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Why exercise gets snubbed among China’s fat women

减肥药, diet pills


Statistics show that Chinese women are 'fatter' than ever before. But most have no idea how to exercise – and would rather take diet pills, fast and play on their phones instead.

统计数据表明,中国女性比以往任何时候都更胖。但她们大多都对如何锻炼毫无概念——相反却宁愿吃减肥药,节食和玩手机。

 

Fifteen years ago, I was playing on a bouncy castle at a park fair in Shanghai, when a member of staff heckled at me to get off, lest I should make the entire thing collapse.

15年前,我在上海的一个公园玩充气城堡,当时一位工作人员凶巴巴地喊我下来,唯恐我把整个设备搞塌了。

 

I was a teenager and weighed 9.5 stone.

那年我才十几岁,体重达60多公斤。

 

While I've slimmed down since those awkward years through a combination of healthy eating and exercise, Chinese women on the whole have 'fattened up' – according to recent statistics.

那是令人尴尬、胖乎乎的日子,从那之后,通过健康饮食加上锻炼,我已经苗条了下来。但是,根据最近的统计数据,中国女性如今比以前更“肥胖”。

 

Today, the average woman in China is now 5ft 1in tall and weighs 57kg (9 stone) – 1.7kgs (almost 4lbs) heavier than a decade ago.

今天的中国女性平均身高约1.55米,平均体重57公斤,比10年前增加了1.7公斤。

 

For China, 'fat' is increasingly the new normal.

对中国来说,“肥胖”现在正日益成为新常态。

 

While 57kg might not seem much by Western standards, it is a dramatic change given the short time span in which it's occurred. In the UK, such growth takes decades.

尽管按西方标准,57公斤也许并不算重,但鉴于在这么短的时间跨度,体重增长如此之快,这种变化实在巨大。在英国,这样的体重增长要经过几十年。

 

A 2009 study showed that British women's weight had increased by 2.5kg from the 1950s. While China does not have an adult obesity problem, yet, there is a worrying trend in child obesity and experts have already warned of "an emerging epidemic". Last year, the Lancet reported that 46 million adults were overweight or obese in China – 27 percent of women and 28 percent of men.

2009年一份研究表明,从上世纪50年代起,英国女性体重增加了2.5公斤。尽管中国没有成年人肥胖问题,但儿童肥胖的趋势却越来越让人担忧,而且专家早就发出警告,说肥胖可能成为 “一种新的流行病”。去年,医学刊物《柳叶刀》杂志报道说,中国有4600万成年人超重或肥胖——其中,超重或肥胖的女性占27%,男性占28%。

 

For now, expanding waistlines are fanning anxiety among women, resulting in phrases such as "I need to lose weight" being as thrown about like never before.

目前,腰围不断变粗正在女性中引起焦虑,结果,到处都可以听到有人说“我需要减肥”这样的话。

 

"The thinner the better" is the attitude. Women speak openly about weight loss, and female friends and colleagues are supportive of dieting and try to lose weight together.

她们的态度是“越瘦越好”。女性们公开谈论减肥,女性朋友和女同事都支持节食,并尝试一起减肥。

 

Much of this is down to the social pressure on women to be thin, in line with the traditional 'Eastern' ideal of femininity.

女性减肥的压力很大程度上是因为社会压力,因为瘦才符合传统“东方”美。

 

"Being thin and weak represents femininity and beauty in China" explains Prof Gao Yunxiang, who specialises in Chinese women at Ryerson University.

加拿大赖尔森大学专门研究中国女性的高教授解释说:“在中国,苗条代表女人味和美。”

 

Anything that builds strength, or muscle definition, is considered unattractive and masculine. Women are rarely seen doing weights; members of my Pilates class in Beijing often tell the instructor that they want a flat stomach, but won't do anything that develops their calf muscles.

