Observations About Obesity In America

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This was our typical “Egg McMuffin” breakfast across SE Asia.

I have been wanting to post about this topic for awhile.  It’s a bit of a rant but there is also a rave or two.  Read on.

As I watch the perpetually ongoing merry-go-round of health activism with all its blame for obesity and disease going to culprits like GMOs, vaccines, this or that chemical, etc. – I am constantly reminded of this:

There are other countries in which the people are simply not obese, or even overweight.  They eat the same GMOs we do – corn and cotton seed oils, canola, etc.  Many get the same vaccines we do.  They’re not diseased and fat.  Or at least they don’t get the same obesity related diseases we do.

Last year I spent several weeks in southeast Asia, namely Thailand, Myanmar (Burma), and Cambodia.  What was starkly obvious to me is that the further away from an American-type diet the populations got, the skinnier and more healthful looking the people were.  I’m not talking poverty-skinny.  I’m talking really gorgeous skinny.

Similarly, very recently I spent time on a Dutch Caribbean Island (Bonaire) and noticed that the supermarkets didn’t have entire aisles loaded with snacky stuff like potato chips and cheetos.  Even on this remote island, cheeses and other dairy products were of much higher quality.  I remember noticing the exact same thing decades ago when I spent six weeks in Germany.  Markets devoted about a section or two of stacked shelving to potato chips and other junk – instead of the whole damn aisle.  (On a side note, if you didn’t bring a bag, you didn’t get a bag.  No one complained.  It can be done.  Whole other topic -sorry.)


The Beautiful People

Getting specific now, in Myanmar for example, no one was even fat let alone obese.  The worst I saw was maybe slightly pudgy.  The truth is I never saw more stunningly beautiful, slender, smartly dressed people in all my life!  What do they eat?  For one thing, lots and lots of fresh produce.  Want a quick snack from a street vendor?  Look any direction and you’ll find beautifully cut watermelon, mango or other sumptuous fruit.  I can’t even think of one street vendor in America where I’ve ever seen sliced up watermelon for sale.  When you’ve been tromping around doing touristy things under the hot Burmese sun and you see that watermelon all cut up nice on a little plate, it is a most refreshing purchase, and cheap too.

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Fruit stands like this are easily found and inexpensive!

The same thing was true in Cambodia.  Beautiful, slender people.  Want some fast food?  Fast food in Cambodia meant a vendor stir frying fresh vegetables with noodles, egg, meat or fish over a gas-heated wok.  You stand there for about a minute, two tops, and you get a steaming plate or bowl of healthy made-to-order whole foods.  Again, cheap. And did I mention delicious?

The best street food I had was in Battambang, Cambodia one night when my traveling partner and I arrived in town absolutely exhausted and starving.  Here in the states we would have gone through the late-night drive through, right?  Or maybe gone into a 7-11 for a bag of chips or cookies and maybe a dry sandwich boasting mystery meat and a leaf of wilted lettuce.  Well in Cambodia you go to the late-night food stands.  We went up to one such stand, pointed at some things on a poster not really knowing what we’d get and for two dollars, received an overloaded, large clam shell container that we couldn’t even close it was so jam packed.  With what you wonder?  Steaming broccoli, egg, chicken, bamboo shoots, mushrooms and other similar vegetables – all seasoned to perfection.  Welcome to Cambodia.

Thailand was more of a mix of the American diet and local faire, especially in the big cities.  In Bangkok I did see a lot of overweight Thais, though not any morbidly obese ones like one sees around every corner here in the States.  But there was also plenty of delicious and healthy food to be found everywhere and once you get out of tourist areas, the diet is just as it is in Myanmar and Cambodia.  Interestingly enough, what we think of as Thai food is almost exactly the same as what they eat in Cambodia and Myanmar – from my point of view anyway.  I’m sure there are variations and a local would balk at what I just said, but that’s the way it seemed to me.

Just today I ran across this article from the LA Times Science & Medicine page about the uber high percentage of ‘ultra-processed’ food we Americans eat and it is no surprise to me.  Just look at us.  As a people, we’re fat and unhealthy.  You really see it when you’ve been traveling in other countries and return.

Honestly, it’s downright shocking.


4 responses to “Observations About Obesity In America”

  1. Even in the Persian Gulf region, obesity was a one in ten thousand level, with morbid obesity being around one in one hundred thousand.
    While there is Burger King and other US based fast food, Lebanese food was also popular, real Chinese food (not the crap sold in the US, Thai food, Arabian foods were available as well.
    Now, at the supermarket, everything from quail, squab through turkey was available, as well as my favorite lamb. I wanted to try camel meat, but alas, the locals snapped the lot of it up while I was in line.
    Unique is, the region has food from India to Egypt and everywhere between. Lamb ranged in source from Australia, Pakistan, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt and more. Produce was similarly sourced, with Iranian saffron and onions, Indian onions, etc.

    Back when I was in the military, I had soldiers ask me for dietary advice, as being overweight can end a career. I pulled out my field knife and said, “eat as much meat as you can catch with this, fill in with greens and most of your problem will disappear”.

    • Yep. Just eat real food and as much produce as you can. Stay away from the meals in packages! Cook! It is really that simple.

      • Lately, I’ve been eating regular food and tons of empty calories, all to keep my weight from dropping further.
        I lost 40 pounds in two months and learned that I have hyperthyroidism. On thyroid meds now, but they’ve not taken effect yet. :/

        Still, I enjoy a fine salad. Had one for breakfast at work the other day, followed by oatmeal. I ate an entire fennel bulb in two afternoon snacks at work. Maybe next, some plain celery. 🙂

  2. Great post. America’s obesity is the real crisis of our times in this country. It lends to every other major killer disease: heart disease, diabetes, cancer. To fix it, we must deal with Americans’ addiction to overly processed foods.

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