Are you a college student who stays away from home, in a hostel and manages to loose some of those love handles that you developed back at home with so much effort but when you reach home it all goes to waste? When your Indian mother looks at you after 5 months, her child all shrivelledup, weak and tired, she manages to feed you elephants’ worth food getting you back to square one and having you to start that process all over again when you leave only for it to happen again in the next vacations. We all know this phenomenon of “Indian moms feeding us to death” but we still don’t do anything about it. Maybe cause we secretly like it? I mean, who can say no to this spectacular cooking, however it can lead to quite a large number of problems. ON the contrary, how many fat Japanese people have we seen? Almost none, right? A recent survey concluded that only only 3.5% of the population is obese. So what is Japan doing right and we are doing wrong?
Although eating habits are the leading changes in lifestyle that help curb obesity, other habits help along the way too. Simply, the lifestyle that the Japanese follow help them against obesity. They mostly walk or cycle to workplaces and schools. They also mostly use public transport which requires them to walk a great deal. This not only helps them stay active but also reduces the country’s overall emissions. Also children are encouraged to participate in sports or clubs that keep them healthy right from an early age. Starting early is a good first step towards a healthy life.
To start with the fight against obesity, the food quality and preparation is the foremost point of discussion. The cooking habits of the Japanese people are very clean. They mostly stew, boil, smoke, grill or steam their food. All these techniques require minimal to no oil, which is one of the worst cooking choices when one is trying to loose weight.
On speaking about fried food, the first thing that comes to mind is fast food. The greasy, full of deliciousness, mouth – watering meal that later on clogs your arteries. But it is so good, right!! But what is the other reason fast food sells out…. well, so fast? Because it is a quick bite. It is easier to grab it and be on the run when you are late to the office. On a survey, majority of the American people grab a coffee and a doughnut to work which is full of preservatives, trans fats and sugar or a greasy sandwich from any fast food joint around. However in Japan, this is not really the case. Every fast food place has a local eatery beside it. All these local eateries have fixed menus and hence are at the liberty to prepare meals earlier which helps with fast distribution of food. They give you a general Japanese breakfast serving which is a bowl of rice, a bowl of soup, an egg, grilled fish and a side of kimchi. You can add other sides for additional charges. All this is very cheap and easily available. Having to pay the same or in certain places less than the fast food chains proves to be better as people opt for those. More places of a certain kind only make you want to go their even more as they are many in number. It is the same in America for fast food joints. Japan has almost one – third the number of those establishments. Convenient stores offer variety of food choices which are healthier if you don’t have time to sit and eat. You may get a rice ball, a hard boiled egg, a sandwich and more healthier options all for under a dollar. As opposed to this, in an American convenient store, firstly are less in number; and secondly, they offer minimal to none healthy choices.
Another world wide – known, Japanese attraction are it’s vending machines. They are found in every nook and corner of Japan, even in the least populated areas. Even though they are so well distributed and thus, many, they are filled with options. This only increases in healthy intake. IT gives you options being water, many varieties of unsweetened tea, energy drinks and black coffee. A typical vending machine in America offers thirteen different types of drinks and the only unsweetened one is water. The others are mostly carbonated, to top it all off.
Drinking culture in Japan is slightly different when compared with other countries. Often with drinks a number of healthy options are served. They eat baked fish, steamed edamame and beans, stewed pork and other meats. Sushi is also served which is basically vinegar rice with fish. These are better choices as opposed to fried food that is usually eaten with drinks. These food aren’t only limited to drinking. They are also used in snacks. Natto and edamame are popular after school snacks for children along with unsweetened drinks for refreshments.
Often the meals are accompanied with condiments or sides. These are also chosen to be healthier. The most popular side all across is pickled vegetables and kimchi (which is also a kind of pickling technique but slightly different ). They are also huge fans of boiled vegetables as accompaniments to food. They are often not even salted. Lighter meal accompaniments lead to lighter meals itself which would lead us to the desired goal.
Breakfast or asa gohan (asa = morning and gohan = meal which loosely translates to breakfast) is considered the most important meal of the day. Often office goers, who miss their breakfast, make sure they grab something healthy and easy to eat on the run while making their way to their office. They make sure to not miss it. This particular meal is eaten in a larger quantity than any other meal of the day. Then comes lunch which is mostly in school or office. Rules and etiquette is followed and is eaten lesser than the prior meal. It is believed by the Japanese that eating more at work can often lead to lethargy and that might get you to slack off. Work is not something that the Japanese put a half – hearted effort in. Dinner is the most lightest of the meals by every class of people in Japan. They eat an early and light dinner as they consider the idea of eating less before bed to be right for the body, which is also proven to be right.
Meal proportions mostly are fixed in Japan. Also everyone eats at a designated time, mostly according to the kind of place you are in. This reduces the chances of you eating in more quantities and eating at odd times as these two extremely unhealthy habits are some of the leading causes of obesity. There are three stages of eating : almost full, being full and over eating. The Japanese believe that what’s best for your body is to stop eating whatever you are eating right before you get full. This gives you sufficient energy to do your work while not feeling suggish.
Traditional desserts are almost non existent in Japan. Commercialization has got foreign desserts into Japan but originally they refrained eating sweetened items other than candy. Mochi is one of the most famous Japanese desserts. It is a rice flour and water based dessert which is barely sweet.
This lifestyle may look extremely difficult at first but the only reason the Japanese excel at it is because the whole country more or less follows the same lifestyle. If everyone around you is living healthy, so will you. Like they always say, this body is a temple and should be kept well as it is the only place you have to stay.