7 Japanese Weight Loss Secrets
Japan consistently ranks among the lowest in the world for obesity, so it’s safe to say they know something the rest of us don’t. According to a 2017 report, the adult obesity rate in Japan is a relatively low 3.7%. In Australia, that figure jumps to 27.9%.
So what are the Japanese doing that we aren’t? While some of their tactics—like smaller portion sizes—are common knowledge, others are unconventional and might surprise you. Remember that the information below is not medical advice; if you have any questions ask your doctor.
Here are 7 Japanese weight loss secrets that you can try at home.
1. Introduce variety into your diet
Variety is the spice of life, and it can also lead to weight loss. But first, what exactly does it mean to have a varied diet? Nutrition Australia estimates that the average Australian eats 15 to 18 different foods each week. While that may sound like a reasonable variety, it’s almost half of the Japanese recommendations.
Japan is the only country to clearly define how many different foods constitute a variety, recommending people eat a minimum of 30 different foods each day. Suddenly, 15 to 18 per week doesn’t sound so varied, does it?
Increasing variety in your diet can lead to better health, longer life, and a lower risk of heart disease. You’re also more likely to tick off the nutrients you need, which is good news for your body.
2. Follow the principles of hara hachi bu
The residents of the Japanese island of Okinawa have plenty of health secrets; after all, they’re routinely referenced for longevity and good health. One of those secrets is ‘hara hachi bu,’ which means only eating until you’re 80% full.
Instead of eating until you’re about to pop, put down your fork early. We often eat until we are full, sometimes uncomfortably so. Flip your way of thinking by aiming to eat until you stop feeling hungry. It may take time to retrain your brain (not to mention your stomach), but over time you should notice that you’re eating less.
3. Eat more soup
Japanese meals usually come with a small bowl of broth-based soup. This plays several roles in losing weight and keeping it off. Clear soups can be filling, but they tend to be lower in calories than other foods.
Research suggests that by starting your meal with soup, you then go on to eat less during your meal. In fact, one study showed that eating soup before lunch led to subjects consuming 20% fewer calories overall.
You can take it one step further and make soup your meal, as the Japanese often do. Try an udon noodle soup for a dish that’s healthy and flavourful.
4. Do breathing exercises
Here’s where we get into the more unconventional Japanese weight loss methods, starting with a breathing method made popular by Japanese actor Miki Ryosuke. The actor’s doctor suggested a breathing technique that reportedly resulted in a 13kg weight loss.
Here’s how this ‘long-breath diet’ works. First, stand with one foot planted in front of the other. Then, clench your glutes and put your weight on the back foot. Inhale for three seconds while raising your arms overhead. Finish by lowering your arms and clenching all of your muscles as you exhale strongly for seven seconds. Practice for two minutes each day.
Sceptical? So were we. But there might be something to it—a 2014 study in the British Medical Journal reports that it could burn almost a quarter of a kilo per day. The theory is that increased oxygen intake breaks fat cells into carbon and water, boosting your metabolism and burning more fat.
5. Try the Japanese towel trick for weight loss
This one’s a little wild, but it’s easy to do. Created by Japanese doctor Toshiki Fukutsudzi, this weight loss method was originally intended to improve posture.
Grab a towel and roll it longways, then lie on your back on a hard surface, tucking the rolled-up towel at the base of the arch of your spine. Keep your feet shoulder-width apart, and touch your toes together to create a triangle.
Next, stretch your arms overhead, touching your pinky fingers together. Hold the position for five minutes; it may feel uncomfortable but should not be painful. That’s it!
Does it actually work? That’s still up in the air, but if it leads to better posture, less back pain, and weight loss it could be worth a try.
6. Take a walk in the woods
The Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing, could lead to weight loss. This isn’t your ordinary bushwalk; the secret is to take it slow and be mindful of your surroundings. Use all of your senses to soak in your surroundings, and take your time.
This is one Japanese weight-loss method that has science to back it up, with studies showing a host of benefits from better heart health and sleep to an improved mood and weight loss.
7. Eat less
We admit that this one isn’t a secret, but it’s something Japanese people are doing that Australians aren’t. On average, people in Japan consume 2,717 calories per day. In Australia, that number shoots up to 3,267.
Take it from Japan—lower your daily calorie intake and weight loss is likely to follow.