer fields all around. Here, the roads are unsafe for biking, and the only fields available are the small dirt ones at nearby schools. There are plenty of mountains withing walking distance, so at least I can go hiking, but the air is so fouled with yellow dust now that I feel sick when I go. I enjoy many things about living in Korea, but it has certainly been an unhealthy time for me.

  10. Korea is by far full of fit people. Seeing those ajumas hike up mountains, not to mention, subway stairs, awes me.

    I'm trying to whip myself back into shape and I'm thinking I just need to follow my korean friends and do what they do.

    of course if wanda's assesment is correct it may all be in vain. Sigh.

  11. Yes, Americans are fat. I said that. However, I felt that AAK could have picked a way better picture to illustrate this post, like a morbidly obese person using a mechanized scooter on the sidewalk. For the particular picture he picked, I could find a reasonable explanation for why that woman might be behaving the way she did.

    Also, if Koreans are the skinniest people in the world, that means that they are skinnier than Europeans, too. Body shape in general is highly multifactorial, but so is height, and there's no doubt that, Europeans of Nordic origin are on average taller than East Asians and that genetics contributes to this difference. Given that most people in the US are still of European ethnic origin, it's not surprising that Americans are fatter than Koreans. (The difference between the US and Europe, of course, is primarily because of nutrition and exercise.)

    @sonagi82: All your body's cells (excluding your blood and immune cells) are genetically identical.* Your neurons are different from your fat cells because they have been exposed to different influences during developmental and have made different RNAs and proteins, becoming different types of cells and performing different functions. It's not surprising that fat cells behave differently when exposed to different conditions like the amount of insulin in the blood.
    *Unless you are talking about DNA methylation and such, but strictly speaking that is not changing the DNA sequence.

    You guys are so sensitized to people complaining about "genetics making me fat" that you read a lot more into my comment than what I wrote.

    1. Height is considered when measuring BMI, your racial height argument is invalid


  12. hello i just wanted to say that i think that korean girls are skinny because in asian culture it isnt socially acceptable to be overweight and maybe it has to do with social status as to whether your rich or poor.I dont feel that its genetics either i think that asian are taught to be more in tuned with their bodies and what they put in them.Im afican american i live in los angeles near hollywood . I see a lot of korean girls where i live in a community called Park La Brea and a great deal of them are skinny and im about 5 pounds away from being as skinny as they are , but if your not asian stupid people tend to call you anorexic, but they dont say this about asian women ever, and im not anorexic. i also admire korean girls they are very beautiful.


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