A Weight Loss Tip To Die For: Be Mindful Of Others

Are you looking for a weight loss tip? Well, here's a weight loss tip I've to keep me in a fairly narrow weight band for the past 25 years.

With parties and business meals galore, it's so easy to pack on some weight and transform your once slender figure into a mound of dough. The global pandemic didn't help, and neither does having kids.

Is there any wonder why many people fail their weight loss goals? You can be doing great all year and then BAM! You wonder how you gained so much weight.

The good thing about our bodies is that we have a natural mechanism to stop eating when we get full. Otherwise, we'd all be unrecognizable in a year. However, if we're honest, we know we often can't control ourselves and overeat anyways. I can't control myself when it comes to eating buttery cookies and gobble two at a time. Yum, yum.

My weight used to fluctuate in a 10 pound upward band, which is a lot considering I'm 5′ 10″ and every pound counts on the tennis court or pickleball court. I could be a taut 160 pounds one month and a soft 170 pounds just a couple months later if I wasn't careful.

At my prime, I used to be 10 pounds lighter given I ran track as well. Oh, to be that fit again. Nowadays, my weight only fluctuates by 6-7 pounds since a visit to New Delhi and Agra in 2001 that changed my outlook on eating forever.

Seeing The World Changes You – My Weight Loss Tip

Each time I travel to a foreign country I learn something new. For example, there are some 22 languages recognized by the Indian constitution, and some 300+ spoken languages in India.

In New Delhi, all I saw were skinny people. And when I looked closely, all I could see on the streets was abject poverty. There are so many people in Delhi, you have to look past the layer of bustle to see the beggars on the street. You may choose to ignore, but I couldn't. How could I when poverty surrounded me like a blanket of smoke in a dimly lit cigar room.

On the four hour drive to Agra where the Taj Mahal resides, the driver pulled over for a pitstop. No sooner had I got out, did both adults and children start tugging at my clothes asking for change.

The more rupees I gave, the more they begged. The more I tried to talk with them, the larger the swarm until my driver shrieked rudely for them to all go away. They didn't budge and I had to force myself back in the car.

A Weight Loss Tip To Die For

As we drove away, I could see one spiny young man chase after us. He was unique, because he was on all fours and moved like a spider. It was as if he was determined to leap on the roof of our car and extract one last coin from my wallet.

His look was of great determination, but he couldn't keep up so I dropped some coins out the window. The car's rear wheels scrambled up a dirt cloud and that's the last I saw of him.

But, I was wrong. I see him always in my mind.

The Mental Shift To Eating Better

I have visited many impoverished nations before and so far never one as dire as India. There's something really wrong with so much concentrated poverty. I often wonder how they will be able to improve their standard of living, if ever?

It's just strange to have a $1 billion dollar, 27 story home in Mumbai owned by Mukesh Ambani, yet have so much despair on the streets. I'm afraid that unless the government does something drastic, their lives will never change.

The reason why my weight doesn't fluctuate too much anymore is because I've become more conscience of how much I eat. Be mindful of the suffering of others. This is the weight loss tip to die for.

When I'm feeling slightly full and I have thoughts about getting a second helping of anything, I think of the malnourished and the man in this picture above on my way to Agra and stop.

I know that it takes about 20 minutes for the body to register food after eating, so in those 20 minutes I wait and reflect if I'm alone.

We're not even being asked to help the poor and the hungry, just ourselves.

During reflection, I am appreciative of the abundance of food all around me in America. I wonder how one nation could be so rich, and another so poor.

How can we ever over eat when others are constantly starving? Is it right to gorge ourselves if millions of children around the world are malnourished and can't even reach a healthy weight?

We can't ever let ourselves go because to do so would mean that we ignore the suffering of others.

Maybe we are ignorant and have never seen poverty. Why else would Americans who go to private school and have nice jobs claim they've never experienced prosperity?

Or maybe we just choose to turn the other way. But, even if you have never left the country, if you look hard enough you will see suffering all around us.

Once you see it, you'll be hard-pressed to ever take your body for granted again. Fight on!


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Update: It's been 16 years since the trip to India. During the pandemic and after two kids, I finally blew my weight range above 170, to 173 pounds for about two years. But after reminding myself to be mindful of the suffering of others, I'm back down to an ideal weight range of 166-168.

126 thoughts on “A Weight Loss Tip To Die For: Be Mindful Of Others”

  1. Thank you for writing this article!

    This is the link I needed to make. I will keep in mind that I can always get something to eat if I am truly hungry while others are not as lucky. My weight has trended up in the last few years from 210 to 250.

    I also push myself self every year to donate more to organizations that are improving the places I enjoy. That has allowed me to go from donating $1000 to over $4000 per year. I will consider a Donor Advised Fund long term(My employer matches my donations).

    I will push myself to reach a weight of 200 before the end of 2025.

    1. No problem Marcus. So great you are donating so much. And best of luck with your weight goal. I understand the difficulty, especially as we get older. I hope this mental shift will help you as it has helped me.

  2. John Boyd Walter

    I have traveled to six of the seven continents and have seen the poverty that you speak of firsthand. It is troubling, but much of it is difficult if not impossible to change because of long held beliefs and caste systems. I, like you, try hard to not overeat. Holidays are the most difficult times for me to stay at my 175 to 180 weight range (which is up now that I am age 71 per my doctor). But know in my heart, that no matter how much I do not eat, it will not change the plight of people in poorer countries. We are still giving to charities and outreach organizations every year although we are far from rich. And to me that is the best we can do from my position in the United States to hope that what is given will reach at least some of those in need to help.

  3. I’m doubtful that constantly being “Be mindful of the suffering of others.” is a good way to live. Seems a bit of a downer. Yes suffering exists, always will, lingering on it will not enhance your life. Our government gives millions in foreign aide annual (paid for from my taxes), so I am comfortable that I am contributing.
    A more practical tip – if your morning weight increase beyond a set band, skip a meal that day. I skip breakfast every day (fast from midnight til noon). Works for me…

  4. For me it’s not the sugar…its just age. But I have recently discovered Intermittent Fasting and after 90 days Im down two inches in my waist and one pant size. I don’t pay any attention to what I eat, just when I eat. I eat in a 5-8 hour window and then I don’t eat anything (except for black coffee) the other time. It’s like magic. It’s appetite adjustment (great book), its autophagy (cleaning up my insides, it’s my body becoming leaner, and I’m actually wanting healthier food. And still eating donuts. Dr Fung is my hero for sure.

