Japan sets nationwide waistline limits to curb obesity

June 26, 2008 5:49:26 AM PDT
The Japanese government is trying to hold the line on a "growing" nation by spotlighting workers' waistlines.

In fact, the government has set limits to just how overweight their workers can be. And, it's launched a nationwide campaign to help people slim down on the job.

One by one, belly by belly, the guts came out, and got measured at the headquarters of Japanese computing giant NEC.

Naoki Wada is not looking forward to this. At 93 centimeters - 36 and a half inches - he is overweight, according to the Japanese government.

And that won't do under new national guidelines. If he doesn't lose weight, his company faces massive fines, in the form of increased government health premiums,

Yasuhiko Tashiro, in NEC's Human Resources Division, says, "This goal is really tough. It's a challenge."

Companies, as well as local governments, must now measure the waistlines of all employees and family members over the age of 40. Men over 33 and a half inches, and women over 36 inches, are considered overweight.

To Americans, that's not fat. However, Japan is a nation that's not very big. It is getting bigger, thanks to the introduction of American-style eating.

The traditional Japanese meal looks has some vegetables, miso soup, and fish. Total calorie count, 600. But along came American fast food - Big Mac, french fries, and a cola. Total calorie count, 1300. More than twice the Japanese meal."

NEC doesn't put American food in its cafeteria. Facing 19 million dollars in penalties if its employees don't slim down, it is encouraging a low-calorie, healthy diet.

Exercise music pumps out over the loudspeaker twice a day, in an effort to get workers moving. NEC is also encouraging workers to take the stairs, and exercise at every other floor.

American NEC employee Joseph Jasper says the measures are a little extreme, and he can't imagine U-S employers doing it. However, he says it still provides a lesson for his home country. Jasper says, "There are things we can learn from each other, and this happens to be something that is, you know, good for your health."

NEC managers say they can't FORCE employees to slim down, but it has issued some workers, including Naoki Wada, a pedometer.

They hope he walks into his next weigh-in session with a lighter load.