In America, there is this notion that bigger is better. That notion goes for almost everything and, typically, without question.
Cars, houses, pay checks (which, I might be inlined to agree with), wardrobes, shoe collections, etc., if you can be the one with the most extravagant, expensive, and praise worthy amount of such items, then you win!
However, in the case of obesity, the game is over and the notion takes a turn for the worse.
That said, where America is doing its best to keep us wanting more, more, more on our widening dinner plates, Japan is still preaching less, less, less:
Hmmm…can you imagine walking into any grocery store in your neighborhood to find that that is the largest container of ice cream available for purchase? Imagine if that was the case for all the processed, sugary, or sodium laden items our country had to offer? Do you think we’d be seeing an obesity rate that trends up or down?
Japan’s obesity rate is currently less than 4%—America boasts a rate above 30%—and while the Westernization of Japan remains in full effect (there are now better than 3,500 McDonald’s in Japan alone), the waist lines of its inhabitants remains well within healthy limits.
How do they do it?
For one, a diet rich in whole foods and, for two, an awareness of portion size—as evidenced by the tiny container of ice cream in the photo above:
Naomi Moriyama, co-author of a book titled “Japanese Women Don’t Get Old or Fat: Secrets of My Mother’s Tokyo Kitchen” told WebMD that the Japanese not only eat healthy foods, but in smaller portions than usually consumed in the West.
“Thanks to the relatively healthier Japanese diet and lifestyle, Japanese women and men live longer and healthier than everyone else on Earth,” Moriyama said.
Indeed, the Japanese live about five years longer than their counterparts in the U.S. and with far lower rates of disability and illness.
Moriyama estimated that the average Japanese person consumes 25 percent fewer calories daily than the average American.
Also, culturally and socially, obesity is anathema in Japan.
In 2008, the Global Post reported, the Tokyo government established a maximum waistline size for people above the age of 40: 33.5 inches for men and 35.4 inches for women. (Palash Gosh, International Business Times)
Of course, the pressure to remain slim—particularly amongst the women in Japan—is high, but there can be no mistaking that, as a country, Japan is definitely paying attention to the eating habits of its inhabitants and taking pro-active steps, where possible, to encourage adherence to the old school way of doing things—healthy eating, exercise, and attention to serving sizes—and that has allowed them to keep the obesity epidemic at bay.