  5. Why are portion sizes so large… Americans are very price sensitive and equate food volume (not quality) to price. The basic ingredients of food are cheap, all of the related costs of serving food are more expensive. Hence to justify raising the price of a meal, and/or be more competitive, they pile on a super sized potato, make the drink larger, etc. The incremental cost of the additional food is minimal but we feel that we are getting a better value – even if we don’t want the additional food. Many of us old timers, are negatively effected by this from being taught at a young age to “clear one’s plate.” If course when I grew up, clearing the plate was not an issue as there was not an abundance of food – the plate of chicken did not pass around the table twice….

  6. This is such an interesting post.

    As far as weight loss is concerned, I noticed no one mentioned caloric density in the comments. Here’s a post I did about caloric density: https://uncommonlybrilliant.blogspot.com/2011/12/caloric-density-revisited.html

    It’s shown that the longest lived peoples eat low on the calorie density spectrum. It appears to be a very simple formula. The lower one eats of lower density foods, the less one weighs (and the longer one lives). The more one eats higher density foods, the more one will weigh.

    Most of the studies about caloric density are coming out of the Univ of Penn. Barbara Rolls has written a book called Volumetrics.

    Here’s an excellent short video of Jeff Novick talking about caloric density: https://uncommonlybrilliant.blogspot.com/2011/11/jeff-novick-calorie-density.html

  7. Sam, this is an old post, and I hope you get my comment.

    I mentioned to you a book, a while ago, and you said you were going to read it. It was called “The Pleasure Trap” by Doug Lisle.

    If you read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts about it.

    You’re story of the spiny legged man chasing after you is haunting. Was that a picture you took of the spiny legged man or was that a stock photo?

  8. My friend just adopted a 3 yr old boy from India. If you saw how he looked when he arrived to what he looks like now you would think he was a different boy. What makes me go up in weight? It’s simple. I have food. When I am bored or psychologically hungry I eat. Control has to come from me. That is why their are so many weight loss centers. There is no control because we have the means. We see it with the rich. We see it with the famous. We see it with the overweight.

  9. Lisa @ Cents To Save

    What makes some us overweight in the US? (Us meaning me..) Easy access to fast food, easy access to internet, and easy access to just about everything leaves no time to think about what you are putting in your mouth. Some people use food as an escape or a “drug” to mask what is really bothering them.

    Consciously changing bad habits is a slow process. Getting out of the drive thru lane is the first step for me. One day at a time…. one day at a time.

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Lisa. The good thing about living in a free world is that we’re free to do whatever we want that makes us feel happy.

      No time like the present time!

      1. When I was fat I was depressed. I lost the fat. I lost the depression. Being a fat ass sucks

  10. Sam, I grew up in that country and seen people around me. You see a foreigner on the street beggars from all corners would come towards you. In fact upon reaching this country (US) I was amazed to see beggars on the crossings, as I thoughts they are features of third world countries.

    Any way coming back to the original topic of weight loss, its not always due to over eating, I have seen exceptions on both ways. I have seen people leaving entirely on fruits and gaining weight. I have seen people over eating every meal still maintaining a fat free feature.

    1. Hi SB, to me, the reason why I have gained wait has always been due to over eating. Exercising isn’t as effective as eating right b/c often times, exercise makes me more hungry.

      Are you interested in going back to India to live?

      1. It was a wise person who said that you don’t lose weight in the gym, you lose weight in the kitchen.

        1. Absolutely! The person who told me that was a personal trainer who I was paying to help me in the gym!! I figured it must be true since he was downplaying the value of his own service. Later another trainer told me the most important exercise was the “push away from the dinner table.”

  11. World of Finance

    Americans have a lot of luxuries that many don’t even realize…. besides food, hot water and electricity are also luxuries. Many Americans have grown up with all of these things without truly understanding that for many countries, these things are very limited. Traveling the world definitely helps open your eyes by seeing how other people live firsthand.

  12. I travelled to Sri Lanka, Nepal, and some parts of India a few years ago, and I can completely understand where you are coming you.
    It certainly is a mental shift and it took a while to readjust to everything we have here. I don’t blame anyone for overindulging, especially since they may not be aware of what conditions other people live in.

    Watching images on the screen have virtually no impact unless you see the extreme poverty in front of you. Sri Lanka, and southern parts of India had a really strong impact on my travelling buddy and I as we had not been prepared for it.

    1. Hi Marissa – Thanks for sharing your story on Sri Lanka. I have never been there, and was hoping to visit the north end one day before I die. Pictures are one thing, seeing it in real life is another indeed.

  13. I’m almost 10 years older now after first experiencing this trip to India, and I have to admit using age was a big excuse.

    It’s all about being mindful of the suffering around us.

  14. The Indian diet and Indian body type is such that most young people are rail thin and can eat as much as they want. Once they hit late 20’s through 40’s they are putting on huge amounts of fat- in the belly and back for men, in the abdomen, back, legs and butt for women.

    Because many Indians are vegetarians they are getting too many carbohydrates and not enough protein to balance it out. There is some sources of protein- dhal (lentils), yogurt and other milk products like paneer but that is about it.

    Also I think that the Indian body type has endured periods of famine so the body is efficient at storing fat to build up reserves for times of scarcity.

    This combination puts them at risk for heart disease and diabetes related illness.

    No doubt you saw many pot bellied people in India during your travels, Sam…

    The masses of poor people are really sad and overwhelming but I think the best way out for them is to have India keep growing and building up the middle class. You will start to see more levels of obese Indians, just not at the level of the USA.


    PS- I really like your suggestion to stop eating before you feel too full- that is an excellent habit to cultivate, and one that I lost once I started living with my wife (because she liked to have dessert or a bit more food).

  15. Not sure, but if that’s all they know, MAYBE it’s not so bad. It looks particularly bad for us in the West b/c this is kind of all we know. Everything is relative.

    It’s a story that has stuck with me at the forefront or the back of my mind. I’m using my site to keep it always at the forefront.

