Plump is beautiful in India
In India most people think that being a little plump is perfectly alright, in fact the more curves you have the more beautiful you are…not that this means that Indians are built heavy! Not at all…most Indians are thin. If one looks around, on on the roads, in the malls, in the shops and in offices you will find that the majority of people are thin. Without trying. Without going to the gym and working out, and without controlling their diet. It’s not as if these people are dreadfully poor, or that they are manual labourers…it’s just that they don’t have cars and neither can they afford to buy rich food. Standing in queues, washing clothes and utensils by hand, walking to the market, carrying heavy parcels…that’s a part and parcel of their daily life. And if they think it’s alright to be a little on the heavier side…one of the reasons is that they associate it with prosperity.
Perhaps this is true in most poor countries – the majority of the people being on the slimmer side because of their simpler lifestyle and the higher cost of food in relation to income.
It’s completely different in the affluent countries, as food is cheap (costs a smaller percentage of income). The poor and lower middle classes can buy high calorie food and I wonder if that is one of the reasons why it isn’t a status symbol to be overweight. In fact I am sure it’s just the opposite (it’s a status symbol to be slim).
West vs India
I don’t know how accurate this is as I have not lived in the west for any length of time, but a recent study (sample of over 275,000 individuals) in the west reveals that it’s the well-to-do who exercise…and I assume are thinner than their less well-off brethren. Other studies in the west have shown that teens in poorer minority neighborhoods in the United States are more likely to be overweight as compared to adolescents who live in more affluent areas because they have fewer places to exercise. Less exercise and no dearth of food. Also, the affluent and the educated in the west seem to be making the right choices about what to eat, from what I have read.
But if in the USA there are fewer opportunities for the poor to exercise, here in India there is nothing at all. Even middle-class people have few opportunities as there are virtually no usable public facilities and club memberships are expensive. Over-crowding is a huge problem in a public swimming pool, if there is a decent one around.
In India however as I mentioned above, exercise is ingrained into the very lifestyle of the poor and the middle classes…and as for food, well, they cannot afford the ‘best’ food. The ‘best’ in inverted commas because I think their simple dal roti (lentils, and flat whole wheat bread) and a minimum of fried food and eating out is healthier than the diet of the rich in India…I have seen well-to-do people who lead sedentary lives here start their day with badam milk (milk with crushed almonds), chomp on fried cashews with drinks, eat fried snacks twice a day and eat dollops of ghee (clarified butter) with every meal. Eating out is also common amongst the upper classes. City people in India also eat dinner late (approximately 9 p.m.) and evening snacks are almost routine.
True, a section of the affluent in India are following the western trend of working out, but this trend is confined to a limited number of people, that too mostly in cities. Overall in India, even if one takes into account the affluent (farmers, shop-keepers, businessmen) in semi-urban and rural areas, people don’t work out. Even in the cities, it is only a small section of the affluent who exercise. And as there is no dearth of cheap labour to the jobs that require physical activity. It is not uncommon to see live-in domestic help even amongst the upper middle classes. I know households where teenagers refuse to help themselves to a glass of water…it has to handed over to them! And these teenagers don’t belong to the super-rich, they are sons and daughters of well-to-do professionals.
Unfortunately, one is more likely to elicit a negative comment if one has lost weight or looks thin. If I lose a kilo or two (I am of average weight) after working out intensely for 2 weeks, people ask me if I have been ill! 😦 It’s irritating because I wonder why they cannot see that my skin is glowing and my muscles are taut! 🙂 I don’t know when this attitude will change…
Actually, sports and working out doesn’t seem to be as ingrained in the average Indian as it is in the average westerner. This is the impression I have.
Wonder what the future holds for India. A populace that is being increasingly drawn to a sedentary life-style and rich food, but without the inclination to be physically active. Domestic help aren’t really helping as they encourage laziness…and the way I see it we are going to have domestic help around for at least 2 more generations…
(Photos by me)
Related Reading: How many people of both sexes are overweight and obese in different countries of the world?
India’s population to be two billion by the end of the century
Indians’ food expenses rising
America accuses India and China of eating too much!
More related reading: 11 Reasons why Indians aren’t healthy
India has one of the highest cancer rates in the world
Unhealthy Indian Snacks
Tobacco deaths in India
Food habits and exercise trends in India
Smoking on the rise in India?
Some good hundred year old diets!