Japanese habits that must be followed to maintain a healthy weight

The author points out that you can enjoy dessert and still live a perfectly healthy and balanced life.
Kake Okumura

  • Kake Okumura Japanese wellness writer who was raised in the United States and Japan.
  • She developed daily habits while living in Japan that helped her maintain a healthy weight.
  • Habits include walking all over the place, using cooking shortcuts, and focusing on quality.

Growing up in the US, it’s easy to get caught up in the idea that in order to live healthy, you have to go to the gym, prepare meals, stop drinking, and other discipline. America is a land of “go-or-go,” where half-measures are often futile. But is this rigor really necessary?

At 4.3%, Japan has one of the lowest obesity rates among high-income developed countries, according to the report World Population Review. In comparison, the obesity rate in the United States is 36.2%, and it has the 12th highest obesity rate in the world. Not that the Japanese people are somewhat more disciplined than others, but rather I believe that it is the simple and moderate Japanese daily habits that make it more sustainable to the modern way of life.

Here are five healthy weight habits that I picked up from life in Japan.

1. Walking all over the place

The author took this photo on the back roads of Nagano, Japan
Kake Okumura

Japanese adults walk a lot. According to the 2019 national health and nutrition survey, conducted by Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare, men average nearly 7,000 steps, while women take just under 6,000 steps a day. The survey participants included 300,000 households in Japan, including 720,000 family members aged one year and over. according to Mayo ClinicThe average American takes less than 4,000 steps a day.

And until recently in the 1980s, Nagano had one of the highest rates of stroke in the country. Over the years, the Japanese prefecture has incorporated more than 100 walking paths into its community and has managed to reverse this trend. The county is proud of one of the The highest longevity rates are in Japan

Japan tends to top the world rankings for life expectancy, with an average life expectancy in 2020 of 85 years from birth.

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do high-intensity exercise either, but we shouldn’t discount the value of walking. A walk around the block or a picnic in the park can do wonders for our health.

2. Eat in moderation

A traditional meal at a Japanese restaurant can often be finished in one sitting.
Kake Okumura

The modern Japanese diet is not just grilled fish, miso soup, and rice. There are people in Japan who sometimes choose to enjoy the same foods that the United States eats, such as hamburgers, ice cream and French fries. But the main differences lie in frequency, as well as serving size.

If you visit McDonald’s in Japan, you will find that their medium sized drink is still smaller than their American mini. a Domino’s Japanese Large Pizza It measures 13 inches in diameter, while in the US it is 14 inches in diameter. And the extra large 16-inch pizza in the US is not available in Japan. Visit a Japanese restaurant, and you’ll usually find that you can finish your meal without feeling too full at the end.

By practicing moderation, we can eat whatever we want regularly without any major repercussions on our health. There should be no need to give up sugar, carbs, or any of your favorite foods.

And since vegetables, complex carbohydrates, and high-fiber foods are still better for you, adding healthy toppings can be a great way to create a more filling dish. For example, fill a bowl of soba with broccoli, edamame, mushrooms, and carrots.

3. Take cooking shortcuts

Japanese parents prepare healthy pint boxes for lunch.
stock struggle

Too often, healthy home cooking is seen as an hours-long endeavor that is only meant for those with plenty of time. After a busy day at work, the cooking process becomes so stressful that we often resort to eating out.

But even though home cooking takes time, I learned from making Japanese bento boxes that cooking shortcuts can still be healthy. Working parents in Japan who have little time in the morning usually prepare healthy lunches for their children. There are ways to get smart with the available shortcuts.

Instead of boiling water, people often boil eggs or steam broccoli in the microwave. It’s natural to rely on frozen peas or edamame to add a little green to your rice dish. I’ve learned to understand that there’s nothing wrong with using a small portion of store-bought sauce on some microwave-steamed chicken.

4. Prioritize fun when it comes to exercise

In Japan, Sports Day is a national holiday.
Ken Usami/Getty

Many people consider exercise a necessary chore, rather than something they look forward to. This makes sense, considering that exercise is often done to look a certain way or to build a certain body.

But in Japan, exercise is often talked about in terms of pleasure and quality of life, not in terms of burning calories. For example, “undoukai (運動会),” or sports day in Japanese public school curricula, is an annual event that takes place during the school year, in which the entire school takes a day to participate in a variety of activities, from track and field to tug-of-war. It’s fun, cooperative, inclusive, and most importantly, fun.

Sports Day is not just for students. It is a national holiday celebrated on the second Monday of October every year. Many working adults take the day off to support their children and participate in games or are encouraged by the government to do something to celebrate physical activity.

Exercising as a necessary chore to burn calories or look a certain way can be emotionally draining, but by reframing it for joy we get immediate benefits: It makes us feel good.

5. Decay is defined in terms of quality rather than quantity

For the author, decadence is eating fresh sushi at the counter, served straight from the fish auction in the morning.
Kake Okumura

If you search for spoiled foods in the US, search results include Philly cheesesteak, Chicago deep-dish pizza, giant cheeseburgers and ice cream sundaes. Decay is often measured in terms of volume and caloric value.

However, if you are searching for spoiled foods in Japanese, you might be surprised to discover a page featuring fruits, vegetables, and even seafood. This is not to say that decadence is considered healthy in Japan, but rather than volume or caloric value, it is often measured by quality.

The seasonality of something, how it was produced, where it was grown, or how it was prepared all contribute to the idea of ​​decadence.

In this way, the idea of ​​pampering yourself with delicious food is not limited to large amounts of high-calorie foods. While it can include these things, savory foods can also take on an extended meaning.

The Japanese approach to taking care of my health not only made it easy, but also fun. Taking care of our health should not feel like a chore, it can instead be something integrated into our daily lives to make our well-being more important and fulfilling.

Kakei Okumura is the author of “Wa – The Art of Balance: Live healthier, happier, and longer, the Japanese way.To subscribe to Kakikata’s weekly newsletter, go to:

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