One of my very favorite vegetables in Chinese cuisine is 空心菜, (swamp cabbage). It’s dark green and tastes amazing sautéed with lots of garlic. I was with some female colleagues when I first tried it. Curiously, they would dip every mouthful of the dish into a glass of hot water before eating it. I learned as we ate that it was a method to remove the oil. It seemed such a shame to me to water down the garlicky goodness just to cut a few calories!
In China, to be svelte as a female is to be beautiful. Dieting for weight-loss is very common – definitely no less so than in the west. In recent years high-impact exercise has also been embraced much more too. Fitness is very much part of a modern lifestyle for 20-35 year-olds.
On the extreme end, luxury weight-loss spas boasting ‘high-tech technology’ are gaining popularity too. A well-known Hong Kong spa named “必瘦站” (Bìshòu zhàn, Must be skinny station) AKA Perfect Shape has opened multiple branches across major cities in Mainland China and charges enormous amounts for treatments like the VANQUISH (the “Fat Nemesis”) and the VELASHAPE II ( the “Dissolve Fat Model”).
I asked Chinese teachers in Beijing (most are females) their opinions on dieting in China. Below are their answers, plus some diet-related phrases.
Is it very common in China to go on a diet to lose weight?
“I feel that in the big cities [dieting] is pretty widespread. In Beijing, these kinds of weight-loss or exercise trends are pretty excessive and it is affecting people all around, especially office workers who sit every day and have back pain, they are exercising a lot.”
“It’s probably more females who do this. Males go more to exercise.”
What are some popular forms of exercise to lose weight?
“Young people who like running generally use sports apps to record their exercise. They also use social media to share suggestions. Friends may schedule to run together and share their comments and thoughts about fitness on social media. Many young people join fitness groups on Wechat and report how much exercise they do every day. If someone fails to exercise one day, he/she may have to give ‘lucky money’ (红包) to the others on Wechat (as punishment).
Do you know of any unusual ways used in dieting?
“Some people nibble corn every day for lunch or drink yogurt. But it’s not healthy to consume such a nutritionally limited diet.”
What is your opinion on fast food and Western restaurants like KFC? How often do you eat it?
“For me, KFC and McDonald’s are just for convenience, and I try to control myself because we know that it’s unhealthy. Usually, parents do not let children eat, unless it’s for a special occasion. I think more people like to eat McDonald’s. I usually eat at most once or twice a month.”
Wǒ zài jiéshí. wǒ xīwàng wǒ néng shòu wǔ gōngjīn.
I’m on a diet. I want to lose 5kg.
Wǒ xǐhuan kuàicān.
I love fast-food!
Chī tài duō Kuàicān duì shēntǐ bù hǎo.
Eating too fast food is bad for your health.
Tā chī de hěnduō, dàn háishi nàme shòu!
She eat a lot but she is still skinny!
Tā tài dānxīn tā de tǐzhòng le.
She worries too much about her weight.
Nǐ zài jiéshí ma?
Are you on a diet?
Tā chī de hěn jiànkāng.
He eats very healthily.
Wǒ shì sùshízhě. Wǒ bù chī ròu.
I’m vegetarian. I don’t eat meat.