April 29, 2015
So, we’re back to handling serious topics for TL;DRs! We felt the need to address this topic in response to the conversations from our Mukbang video. Now, this is a very complicated topic, I think, so the best we could really do is try to give as many stats as we could find and talk a bit about our experiences. Hopefully we can keep the conversation going here, and see how comparisons with our own experiences can shed light on Eating Disorders, not just in Korea but elsewhere.
For starters, we have difficulty understanding common Korean perceptions of weight management and weight loss. We talked about diets and eating disorders, but we notice a bit of it with fitness as well, particularly at all of the gyms we’ve been to. Maybe we’re just at the wrong gyms, but we’ve been to four different ones, and the experiences are all the same: we haven’t really seen a lot of Korean women busting arse at a gym. All of the weights that are used are the lightest possible, and all of the cardio is really, really slow. I’ve seen only one girl run on a treadmill, while everyone else we’ve seen just walks on them. Most of the Korean girls we’ve spoken with (except for Soo Zee) have the fear is that if they pick up a weight that’s a bit heavy they’ll instantly bulk up Hulk-size. Since they don’t want to get too muscular, it’s best to not over exert themselves with challenging weights. We’re not saying all Korean girls are like this, but if you’ve ever been to a gym in Korea you will know exactly what we’re talking about. Martina looks like the She-Hulk when she goes to our gym in Korea and a tiny sissy baby when she goes to the gym in Canada.
Now, I’m not trying to get into a big discussion about weightlifting and the science behind it, but it seems like most of the discussions about health and weight loss in Korea are more rooted in concepts of just not eating rather than in the science of how bodies work. When we hear someone say, “I’m trying to lose weight so I’m eating only three sweet potato a day because it burns fat” it makes us feel very upset. Yes of course you will lose weight but you’re also starving your body of an important range of vitamins and minerals. There is a way to limit your food intake in a healthy manner as well as pair it with exercise, but it doesn’t seem like tons of Korean people talk about it. It seems like the discussion about losing weight comes up very frequently in Korea, but the discussion on how to do so in a healthy manner does not.
A discussion we had in the studio was about how Eating Disorders in Korea are probably under diagnosed. The criteria for diagnosing an Eating Disorder is both behavioral and psychological, but it seems like in Korea, the focus is more on dieting and losing weight, not on the physical and mental harm their diets may have. Food restriction diets seem to be talked about in more pragmatic and straightforward terms, like “oh! Seems like I have to lose some weight. Time to eat less!” Diets in Korea, and the language used for them, doesn’t seem like an anxiety about food, you know? And, let me be clear: I’m not saying that it doesn’t exist. It’s just talked about with a different attitude than we’re used to.
Again, this is difficult for us to classify, because we know that there’s huge pressure that goes with dieting in Korea, which we talked about before in another video, but it feels like that pressure is received differently in Korea than it is received in North America. Our personal concern is that the pressure to lose weight in Korea is very real and affects many people, but perhaps because dieting is such a common and seemingly innocuous topic of conversation it hasn’t been acknowledged as problematic.
So, let us know what you think. Do our experiences in Korea match up with yours? Both Martina and I have been told to “go on a diet” or “to lose weight” by Korean friends, has this ever happened to you? How different it is where you’re from?