One of the things I love, love, love about living in China is how fit you get. Some foreigners come to China and get fatter, and I just don’t even get how that’s possible.
You need to walk everywhere, the food is much healthier and aside from the poisoned air and gutter oil, life is very healthy here. Don’t believe me? I have quantifiable proof this time.
When I was in America, I used my credit card points to get a fitbit. It’s a fitness bracelet, like a fancy pedometer, that measures not just your steps, but your level of activity, calories burned and even measures your sleep at night. It’s pretty awesome.
You can also set goals, and the fitbit default goal is 10,000 steps. You get a little “wrist-gasm” when you accomplish your goals. (It buzzes, the lights flash and it’s super exciting.) 10,000 steps a day is what most experts say is a good baseline for making sure you have a healthy, active lifestyle. It’s about 4.5 miles.
I wore the fit bit everyday for weeks in America so I got a pretty good baseline for the American lifestyle. In the three weeks I wore it, the only times I accomplished the 10,000 goal was when I was in a city, either New York of Boston. In the days I traveled the most physically, like drove a few hundred miles, were the days I barely broke 4,000steps. I even tried to walk places instead of driving in America, but breaking 10,000 steps was just too hard without blocking off a big amount of time to take a hike somewhere.
But in china?! No problem. My wrist starts buzzing sometimes in the early evening, and I have been surpassing 10,000 steps almost everyday. The only day I didn’t meet the goal was the day I had 6 hours of class. I was so exhausted afterwards (the damn heat wears me out) I stayed home that night. It was my least active day but I still passed 8,000 steps. In America my least active day was a mere 1,500 steps.
Just doing the basic necessities here requires a lot of walking and moving. I sat in a cute little cafe to do some writing the other day and it took me about 3,000 steps just to get there. In America I’d drive, sit, and drive back, averaging very few steps. But here? I have a workout both before and after more than making up for the thick mango smoothie I ordered.
And not to mention the awesome sights you see when you walk around. I admit that walking in suburban America can be boring. All you see is houses, lawns and a few shops (usually closed if your walking at night). But in China you get to see so much. Families sitting on plastic stools chatting away, old ladies dancing, fruit sellers trying to get you to buy their stuff, and families not only cooking outside, but sitting around the pot eating on the sidewalk.
And that’s just the physical part of it. Meanwhile my eating has improved drastically. Sure, you can get chips and cookies here, but they are pretty dry and tasteless and even in America I don’t eat much of that. Instead my dinners are mostly veggies with a little meat, and snacks tend to be fruit related.
In fact, one of my favorite snacks here is the “fruit salad bar.” Available at almost every fruit shop it’s a cooler filled with cut and peeled fruit. You just choose what you want and weigh it. It’s one buck for half a kilo. Because of the size of the container I have never paid more than 1.50. And it doesn’t just have the “cheap” fruit like watermelon and apples, but mango, dragonfruit, kiwis and some local chinese stuff. It’s awesomely convenient and delicious. The last place I lived didn’t have these, and I think it’s a genius idea.
I know that China isn’t the first place people think of when you think of “healthy lifestyle” but for me, it’s great for my health. In fact, I’ve lost almost 9 pounds of my American flab since arriving here 2 weeks ago. At some point my body will acclimatize to all the exercise but until then I’ll milk it for all it’s worth.
I think it’s mostly expat men that get fat. Expat women tend to maintain the same weight more or less.
Btw, how common are incidents involving gutter oil or unsafe food in general?
I’m the one who have managed to gain weight after moving to China! 😀 I think one reason is that I eat out a lot more now, as it was way too expensive to do as a student in Finland. Then for the past year I’ve been spending way too much time at home, first with my thesis and then working from home. No classes or office to go to did very bad for me. Now I’m back to more active live as started my new degree. Hope I can slowly get back to the same weight I had four years ago 😉
I’ve been thinking of having that kind of bracelet too and have looked some options on Taobao, not sure which one to buy.
Sara, if all the pictures of you on FB and your blog are you “fat” then I think you were way too skinny before. 😉 I eat out a lot more here too, and the gobs of cooking oil in everything can’t be great, but it’s just in general, so much better than even the home cooked food I made in america. Like potatoes as my main vegetable (with usually butter and salt) or just big slabs of meat back in america.
And I heard xiaomi has a great fitness bracelet for cheap that works with a xiaomi phone (if you have one). Anyway, it’s a total motivator. At 1am last night while walking home, my friend was like, “Mind if we walk to McDonalds?” (Which wasn’t on the way.) I didn’t mind at all because while he got a juicy burger I was thinking of all the juicy steps I was getting in, haha.
And e-phoenix, I don’t really know. Baidu has just made some e-chopsticks that can apparently detect gutter oil in hot pot. But for me and gutter oil, I think the “ignorance is bliss” approach works best for me. 😉
That bracelet is a cool idea! My husband and I go for walks every single day here in China and I definitely feel that it’s easier to stay healthy.
I travel for work so our suppliers will take us out for lunch and dinner so I’ve had to adapt to accommodate this, Even when eating with suppliers I try to stick to basics dishes such as fish, vegetables, soups.
But I’m like Becky in general I find the Chinese food variety (especially home made Chinese food) better.