Robert Hitt Neill column

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Chinese solve obesity by using chopsticks, no fast food

We had a missionary couple come to speak in our church last week, who are currently on what I think they call Furlough from their posts in China.

During the course of their presentation, they showed two short videos, and I suddenly became aware of a difference I was seeing, so started watching particularly for that during the rest of the first video and the whole of the second video.

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I did not see one fat person.

When walking the streets in America, or at public gatherings, one notices that we’re getting heavier, as a nation in general and as individuals. Let me state quickly that no one, especially ladies, of my personal acquaintance, is thataway.  

But I see a lot of strangers, men and women, who have let their weight get out of hand. There’s even a TV commercial, though I can’t right off the bat recall who sponsors it, that depicts obesity in America by focusing throughout the 30-second ad on the bellies and behinds of people walking around.  

Obviously, none of the selected people were folks that you and I know, but the focus on the middles sure gets the point of the commercial across: that we’re becoming obese.

Mr. Clink used to tell of a woman who came to the drugstore to ask if they carried talcum powder. His slim mother-in-law answered, “Certainly, Ma’am.  Walk this way,” and started briskly down the aisle.

To which the much heavier customer noted, “If I could walk thataway, I wouldn’t need no talcum powder!”

So, on the way home from church I described my observations to Betsy, and wondered aloud how come the Chinese don’t seem to have an obesity problem, like government studies say we have in America. She cut her eyes at me and declared, “Well, for one thing, they eat with chopsticks!”

I laughed for five miles, but she had a point. I enjoy occasional visits to oriental restaurants, but I ask for forks and spoons while dining, even though the establishment supplies chopsticks on their tables.

I have tried to eat with those things, and I can certainly see Betsy’s point. However, it’s too much to assume that eons ago Buddha or Confucius prophesied, “In a few thousand years, our people will be too obese, unless we invent something now to prevent that. Let’s make chopsticks mandatory!”

To be fair, our missionaries for the most part were showing small town and rural-type Chinese: there were several pictures of rice farmers with water buffalo preparing fields, and one could extrapolate rather quickly that THOSE Chinese were NEVER going to get fat if they kept farming thataway!

John Deere & Case/IH missionaries? Here’s your call to the mission fields!

Betsy also pointed out that the Chinese countryside depicted was completely free of fast-food places, which gave me a chance to tell once again my yellow heart story: a decade ago I traveled to Houston, Texas, to speak to a gathering of about 600 doctors at Grand Rounds, a monthly lunch program, on Lyme Disease.

I got there early, and my host doctor offered to take me on a tour of a recent addition, where we walked into an Observation Room just as an open-heart operation as fixing to begin. “You want to watch?” my host offered.  

“Sure,” I replied, and leaned over the plastic dome to see the patient wheeled in, painted up with orange stuff, stuck with needles & tubes, anesthetized, and whacked open down the middle. As the ribs were spread, I could identify all sorts of giblets, but couldn’t see the main thing, the heart.  “Where is his heart?” I asked my host doctor, who pointed, “Right there.  You can see it beating, can’t you?”

I shrugged, “I see something beating, but it’s yellow, not red. Hearts are red, you know? Valentines? Deer hearts, squirrel hearts, game bird hearts: all red.”

He looked deadly serious as he replied. “Not today.  Not in America. There is so much fast food in American diets, that the hearts we see in the hospitals have a coating of yellow fat around them now.”

Wow! I had been a Big Mac freak up until then, but I’ve not had one since. To be fair, the fast food industry is making strides toward correcting that situation.

Betsy made her points: cut out fatty fast foods and go to chopsticks!