Being Fat Illegal in Japan


This is a a bit of an older issue but I actually just caught onto it- being fat is apparently illegal in Japan. 

Companies are keeping tabs on their employees health and in particular their waistlines. Anyone over 40 is measured, men over 33 1/2 inches and women over 35 1/2 inches are considered overweight. 

Click here to watch the video for more info. 

While this may seem like an invasion of privacy, what I found interesting was that companies are offering healthier meals and exercise programs for employees and are encouraging them to do simple things, like taking the stairs. 

What do you think of this- good/bad/indifferent? Do the companies have a right to do this? 

Nov 18, 2011 @ 10:03 am

5 Replies


tricky tricky

I see this from several sides. And first and foremost, I think it should be illegal to fire someone based on their weight. In the West, we have anti-discriminatory laws that are designed to prevent just that, but we all know that some companies find creative ways to trim their staff (if you'll pardon the pun).

It costs a company a lot of money to offer health benefits, and it's no secret that obese and morbidly obese people have some health problems that others do not. It's also true that overly slender people can have health problems that their "average-sized" co-workers do not.

What ends up happening in companies whose health insurance rates are based on employee medical/health statistics (and many are), is that they spread the higher enrollment cost of the benefits over everyone, including those who are of "average" size. Employees who have to participate in medical coverage plans (i.e. most of us) see their premiums and deductibles rise accordingly too.

I have heard of companies that try to help their employees by offering incentives to quit smoking, lose weight, etc. This might be through cash bonuses to those who achieve the set standard, free company gym memberships, free stop-smoking medications/patches, etc. I applaud this because instead of simply raising the costs of benefits or forcing an employee out, they are trying to be part of the solution instead of part of the problem.

Of course, there needs to be allowances for that small percentage of people who have medical reasons why they cannot get below a certain BMI. For the vast majority of us though, losing weight is often doable with the right program, the right lifestyle choices, and the right support. Let's face it - we have all kinds of excuses, and they usually start with "I hate salad" or "I don't have time to go for an evening walk".

As for the metrics that Japan is using (33.5" for men, 35.5" for women), I guess I'd need to understand more about the average Japanese stature to know what that means. Are Japanese people on average a little shorter than a North American/European? I know of several men in my circle who are in spectacular shape and have 33 or 34" waists. Their BMI is well inside the healthy range.

I do think though that western countries don't do enough to incentivize people to be more proactive about their health. How about instead of subsidizing prescription drugs, we start subsidizing wellness programs? (of course, that wouldn't apply to those with non-weight related prescriptions)

Just my 2 (long) cents!
Nov 18, 2011 @ 10:41 am
Ali de Bold


I think it's great they are encouraging health, but this seems quite extreme. Is it really any of their business?
Nov 18, 2011 @ 04:04 pm


I think the encouraging of of a healthy diet, exercise is really great. But going so far as to measure their waistlines etc is way too extreme. Some people no matter how much they diet, exercise have rounder shapes due to to genes, hormones. So it's not fair to ostracize them and way too invasive into your life in my opinion.
Nov 18, 2011 @ 05:56 pm

This is awesome!

The healthy eating choices and exercise regime is an excellent way to help people stay on track to a healthy lifestyle.

The monitoring waistlines wouldn't be so bad if the person's entire health history was taken into consideration and a unique profile was made for each individual.

Blanket decisions about fitting into "categories" is lame, hence why the BMI chart is total crap.

Nov 18, 2011 @ 07:39 pm


Is it in Japan where the are encouraged to work 14 hrs a day and have a word for "died from working to excess" seems like a huge contradiction. Be thin & work yourself to death.
May 18, 2012 @ 04:26 pm

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