Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Americans are the fattest people in the industrialized world, while Koreans are the slimmest. There are many reasons for this, but one huge factor is diet. The Korean will have a post about the healthiness of Korean diet, but the most important point, for the Korean, is this: Koreans eat less. Portion size served in restaurants in Korea is anywhere between half to two-thirds of portion size in America.

Now, American government seems to have taken notice, which is a good news.

Government’s Dietary Advice: Eat Less [New York Times]


  1. I'm not sure about the portion size thing. My impression is that Koreans eat a lot, but they eat better. When I have dinner with my Korean friends, for example, I can't believe in the end, when I think I'm completely full, they order the common bokkeumbap. But they hardly drink soda (or anything other than water) while eating, and love eating fruit for dessert. And if I spend a weekend at a Korean friend's house, their mother will make us eat all the time, but again, with a lot of fruit between the meals. Also, I read once that pepper helps burning some fat in your body.

  2. Sadly, I see more and more overweight students at my hagwon, on subways, etc (even more and more overweight adults). My students are always bringing snacks (as in chips, cookies, etc) to school and have told me many times that they are their dinners. Also, Western food is becoming more and more present (and Koreans continue to come out with their own versions of Western food). Unless something changes, I fear Korea is heading in the same direction as most Western countries.

  3. To quote one of your own entries quoting Jon Stewart:

    "We're not South Korea, we never will be! Why don't you love us for us?"

    Answer: Cause you're fat, Lardo!!!

    You did ask.

  4. There is truth in portion difference - one of the most immediate things I noticed upon coming to the States was how large the portions were. A medium sized soda in the US is a large in Korea (and the rest of the world), etc, and food sizes generally tended to be much larger. I was so surprised in the beginning and wondered how on earth a person can eat so much! Did XL portions come in buckets?

    Also, my weight is technically normal range, but at the wider side of it, so I'm considered a total fatty in Korea and a little chubby even in European countries. My friends from America (though only pertaining to non-East Asian Americans, amusingly) were the only ones in my life who told me in complete seriousness that I was not fat at all. It was nice not being the fattest person in my friend group for once, though. (Also, despite my saying such things, I love all my friends, they're wonderful people.)

  5. Part of the reason is because Korea has a different agri-industrial complex than the USA. The USA produces so much food that companies are always trying to find different ways to make people eat more and more calories. Broken food system indeed. See dairy (and corn) as an example:

  6. Koreans eat less? Gotta agree with Henrique and quibble with that. I think Koreans eat better and the food is generally healthier, with a lot less processing that makes westerners obese. But generally Korean tables groan under the weight of food. That said it is almost impossible for someone to get fat eating a normal Korean diet. The worst parts of the Korean diet are high sodium levels and the huge wads of white rice that are consumed, but generally it is a vegetable based diet with comparatively small amounts of meat and processed ingredients. And nothing like this, yet:

  7. I agree with the Korean. Portion sizes are smaller in Korea, excluding rice. The traditional Korean diet is healthy, too. I'd argue that the traditional American diet is healthy. It's only been with the saturation of high-fructose corn syrup, trans fats and bloated portion sizes that Americans started to grow so large in a generation. HFC and highly processed foods are starting to be picked up in Korea, too, and the younger generation is also gaining weight. I don't like framing it as a Korean diet vs. American diet issue. It's an industrialized diet vs. a traditional diet.

  8. I agree with ZenKimchi that it's the additives (industrialized) in the food. When I eat out (here in Seoul) the portions are very generous. But I cannot get a diet soda or even a splenda at a coffee shop anywhere! There's no "sugar-free" or "fat-free" to be found!
    I've never gone in a KFC or McDonalds or Dunkin Donuts or even a Lotteria where it hasn't been crowded. And there are certainly snack foods available in convenience stores.
    So, I politely disagree with The Korean. I believe that most of it is body composition and some of it is the simpleness (non-adulterated) of the food.

  9. ZenKimchi,

    What would you say is "traditional American diet"? What does it entail?

  10. I moved to Korea this past summer and have been overwhelmingly impressed with the Korean people! I would just like to add that in addition to diet, Koreans are also very physically active. No matter the weather, people are out strolling, hiking, running and Biking. During spring and fall their are marathons and ultra marathons every weekend somewhere in Korea. When I go for a run I get many smiles and thumbs up from others on the wide clean sidewalks. There is more to being healthy and thin than just diet

  11. @ZenKimchi: I am also unsure what a traditional American diet is. Perhaps what you meant (and what I take it to mean) is a diet that consists mainly of processed foods versus one that does not. If not, I'd love to hear it. I am often asked about American cuisine and I often think 'Which American's cuisine?'.

    @angi: Yes, they are growing in size. When I see my middle-school girls with their families, the youngest ones are not only the tallest, they are usually the fattest. Hoo-ray industrialized agriculture.

    @Henrique: You must know a teetotaler set. The Koreans I know have a tendency to drink quite a bit of alcohol with dinner.

  12. I just came in to compliment Douglas on his use of "huge wads" as a unit of measurement for rice consumption. If I ate even half the rice my skinny coworkers put down every day, I'd have gained 20 pounds by now, easy.

  13. @ Kate,

    Why thank you! In fact I'm thinking of patenting it. So in the future when you feel like using it, shoot me an email and I'll give you my bank account number so that you can deposit a huge wad of money in my account.



Comments are not available on posts older than 60 days.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...