Last month there was a program on SBS showcasing the healthiness of Japan as a nation.
It made me question:
"Is it really?"
Most global health reports, including this one, compare and rank health based on BMI.
They may also use life expectancy, morbidity or mortality.
But BMI is ALWAYS used.
And it frustrates me because there is obvious fat discrimination happening.
If we do use the BMI filter (for the sake of it), then this is what we know:
Japan's "overweight/obesity" rate is 24.7%, compared to the world average of 42.6%.
So in a world where fatness = unhealthy, it's easy for people to pick these figures and call Japan a healthy nation.
(Because "thin = good" belief is SO strong)
Now there's also this reality:
When we look at the statistics for Japanese women in their 20's and 30's, the number of "underweight" exceeds "overweight/obesity".
In the 20's and 30's population the prevalence of "underweight" are 25.2% and 14.0% respectively. "Overweight/obesity" is 5.9% and 11.1% respectively.
And still, what we see in the media, society, and even medical industry, is the promotion of weight loss and longing for more thinness.
In supermarkets and convenience stores, shelves are loaded with 'diet' products and supplements promising weight loss.
Magazines' headlines shout out strategies to become slim and toned.
Celebrities discuss latest diet fads they've tried. And the next day the whole nation is following that path.
Chisuwa (2010) reported that in Japan:
20% of boys and girls have dieted by the age of 10.
24.1% of boys and 64.1% of girls aged 15-19 are thriving for weight loss, with 40% of "underweight" category girls striving for more weight loss.
41-68% of girls aged 6-18 years have low body image and desire for thinness.
Japan is a great country.
I love the culture, the season, the food, and the people.
It's heart breaking to see such country to fall in to the diet cycle all together.
A country long known for its longevity and health, should stand up and take the next step to adopt a HAES and weight-neutral view towards health.
Naomi Chisuwa, , Jennifer A. O’Dea. Body image and eating disorders amongst Japanese adolescents. A review of the literature
Appetite, Volume 54, Issue 1, February 2010, Pages 5-15
My Japanese Diet. SBS. 6 April 2017.