  16. Most Americans are overweight because of all the processed food around us…simple as that.

  17. In short, yes, I think the American diet contributes largely to the current obesity crisis that the nation is facing. I attribute this to 3 things in particular:
    1) Oversize portions: After living in Germany for quite awhile (a nation also known for it’s portions and love of food), I really came to realize just how huge portions are in the States. Not only in restaurants, but also in grocery stores. How are we to know better if we aren’t taught proper portion sizes?
    2) Sedimentary lifestyle: Again, not necessarily that Americans are lazy, but we are byproducts of a culture which requires us to drive everywhere. Here in Germany, I ride in a car once every 6 months or so. Otherwise, it’s walking, biking or train for me. This keeps weight down considerably.
    3) Additives, etc..: The states began cutting down on Trans Fat about 5-7 years ago, but there are still a lot of additives and preservatives in food. These are double killers, as they fatten you up and are tougher to burn.

    Interesting post, thanks!

    1. The portions are quite amazingly large compared to everywhere else in the world. I wonder why. Often times, I just share a main course with a friend or a partner. I enjoy the feeling of being 75% full, and not 110%+ full.

      The additives and sugar is a killer for sure! Thanks for your thoughts.

  18. Sam, I don’t think the answer is so simple.

    Firstly, I think people in many developed nations view food as a drug not as fuel.
    Secondly, portion sizes are huge, processed food is calorie-dense and all that high fructose corn-syrup and other crap screw you.

    I lived in North America for 3 years and my first year there I put on 30 pounds! I have since lost all that weight but it was a battle.

      1. Well, I’m glad you’re back under 2 bells! I’m a couple inches taller and got up to 180 or something. It was depressing havoc to buy new pants. Im back to around 165, but that’s still 12-15 heavier than high school and I know I’m not stronger! Well, maybe my fingers due to all the typin hahaha.

  19. Money Reasons

    Gordie actually had a great answer above but I’m going to put my own spin on things anyway…

    Readers, why do you think it’s so easy to gain weight in America?
    Because the overweight ones like me aren’t active enough! I don’t eat much more (if any more than anyone else), but at my job at work I hardly move, when I come home I blog, so I rarely get the proper amount of exercise. This 2011 I’m changing it all up. So far I’m doing much better than last year!

    Do we just not know how good we have it?
    Some of us americans are very naive… We really don’t realize that we are at the top of the heap. If we didn’t, Obama wouldn’t be in office because of his slogan about “Change”. Why change when you are at the top for all classes with respect to standards of living?

    Would people over eat as much and let themselves go if they were aware of so much suffering in the world?
    I don’t think they see the connection. Heck, I don’t see the connection. It’s not like the food that I don’t eat would be shipped over there anyway. Most restaurants throw the leftover food away at the end of the day.

    This 2011, I’m going to try to change my lifestyle and lose weight because I don’t want all the problems that are associated with obesity…

    1. Here’s the thing though. If you are overweight as you say you your comment, it’s probably b/c you don’t mind right? If you did, you would eat better and exercise more, but it’s no big deal. Or does it bother you at all?

      The connection is that once we see the poverty, we don’t let our food go to waste. We eat just enough and save everything for left overs, which includes taking things home to eat the next day. We all have a self-regulating weight. Awareness of the suffering of others helps us regulate ourselves even that much more.

  20. I have really never been to a poor country, but it does break my heart to see those photos! I think if I ever saw the way that they lived, my world perspective would be radically changed. Thanks for the post. I will definitely reconsider my overindulgence in the future.

    1. Your welcome and thanks for reading. Visiting poverty really changes almost EVERYTHING about you. You become more thankful, aware, and may even get motivated to try and do something to raise awareness and donate to their cause. It puts things into perspective.

  21. Very good read! Thanks! Anytime something I read provokes thought, it’s appreciated.

    Not only do we over-eat, the amount of food we waste is simply disgusting. I was on an Alaska cruise this spring and a majority of people piled food on their plates only to eat a 1/4 or a 1/3 of it. It was unbearable to watch … as would it be to see starving people in the streets. I guess people feel that they have the right to waste food because it’s an “all inclusive”! It isn’t only me that has observed this, almost everyone I talk who has been on a cruise says the same thing.

    I’ll be signing up for your emails. Looking forward to reading your interesting writing.

    1. Thanks for stopping by SoloSailor. Ahhh, the great cruise vacations where one over eats to oblivion! I swear I gained 10 pounds when I was in high school after one 10 day cruise! Looking forward to having you around.

  22. Kay Lynn @ Bucksome Boomer

    There was a point in American history when fat people were envied. It was a sign of success that you had enough food to get fat!

    I think our obesity is a combination of factors of which other commenters have noted. The top two are moving from physical labor jobs to sedentary ones and the second is the abundance of inexpensive, processed foods.

    1. Actually, I remember that perception…. it was about 25 years ago! Interesting how times have changed.

      I don’t know how many more people were doing physical labor 20-30 years ago, but I guess much more.

      I truly believe if people see the world and want to lose weight, they will so much easier.

        1. Oh, hahahahah! OK. Well, I do hear what you’re talking about though b/c of my travel overseas. I remember traveling to poorer countries and them commenting on Americans having it so good as they are so much bigger than them.

  23. I’ve been to Agra and the Taj Mahal too. India is beautiful.

    You know why I think North Americans are so prone to obesity? It’s because of the fast food and conveniences we opt for because we have no time to cook (or think we don’t, anyway).

  24. Fast food restaurants on every corner, large portion sizes on every plate, huge grocery stores where the selection is endless – the over abundance of food contributes to our weight problem. However, each individual is responsible for their own weight issues – eating healthier and getting enough exercise usually the solution.

    However, I think a bigger issue is how much food we waste. Think about how many times left overs have been thrown away (I know this happens in my house), or how much food is thrown in the dumpsters at restaurants or grocery stores. This just makes me sick because there are countries where food is scarce, yet in the US we treat is an a never ending resource.

    1. Every since my time in Japan, I absolutely NEVER waste food. I either eat EVERYTHING on my plate, or take it home for left-overs. I have it instilled in me that wasting food is a sin frankly, and shudder when I see restauranteurs leave with food on their plates. Take it home I say! So many people would love to eat what you’ve just eaten!

  25. Jennifer Barry

    Hi Sam, I see India had a profound effect on you. I’ve heard that from a lot of people who’ve visited.

    As far as why middle class Americans are fat, I think it’s because people are too busy to shop and cook healthy foods, so they eat tasty crap at restaurants. Portion sizes at restaurants are out of control, and people think that’s a normal amount to eat. For most people, if you ate more than half your food you ate too much.

