Travel, Teach, Live in Japan
Japan whole-heartedly throws itself into fads from hula hoops to banana diets. As Japan continues to move from post World War II and postwar hunger toward greater and greater problems with metabolic syndrome and obesity, more and more people in Japan are fascinated with diets. Like many other people around the world, many Japanese are looking for a quick answer. While some might suggest lifestyle changes involving more exercising, better dietary habits and fewer calories, this does not seem to have overpowering attraction for many people who are interested in losing weight. They are searching for the magic bullet. Recent years have seen diet fads focusing on bananas, natto, and agar.
The banana diet has been the most recent. Living under a rock, just like Homer Simpson, I didn't realize how pervasive the banana diet fad was until I stopped by at a local supermarket to buy some bananas. They are usually piled high in bunches of five, six, seven, or eight bananas. Instead I was greeted by the sight of a few bunches, each with three bruised and browning bananas wrapped together in plastic wrap. A large sign over these few lonely banana bunches read only one bunch per customer. I bought some apples instead.
The banana diet was based on eating bananas with room water temperature in the morning and whatever you want during the rest of the day. A pharmacist created the banana diet for her overweight husband. He lost weight and posted the diet information on Mixi, the social networking service. The banana diet boom exploded. Bananas were rocketing off the shelves and prices went up. I ate fewer bananas for a while. Then, banana consumption seemed to decrease. Now I can easily buy bananas.
Before the banana diet fad was the natto diet fad, propelled into fame by appearing on a television. The television show claimed that natto was the magic bullet. Natto, which is fermented bean paste, is very healthy food, but the TV program made even greater claims. Eat two packs of natto, the first in the morning and the second in the evening, and that would be enough. People could lose weight without any other work. Exercise was not necessary, nor were any changes in diet. The claim was that the isoflavones in natto and something else that caused DHEA secretion enabled this. Natto sold out at supermarkets all over Japan.
The natto diet began to fade when the true story emerged: the program simply made up the story. The actual science behind the story was fabricated as was the study that the program claimed to have conducted.
Before the truly amazing and incredible natto diet was the truly incredible and amazing agar diet. Agar is a gelatinous substance that comes from seaweed. You can use agar to make jellies, custards and more. Agar is approximately 80% fiber. If you eat agar, it triples in size and absorbs water. The agar diet simply required eating a dish of jelly made from agar before each meal. The agar diet also came from same television show as the amazing natto diet.
Going back in time before the agar diet or forward in time from the banana diet will certainly produce another amazing diet. Agar, natto, and bananas all offer great health benefits, but none was the magic bullet. Still, hope lives on and millions of people still watch television programs about health and diets, waiting for the next grand solution to the world's weight problem. Who knows? A real magic bullet could be just around the corner.
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