Globalization of Obesity…Outsourcing Fat

So we’ve outsourced jobs and sent them to India and China and now it looks as though we’ve outsourced obesity too. As a personal trainer in Bangkok I’ve seen the epidemic first hand. As Western people arrive on the shores of foreign lands, so does our foods and customs. We bring the lifestyle and the food and the local people, with a fierce desire to be like their Western counterparts literally eat it up.

Personal training is a tough profession these days as we are simply small fish swimming in a pool of large multi-billion dollar marketing machines. Our resources and ability to combat the overwhelming slew of advertising are minimal, yet we fight on. In the three years that I’ve been living in Bangkok, I’ve seen the addition of Krispy Kreme®, Cinnabon® and Cold Stone Creamery®. That’s in addition to the long time mainstays like, KFC®, McDonalds®, Burger King®, A&W, Dairy Queen®, Swensons®, Baskin & Robins®, and many more. This makes the job of a fitness coach a thousand times more difficult.

The lifestyle change has been the biggest thing that has impacted obesity in the Asia-Pacific region of the world. From the fields to the offices as developing countries go through rapid stages of growth, fast food companies and companies that provide quick pre-packaged meals have pounced on the opportunity to take advantage of the situation.

The troubling fact is that most of the countries in Asia are well behind the curve when it comes to fitness training and nutrition coaching. Fitness training is growing in Asia with more and more professionals becoming certified and more people taking action, however in most schools physical activity is absent and the idea of physical activity and strength training for women in particular is not widely viewed as feminine.

With physical activity absent the obesity epidemic is poised to skyrocket over the next few years. More and more small children on the street are overweight and increasing amounts of kids are consuming less food at home and more packaged junk food on the streets. Coupled with the usage of MSG and increasing use of sugar in Bangkok, there is a brewing recipe for what one author called “Diabesity”.

So what are we to do when we line up with our slingshots like David against this modern-day Goliath? Well, my belief is that we must arm ourselves with as many tools as we can. Many personal trainers simply target exercise, but we must get information about diet and nutrition out to the masses. We must align ourselves with progressive medical and health care professionals to provide complete health programs. We must reach the youth as the next generation is our only chance to turn this pandemic around.  We must join together as coaches and provide networks of resources and education and then, only then we may have a chance to win this battle of the bulge.

Rich Thurman, MA, CSCS, CPT

Rich Thurman MA, CSCS, CPT is a Health & Performance Coach and Personal Trainer in from the United States, residing in Bangkok. Co-founder of Active Lifestyle Co. Ltd, Rich has worked with hundreds of people, from collegiate level athletes to every day people helping them reach their sports and lifestyle goals. With a focus on a holistic health approach, providing accountability and structured exercise programs for kids and adults, Rich has successfully helped many people transform their lives and perform better, maximizing their abilities in sports and life. Rich graduated Pre Med from UCLA with a Bachelors Degree in Physiological Science and obtained a Masters Degree in Sports Management from USF. He is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach with the NSCA and a Certified Personal Trainer. Author of various publications dealing with sports training and nutrition, Rich brings a high level of professionalism to the Bangkok Personal Training arena:

5 thoughts on “Globalization of Obesity…Outsourcing Fat

  • November 23, 2010 at 11:41 am

    Rich, it’s very interesting to hear your perspective on how the expansion of fast food chains is affecting countries outside of North America. Given the concern over the diabesity epidemic, there’s plenty of arrows pointing in the direction of these companies as playing a significant role.

  • November 22, 2010 at 11:24 am

    VERY powerful graphic you have here, RIck, with the state by state breakdown on obesity and how it has changed over 10 years. I saw that recently and it really fired me up. I also read somewhere that experts think the obesity epidemic will not plateau until it reaches something like 42%!!! What the hell! That infuriates me! In the meantime, people are dying and getting diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer because they are eating the wrong things. And the worst thing is all the crappy food people eat is the cheapest. Of course people would choose McDonald’s when a happy meal is the same price as a head of broccoli.

    • November 23, 2010 at 2:38 am

      You’re right. The cost of eating healthy is actually quite hight. It’s strange as I try not to be a conspiracy theorist, but when you think of it…pushing people to financially see eating healthy as a burden would mean more money on the back end. It’s like being at Vegas. Bet with the house because in the long run the house wins. The food system is set up for us to lose so there are a lot of people betting on the house side. The house side being the Food & Drug Administration (why are they in the same building anyway?) The same people prescribing the drugs to “fix” the problems are rubbing elbows with the same guys saying what’s ok to eat (the stuff making us sick)…hmmmm…makes me wonder.

  • November 22, 2010 at 9:32 am

    Hi rich

    You have a challenging task ahead of you by the sound of things. Sadly for reasons I have never been able to fathom; a lot of Asian countries are adopting junk food mentality of the West.

    I know in Japan a lot of diseases that were not known a generation ago are appearing now in this generation because they too are embracing Maccas and other unhealthy food; rather than their own healthy diets.

    Will be interesting to see in years to come if you can stop the rot and stem the tide of this pandemic.

    Patricia Perth Australia

    • November 23, 2010 at 2:34 am

      Thanks for the reply Patricia. It’s a tough task you’re right, but it’s got to start somewhere. I think we all have a tough task as fitness professionals. It’s not easy, but if I’m able to change one person then maybe, just maybe they will touch someone else or a few more people.


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