Munch, crunch, munch。
One of the snacks I eat at work is not exactly quiet, though I try to keep the noise down。
It's not salty, crispy potato chips.
Every day, I bring in a bag of raw celery. In China, 芹菜 (qincai) is not uncommon, but it’s almost always cooked. So, I get strange looks. The rare colleague who has tried it has politely avoided making a face.
Perhaps they think I have goat in my family tree。
While raw celery may seem like a strange snack, it is undeniable that eating more unprocessed food is healthy. While I'm not vegan, I have made big changes in my eating that, paired with exercise, have enabled me to drop over 20 kilograms over a year’s time. I feel better, though I needed a new wardrobe.
This is relevant to China because as my host country has gotten richer, it is experiencing the same weighty problems as my native country, the United States. This means it faces the same higher risk of serious health problems and death from cardiovascular problems, cancer and other maladies.
But while I've noticed that the worst problem in my home country occurs in poorer populations – it can be costlier to buy and prepare healthy food – the opposite is true here.
As trendy convenience foods such as pizzas and sugary drinks have become popular among higher-income city-dwellers, they also are spending more time on sedentary activities such as video games.
What’s especially worrisome is that these trends are hitting young people the hardest. While lauding China for remarkable progress in child nutrition, the World Food Programme also noted last year: "Overweight and obesity are becoming prominent in cities, and gradually appearing in rural areas: 23 percent of boys and 14 percent of girls under 20 were now found to be overweight or obese.”
尤其令人担忧的是,这些现象在年轻人中最为明显。2016年,世界粮食计划署（the World Food Programme）在称赞中国在儿童营养方面取得的成就时,还指出“超重和肥胖在中国城市日益凸显,并逐渐出现在农村地区：调查发现在中国二十岁以下的人群中,23%的男孩和14%的女孩处于超重或肥胖状态。”
Problems aggravated by obesity, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, can go undetected, doing serious health damage.
As The Guardian noted recently, “The central government has brandished a plan called Healthy China 2030, with the aim of making China healthy again in the next 13 years.” The reported noted that it includes “the introduction of health education into the school curriculum and promoting ‘health as habit’.”
These are positive steps, especially when combined with promotion of sports such as soccer in schools.
But it also comes down to personal choices. I’ve seen my younger colleagues struggle with eating healthier. It takes time to shop for and prepare good food, and packaged, ready-to-eat healthy food can be expensive. Most people are very busy, and unhealthy fast food is the ultimate in convenience.
I’m not unsympathetic -- I struggle with the time thing myself。 I weigh a lot of my food and track it on an application。 But it gets easier as it becomes a habit。
Instead of being overwhelmed, start simple with better choices, like smaller portions。 Drink water or tea。 Take the stairs。 Make it a habit。 The “future you” will thank you。
About the author & broadcaster
Matt Prichard is a copy editor and writer who works on the front page team of China Daily。 He has lived in China for more than five years, in Shanghai and Beijing。 Before that, he had a 30-year career as a reporter and editor in the United States and Latin America。 He has an ABJ from the University of Georgia and did postgraduate work at the Universidad Nacional del Sur in Argentina。 He speaks Spanish fluently and is still learning Mandarin。