Breaking The Asian Myth | “Asians Don’t Get Fat”

Earlier, we wrote Breaking The Asian Myth | Asian Hair to address the very incorrect myth that all Asians have the same kind of hair. According to the stereotype, being Asian automatically means straight, sleek, black hair. As we all know, these myths are often over-generalizations. This is especially true when using the giant umbrella term “Asian” despite the various types of Asians.

We’ve even seen this over-generalization affect Asian women when it comes to breast cancer. The myth is that Asians do not need to worry since we have the lowest rate of breast cancer. The reality is that Japanese American women have the highest rate of breast cancer among Asian Americans and this type of cancer is the leading cause of death for Filipino women. Obviously, there are important differences between the various ethnicities which categorize under Asian.

And now, we’ve come to a myth that many of us have heard since childhood:
You’re lucky you’re Asian. Asians don’t get fat.”

This is the part where we all let out a collective sigh. Deconstructing that phrase on a very surface level alone shows a number of problems. Asians are human and fully capable of putting on weight. Sure, this stereotype holds some ground. Many Asians are indeed fairly thin or petite, but by no means is this the case for all Asians. Setting the boundary that Asians don’t get overweight can create quite a few problems for our community.
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Take Maria Kang (above) for example. Controversial photo aside, it is clear that this mother of three had to work hard to get the impressively fit body that she has now. Among the negative comments shot at her, there were a number of people saying that her achievements are nothing to boast about because she’s Asian and “Asians are naturally thin.” Suddenly, hard work of any sort is simply waved off as nothing.

There are certainly Asians on the heavier side. Now imagine how a heavy-set Asian feels in the midst of such high expectations? What does a woman do when society makes her believe that her culture is genetically engineered to be thin, but she is not? Now more than ever, Asian women are turning to surgery to fit these high beauty standards. With the ideal weight for Asian women getting smaller and smaller everyday, we began to wonder just how true this stereotype is. Lucky for us, we weren’t the only ones who saw flaws in the idea that “Asians don’t get fat.”

NBC recently took a closer look at where Asian Americans rank on the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and noted two very big problems which would lead to incorrect results.

It is true that according to the survey, obesity does not appear to be an issue with the Asian American community, but it is important to take note of their definition of obese. In order to judge obesity, the NHANES looks at body mass index (BMI). A BMI above 25 is considered overweight and a BMI of 30 or higher is considered obese. By these standard, only 10.8 % of Asians are obese compared to the 33% of white, 42% of Hispanics, and 48% of blacks.

The problem? The BMI of an Asian is not an accurate indicator of whether or not that person suffers from the health risks related to obesity. For instance, Asian Americans are at risk for diabetes with a BMI of just 24 and at risk for cardiovascular disease with a BMI of 19. By the NHANES standards, these BMI’s are not even considered overweight and yet it is enough to bring the complications of obesity to Asian Americans.

The second major problem is the giant umbrella term “Asian.”  NBC notes that this term “is defined the same way the 2010 U.S. Census defined the term: Americans with descendants from the Far East, Southeast Asia or the Indian subcontinent — that includes Cambodia, China, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippine Islands, Thailand and Vietnam.” By categorizing so many types of Asians into the same field, it is easy to overlook the results of the individual ethnicities.

According to a CDC report in 2008, Filipinos are 70% more likely to be obese compared to the other Asian Americans while a number of Vietnamese and Korean adults are underweight. Clearly, obesity issues vary amongst the different types of Asians. Scott Chan, the program director for the Asian Pacific Islander Obesity Prevention Alliance, points out, “Combined together, it looks like we don’t have a problem. It kind of propagates that ‘model minority’ myth — that Asians are healthier, we’re skinny, we’re fine.”

So as much as we buy into the idea that Asians are naturally thin, it is quite a danger to our community. Do some Asians get fat? Yes. Should we worry about the health risks associated with obesity? Absolutely.


(source)

 

Problematic Idea of The Day: The Price of Your Rent Depends On Your Weight

From the time that we are born, we are taught that slim is in. We are given the belief as women that thin is beautiful and we must strive to get to or maintain that image. In the United States alone, nearly $35 billion a year is spent on weight loss products. Our obsession to be thin has become so extreme that companies have been thriving in the weight loss industry. There have been pills, workout machines, smoothies, and just about everything you can think of that focuses on weight loss.

In Japan, they’ve taken the idea of weight loss to an entirely new level. In what Huffington Post refers to as “one of the most unique weight-loss schemes of all”, the Lady Share House B&B in Osaka offers discounted rent price dependent on the tenants weight loss. The residential facility will deduct 1,000 yen (roughly $10) for every 2.2 pounds lost and inversely, the rent will increase for increased weight.

The goal of the residential facility, apparently, is to create an environment which supports and facilitates healthy living. In their defense, no one can say that Lady Share House B&B isn’t trying. In fact, their efforts are clearly done with good intentions. The building offers an exercise studio and even lecture on weight management. None the less, the building has still stirred quite the debate. The B&B was questioned for its unlimited snacks and sugary drinks offered to the tenants. Are these snacks really offered to encourage health living or was it a scheme to increase the tenants’ weight? They defended this act by claiming that the availability of the snacks was an effort to help their tenants learn to resist temptation. Questionable? Certainly.

While we are in full support of maintaining a healthy lifestyle, there are a number of problems that may arise from this rent tactic. In an effort to decrease rent, especially if one is in the position of financial hardship, one may go to extreme measures  to decrease their rent price. This added pressure may simply add on to the unhealthy obsession to be thin.

Additionally, with further research into the facility, it was discovered that the B&B was attracting many women who were not overweight at all. Will this B&B simply encourage women to be even thinner? Will this aid in the already problematic obsession of weight loss? Tell us what you think below.

(Source 1, 2)