Tuesday, June 17, 2008


Thanks to the EWHAED communications team for forwarding me this. Thoughts?


Chuckles McGee said...

Sounds like an excellent campaign by the Japanese government to improve health while avoiding the stigma attached to the word "obese". By encouraging such standards, rates of diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer should drop in the coming years, increasing the health and longevity of the Japanese people while reducing health care costs. Go Japan!

Palmtreechick said...

Government guidelines for a waistline?! That's nuts! I mean it's good but it's also crazy at the same time that the government is "in charge" on one's waist.

Anonymous said...

Nothing like the government dictating what you should eat and how you should look! Yeah, sounds like an excellent plan!
(That was sarcasm, by the way.)

There is no evidence that people will be healthier by have arbitrary standards forced upon them. It's ridiculous. "Health" can't be determined by a specific weight, because everybody varies.

Plus, Japan already has one of the highest life expectancy rates in the world.

lynnie said...

I don't think it goes far enough. I think they should also have random testing to see how much alcohol everyone drinks. Alcohol's full of sugar and probably contributes to diabetes (as well as other diseases). Are they going to be making sure people eat enough food and aren't underweight? Because every major long tern study on mortality rates shows that the group with the highest mortality rate are underweight people. They shouldn't be allowed to go around too skinny like that! Don't they care about their health? Also, since this is being done to save the government health program money, they should probably outlaw all extreme sports- like skiing, mountain biking and skateboarding. People hurt themselves all the time participating in those sports and why should the whole country have to pay for it? For that matter, why not install camera's in everyone's homes to see how much sleep they get? Studies have shown that lack of sleep is a major factor in car and work accidents- not to mention it can cause one to gain weight- which is exactly what they're trying to stop! As long as the camera's are there, they might as well monitor exactly what everyone is eating, drinking, smoking and how much sitting around they do. Think how healthy Japan will be if they regulate every aspect of their citizen's lives! How wonderful for Japan!

Just don't ever make me live there.

azusmom said...

Um, how do you say "Big Brother is watching" in Japanese?

Beth said...

I like the term "Metabo," it just sounds funny. Like a big, goofy, superhero character.

Nancy Lebovitz said...

Sell any stock you've got in Japanese companies. They'll be too busy thinking about what they're eating and not eating (and what their co-workers and family members are eating and not eating) to get as much work done.

zubeldia said...

Some US companies do similar things... not relating to waist measurements but certainly there ARE random drug tests, and more recently there have been cases which involve companies forcing their workers to give up smoking. I'm not sure if this is much different given that all these policies are grounded in the idea of 'health' (though more it's likely to do with economics).

We're obviously looking at this through screwed-up-Western lenses, so I'm not sure that I want to judge Japan's policy without knowing more about it... of course, on the surface it sounds sort of horrible and intrusive, but Japan is a much more collective society where notions of individualism and privacy are quite quite different.

With all that said, I would be horrified if the uni where I work started measuring my waist... Oy.

One thing I do like, though, is the primacy put on counseling and education. I know it's sometimes taboo in the ed community but, really, excess weight can be harmful and is strong correlated (in complex ways) to many diseases and conditions. And it's also true that some foods are better than others. I know, I know.. strike me down for saying this.


lynnie said...

z- I don't think the Japanese government is really interested in making sure people have proper health education. This has more to do with trying to privatize their health care. Japan already has the lowest rates of obesity in the world. Sounds like they already know how to eat. If they do have rising rates of diabetes, it doesn't sound like it's related to weight. So why does the government point their finger at middle aged people's waists? By setting the approved waist size so low and then fining companies for the number of employees who exceed that size, they'll be able to push some of the cost of medical care off on the private sector.

I'm guessing in the future Japan is going to see a whole host of new health problems brought about by extreme dieting.

As far as nutrition education in goes, I think in the U.S. you'd have to live in a vacuum not to have heard fruits and veggies, lean meats, low fat, blah blah are supposed to be the healthiest foods and fast food as well as pretty much anything else with fat/sugar/salt in it is bad bad bad! Even us fat people know that! The only way not to know that in our culture would be to never go to school or read a magazine or have television or go to a doctor or listen to a radio. That information is in your face everywhere.

Anonymous said...

For the love of god, this is the kind of thing that makes me want to become a rampant, pro-Fat crusader (for the record, I am Not one...YET)! To quote the article:

"If necessary, those people will be steered toward further re-education after six more months."

Yes, and if they Still don't lose any weight, severe beatings will follow for improvement of initiative. Hahaha!