    I also find there is a great ignorance about what is healthy out there. Some of the additives in your food like HFCS and MSG are designed to get you to eat more. Also, Americans tend to drive everywhere and too few have a commitment to regular exercise.

    1. Hi Jennifer, nice to meet you. Yes, India did have a profound impact on me, and when I returned 8 years later, there was still poverty all around. Very sad, but I hear there is improvement.

      I want to get to the point of almost full instead of too full. I’d rather have a slight sense of hunger than be bloated.

  26. Sunil from The Extra Money Blog

    Yes there is a big dichotomy which is narrowing faster than ever before – think industrial revolution in the US and the establishment / emergence / growth of the middle class (steel, auto workers, etc).

    I am Indian but not from India – was born in South East Asia. Many left India because of opportunity elsewhere. Example, some of the best universities in the world are in India, but they only accept a handful. There are handful of them to begin with. So where does every other qualified one go to? That is why it is perceived that all the smart people leave India to go elsewhere. No one talks about the smarter of all who stay and are accepted in some of the most difficult to get into schools.

    The other issue is , or was is opportunity. What does a smart Indian do with a world renown degree but no one hiring? They leave because nations like the USA enact immigration policies attracting that type of talent. Folks see that opportunity is chase the dream.

    What we are seeing now is a complete reversal. With the economy booming, more expat Indians (especially Americans) are going back to India in herds. This has never been heard of, seen or experienced before. Expat packages pay on average 40-50% more than what one would make in the USA let’s say. In addition, drivers, maids, accommodation, utilities, etc are paid for (think the job boom in Dubai 4-6 years back).

    Lifestyle is amazing, life is very easy, not too demanding, all while making a lot more. This appeals to many these days. The tax system is less taxing compared to the US, and there are many legal and creative ways to slash your tax bill in half through investments in government sponsored securities. In addition, you have the expat foreign income exclusion (almost 200k USD for a married couple).

    In fact I was very tempted recently when an offer of a lifetime was flashing itself in front of my eyes. For many reasons, including going across seven seas away from my parents, I decided to fore go it. My wife and I still talk about a 2 year stint in either India or the Middle East. The world is simply too beautiful and fun to be staying in only one place and not exploring much – but we all have certain restrictions/priorities to juggle.

    In short, Emerging companies and muti nationals establishing in India want expat experience, and expats want the luxuries and for many a chance to go back home. Many feel that is their country where they can live like a king, whereas outside they are just a foreigner.

    That said, there are downsides – traffic, congestion, pollution, sharing the streets with cows and horses . . . you know the rest

    PS: I also landed into Chatrapatti the day of the unfortunate event. We saw the flames while landing. We were locked in the airport for 2 hours, and I couldn’t find a cab or auto to take me to my destination.

    1. Wow, I didn’t realize the first 200K USD for married couples is TAX FREE? Is that right? I realize for singles it’s 90K, so that would make sense I think. Please clarify.

      Umbai and Delhi seem awfully expensive, but not that bad if you have an expat package I suppose. I donno though, one could be a billionaire and still have a very mediocre lifestyle b/c of the pollution and congestion. Not so living in Hawaii or California. You can be poor, and still feel relatively OK!

      1. Sunil from The Extra Money Blog

        From a US tax perspective yes. Here is more details:

        The US taxes on a global basis, which is a disadvantage for us citizens. Say I was a citizen of any other country, if I worked in the Middle East and made $400,000, I’d pay 0 tax providing the country of which I am a citizen off doesn’t tax on a global basis (most countries are like that).

        Mumbai and Delhi are the most developed metropolis cities so relatively speaking yes they are expensive, and not bad at all if you are an expat or in a relatively high post/position.

        I would say billionaires live the life of a billionaire because they don’t deal with the negatives the others have to. The way they eat, sleep, breathe, travel, live, shop and everything else that comes with that is just very different. Outside the congested metropolis, there is plenty of clean air, less congestion, beach fronts and such all over (i.e Goa for example) and that’s where you will find these guys. So Ambani, while maintaining a high rise home in dead center Mumbai, is rarely there. His helicopter, which launches from the rooftop helipad takes him in and out at will.

        In the US, you have a large middle class, and that life is good enough for most people. Able people have the opportunity to work and even at minimum wage, enjoy an ok lifestyle.

  27. Sam, There’s nothing like travel to an impoverished country to give a little thought to our very different circumstances in the “developed world”. India is certainly one such place. I must say though, that there are plenty of rotund citizens in downtown Mumbai.
    With regards to a western diet, I agree with Sunil and other commenters. The nutritional quality certainly is not there, too much high fructose corn syrup, sugars, chemicals, and empty carbohydrates.

    1. It was the same thing with the outskirts of Malaysia and The Phillippines in the 80s. If we just traveled more and saw the world, we’d realize how good we’ve got things here in America, Europe, or Japan.

  28. Sadly, it seems that here lately, you really don’t even need to travel to 3rd world or developing countries to have experiences like these. Where I am from in Oklahoma, it seems that people in the worst shape usually end up there via drug use – mostly from meth here lately.

    I agree with several of these previous commenters – our portion sizes here in the US are out of control. I’d like to lose just a bit of weight, and haven’t focused too much really on what I eat, I just focus on the portion size. Still very hard to do.


  29. twentysomethingmoney

    I’m a Canadian, but the last time I went to the USA and to a McDonalds, you see it instantly — the portion size of your food compared to ours, is significantly bigger!

  30. 20 and Engaged

    As someone who recently became overweight, I think it’s just the abundance we’re used to. We’re a society of MORE MORE MORE! There’s just never enough. It’s easier for us because we don’t like to tell ourselves stop. It’s really sad.

    1. You’re right, it is always the more nation. How did you recently become overweight though? Doesn’t it take a while to become so? Are you happy with the way you are now? If so, that’s all that matters.