任何增强力量——或肌肉线条——的运动都被认为不具吸引力和属于男性的事情。几乎看不到女性借助重物锻炼;我在北京的普拉提训练班的学员经常告诉教练说,她们只想练掉腹部的赘肉,而不愿做任何增加小腿肌肉的运动。

 

'Working out' in a gym is a relatively new concept for most, borne out of a modern consumer culture. While a boom in fitness centres has been reported in cities, it's still a tiny minority of the middle classes that take structured exercise.

大多数人来说,在健身房“锻炼”是一种比较新的概念,来自一种现代的消费文化。据说城市里健身中心增长迅速,但进行系统化锻炼的依然是极少数中产阶级。

 

Even with weight loss being the primary motivation, most women still opt for 'softer' exercises such as brisk walking, yoga and dancing, says instructor Xu. "These activities are favourable as they allow Chinese women to show off their feminine elegance."

健身中心的徐教练说,即便主要目的是减肥,大多数女性仍选择“较柔的”锻炼,譬如快走、瑜伽和跳舞。“这些活动之所以受到青睐,是因为它们让中国女性展现女性优雅。”

 

According to Xu, while women often have clear goals, they have "muddy ideas" when it comes to what physical training works, or 'how' to exercise on their own. Even basic knowledge cannot always be assumed: "some [women] aren't even sure if they should be sweating," he adds.

据徐教练说,女性通常有明确的目标,但是,当谈及什么体育锻炼有效果,或者她们自己该“如何”锻炼时,她们往往 “稀里糊涂”。他说,有些(女性)甚至不确定自己是否应该出出汗。

 

A woman huffing, puffing and drenched in sweat is a rare sight in China. Instead, you're more likely to encounter a line of healthy young ladies walking briskly on treadmills, while men run nearby.

在中国,难得见到女性气喘吁吁,大汗淋漓地锻炼。相反,你更有可能看到健康的女性在跑步机上快走,男士们跑步。

 

Unfortunately, without putting in due effort, weight loss goals are difficult to achieve (this might seem obvious to us, but it’s not in China).

遗憾的是,没有适量的努力,减肥目标难以实现(对我们来说,这似乎是显而易见的,但在中国则不然)。

 

As someone who regularly runs on a treadmill, my enthusiasm for exercise is seen as an oddity. Gym instructors have approached me on numerous occasions, commenting on my 'vigorous' exercise. A couple even suggested I tone it down; one asked me straight out if had spent time abroad since only 'Western women' run.

我经常在跑步机上跑步,我的锻炼热情被视为怪异行为。健身房的教练们多次走近我,说我是“剧烈”运动。一对夫妇甚至建议我减轻运动量;有个人直接问我是否在国外生活过,因为只有“西方女性”才跑步锻炼。

 

"The contrast between how Western and Chinese women work out could not be more striking", says Xu. "Western women see beauty in strength. Their methods are much more scientific; they also work out for longer."

徐教练说:“中国女性和西方女性在锻炼方面的比对极其鲜明。西方女性视力量为美。她们锻炼的方法更科学;她们锻炼的时间也更长些。”

 

Chinese women are often unwilling to get tough on their bodies. Compared to the UK, where you'd expect a personal training session to 'kill you', China lacks the same "no pain no gain" culture. Women take it easy –breaking to chat, or playing on their phones.

中国女性通常不愿让自己的身体更强壮。比之于英国,中国的女性缺乏“不付出辛苦就不会有收获”的文化理念。在英国,人们可能希望上“累死人的”训练课程。中国女性则优哉游哉——休息、聊天,或者玩玩手机。

 

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) also has a big influence on perceptions of the female body and what it's capable of physically. Many in China believe that strenuous exercise is actually bad for women – based on the idea that a woman's body is intrinsically weaker than a man's and requires special nurturing.

统中医对中国人关于女性身体的认识有明显影响。中国许多人认为“剧烈”运动对女性不好,认为女性身体本质上就比男性弱,需要特别滋养。

 

TCM principles specifically warn women against sweating too much – it harms the 'qi' (or 'vital energy') in the liver, something the female body is particularly sensitive to – apparently.

