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One Reason why 1.6 Billion People are so Skinny

The arrival of Maidanglao (AKA ‘McDonald’s’) and KFC; rising disposable income; proliferation of sedentary office jobs; and families getting to work and school in private cars. There are plenty of reasons why more and more obese children are popping up in the street’s of China’s wealthy urban centers and why China is seeing its first problems with obesity as a public health problem.

Yet signs of things to come be damned, China’s populous could still whip my hometown in a fill-the-VW-Beetle contest, and there are many reasons why that’s still the case. I discovered one reason frying in the sun on the cement of the Longmen Buddhist Carvings Park in Henan, China’s most populated province.


China’s agrarian past—and present—might help explain why I found the evidence laying on the ground, rather than in a garbage can, but China’s agrarian culture has also endowed this vast country with snack habits much healthier than the Pringles and Pop Tarts I grew up with. Simply try to imagine anyone in the US, outside of the Greenpeace office staff, chewing on a cucumber for a snack while they take a walk in the park.

Yet like littering, I suspect the cucumber-cum-snack tradition is on the way out. The fact that I’ve never seen local Beijingers chowing down on cucumbers and the fact that I’ve never seen the neighborhood 7-11 stock cucumbers-to-go are probably signs of things to come.