Ovid wrote an interesting post discussing the differences in weight between Americans and Europeans. The Japanese appear to be thin yet there is still a lot of concern about obesity and the indicators of metabolic syndrome in Japan. Actually, I had never heard of metabolic syndrome until I moved to Japan and was very shocked to hear people that I would consider to be underweight discuss their concerns about becoming obese.
On the World Health Statistics report for 2011 the number of Japanese men over the age of 20 that were considered to be obese was 5.5%. For American men the figure was 30.2%, and for British men the figure was 24.4%. The definition of obese used was “individuals with a body mass index (BMI) ≥30.00 kg/m2“.
The Japanese, however, don’t think about obesity in the same terms as Europe or America. My husband, Marty, works in Japan and has annual health checks. As part of this he is weighed and his waist circumference is measured. Ovid quoted the following figure as the average weight for a British man – 79.75 kilos (175 pounds). Marty is about the same weight as the average British man and has about 20% body fat. His BMI is less than 30 but in Japan he is considered to be obese. He is very healthy but he gets a grade “C” for weight. Yes, he actually gets grades for everything that is tested. They have told him that his ideal body weight is 62.5 kilos (138 pounds)! (Since I’m from Northern Ireland I just have to write that in stone: they want Marty to weigh just over 9 and a half stone!).
The other measure for obesity is his waist circumference. The Japanese government has decreed that men should have a waist of less than 85 centimeters (33.5 inches) or they are at risk for metabolic syndrome. Marty’s waist is currently 89 centimeters (35 inches), another strike against him. Japan isn’t the only country that uses waist circumference as a health indicator. But in America there are concerns when a man’s waist is larger than 102 centimeters (40 inches) and in Europe if it is over 94 centimeters (37 inches).
Marty doesn’t get overly annoyed at the results he gets from work, after all since moving to Japan he has lost 10 kilos (22 pounds), but I am glad that I don’t have someone grading me on my weight.