I was surprised to learn that in China today only one in 150 people are obese; by comparison, it has been since 1909 that just one in 150 Americans were obese. Since then, the rate of obesity in the U.S. has gradually risen to one in three people. While the world we know has dramatically altered during the past 100+ years in terms of our average body size, Chinese people have managed to remain slender and do so very naturally and without any undue effort to speak of. It’s simply a way of life for them and therein lies their secret.
Some slender friends who recently returned from China commented that they felt fat as they toured China. They emphasized that everyone was slender there except for Americans and that we’ve become so conditioned to being “fat” that until we become immersed within a population of slender people, we don’t recognize the startling reality of what has happened to our nation. Like the frog that was tossed into cold water and then slowly heated until he boiled, the average American has slowly become bigger and fatter until as a nation we now suffer from the highest rates of disease in the world.
A trip to China helped my friends become like the frog that was tossed into hot water and was so shocked by the heat that he quickly jumped out of the pot. This was the effect experienced by my friends who visited China. The comparison was so shocking and evident to them that when they returned home they set about making changes in a manner that they can easily sustain for a lifetime. After a year home, the impact of that trip has not lost its effect upon them. I'm hoping by sharing it with you, that you might also benefit by it.
My sister has sons who have spent many years working and living in China and whose observations have been similar to those of my friends. I've asked them to describe the Chinese lifestyle habits, as they observed them, and to share the secrets to the seemingly effortless slenderness enjoyed by the Chinese population? Here are seven tips shared with me by my friends and family who have spent time in China; they are worth consideration:
- The main menu items in China are vegetable dishes; green vegetables, complimented by other vegetables, make up 70 to 90 percent of the volume (not calories) of food consumed. Rural Chinese populations tend toward 10 to 20 percent more vegetable consumption than is consumed in the cities.
- Also, the vegetables that make up their main dishes are picked fresh the same day they are sold in the marketplace. Since refrigerators are uncommon or are very small, Chinese buy fresh what they need for the day and leftovers are rarely eaten.
- Most of the population rides bicycles or walks and only 10 percent drive cars. The average energy output for them is 20 percent higher per person than in America. Grains compliment their vegetable dishes and meet most energy needs that are not met by vegetables; however, they do not use ovens in their kitchens and the grains they eat are boiled or steamed in water. Rice or noodles are the most popular grain choices used to compliment vegetables and they are enjoyed during every meal.
- Fruit is also enjoyed, but when it is consumed it is almost always eaten at the end of a meal as a healthful sweet finisher. Sugary desserts are far less common than in the U.S. Coincidentally, this practice of eating some fruit at the end of a meal is also enjoyed in Europe, in regions where slender is customary rather than the exception.
- When meat is used, which is less often than one would suppose, meat additions are generally small pieces of pork, chicken, or fish that are mixed right into the vegetables, to add texture and flavor. Large chunks of steak, chicken, or fish that are common in the American diet are uncommon in China.
- Various herbal teas are the drinks of choice in China. Dairy products were virtually unseen, and the only thing that resembled milk was soymilk, which is sometimes used as a liquid for purposes Americans might otherwise add milk to a recipe.
- Most Chinese know how to create a tasty vegetable dish in just a few minutes and enjoy convenience and freshness at every meal. While “fast foods” have made their way into Asian countries, including China, they do not enjoy the dominant presence when compared to the U.S. Also, fast-food offerings in China are generally far more healthful than U.S. choices.
In summary, the Chinese diet includes lots of green vegetables that are complimented with other vegetables and with sufficient grain to meet caloric needs. Meat is also added at times as a condiment to their vegetable dishes. They drink warm teas and sometimes enjoy a little fruit at the end of meals. They walk or bike to-and-from and the combination of diet and physical activity they enjoy results in a population where over 99 percent are naturally slender and less than 1% are obese. The China Study reported that their rates of common diseases are less than 1/10 the U.S. rates of the same diseases.
I believe an important take home message for those of us who desire to be naturally slender and vigorous throughout our lifetimes is to develop lifestyle habits that keep us physically active, to develop a healthful love affair with our vegetables, and to cut way back on our meat and learn to use it simply to compliment, and to add texture and flavor. Most of us know that this is good common sense. It seems that wherever we find populations in the world that aren't absolutely inundated with processed and refined foods and oils, people seem to eat a lot more food from the garden and they live longer.
Also, stop to consider what American’s were eating and doing back in 1909, when our rate of obesity was identical to what it is in China today. We learn from USDA food statistics that we once centered an exceedingly high percentage of our diet around garden foods and ate less than half as much meat as we do today. Now 51 percent of what we eat is processed and refined and only seven percent comes fresh from the garden.
I think what is most important to consider as you attempt to make any significant lifestyle change, is that in order for it to become sustainable it must also be enjoyable and simple. Anyone who visits China and stays for extended periods of time comes to love eating in China. It tastes good; it feels good, it fills you up without filling you out, and it is a pattern of eating that can be enjoyed throughout a lifetime and from anywhere in the world.
If you get too crazy trying to make lifestyle changes too swiftly or abruptly, they are less likely to become sustainable for you. I suggest you master a few good recipes at a time. Take time to consider the new recipes we present weekly and try them. We seek to keep them simple, tasty, and healthful. As you try them you will begin to discover some simple favorites that you truly enjoy. Seek to learn a variety of healthful and simple recipes, sufficient to secure a sustainable pattern of eating that will lead you to a lifetime of natural slenderness and beauty.
Postscript: From the Fresh, Raw, and Living article to this article on Chinese Slenderness Tips, I don't want you to become confused because the Living Young - Volume 5 newsletter features all cooked foods and Volume 4 features all fresh, raw, and living foods. I chose these two extremes purposely to cause you to think. Both dietary approaches lead to far superior diets when compared to the average American diet. As you include more fresh, raw, and living foods in your diet remember that even if you also include some cooked vegetables, your diet will lead to great improvements in your health. High vegetable intake leads to superior diet in every part of the globe. In fact, most vegetables Chinese consume are cooked. You determine your current threshold for raw fruits and vegetables; and compliment them, as needed, with cooked vegetable dishes, as described herein. Pay attention to improvements in vitality and energy levels and continue moving that direction.