Japan’s Weight Loss Policy

by alexandrachartrand on June 8, 2013 - 9:49pm


The Japanese population has been known worldwide to be the skinniest, as well as healthiest people in the world. I’ve always been fascinated by the Japanese culture and found myself intrigued into why they are considered to be on of the healthiest individuals. One of my family members told me that the government had implemented a law in regards of weight and employment which lead me to my own research. Indeed, Japan does impose a policy that guides people to a healthier physique and lifestyle. As employees, the Japanese must not exceed a specific waist circumference or else they might get fired. I was left flabbergasted with the thought that the government would go to that extent in order to promote healthy choices which is why this topic draws to me. Theres great importance to this ethical issue as for it addresses a new form of solution to the obesity crisis our modern society is constantly trying to confront. 

The ethical issues raised by this article consists of whether or not the government has the right to implement a policy that affects one’s personal choices, including nutrition and physical fitness. Should the government have the right to invade personal lives in order to gain health benefits for the public themselves? 

 Japan’s population only consists of a 3.5% obesity rate and their life expectancy is much greater than the rest of the world. The population reacts well to the implemented law. In addition, I profoundly believe their way of solving this crisis is working efficiently which provides many short and long term benefits. From a contradicting perspective, this law can be viewed as an invasion of privacy, that weight is a physical attribute that is allowed to be altered depending on the individual’s choice or lifestyle. This policy imposes greater stress among its workers which can lead to a decline in performance as well as other health problems. This can be created due to higher stress in the workplace.

If such success can be acquired into establishing a weight loss policy, why is this not universally used, especially in countries like the United States of America which obesity is an epidemic? 


I find this topic interesting because it is unusual for a government to interfere in it’s citizens live to the point of controlling their diets !

Without doubt obesity is an issue in America, however freedom is a value in the United States and if the government would be free to pressure his citizens to stay slim then it is almost like the leader is vested with absolute power. And if he has his people’s consent for his overdemanding policy then almost any other law following this obsessive policy, should be acceptable without any kind of open debate.

Indeed, the government’s motivation seems to be good moreover the outcomes are beneficial to the japanese itself. They are favored with a higer life expectancy when compared to the rest of the world. However, they are promoting perfectionism in their society.

The Japanese may eventually get obsessed with their weight, without even noticing it, since they will be surrounded by people with similar obsession. They are indirectly projecting hatred towards bigger people and that is obviously not acceptable. How can ones size tell anything about their working ability ? We tend to control very little in our lives and if our diets are controlled too then an individula’s liberty is completely taken away.


