The health downsides of changing Chinese lifestyles

By Sava Hassan
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Shanghai Daily, March 8, 2017
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Recently, while I was waiting for my cab to move, I noticed the humongous number of cars on the road and the gradual disappearance of bicycles and the apparent diminishing number of pedestrians.

Flashback to 2003, the year I arrived in China to make it my home away from home, the streets were filled with bikes and pedestrians. At that time, looking at the very healthy Chinese, I felt insecure about my weight and envious of their healthy living habits.

After I settled in and had the opportunity to interact with and observe their lifestyles, Chinese individuals earned my profound admiration for their eating habits. I noticed that they consume a great deal of nourishing vegetables and fruits.

Watching them keep fit pushed me to follow suit and I began to take long walks to the nearby park. There, I stood in awe watching young and old Chinese individuals dancing to music.

During my first year among them, I noticed they led frugal and modest lives.

The disturbing sound of the screeching tires of an adjacent car brought me back from my reminiscing journey into the past. Looking around and seeing the inflating bodies of the Chinese whom I encounter now in my daily life, I found myself asking the following question: "What happened to the healthy and frugal lifestyles of the Chinese?"

Reflecting on that question, I discovered that during the span of a decade, drastic changes in the Chinese lifestyles occurred. Chinese adapted a consumerist attitude and harmful eating habits with rises in their standards of living.

With the availability of shopping venues online, most Chinese prefer to acquire their daily needs through the Internet instead of going through the hassle of getting caught in heavy traffic in their trips to the markets.

That practice turned some Chinese into couch potatoes sitting at home watching television while nipping on fattening snacks. I've noticed that some of my students own more than one credit card. The negative impact of having credit cards is the temptation to turn into a shopaholic since one can shop with the option to pay later.

Chinese, especially young ones, are drawn to imitating Western eating habits by acquiring the tendency to satisfy their taste buds with the junk food that became abundant in the Chinese society. They shied away from the healthy and nourishing Chinese cuisine.

Negative impact

A negative impact of eating junk food is seeing one's waist expanding at an alarming rate, along with clogging one's arteries with cholesterol. That is not the worst ramification of devouring junk food. Heart attack or a stroke could result from being obese or overweight.

Owning a car led most Chinese to abandon the exercise of riding bicycles or walking. Gradually, they acquired the damaging habit of taking the car to the nearby supermarket instead of walking. That contributes to the overweight phenomenon among young Chinese.

Most Chinese possess one or more cellular phones. Despite being magical inventions, they led to reducing face-to-face interactions.

One may argue that those changes are the consequences of the progress in the human evolution cycle. However, I do believe that noticing the drastic changes in the Chinese lifestyles is a warning sign that Chinese should take the necessary measures to go back to a frugal and active lifestyle to live longer and enjoy the benefits of a healthy diet, and the benefits of walking or riding bikes.

I must emphasize the fact that my article should not be construed in any way as a criticism of Chinese or their lifestyles. I am motivated by my profound desire to share my observations with those who were generous enough to make me feel at home and enjoy my stay in China.

The author is a Canadian teacher in China.

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