Shanghai Sends Unsubtle Hint to Expanding Residents

Last night I walked into the lobby of my Shanghai apartment building and found long and narrow blue boxes protruding from most of the (100 or so) mailboxes. Here’s mine, unpacked:

The title of the book is “Shanghai Residents Guidebook to Self-Managed Fitness” [thanks, SLS], and if it’s not obvious, the device in the upper left-hand corner is a tape measure with a Body-Mass Index [BMI] calculator built into it. The BMI is a handy short-hand for assessing whether or not someone is obese (or underweight); meanwhile, waist circumference is a good way of assessing a person’s risk for diabetes, heart disease, and other weight-associated diseases. So, below, note the green and red zones on the tape, as well as that easy-to-use BMI spin wheel.

I think it goes without saying that – when somebody sends you a BMI calculator via the postman – it’s not without purpose. I also think that anyone who has spent any time in Shanghai over the last decade knows that waistlines are expanding here (and throughout affluent urban China). No doubt, China’s obesity problem dwarfs in comparison to the US’s pathetic, beluga-sized obesity crisis, but it’s er, growing, and so I interpret this uninvited package as akin to one partner saying to another: “Darling, don’t be offended, but please take care of this before you start looking like that American couple next door.”

Government paternalism [fraternalism?] at its best.

Cry for Help: I’d love to know how widespread this mailing was. If you live in Shanghai, and received one, could you let me know in the comments or via an email?

Addendum: Back in January, Beijing, always less subtle than its Shanghai cousin, skipped the mail slot and instead sent the BMI tape measures home with school kids, telling them to assess mom and dad, then report back.


  1. hey Adam!
    We got ours in July, accompanied by our free Expo ticket. I assumed it was another way of saying “come to the Expo but don’t look fat.” Haha. Love the no nonsense of it.

  2. I got mine. Oh, it’s a BMI tape…I thought it was a very short tape measure with a complimentary “Do not disturb” sign. better look harder. I think my free ticket expired.

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