Japan needs to lighten up their attitude about weight. They are using some pretty disturbing techniques (penalizing companies $$ to increase peer pressure and dispproval toward these "metabo" people) to try to slim down a population that is are already pretty slim.

But those Americans! Yes, We could use a little Metabo, couldn't we? Not!!! Back off. All this pressure is just going to send people to the coffin sticks and other forms of relief. The very idea of forcing people to be weighed and measured. Ugh. That last guy in the article has it right: it's nobody's business what his waist-line is. You want to start measuring my waist, then let me start digging into Your life, eating habits and other, personal business. Raising health care costs do Not justify this kind of approach, except to those enamored of Big Brotherism

tbuddha said...

I think Americans are very naive to think that some sort of government or employment directive on the issue of obesity is not coming to the United States.

In some companies "healthy lifestyle" initiatives are already being introduced and discounts or cash are being given to those who attend a gym regularly or commit themselves to a Weight Watcher plan.

This is the way the stop smoking campaigns started. Smokers were given discounts and incentives to kick the habit. Now they are penalized if they didn't quit when given the chance and continue to smoke. In my company, just this year, smokers insurance rates went up 25%!

It is my opinion that public concern for health and obesity may be legit in certain circumstances, it should definitely should be a concern on a personal level.
More so it is an economic solution for insurance companies and employers combating rising health care costs that has been twisted to appear like it needs to be "controlled".

Anonymous said...

tbuddha, you said what I was thinking. In fact, what surprises me is that this is in Japan before here. It's almost funny, because the Japanese diet (along with the Mediterranean diet, Middle Eastern diet, and the diets of god-knows-where-else but here) has often been touted as "healthy".

I find the whole thing very disturbing. I work for a large company and there is a site with some kind of goofy name like "Livewell" where you can go and log in your stats (weight, BP, waist measurement, lifestyle habits, exercise etc.) and the "computer" will advise you on how to be more "healthy". (See, I am starting to hate that word "Healthy). And of course, no human ever reads the information!!! And of course, the data would NEVER be used to discriminate in firing, bonuses, promotions etc. Well maybe those who follow the "plan" would be "rewarded" and then it wouldn't be punitive, right?

I'm with Fauve. I could become a fat activist and I have a government-approved BMI! But every time I read one of these articles I engage in my own private revolution. I'm off to have an ice cream cone. Full fat, of course.

Anonymous said...

I think it's simplistic to assume that fat people cost more money, because obesity is not the only health condition that can drive up costs. But, even if this point is valid, obesity is not so easily controlled by the individual - or by directives such as the ones Japan is using. People diet, only to regain the weight, and more. Dieting is stressful, which can worsen health. Smoking is not the same as eating. We need to eat, and eating, itself, can set off cravings. Exercise can improve health without necessarily leading to weight loss. And, it can't be emphasized enough: once a person is obese, it's not so simple for them to lose weight. Medical science supports the idea that it's not even all that possible to lose much weight and keep it off if you are obese, which is why many turn to gastric bypass operations. Becaues Most fat people Dont' lose much weight and keep it off. I also think insurance companies do alot of heinous things that do not serve people well, so using them as a reason to possibly justify weighing and measuring everyone to within an inch of their lives does not convince me of much, if anything, other then that insurance companies are often both greedy And stupid.

Anonymous said...

Tbuddha, there are very good SCIENTIFIC reasons for charging smokers a higher premium. Smokers disproportionately use more health care dollars than nonsmokers. Smokers have higher rates of a multitude of conditions that can be controlled through costly medications and higher rates of heart disease which is very costly in terms of health care dollars.
Whether or not obesity has the same direct effect on health is a completely open question scientifically(no matter what the CDC says) so if you are overweight you don't get charged a higher health care premium.
You (along with all of your co-workers thin, fat or not) may get offered help by way of a gym membership (who doesn't want help with that), healthy eating classes (again not a bad thing) or a medical screening for blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and metabolic syndrome. All of which are treatable health conditions. If you are like me, overweight but healthy as a horse, you don't get much out of these screenings except a pat on the back and the comment to keep doing what you are doing.
Smoking is a personal choice like all other drugs. It is not a condition that arises naturally in anyone! So the fact that workers are being penalized for smoking by their workplace is not the same as being singled out for exceeding some very arbitrary measurement of health by the japanese government. It concerns me that all the Japanese are measuring is waist size and nothing else. Metabolic syndrome is a series of factors that taken together signal a possible health problem.