[TIME] The Land That Doesn't Need Ozempic


Eh…a few new things in this article, but I thought similar articles reporting on this topic have already been out for years. Is it still breaking news to some that they have a much healthier diet that is high in fish and fresh, local vegetables? That they eat smaller portions, and simpler meals, and less processed foods? I think many recognize it’s not just individuals choosing to overeat in the US or in GB - so many implications on work, culture, politics, socioeconomic factors that affect what and how we eat.

The weighing me at work though - yeah, hell no. If you want to bring in clinicians for a health check and then doing private 1:1 consultations with recommendations at home, after hours, on weekends, sure. But damn, measuring waist lines or weighing people at work is crossing the line. I appreciate that everyone is given resources to battle obesity and recognizes the implications for health, but this hasn’t prevented Japan from playing into some of those harsh stereotypes of overweight people in media either.


i’d like to think school meals would improve here in the USA if school principals had to eat & approved the meals before the kids get to them… then i thought it through a bit more - nope, not the solution since many principles consider a walking taco just fine.


I think the strong sense of individual liberty is so deeply rooted in US culture that something like subjecting an employee to physical scrutiny like that would be DOA.

In Asian, things are just different. Heck, airline stewardesses for EVA and JAL are explicitly hired based on looks, and physical measurements. You think Delta or UA would do that? Maybe when unicorns start fornicating with minotaurs.


Re: Smaller portions
Frank Bruni was just on Ina Garten’s Be My Guest, talked about being a fat kid, his Italian grandmother preparing all his favorite foods. Later, he was NYT Bureau Chief in Rome and noticed how much smaller the portions were and he slimmed down.
Also, fast food joints are a big negative for Americans, I’ve been about once in the last year.

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As many of you know, I just came back to the US after 15 years in Japan (and lived there in the 80s and 90s for a total of another 4 years).

Most Japanese people I know don’t cook much if at all. They buy prepared foods at supermarkets or convenience stores or bento boxes there or at shops which sell nothing but bentos like Hokka-Hokka Tei. And many of us know about department store food halls, too.

Processed foods are very common…including some frozen foods which are much better tasting than those in the US.

Japanese people I know don’t drink many sugary carbonated drinks (non-alcoholic ones like soda, I mean). In the big cities, people tend not to commute to work by private cars but use public transportation or bicycles/scooters. In general, they get more exercise than we Americans do. They do drink a lot of alcohol, however.

From my observations being back here a bit more than 2 months now, I would say that portion sizes of EVERYTHING are much bigger here and that would explain a lot.

Lastly, I have written about the “metabo law” before. It was fairly strictly enforced when it first became law, but not so much now. But companies DO pay half of the health insurance premiums for full time workers and because of that, they feel they are allowed a “say” in how employees manage their health.


It’s a lot like how many young people live in Manhattan.

Not identical, but similar mentalities and lifestyles vis-a-vis eating and cooking.


where is this not true. not that i’d be looking to go there, just curious?

I can totally see that comparison!

Many Japanese gave up or have severely cut down on drinking since COVID. Japanese companies used to organize many somewhat “mandatory” social events after work where drinking was involved. COVID forced an end to that and it in general said events have not restarted. And I have mandatory in quotes because social pressure was placed upon those who chose not to participate. Since COVID ended and some such social events restarted, people have felt more free to decline or even refuse to participate.

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So much this.


Sounds like a positive outcome.

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When the connection between health and weight/bmi was discussed in another thread, I found this. I can’t vouch for the research design, but I thought it was interesting.

“Ethnic Differences in BMI and Disease Risk”, which found

“For every 11 pounds Asians gained during adulthood, they had an 84 percent increase in their risk of type 2 diabetes; Hispanics, blacks, and whites who gained weight also had higher diabetes risks, but again, to a much lesser degree than Asians. Several other studies have found that at the same BMI, Asians have higher risks of hypertension and cardiovascular disease than their white European counterparts, and a higher risk of dying early from cardiovascular disease or any cause”

No easy explanation that I can see, but whatever is happening seems to mean a healthier population, at least physically.


