As we learned from the massive report called “Reframing Childhood Obesity: Cultural Insights on Nutrition, Weight, and Food Systems,” Japan requires adults to be measured yearly, and refers people with too-large waistlines to lifestyle intervention classes.
If the situation in a district is unacceptable, the local branch of government may be fined, and so may the company that a person or a relative of theirs works for. These institutions try to prevent such penalties by offering counseling, nutrition classes, and free exercise programs. There is also a cultural element that probably helps:
Rather than using the word “obesity,” which has negative connotations, the Japanese refer to “metabolic syndrome…” The general view is that speaking about fighting “metabo” seems much less offensive to individuals than speaking about fighting obesity, as it re-frames the focus to a health perspective, rather than openly criticizing the aesthetics of someone’s body.
Probably a lot of the credit for Japanese fitness belongs to the school lunches which, to quote teacher Jessica Korteman’s, are “awesome.” Elementary school children have a hot lunch for the equivalent of about $2.50 per day. The illustration on this page, though a cold brought-from-home meal, is similar to the variety and nutrition found in a typical school lunch. But equally important is the way things are done. Korteman’s very explicit article is highly recommended.
France seems to have devised a way to combine school lunches (which after all, need to be pretty standardized) with a certain amount of joie de vivre. In some places, the authorities do not simply ask skinny people what is wrong with the status quo, or how it should be changed. They also listen to people who are “living in large bodies,” as the genteel phrase has it.
Brazil’s policies are quite sensitive to such matters as fat shaming, weight bias, stigma, and discrimination, and try hard to move things in another direction. The country’s Values-Based Nutritional Guidelines comprise 10 principles. Among other cultural mores, fresh foods and foods that have undergone minimal processing are preferred.
Similarly, Chile has used labeling laws and taxation to resist the ultra-processing trend that cranks out hyper-palatable products. To take such a stand is difficult, because the global corporations that make the stuff pretty much have their own way in everything.
In the Netherlands, one area of focus seems to be communication, specifically between government agencies, the private sector (meaning business), and the civilians who bear the consequences of both of their impetuous blunders. In New Zealand, with its fraught history of colonialism and racism, the philosophical ground is shaky. But things like this are happening:
Māori Systems Thinking Public health efforts have built on Māori systems thinking, introducing a holistic and collective approach to community interventions.
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Source: “Reframing Childhood Obesity: Cultural Insights on Nutrition, Weight, and Food Systems,” Vanderbilt.edu, 2022
Image by Maria/CC BY 2.0