Even though Korea is not obsessed with fitness like Americans are, I find it interesting how the average Korean is in much better shape and healthier than a lot of individuals from Western countries.
Is it cultural or is it genetic?
I asked a few Korean people along my travels why Koreans are able to keep the weight off without having to work out and despite eating fatty foods that make it easy to add weight.
Interestingly, the locals think being overweight is not healthy and thought it was actually normal to be skinny. In their minds, being skinny and thin is basically the average body shape. Whereas being skinny in Korea would actually be more or less considered anorexic in most Western countries.
I think it’s a bit of both cultural and genetic.
Korean people generally tend to have smaller and narrower frames compared to some other people and their diet consists of a lot of vegetables, fruits, fish, etc that are quite filling.
“I’m a korean girl. Korean prefer drinking to eating ..and they frequently skip their meals and mostly suffer from lack of sleep because of huge amount of work or study or drinking(its actually my case…lots of people in their 20s drink almost everyday its kinda part of culture ). Most of young people dont have drive license and they walk a lot in a day. And most of all, most korean always aware that ” I must not be fat”. Cause they care their appearance a lot compared to other countries people I think.”Source: https://www.reddit.com/r/korea/comments/4pld1n/how_do_koreans_remain_so_slim/
So lifestyle, daily eating habits, and diet seem to play a significant role.
Diet and food are important factors when it comes to weight. And from my observations, people tend to have discipline when it comes to portion control and how much they eat.
Generally, households teach their kids to eat healthily without overeating and this perhaps gets passed into their adult life and their future children.
“Fat Shaming” in Korea
While it would be considered very rude to remark about someone’s weight in America, in Korea, people are rather blunt and direct about telling you whether you are fat or not.
There seems to be a bit of stigma and shame if you are fat. Hence, people are conditioned by society to not become fat and maintain a healthy appearance. Not only that, plastic surgery and makeup for men are quite normal and do not have some of the shame that is associated with Western counterparts.
When Koreans “fat-shame” in most cases, it is not done with malicious intent, but rather as a joke or perhaps concern for someone’s well-being. I honestly think that is something that should be done more in the states. How many friends, aunts, uncles, brothers and sisters do we know that are overweight. If we say something about their bad eating habits and lifestyle, we are considered an asshole, but in Korea, people are actually looking out for each other and want their friends and family to be healthy. Sometimes you do need some tough love…