We're Living Wrong

I am here to bring the good news this Saturday

Not only have I been running all wrong, today I learned that I am living all wrong too. Let me explain.

First, take a look at rates of overweight adults from 1975 to 2016 for a few nations that I've chosen (I live in Canada):

By WHO standards, an overweight adult is defined as an adult with a BMI over 25. A healthy adult should have a BMI score between 18 and 25. Even though I think of myself as healthy, your author's BMI is 23. I've almost broken out of the healthy range and I'm only 32 years old. And yet, I'm an outlier. As you can see, more than 60% of Canada's population is overweight.

Now, let's take a look at GDP per capita for the same nations:

What stands out to me is that nations producing higher-than-average GDP, are also producing adults with higher-than-average BMI. Whether or not we know it, we have all decided that being overweight is totally normal. A decline in our health is an accepted by-product of economic fitness.

This matters because being overweight is highly correlated with disease. Heart disease, the biggest cause of premature death of adults in the world, is generally considered to be curable with only lifestyle changes. Not only do these diseases rob us of our lives, they also slow the overall progress of humanity. People could be more productive and for more years of their life. Or, if you want to look at it from the opposite end, people could be costing all of us a lot less in expensive hospital visits and drugs.

My take-away is to be much less OK with what everyone else is doing. It's easy in life to get swept up by the currents around us, but the data shows us that our cultural values are leading to unhealthy outcomes. More simply, we have too much of what we don't need (calories) and not enough of what we do (activity). It seems to me that it's killing us.

I want to have a healthy, happy, long, successful life. In that order. For me, that means getting back to a BMI of 22 within year by eating better and getting outside more often.

What is going on with Japan?

So, if all of this is a by-product of economic incentive, why does Japan have such a low BMI compared with it's GDP per capita? The best I've been able to come up with is that it's to do with their food:

Could it also be that they value exercise and time outside more? Maybe they value feeling leaner? Having visited Tokyo and Kyoto, I'd be surprised by that, but it could be true. I would need to look at what share of the population live in cities. More people in there cities do seem to ride bicycles .. ? I think the biggest factor is likely the food.