Ugh. Are you honestly saying there’s a variety of factors determining a person’s weight? That there’s a concept of nuance, circumstance, etc. etc. – not just a simple comparison between two vastly different countries/cultures? /s

Get outta here! :wink:

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Well, they used to, until several class action suits were made against airlines bc of the utter misogyny underlying those “rules.”

:nauseated_face: :face_vomiting:


Yeah, the readily available much higher quality food in Japan is real. I would say the same about Hong Kong and Taiwan too. There are several factors that influence this, but the big ticket is again that our ‘fast food’ is way too salty or crammed with sugar, and often using manufactured short cuts (e.g., caramel coloring rather than achieving the color through enough actual cooking). What US allows in foods vs what Europe and Asia allows in foods is really eye-opening. Sweets are always way sweeter in the US, and we’ve allowed those companies to build that addiction to salt and sugar in American tastebuds for profilt.

Japan has plenty of fast food places too, so it’s not like they don’t have KFC, McDonalds, and their own chains that serve what we know as fast foods. Portion sizes are different (as noted by @Aubergine), and a lot of the lifestyle differences really do counter some of those potentially harmful effects in eating unhealthy foods.


From personal experience/observations, standard Japanese chocolate from brands like Glico, Morinaga and Lotte are much sweeter than in the US and the same goes for ice cream (much of which is ice milk…thankfully it’s labeled as so).

OTOH, Japanese cakes and pastries are (thankfully!) not nearly as sweet. Unfortunately somewhere during the years I was gone from living in Japan from 1996 to 2009, donuts from the ubiquitous Mister Donut chain became sickeningly sweet…to the point where I couldn’t eat them anymore. And many store-bought cookies, especially Fujiya’s “Country Ma’am” brand became sweeter than any American store-bought cookies I have ever eaten. Off topic, those cookies are the most well-known example of shrinkflation in Japan. Not only has the size of the cookies gotten smaller, so has the number of them in a bag (see photos but please be aware that there’s some exaggeration involved in what the future holds). We could say that might help with portion control, but not if you eat more of the smaller cookies (I ate none as they had become too sweet for me.)

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Obviously there are always individuals differences but at the same time there are also clear trends between societies wrt food, e.g. portion sizes in Japan vs. US or the stronger focus on seafood and vegetables in Japan vs US which help to explain certain trends wrt obesity etc

As is often the case, this thread is making me want to try more things to improve the situation for those within my little circle of influence.

I was intrigued by a sentence in one of the linked articles. It reads

“It means driving, regularly, to half a dozen different grocery or specialty stores to stock fresh ingredients, like shrimp, dried seaweed (nori), or produce like Japanese yams and chives, then setting aside time throughout the day to wash, chop, cook and clean. (I also keep a small garden.)”.

I’m not sure what to make of shrimp, dried seaweed, and Japanese yams needing to be “fresh”, but can totally relate to the wash/clean, and chopping as something gets in the way of using more “fresh vegetables”. I spend a lot of time gardening, so it surprised me to realize I was more likely to use bagged, chopped salads daily.

I am always trying to up my salad game.


Many bigger Japanese cities have vast shopping arcades with individual speciality stores for dried foods, fish, produce, etc. Housewives/househusbands MAY take daily trips there to shop.

But increasingly those shops and the arcades are closing due to a few issues. The most common issues are increased competition from supermarket chains (Aeon and Ito-Yokado being the biggest) and from the children of the owners of those specialty shops not wanting to take over businesses.

Japanese fridges used to be much smaller than North American ones meaning that people used to have to shop multiple times a week if not daily. But fridges have gradually gotten bigger, so such frequent shopping isn’t as common.

One major difference in Japanese shopping vs that in North America is that supermarket sale prices are generally only for 1 or 2 days. Prices for produce are especially volatile and change nearly daily. I had a dorm-size fridge my last 2 years there and was basically forced to go shopping several times a week.