“I think I am very fat,” a 40-year-old Japanese woman of normal weight whose BMI is verging on “thin” tells the Wall Street Journal, and that’s the story all over the island nation. Japan continues to be the thinnest industrialized nation, and its women have gotten more svelte over the past 40 years, even as, hmm, the US ballooned. But an extremely competitive culture means they don’t see it.
Media ideals of slimness coupled with that competition results in a disconnect: 40% of respondents in a recent study said other women with normal BMI looked fat. Women “monitor each other with a serious sharp eye,” says a doctor. Japanese men do have a weight problem, and the government is trying to fight it. But that focus leads skinny women to the “mistaken view that they are all getting fat,” says another. But the doc is baffled by us. “You see all these beautiful skinny people on television, and yet Americans keep getting fatter anyway. Why is that?”