In China, almost no one is what we could call “fat,” at least not by American standards. I don’t want to get too deeply into a speculation about the causes of this, but I think it’s a combination of genetics, great attitude toward group exercise, and chopsticks. The end.
My sister-in-law Tina teaches at a high school in rural Hunan province, and reports than many of her students describe their friends as “a little fat,” even when the friend in question is clearly anything but. I suppose it’s because thinness is the norm here, so any extra pounds attract attention. But it’s not considered rude or cruel, as it would be in the U.S., to point this out—perhaps because hardly anyone in China is actually fat. But I wonder why it’s not a taboo here—where obesity is rare—while it remains a horrible taboo in America—where obesity is endemic. In America, to be overweight is practically common, yet you would never call a pudgy friend “a little fat.” Ever! Here, it’s no big deal. It’d be like calling someone “pale” in America after a long winter spent indoors.
Some recent examples of attention towards body size that caught my attention: Continue reading