Japan fights obesity with a mandate and nudges

Worried about the economic and social costs of obesity, Japan has instituted a national law forbidding waist lines larger than 33.5 inches for men and 34.5 inches for women.

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.

Violators are given nutritional guidance and “further education” if they are still overweight after six months of dieting. The law has prompted companies to adopt nudges.

With the new law, Matsushita has to measure the waistlines of not only its employees but also of their families and retirees. As part of its intensifying efforts, the company has started giving its employees “metabo check” towels that double as tape measures.

“Nobody will want to be singled out as metabo,” Kimiko Shigeno, a company nurse, said of the campaign. “It’ll have the same effect as non-smoking campaigns where smokers are now looked at disapprovingly.”

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3 Responses to “Japan fights obesity with a mandate and nudges”

  1. amylundberg Says:

    Obese people are not very warmly welcomed by society. In many cases, obese people would have an inferiority complex that he/she is very much different from the others. This would even affect their mental and physical wellbeing.

  2. Karlie Says:

    It’s okay if they want to nip their growing obesity concerns in the bud, but associating shame with being overweight and calling an above-average waistline “forbidden” sounds like it will cause a lot of social problems, especially for young people. They tried this sort of thing in America by making a lot of major clothing lines too small for overweight people to wear, saying that if they saw they couldn’t fit in clothes, they would stop being overweight. That sort of thing doesn’t work. The waist measuring and advice is fine, but assuming that being “a metabo” will be so horrible, the person will just stop being that way like they decided to be and it’s not a struggle for them seems like a blatant enablement of school bullying and low self-confidence. I commend the quick response to growing health concerns and the fact that they’re doing it for the good of the people, but the concept that obesity can be banished by increasing social pressure, in changing clothing sizes or using words like “forbidden” and “illegal” in order to ostracize people so they’ll become healthy, is a tired theory and it never works. It just gives people sad lives and extra struggles.

  3. James Says:

    Measuring the waistline is not how you measure obesity. Tall people will have a larger waistline even if they’re thin. Use your brain. “Hi, this 6′-5″ tall person has a 34″ waistline. Violator.” It just does not work that way.

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