The Corner

Chew on This Fat

I was reading the Global Post this morning and came across this piece, which prompted a major double-take:

In Japan, being thin isn’t just the price you pay for fashion or social acceptance. It’s the law. . . .

In Japan, already the slimmest industrialized nation, people are fighting fat to ward off dreaded metabolic syndrome and comply with a government-imposed waistline standard. Metabolic syndrome, known here simply as “metabo,” is a combination of health risks, including stomach flab, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, that can lead to cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Concerned about rising rates of both in a graying nation, Japanese lawmakers last year set a maximum waistline size for anyone age 40 and older: 85 centimeters (33.5 inches) for men and 90 centimeters (35.4 inches) for women.

Suspecting some kind of misunderstanding or hoax, I poked around for confirmation. I suppose the New York Times will do in a pinch. From June 13 of last year:

Under a national law that came into effect two months ago, companies and local governments must now measure the waistlines of Japanese people between the ages of 40 and 74 as part of their annual checkups. That represents more than 56 million waistlines, or about 44 percent of the entire population.

Those exceeding government limits — 33.5 inches for men and 35.4 inches for women, which are identical to thresholds established in 2005 for Japan by the International Diabetes Federation as an easy guideline for identifying health risks — and having a weight-related ailment will be given dieting guidance if after three months they do not lose weight. If necessary, those people will be steered toward further re-education after six more months.

For all I know, some Cornerite may have opined on this noxious law already. I missed it. At least now, when some of us object to the latest outrages from America’s fat police, we can point to Japan as a cautionary tale. Though perhaps our fat police will just be inspired by their newly empowered counterparts.

John Hood — John Hood is president of the John William Pope Foundation, a Raleigh-based grantmaker that supports public policy organizations, educational institutions, arts and cultural programs, and humanitarian relief in North Carolina ...

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