The Psychology Behind Why Japanese People Are So Healthy
Visit a McDonald’s in Japan and you’ll understand why
Whenever I talk to someone who has visited Japan, an ex-pat who has lived there or a tourist just passing by, they will more often than not mention something about the fast-food chains there.
“If they tried to pull the same stunt in the United States, there would literally be riots.”
“But again, the United States can probably learn something from Japan. It would explain why Japanese people have a much easier time staying lean.”
What may surprise you is that we are not talking about different menu options at Japanese fast food chains compared to American ones — we are talking about the portion sizes.
What makes food in Japan healthier than in the United States
It’s a running joke in my family how a small size beverage at a McDonald’s in the United States is the large size at a McDonald’s in Japan, but this statement holds a lot of truth.
It’s not just size at McDonald's, but other fast-food chains and restaurants. Starbucks has a special “short” size in Japan, which is only 8 oz. (240 ml). The smallest Domino’s pizza in Japan comes in a size “M,” a 9-inch diameter (23 cm), whereas the smallest size, “small,” in the U.S. is 10 inches. If you visit a restaurant in Japan, the meals are portioned so you’re expected to comfortably finish it in one sitting, while in the United States, meals are often impossible to finish without a takeaway container at the end.
In this way, Japanese fast-food markets the same sizes as smaller portions. A “short” size for adults in Japan is the kid’s size in the United States, and what’s defined as “medium” in Japan is America’s “small.”
What makes a Japanese diet sustainable for the modern lifestyle is not that it eliminates fast food or refined sugars, but that it practices moderation. As a society, its citizens aren’t pressured to exercise extreme self-control or restrictions to eat healthily, but psychologically, Japanese nutrition education is formed around values of balance. To neither overstuff nor feel deprived, healthy eating begins with choosing the right plate…