      1. 20 and Engaged

        You’re right; it took some time. It’s just been the first time I’ve ever been overweight. I’m definitely not happy with the way I am now. I’m now back in the gym and making some dietary changes. Can’t eat anything I want anymore :(

  31. Sunil from The Extra Money Blog

    I hope you had tons of fun and didn’t get sick on your trip. great that you got to see one of the man-made wonders of the world.

    the weight issue in America is caused by the chemicals used in food processing, preservation, farming etc. it is only recently that these substances have improved in quality in terms of what they do/can do to the human body.

    for a long time the effects weren’t exactly clear enough for researchers/scientists to do something about them. you will notice, when you travel the world today, especially Asia, kids are growing big boned, taller, healthier (from an aesthetic point of view) – not necessarily from a health perspective.

    this is because emerging nations are now also using such substances and processes (just think of chicken/hen farming – how they are conceived, fed, grown and then made to lay eggs as a microcosm of the bigger picture).

    to your point about India, it is true that there are very few places with as much disparity between classes (and castes). India collectively has more money than most countries, but the wealth is extremely concentrated.

    just pull out the list of top billionaires in the world and you will see 2 to 3 Indians in the top 10 list (i.e. Mittal, Ambani). before the Brits ruled over India, it was called the golden hen, because of abundance in minerals and natural resources until foreigners robbed everything.

    now in terms of how will they ever emerge from poverty, if you look at the numbers and recent trends (the last decade), India’s middle class is emerging faster than any nation has every experienced, including Brazil and China in the recent past.

    jobs are created left and right every day, GDP keeps growing, and you see more youngsters breaking the joint family system of living together to get on their own and live on their own in downtown apartments all because they can now afford to do so (sounds familiar doesn’t it?).

    wineries are cropping up left and right because of the demand. the average family can now afford wine during dinner on a regular basis. automobile sales are breaking records by the day. progress is tremendous, and that is likely the biggest understatement i have made all year (all 6 days of the year so far). that said, India has a LOOOOONG way to go, and as you mentioned Govmt intervention is a BIIIG part of what the future holds.

    so far so good however, the prime minister Manmohan Singh has far surpassed any other Indian leader in terms of policies that have favored and nurtured India’s current growth and emergence.

    Sam the next time you get a chance to visit India, stop by Bombay (Mumbai) which is the Los Angeles of India (Bollywood Capital). it is a sight to see when you land into Shivaji International Airport. the airport is prettier than most airports I have seen here in the US, yet the scene from just a thousand feet above it as you land is a scene of sorrow. a heavy concentration of slums surround the airport. it’s truly an incredible co existence, one which amazes me every time I witness it.

    1. I agree there has been GREAT progress in India for the past 10 years. The government can’t save them all. There just seems to be such a big dichotomy.

      Are you from India I’m assuming? If so, why did you leave? Actually, curious to know why so many of the highly educated Indians left India? I know so many IIT graduates in the Bay Area it’s kinda nuts!

      I have been to Bombay. In fact…… I stayed at the Oberoi Trident just two weeks before the siege. This is another story in one of my posts. Very scary. The Queen’s necklace was beautiful.

  32. I am an Indian and would like to comment on your experience. Its good to see it had a profound impact on you and would encourage others to go to India and see what people in developed countries take for granted. But at the same time you need to realize something. When you go to a Broadway show you should expect elaborate costumes. Likewise, these “beggars” are putting a show for you to wring your heart (and purse). I am not suggesting that they don’t live in poverty, but only that they have an incentive to make it look abject. The best thing you can do is to keep your money and DO NOT GIVE ANYTHING to them. Donate your money through proper charity organizations that attempt to pull them out of poverty. Those girls you saw as you got out of your car… they might be going to school if there wasn’t such good business on the streets begging. You have hurt them more than you helped them.

    1. I see the long term issue of giving, but I was there short term and that’s all I could do to help.

      Where are you currently based and what are you doing to help your fellow countrymen besides not offering them any money?

      Thx for your perspective!

  33. Sandy @ yesiamcheap

    I live in NYC and I know that the city is dealing with this very same issue in areas of Harlem and the Bronx. The problem is not so much lack of access to food, but lack of access to nutritious foods. In whole areas of this city of 8.5 million there are NO SUPERMARKETS. Supermarkets typically have fruits and vegetables available for purchases and the neighborhood stores and bodegas don’t because of short shelf life. There was a recent study done about Harlem which showed that areas where there were no supermarkets had very little access to fruits and veggies which resulted in high obesity rate. Incidentally these same neighborhoods also had a glut of fast food restaurants. When it comes down to $1 for a cheeseburger and $0.75 for one banana that’s been sitting on the counter of the corner store, guess which one wins? And yes, those are actual prices.

    Because of this the city granted special street vendor licenses to vendors selling fruit and vegetables and expanded a weekend farmers market’s ability to accept food stamps. Food stamps now account for somewhere in the neighbood of 40% of some of these farmers’ sales AND the use of food stamps to buy fruits DOUBLED in just one year when farmers were allowed to accept food stamps.

    Some of the comments above sadden me. It’s not that poor people don’t WANT to eat healthfully. Sometimes it’s all about access. And by the way, it’s $0.89 for a small bag of beans here and $1.00 won’t buy you any rice but maybe a box of Rice a Roni. Add tax and your $2.00 is gone. I’d like to live for a week on that $2 as mentioned above.

  34. I think society has evolved too rapidly to be the land of plenty. Our bodies aren’t conditioned to deal with excess. Ideally, food should be challenging to get (can you imagine if we had to farm our own food?) and not all that plentiful. Hard work plus not too much reward – like the Masai people mentioned up above.

  35. Such a thoughtful post!
    Have you heard of Eugene Cho? He has a jarring experience as a result of travelling to 3rd world countries as well.
    Do you think most tourists return home to their comfortable lives and simply forget? Or does the experience usually remain indelible?

    1. Not sure, but apparently 65% of Americans have never traveled outside of the country, and many only speak English as well. Pretty shocking if true. If more traveled, I think the world would be better due to more understanding.

  36. Wow that is a great article. I can understand how that must have affected you deeply just by looking at that one picture. We so often forget how much we have and how little others have. I LOVE eating (all the time) and should be more patient when I have to wait between meals. My stomach is growling as I write this actually. Thanks for sharing your story. It has powerful imagery and a lot of impact.

