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China's '1,000 Pound' rappers tackle obesity

By John Vause, CNN
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • State media: More than 300 million people in China are obese or overweight
  • Rap group aims to lose half of their body weight to improve their health
  • Their regime includes three-hour workouts a day; maximum of 1,500 calories
  • China's improving economy has contributed to obesity

Tianjin, China (CNN) -- They were China's heavyweight counter-culture rappers: Four women from a group called Qian Jin Zu He, which, roughly translated, means "1,000 Pounds" -- their combined weight. Their signature song was "So What If I'm Fat?"

But things have changed.

The four women have checked into the Aimin Fat Reduction Hospital in the city of Tianjin, southeast of Beijing. They may stay there for up to a year to try and lose almost half of their total body weight.

"We are growing older and obesity will definitely have a negative impact on our health," said Xiao Yang, the group's leader. "We all thought losing weight would be good for our health, even if we only lose a little bit."

Their doctors were pleasantly surprised with the women's progress. In two months Yang, the heaviest, has lost the most, more than 50 pounds (22 kilos). The others have shed more than 30 pounds (13 kilos) each.

"They are progressing much faster and better than we expected," said Hao Jie, their personal trainer.

The women start the day with acupuncture to reduce their appetite. Their three-hour daily workout includes badminton and weights, and their meals are limited to 1,500 calories a day.

"I went to the gym before and bought a one-year membership but I only went for a month," said Yang Ye. "I think it was because no one was supervising me. I was all by myself."

Video: China's obese rappers slim down
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The hospital is also teaching them how to change their lifestyle in order to avoid putting the pounds back on once they reach their goal weight and head out into the real world.

In China, as the economy grows, so do the waistlines. Western-style diets, more cars and fewer bicycles, TVs, computer games and office jobs are all being blamed for doubling of the number of overweight and obese people here in the past decade -- now more than 300 million, according to state media.

The weight trend is also partly to blame for a big increase in diseases like diabetes, according to The New England Journal of Medicine, which reported that more than 92 million Chinese have diabetes, the highest number in the world, and more than 150 million others are on their way to developing the disease.

In China, the classic female beauty is petite, almost fragile. The group said they had suffered due to their weight, getting nasty stares and rude comments.

"I think there is prejudice against us in our society," said Xiao Yang. "People think if we have no will to control our weight, we will have no will to do other things as well."

For the women, the focus is on their health.

"Some celebrities, when they reach the top of their careers, are fat, and they die suddenly, just 50 or 60 years old," said Xiao Yang. "I've been thinking about losing weight for some time."