I found this topic interesting because in today’s society, we are constantly confronted to images and publicities where the people’s beauty is based on his slimness. This Japan’s policy completely throws me of balance: this constant pressure of being slim can even follows you at work, where you have to maintain a certain weight to keep your job. Honestly, I do not think that there is perfect weight. It is not some extra inches of fat around the stomach that will change a lot a person’s health. I have friends who constantly said that they are fat, but in fact, they are not. They compare themselves to these top models on TV. Everyone who compares themselves to top models found that they are not perfect. Being fat depends on each people perspective.
To answer to the question for readers, I think that this wealth loss policy is not universally used especially in countries like the United States of America which obesity is an epidemic because the government did not want to enter in this path. In fact, the sail of “junk food”, diets, training equipment and medicinal treatments are now making a huge part of the economy. Companies who sail these products are making a lot of money over the consumer shoulders and there is no point for them to stop it. The government have possibly lost the control over these companies or he simply does not want to enter in the citizens’ business. In reality, everyone should have the right to live the life they want without being bothered by health policies. It is naturally from the own people’s business to manage their alimentation and their time to make sport activities. If people like to eat and do not like to stay active, it is their right to do so. Mostly in U.S., people do not like to be told what to do and what not to do. The government probably prefer to keep it like that and do not want to create conflicts.
Then, to answer the ethical issue question, I think that the government should not have the right to invade personal lives in order to gain health benefits for the public themselves because there is a certain limit of life privacy that the government should not cross. Even if the Japan’s government has made this policy in the honest purpose of his population’s well-being, I think that the policy is going a little bit too far. The policy is definitely working well: in 2009, only about 3.5 percent of the Japanese population was classified as obese, but that does not mean that the Japanese agree with it. The population has grown up with this mentality of staying slim, but it does not mean that they would have done the same if they were given the choice to do otherwise. It is totally right to encourage a healthy and active lifestyle, but this rule seems to me as a little too exaggerated obligation from the government’s part.
Even if I seem strongly against this policy, I agree with the author that their way of solving this obesity crisis provides many short and long term benefits. Comparatively to a good proportion of Americans, Japanese seems to live “better” thanks to this policy. Like it is told in the article, Japanese women and men live longer and healthier than everyone else on Earth, and the Japanese live about five years longer than their counterparts in the U.S. and with far lower rates of disability and illness. The direct consequence of this low rate of disability and illness also have the good effect of making the population wealthier because they do not have to pay for any medicinal treatments related to these health problems which are very costly wherever you are on the planet. In brief, if we do not look at the other side of the coin, this policy seems to be an incredible good policy for the general well-being of the population.
For further reading, I suggest doing research on the society’s impacts of the false beauty image projected on television and in advertisements.

Considering that this is something that has been going on for years now in Japan, I actually would agree with you that their current strategy seems to be a positive one. The article doesn't speak much of any mental or big privacy issues that come from the Japanese Government's interference in their private lives so I can't really judge if it causes any negativity there. But the rules don't seem to cut iunto anyones chance of living their life they want to and actually give them a healthier and longer life. It seems that the population has grown accustomed to this and are conditioned to follow through with it.

I find this article very interesting and it caught my attention. Obesity is majorly cause by junk food. Too much people eats junk food because it is really cheap compared to healthy food. We can take the United States as an example, where obesity rate is really high. At USA, literally at every corner there is a McDonald’s. I was also really impressed that a country like Japan would do that much for their citizen. Their government has done a really good job controlling the habits of the Japanese’s. Recently, the country where the obesity level is the highest is no longer United States. Mexico toke their place. The biggest factor that causes obesity in Mexico are the soft drinks.
I think that the world has to change somehow because it is not normal that there is countries where 1/3 of their population are obese and there is countries where the population has trouble to feed themselves.


I strongly agree with you that this law is an invasion of privacy. As human beings, we should be free to maintain whatever weight we choose. Not everybody prefers a leaner body weight, and being at risk of losing your job if you don't comply with the weight standards of your workplace is unjust. Workers should be judged solely on their performance in the workplace, and not on the choices they decide to make concerning their diet and exercise. You noted that the standards set by employers can cause workers to feel even more stressed, because they have to worry about their weight on top of their other responsibilities. High levels of stress hormones in the body have been linked with weight-gain, therefore these measures may bring about the opposite effect.
In addition, it's important to note that having such a strict weight criteria can cause workers to take drastic measures to lose weight. Not to mention, if some people go as far as starving themselves, their performance will undoubtedly suffer. Under-eating leads to decreased levels of energy and concentration, both of which are needed in the workplace. In addition, a worker can be very devoted and had-working, but may have a genetic predisposition or hormonal imbalance making it harder for them to lose weight. Should they be allowed to lose their job over circumstances out of their control?
It can be said that the intentions of this weight loss policy are virtuous to a certain extent. After all, its aim is to lower the country's obesity rate. It has been shown to be successful up to now, as Japan has a significantly low obesity rate and relatively high life span. However, the consequences can be stressful and even life threatening in severe cases. As a country, it is ethically wrong to impose such an invasive policy in the lives of your citizens. Yes, it may do wonders for a worker's physical health, but it puts their mental health at stake.

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