  37. savvysavingbytes

    When I traveled in Africa I was strongly affected by the Masai people – not because they were poor, but because of their beauty and powerful personalities. Traveling by van from game reserve to reserve, you would see them, sometimes walking alone for miles and miles and sometimes you’d pass them in their villages and they were always moving, always working and they had the most perfect bodies I’d ever seen. Not an ounce of fat anywhere, their bodies shaped exactly like their bones. They were a vivid contrast to so many of the misshapen, overweight people back home. Clearly the Masai never over-ate or engaged in glutinous behavior. Since then when I over-indulge at the table, I often think of them…

    1. Thanks for sharing your insights on the Masai people. I’ve only been to Africa once, and that was in Zambia when I was very small. They have so much more efficient bodies, it’s incredible compared to us here in the US.

  38. We are very lucky here, despite all of our complaining. I have traveled to different parts of Asia (India and China) and have seen people in varying degrees of poverty – taking on different forms and appearances, but still not quite looking healthy. I saw much different things during travels to Western Europe, with a narrower gap between rich and poor.

    Food is in abundance for most people here, and tasty but cheap, unhealthy food is the easiest to find. It’s everywhere, and with our fast lifestyles, we just eat and don’t think twice about it. It’s gluttonous, really.

    We have the potential to have an amazing quality of life, health related, here in the U.S. Abundant food, plenty of fresh food available, money, and health care. It’s the lack of education about nutrition and it’s importance, along with lack of discipline and role models, that I think gets in the way of most people here.

    My weight fluctuates a bit too (trying to fluctuate down now), and I should keep in mind the things I have seen. I guess I block it out because it’s unpleasant to think about, like the mob of beggars charging at the cab I was in, looking for any food. Crazy stuff.

    1. If we are concerned with our weight, we should not block out the unpleasantries we’ve seen. Instead, we need to bring it to full light and be mindful and remembering, forever.

      We’re way too sheltered here in the US!

      1. Enjoying reading this blog post from 8 years ago Sam, and ever-grateful for your example of humanity, self-compassion, and compassion. It is a great prosperity to practice mindfulness/vipassana and observe what is constant change with steadiness and gratitude. Remembering what is precious and true is a great prosperity!!!

        I’ve receive your newsletter for 3 years with happiness, and am plodding away at my financial freedom with yourself as an example. Thank you Financial Samurai.

  39. I’ve watched quite a few documentaries about Western World food production, and the one thing that really sets it apart from everywhere else is impersonal nature of it. The mechanization and industrialization. It’s nothing but a business anymore. Personally, I think this is the over-arching reason that we suffer weight problems in our western societies, and particularly in America.

    Think about it. As soon as food production becomes a for-profit business, you do whatever it takes to make more money. Making more money usually means producing more & more. If a person has way more than they need, they tend to over-indulge. We’re seeing this through a constant push to make more with less, even if it’s bad for the end result. We’ve seen such a push for high-fructose corn syrup, for example, because of the ease with which we can grow corn. So we go ahead and put it into everything, not knowing it’s bad for us (we’re starting to wake up). Just take a look ->https://www.google.com/search?q=high+fructose+corn+syrup+dangers&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a

    If we got back to a local, responsibly mentality, we would see a drastic reduction in food consumption in this country. I’ve made it a very strong goal to get back to a sustainable life-style, all of which I’ll be blogging about, of course. :)

      1. There are so many things I want to write about. :) Not enough time, but I’m sure I’ll hit on it eventually. I’m sure you understand haha.

  40. The average lady is something like 5’4″, size 14. Something like 164 pounds. If diets worked, do you think these ladies would be shopping in the plus size section? (usually starts at size 14). Diets work for some of us (inefficient bodies that do not store energy well – fidgeters and the naturally thin) and not for others(efficient bodies that store energy well). No one wants to be socially unacceptable. Yet our bodies are often efficient, and store extra energy.
    Likewise, through much of our history, there has not been enough food, let alone too much. So it would make sense that a lot of people (most of them), when given access to enough food to not feel hungry all day, are heavier than they used to be. Even the early and mid 19th century did not have enough food all of the time.

    I feel fortunate that I’m under the average weight and size, and over the average height in this country. Lest I be judged to be unacceptable by fatist bigots for a genetic predisposition towards efficiency of the body.

    That said, we do eat crap as a nation, and it probably contributes to health problems.

    1. Wow, didn’t know the average lady is 164 pounds at 5 foot 4! Is this yr average American living woman? In Japan, I think it’s more like 5″2 or 5″3 and 125 or so, but I don’t know for sure.

      Would love to read some documentation. Thx

      1. American lady.

        The number is a bit old but I’ve seen it quoted around.

        Japan hasn’t caught up yet – when I went there the average height was higher for those who were younger (even allowing for shrinking as one ages) and several of the girls were well over 5’6″. This indicates that the current generation (at least in medium metropolitan areas like the one I was in) are getting enough calories to maximize height at the moment. They are running ~120 and 5’1″ as of a few years ago.
        Japan has pretty high suicide rates, so I wonder why they came to mind for you, other than your samurai-ness. It will be interesting to see what happens when the entire country has enough to eat for a generation or two like the US has had (20-40 years).

      2. True is that Americans are more forgiving when it comes to weight issues. While I do not condone fat shaming, a bit of social pressure is sometimes a good thing, but that can also be extreme.
        I was in your native Taiwan just recently – my brother is married to a Taiwanese woman – and we saw advertisements promoting 15.5 BMI as ideal for women? Really? 18 is the lowest considered healthy in US. And given geographical proximity and cultural similarities I am not surprised to learn that Japan women are so slender.
        In my native Croatia, being overweight harshly criticized – like being a smoker in US. It is seen as lack of self control and self respect. But you can still smoke like a chimney there and nobody will blink and eye, so go figure.

  41. SPENDaholic

    While it’s always the individual’s choice to put whatever they want in their mouths, it’s hard to blame people who are overweight if their parents overfed them as children. Many people in America see food as love since they did immigrate from poor countries and want to give their children an abundance of what they didn’t have.

    Just the other day, my dad (immigrated from Viet Nam) told me that he used to go hungry so often that he would have to drink 2 cups of water each night just to trick his body into thinking he was full. This was after I was complaining of having ate too much.

    I’m about 175lbs myself and keep in great shape, but that doesn’t mean I can’t stop to think of others as you are suggesting.

  42. A lot of unhealthy foods are from government subsidized farming especially corn and corn syrup becoming the cheap alternative to sugar. It’s great that subsidies help prevent famine, but it also contributes to the overwelming amount of food on the market.