传统中医的原理尤其告诫女性不要出太多汗——出汗多了会伤肝“气”——这种东西对女性身体尤为敏感。

 

These widely-held beliefs are prevalent in my own family. "Don't run so much," my grandfather repeated on the phone this week. While writing this piece my mother commented: "You definitely won't be able to have children if you continue running 10ks."

这些广泛持有的观点在我们家也得到认同。我爷爷近日在电话里反复叮嘱我:“不要跑太多。”在写本文时,我妈妈评论说:“如果你坚持跑10公里,你肯定怀不上孩子。”

 

Such discord between gender and physical activity may be better understood from a historical perspective.

从历史的角度,也许可以更好地理解女性与体育运动的不协调。

 

Traditionally, Chinese women were not permitted to leave the house except on special occasions and the grotesque practice of foot binding anchored them inside the home. It lasted for over a thousand years (until the middle of the last century), and forced women into a dainty, wobbly gait that was restrictive and painful. All very attractive of course, by men's standards.

传统上,中国女性除特殊情况外不许出门,而且,荒诞怪异的缠足习俗把她们禁锢在家里。这种陋习延续了千年(直到上世纪中叶),迫使女性忍受痛苦做出优雅、娇柔步态。当然,按照男人的标准,身姿袅袅很诱人。

 

These practices may have no place in today's society, yet the cultural ideas that saw it prevail are nevertheless "consistent" with re-emerging notions about femininity, says Dr Gao. Women should still not be overly active even if tiny bound feet are no longer stopping them.

高博士说,这些习俗在当今社会已不存在。然而,即便不再有缠足妨碍女性运动,但重新出现的关于女性美的文化观念认为,她们也不应活动太多。

 

Such gendered ideas were tossed aside during the Mao era – but only briefly. "Nobody talked about the female body being weaker back then," says Prof Gao. Willowy housewives became "iron women" at the command of the Communist state, made to work in factories and fields just like their male counterparts.

在毛泽东时代,这种性别观念被抛到了一边——但只是短暂的。高教授说:“回顾当年,没人说女人身体比男人弱。”在共产党的领导下,杨柳细腰的家庭妇女变成了“铁女人”,她们就像男同胞一样,在工厂和农田里劳动。

 

But with the collapse of such ideologies and rising consumerism, young women in China are now rebuffing the genderless notions that once put their parents in Mao suits, and embracing their femininity.

不过,随着这种思想的瓦解和消费主义的崛起,现在中国的年轻女性断然摒弃了她们父辈不分性别统一着中山装的观念,不断追求女性美。

 

Rising expectations to look and behave a certain way adds to the notion that thin equals feminine.

她们想以某种方式提升形象和举止的期望越来越高,这强化了瘦就是女性美的观念。

 

A study in 2011 showed that Chinese women were less likely to exercise than men but eight times more likely to take 'drug' treatments for weight loss. Female college students are just as likely to fast, take diet pills, or vomit as they are to undertake strenuous physical activity, a recent study revealed.

2011年的一份研究报告显示,中国女性锻炼的比例低于男性,但服“药”减肥的比例是男性的8倍。最近一项研究表明,女大学生节食、吃减肥药、呕吐的比例和参加剧烈体育运动的相同。

 

Fasting is common in young women trying to lose weight.

在想减肥的年轻女性中,节食很普遍。

 

Sisi Chen, a 25-year-old graphic designer from Beijing, agrees. "I feel that not eating is the best way to lose weight. "

来自北京的25岁平面设计师陈思思(音)说:“我感觉不吃饭是减肥的最佳办法。”

 

Many of Sisi's friends were also trying to lose weight, but none went to the gym.

思思的许多朋友也尝试减肥,但没人去健身房。

 

Chinese society is clearly having a hard time accepting that women are fatter. It's happened so fast that attitudes have not had time to catch up.

中国社会显然处在一个很难接受女性变得越来越胖的时期。它来得太快,以至于态度跟不上。

2016-06-23

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