Sri Lankans certainly can be obese, but it’s not the norm.
I wrote a post about adult film theatres that has somehow turned into a debate about obesity. As in, are Americans fatter than Sri Lankans. The answer is, of course America are fatter. This is not because Sri Lankans are better people, it’s really just for lack of opportunity. As I was reading in a recent UN Food Ag Org report, one third of the food in the world is wasted or lost. In the west the waste it at the consumer level, here we lose it at the production level.
Furthermore, growth and health are almost perfectly misaligned. As people get money they don’t spend it on more, better calories. They spend it on junk food or save up for a TV. Check out this article in Foreign Policy by Abhijit Banerjee, it’s great.
Americans, with all their money, spend in on processed food full of corn syrup and overpriced healthcare. As you move up the economic ladder from, say, Pettah coolie to office worker you end up in much worse shape. Sitting literally kills you, and those coolies are cut. Admittedly, back breaking manual labor plus rampant heroin addiction is not an ideal lifestyle either, but there should be a happy medium.
Humans are getting from having plenty (and achievement) to knowing what the fuck to do with plenty. If emerging economies repeat the mistakes of the waste that would really be a shame