    1. I completely agree with your statement on corn and corn syrup. Just look up some of the dangers of high fructose corn syrup. And we put it in a LOT of food.

  43. Interesting! I will focus on how travel, interacting with other cultures and seeing different things open your eyes. I have traveled extensively over the years and I feel that it has had a positive effect on me. It certainly made me more open to new ideas, different perspectives and different peoples’ ideas. These are some of the reasons why I like to travel.

    I don’t have a weight problem! I lost 35 lbs. 32 years ago and never gained it back because I changed my eating habits and exercise. I feel that in the United States, too many people make the wrong choices. There are a lot of similarities with personal finance.

    1. I’m impressed you are able to lose 35lbs! Did you gain weight to lose weight by any chance? If I lost 35lbs I would be 128lbs and that wouldn’t be very healthy for my height.

      Travel opens our eyes up to so much, it’s so important we see the world imo.

      1. I gained an extra 20 lbs. partially due to stress and Holiday parties. As I was
        losing the weight, I went further and lost an additional 15 lbs. I now weigh
        147 lbs. It made a huge change in my confidence.

        Traveling certainly gives us a better perspective, less self centered.

  44. I agree. I think if most people seen how food was prepared or what truly goes into it, they would think twice about eating it. We in the Western Society are a) lazy b) bombarded with commercials/ads c) do what everyone else does, hence why we eat so much junk food, eat out and what not. Honestly in my high school days/college I ate out a lot. Since buying my first home, I eat in almost always and enjoy cooking too.

    When I see a homeless person on the street, I always give some change, no matter how much. I try to do the good deed and give something back. I had numerous friends/people tell me, “Why give, they are just using it for drugs” ..well they can use it for whatever they want. If that’s what they are using it for, well so be it, that’s their choice. I have good intentions when I give that money.

    1. All it takes is a documentary like Food, Inc (instantly streamed through Netflix, if you have it) to make people realized what is in their foods. But in the end, while it should matter, it doesn’t. We can’t get away — most of our foods are owned by over 50% of a few agricultural institutions (Notice I didn’t call them farms). There is no secret that everyone in this forum can name our damn near sole chicken producers: Tyson and Purdue Farms.

      Our portion sizes are huge, our foods are genetically enhanced, and corn (which is heavily subsidized by the government) is in everything! The next ten times that you look at a product’s ingrediant list, I bet you that eight of those times will include some bi-product of corn. Our food system is messed up! The delimma — spend an excessive premium to eat healthy by purchasing goods at local markets or spend money at a Whole Foods Market if in America, but only if you even have the luxury to live next to one. But if you shop at any other place, you won’t be able to escape your scientifically produced foods.

      As far as the homeless man, and I’ve seen plenty growing up in Detroit, I don’t even think about giving cash first. I always offer to purchase food if their statement is, “hey I’m hungry can you give me some money for food.” Sometime people choose food and other times I realize that they are just scamming. Intentions are great, but they can also get us into trouble.

      While personal responsibility and portion control remains key, it is overshadowed by a country that is way too busy and spend way too much time snacking.

  45. One major problem with the American eating habit is the portion size. The huge portion size has become the new regular size. It’s human nature to eat as much as we can when good food is put in front of us (or even bad food.) The “bigger is better” mentality has infected all aspects of life and it is killing many of us. I blame Macaroni Grills, Costco, Cheese Cake factories, In & Out double double, and more.
    Do you know that Wendy’s had a problem selling a double burger when it was first introduced. What was the solution? Introduce a new triple burger and everyone gets the double now. Great marketing, but bad for health.

    I’m eating 5 smaller meals throughout the day now for medical reason and I think that helps tremendously with the weight. I have to prepare most of my food with this plan and it’s just more healthy than buying food.

    1. A triple burger is disgusting….. But yeah, that is great marketing to get folks to buy the double!

      I generally always stop when I’m full, mKe my dining partner eat some before I dig in, or take food home for leftovers. Ever seen the portions at the Cheesecake factory??

      1. We’ve been to the Cellulite Factory a couple of times. I felt like a pig at the trough, but I still couldn’t stop eating…. So we avoid those kind of places now.

        ps. come see my directorial debut at my site!!! :)

        1. I’m a slim woman that loves Cheese Cake Factory. Have you seen their skinnilitiuos menu? Added benefit is that menu is only two pages, unlike the regular one. It’s all about the choices and portion control!

  46. The sedentary lifestyle is certainly partly to blame.

    I also think we’re too far removed from our food source. Everything comes to us pre-packaged and already prepared. I would never buy a fryolator and deep fry meals in my own home because I think it’s gross, yet I have no problem ordering a sandwich with fries when we go out. I think if people saw the crap that goes into most foods they wouldn’t eat as much of it.

    Food is also a small percentage of our household budget, where in developing countries it’s often one of the largest. I’m sure I’d be much more careful about my food spending if 1/2 my takehome pay got allocated there.

    1. Great point about food as a large percentage of some people’s budget and being more careful about spending! There are a ton of cheap unhealthy eats though which serve to reduce the budget in the US. And if fast food was introduced everywhere in India, well actually, that would be considered an expensive luxury to them. Hmmm.

  47. Wow, what a post. I can see where that would be incredibly haunting. I am haunted now, and I wasn’t even there…

    I can think of many reasons Americans are gaining weight:
    1. Bad food tastes good, and is affordable
    2. It is easy to surf the internet instead of exercise.
    3. Many suburbs are made so you pretty much have to drive as many stores and such are very far away, and bike riding may not be the safest. (That is how it is where I live at least.)
    4. Many inter city families do not have easy access to fresh fruit and vegetables as many of the chain stores have all but abandoned some of the poorer cities. Therefore, a lot of money is spent at the convenience store, which just has junk food.
    5. We have space. I watched House Hunters International and it showed homes in Tokyo, and everything is incredibly narrow. Here, it is very easy to be heavy. We have motorized shopping carts now, double wide wheelchairs, etc.
    6. Everyone is so busy and that is much easier to hit McDonalds instead of making a meal at home. So many families eat so few meals together at the dinner table, it is amazing.
    7. Access to video games have kids sitting in front of the tv instead of playing in the park or out riding their bikes.

    OK, I will stop there. I am sure I could come up with many more reasons, but I think you get the gist of what I am saying.

    1. Great ways on “How We Prevent Health.”

      However, for number 3, that would probably force me to make meals at home instead. I don’t quite understand the problem here.

