Asian Percentage Body Fat Expectations

You may think most Asians are thin. You may think it’s genetic. You may think Asians just have smaller frames. It’s partially correct but do you really know why most Asians are thin? I have come to find out this Summer in Taiwan that it is because of the cultural expectations!

I passed by this gym a lot this summer and one day I decided to try out their scale that measures percentage body fat, percentage of water and weight. The results were a bit daunting when I compared my stats to the chart below. My competitive nature could not believe that I did not score an easy win according to the charts on the percentage of body fat.

Taiwanese Expectations for Women:

  • Normal percentage body fat for women 18-30 years old should range from 17-24%. For women 30-69 years old, normal ranges from 20-27%.
  • Obese for women starts at 30%.

Taiwanese Expectations for Men:

  • Normal percentage body fat for men 18-30 years old should range from 14-20%.
  • For men 30-69 years old, 17-23%.
  • Obese for men starts at 25%.

Below is a chart that was put out by American Council on Exercise in the US.  See how much kinder it is for women?

  • Obese starts at 32% in the US in comparison to the 30% in Taiwan!
  • Average starts at 25% to 31% in comparison to the 17% to 27%.

Interestingly, the Taiwanese expectations for men on percentage of body fat are similar to that of the US.  Do the US men like their women more plump? OR do the Taiwanese men like their women thin?

Percentage Body Fat
American Counsel on Exercise Percentage Body Fat Ratio

Now I understand why most Taiwanese women, especially younger ones, all have stick figures. This is a culture that values thinness and possibly smallness in women. There are not a lot of tall or big men in Taiwan.  I guess men don’t usually want to look shorter or smaller than their women. Being almost 5’5″, I am considered tall for women in Taiwan.  Weighing in at 117 pounds, I am not thin.

Luckily because of the Asian diet and lifestyle, it appears to be easier to stay fit in Taiwan than in the US.  Taiwanese eat a lot less than Americans do.  The food is also healthier.  Their lifestyle appears to be more active; a lot less car driving and a lot more walking on a daily basis.  All this contributes to a culture of thinness.

Do you think this whole thing is a little crazy?  Or do you think expectations of thinness (within reason) is a good thing?  Tell me what you think.

3 thoughts on “Asian Percentage Body Fat Expectations”

  1. I was talking to a Taiwanese high schooler a few days ago and she was complaining about this unreasonable expectation for Taiwanese girls. She said that the boys (high school in this case) are all so thin (she said especially their legs-like chopsticks), so they expect the girls to be equally skinny.
    I definitely don’t think that this expectation of thinness is a good thing, but I can also see why it would work in a place like Taiwan. From what I’ve experienced so far, sports and hardcore exercise don’t seem like such a big deal in Taiwan while it is more important in American high school life, so being too thin (and maybe weaker as well) might be okay in Taiwan.


    1. I think the trend may be changing for the Taiwanese men. After they passed the big exam and entered college, they can relax a little and open up to more things. I have met many young men in college or just graduated that defy the cultural norm for Taiwanese men, i.e., strong and into hardcore physical training. However, the sad thing is that thinness is still expected of the Taiwanese women.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s