Impossibly thin because you're Asian


Moe Yabasawa from SKET DANCE

Peter Payne of J-List recently wrote a short piece on body size differences between people in the US and Japan, or Asians in general from my approach. As he says:

Japanese can seem impossibly thin to Americans, with an average height and weight of 171 cm/68 kg (5’7”/149 lbs) for men and 159 cm/51 kg (5’2”/114 lbs) for women, at the age of 30.

Although he makes some interesting comments on Japanese that are “actually overweight” and various weight-loss techniques that Japanese try, it seems to me he fails to really explore the differences too thoroughly.

Intake to take in

In my opinion, the ‘thinness’ of Japanese is largely to do with their diet, as it is not too heavily based on red-meats that are more favourited by Westerners (as far as I can tell), but largely based on seafood and white meats. This has a lower fat content, and with rice a large part of many people’s meals, can help maintain a healthy, low GI diet.

For Americans, with so much fast food it can be easy to have a greasy and oily meal of chips, burgers and the like, all while eating red meats with higher fat. Not to mention what appears a more sedentary lifestyle in general, though of course I have not experienced either society enough to really say.

Not all Japanese are always depicted as thin though, even though those depicted in anime and manga sometimes do appear almost as impossibly thin as the Japanese people themselves. Some otaku and hikikomori that hole themselves up in their homes and spend all their time in front of their computer and not leaving their house are sometimes depicted as chubby.. in a slightly condescending way.

Asian sizing

Peter Payne also tells the story of a female Japanese employee who was brought over to the US and had to look for childrens’ clothes, in order to fit her slender frame. I know several friends who go through the same routine here in Australia, but anyone who has experience purchasing clothes from Asian stores would find their sizes unbelievably small.

In an Australian sense, I think of myself as fairly average although it wouldn’t hurt for me to lose some weight. But it’s easily to quickly feel ‘fat’ when it comes to buying clothes from an Asian store, where I would easily be an XL, even as I wear size 8 clothes in Australia.

A friend of mine recently went to parts of Asia, and commented on Twitter that she felt ‘fat’ after going clothes shopping, even though she is one of the skinniest people I know. In America it’s easier to feel confident, as I hear from a reliable source, where a size 8 Australian would be a size 6 US.

Despite what seems to be the ‘norm’ in these countries though, not all Japanese, or Asian people, are slender, and not all Americans are fat either, although those are the groups most well represented in media. There are short chubby Japanese housewives, and there are skinny and glamorous American models.

As an Asian on the somewhat ‘bigger boned’ end of the spectrum (literally, my bones are much thicker than my brothers’) and in the past always told by my parents that I was fat and needed to lose some weight, often genetics can seem unfair. But there are all types of people. It’s hard to do, but we have to work with what we have.