Alert: This post may be found racist.
My American friend who had been to the Philippines have asked me this question. He wondered why most Filipinos are not fat at all compare to people in US. What do you think he thought the reason was? Poverty in the Philippines.
His answer was not a surprise to me at all but I feel somehow upset that this is his first thought. The Philippines is seen as a poor country abroad that there will be foreigners who will easily look down on Filipinos in general. But I immediately replied to my friend, “No, I don’t think it’s because they are poor that they can neither eat nutritious food nor eat three times a day”. But poverty is surely a factor.
So here are what I told my American friend:
- A lot of Filipinos commute – Most Filipinos don’t have cars to go to wherever they want. If they want to go somewhere they have to walk and cross the streets, worse they climb up and down the foot bridges which are very common in Metro Manila. Unlike in US, a lot of people use their cars to go to work unless they live in the most populous cities. The only walk they will get often during their day is when they walk from their parking lot to the store or to the office. Lucky if they have to walk a lot while working and able to jog once or twice a week.
- Most filipinos didn’t spend their childhood and teenage years as couch potatoes – Although a lot of Filipino kids now are playing games in front of computers most of their day, they have the freedom to run or walk around the neighborhood. The houses are so close to each other that if they want to meet a friend they just walk to their friend’s house. If not, older kids and teens can choose to commute to their friend’s house. What I notice here is that older kids and teens need a ride from their parents or from an adult if they want to visit a friend’s house to hang out. To let kids run wherever they want seems irresponsible parenthood but I haven’t heard any news that they lost their children. There might be some occurrences but not common.
- Fast food is expensive - In US, buying fast food is the most convenient to do if you are a working mom. I feel grossed now eating hamburgers which are huge. I sometimes like to order the kid’s meal instead. However, in the Philippines a lot of small take-home food stalls are available for working moms. The foods you buy in these stalls are considered real food and to buy fast food everyday for the family will be considered close to luxury.
- Genes or Fast Metabolism – It is interesting how most of my Filipino friends eat a lot but don’t gain a lot of weight. You will wonder where the food they are eating is going.
- Filipino Support System - Seeing that most people around you aren’t fat is enabling you to pay close attention to your diet. When you get fat, you stand out. Close friends will acceptably joke on you, “Hey you are getting fat!”, from which you will feel indirectly encouraged to lose weight. In US, I would feel normal to be overweight and abnormal being skinny.u
But do you know the ironic part of most Filipinos aren’t fat? Filipinos may be mostly skinny people but their diet has a lot of pork which can cause heart attack.