      For number 4, I think that it goes back to your number 1, “bad food tastes good, and is affordable” because a bag of frozen vegetables, rice, beans, or potatoes are relatively inexpensive.

      For number 5, hahaha. I was talking about this in the office today. Most of the people on the “handicap” carts should probably be walking instead of riding them. But the problem, those stores that offer these carts have to cater to all of their customers. If not, the only store will.

      Definitely agree with number 6, and then we create a nation of little fat kids because all they know is McDonalds. And when they want it, their parents easily acquiesce. No parent wants to say no to little screaming Billy.

      Video games, Internet, and tv? Maybe, maybe not. But definitely if we are consuming more calories in the day by eating bad products far more than we are using our natural bodies to burn the calories for us.

      1. I guess I wasn’t very clear on number 3. What I meant was that people drive instead of walk place = less exercise. When I was a kid, I walked everywhere. Where I live now, I cannot do that.

        Regarding the video games and such, I totally think that contributes to fatter kids since they are not getting nearly as much exercise.

    2. An excellent list of things!

      Even after I eat McDonalds, I’m hungry 3 hrs later though. The calories don’t fill me up perhaps bc there aren’t that many?

      Everybody has an ideal fitting weight. Perhaps those who have gone much more than 15 lbs above that arethe most content and one’s with the most self esteem?

      1. Sam, I am hungry 3 hours later after Thanksgiving dinner! I do get what you mean about the empty calories not lasting as long. Ever try Crunch Berries or a bagel for breakfast? I end up hungrier after I eat those items than before I started.

        I really want to get in great shape this year. I exercise a bit already, but I wold like to be more adventuresome. My goal is to be fit as a fiddle when I head down to Florida in April.

        Hopefully I won’t need anything from the Scooter Store to get me around Disney…

      2. Sandy @ yesiamcheap

        All calories are not created equal. The same amount of fat, protein and carbs pack a different amount of calories. Also, the reason why you’re so hungry soon after eating doesn’t have to do with the amount of calories, but in the volume of food that you have eaten that will keep you feeling full. FIBER! There’s almost no fiber in fast food burgers and lots of fat and salt.

  48. I think it’s easy to gain weight in this country for a few reasons. The first being that while there is plenty of healthy and cheap food available to everyone, it’s easier to go for something that’s just as cheap, tastes better (sometimes) and is full of empty calories! While no one is forcing unhealthy food down our throats, it is terribly easy to get and people show very, very little restraint. Unfortunately, the cost at the onset belies the true cost of the cheaper, less healthy food.
    Laziness is a factor as well, as no one is out working in the fields 10+ hours per day anymore, but sitting in a chair at a desk.
    People need to make these choices for themselves to be sure, I just think they may not know where to start, or they may not know the effects of their choices down the line.
    Great work, sam.

  49. Oddly, there’s a very high correlation with poverty and obesity in developed nations. This is primarily due to poor diet, not so much lack of food. (i.e. take a ride through the inner city in America and it’s pretty evident). In much of the developing world, as standard of living rise and access to meat and sugar increase, obesity is becoming a major problem – diabetes is become an epidemic. I have always found it odd that in America we’re dying of overeating while much of the world is dying from malnutrition – it all depends on context and circumstances I suppose. We have food so readily available (as well as many luxuries 90% of the world doesn’t). Your post is a good reminder if anything, about just how good we have it – that we can exercise free will be lose weight; rather than starve due to our circumstances.

      1. a lot of the world has more of an over-eating than a malnutrition problem. It’s not just the US or North America. OTOH it is pretty striking how fat Americans appear when they are out in the world…

  50. Individually, we are the ones who make the choice what to eat and how much to move, barring disability and extreme poverty. However, advertisers know how to reach us subliminally and we may not even be aware of their influence. Even if we are aware, it can be difficult to turn away from a cheap tasty meal. If all you have is $2 to spend on a meal, do you buy a can of beans or do you go to McDonalds? If all you have is $2, chances are you are also depressed and would go for the McDonalds where you can sit and eat in a bright colorful place instead of bringing home that can of beans.
    My 2 cents…

    1. Hmmm…. maybe. $1 cheesburgers are tempting I must admit. But, in terms of calorie count, if all I had for dinner or lunch was a lousy MCD cheesburger, I would be starving 2 hours later.

      Maybe I don’t see McDonald’s as a happy place, b/c the customers don’t look that happy in SF.

    2. Hahahaha. Depressed. For having only $2. Perhaps the problem is that one does not know how to stretch their $2–hence, they will always be depressed. I can eat on a pot of beans and rice for about four days.

      1. Brenda Pawloski

        But you need a working heat element and a clean pot for that not to mention salt and other niceties like cumin, garlic, etc. I have always had those things even at my poorest. I have never been truly poor. I can understand how a hungry poor person faced with having to get set up to cook beans and rice or having a hot cheeseburger in hand within a few minutes chooses McDonals’s. In small rural towns McDonalds is a relatively cheery place. It is clean and air conditioned. It has working toilets. It is relatively safe and may even have a place for kids to play. It is more than the $1.00 cheeseburger. It is an escape from barely there shelter and a hangry stomach.

  51. At least personally, I have noticed overeating is the primary reason for people gaining weight. While I don’t necessarily think about unhealthy people in Northern India when I’m eating, I do think about how I don’t need to eat so much, and I’ve maintained a pretty healthy weight my entire life.

      1. Sam, stop it :) Entertaining clients has to do with verbosity, so I would think, not by what we eat. Unless you are entertaing them with Beer Bongs and hotdog eating contest. You can easily eat one of the massively offered portions of salad as Kevin has inferred.

  52. I think America has an abundant supply of choices, and like Jaymus said, choices of foods that doesn’t even resemble food anymore. Laziness is only a factor when it is coupled by poor nutritional habits. In other words, unless there is some health condition involved, no one will get fat if they eat lean meats and vegatables, and do so in moderation.

    However, we can’t help but to try new foods when we are marketed to everyday–foods that are inexpensive and quick to eat in a society of busy people. I won’t even start on the fast food industry, I’m sure someone will blame them later in the day.

      1. Absolutely not. I will always make it a personal responsibility. However, just like getting into debt because credit is easy to get, one can easily “get into fat” because of the easiness to obtain bad food products.

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