I know I have been putting on weight since moving to Japan, not only by looking at the digits on my scales but also by visible evidence. The other day my 3-year old daughter stood next to me in the shower, pushed her index finger knuckle deep into my belly and stated: Äiti, sulla on iso maha (Mummy, you have a big belly). I quickly pulled my stomach in and started laughing. Standing there, my daughter’s finger still stuck between the wobbly bits of my belly, I had a flashback of a blog post I had read a couple of weeks earlier. The blog post was written by a moderately overweight American woman who was first disgusted seeing a picture of herself on a beach in a bikini with all the blubber and cellulite. Her self-image improved when her young children saw the picture and commented on it by saying that she looked ‘perfect’ and ‘lovely’ and that that was the best picture of her ever. The blog post was shared thousands of times in social media and received many ’likes’ and lovely comments. And I also thought it was sweet, but was somewhat sceptical as to whether that kind of reaction would be the norm amongst children. The incident in the shower suggests that my daughter does not look at the issue of putting on weight with quite so rose tinted glasses as that woman’s children. But that’s fine. I think this just makes my daughter a rather observant 3-year old. I mean, there is no denying, my belly has recently got a bit bigger. Perhaps the reason why my daughter noticed my belly and the American lady’s children didn’t notice their mother’s belly might be related to the fact that we live in Japan and the American lady and her children live, well, in America. You see, Japanese people (both men and women) are generally extremely slim (see photo below). Practically no-one has a belly over here. American people as a group (New York and California excluded) are of course very different in this respect. So, the reason why the American lady’s children thought their mother’s moderately overweight body as nothing out of the ordinary is because (in many places) in America slightly, moderately or even severely overweight bodies are nothing out of the ordinary. In Japan, my slightly bigger belly sticks out like a Mars bar amongst bean sprouts. Yes, I’ve mentioned in my previous blog posts that I feel like an East German shot putter in comparison to Japanese women. And that was when I had just moved to Japan! So now, 5 months later when I have a bit of a bigger belly, I feel like erm… an American shot putter (see photo below – note that it is not ideally placed next to the photo of my skinny Japanese colleagues).
I really don’t like the fact I’ve put on weight. You see, when I put on weight, the excess calories tend to get glued to my belly. I suppose I have, what they call, an apple shape body. That’s what most men tend to have if they’ve overeaten as much tempura as I have. Women are supposed to put it on their bum and legs and look like pears. But no, I look like an apple (too much testosterone perhaps!). But those of you who do not know me, I might have to clarify that even though I don’t have a six-pack I do not look like a darts player either. I mean, I am at my heaviest in 15 years but in the context of the Western World’s obesity problem I suppose my body shape can be still viewed as petite as that of Tinker Bell’s.
I know what the reason for my apple appearance is. As you might have guessed, it’s not apples. Instead, it’s the lovely Japanese food: bento boxes (see photo), delicious strawberry pastries that I have mentioned before (see photos), and ice-cream that I have indulged in during the boiling hot summer of Osaka, the flavor of the summer: pineapple, and a more traditional vanilla with a Japanese twist: cornflakes at the bottom of the cup (see photo). Japanese food is just too good to resist. If you don’t mind putting on a few pounds/kilos, you should come and visit. I promise I’ll ditch my diet and take you to the best places in Osaka!
My recent 3 ½ week holiday in Finland didn’t help with all this because us living in Japan has made me miss European food (regardless of the fact that Japanese food is fantastic): Finnish BBQ meat, rye bread, mayonnaise based beetroot salad, cider, Finnish crisps and chocolate, English pub food, halloumi and anything oven made given that we do not have an oven in our apartment in Japan. Me completely letting my hair down and indulging in these favourites of mine resulted in our Finnish holiday leaving a bit extra on my waist. A disaster. But at least I had the courage to weigh myself on our return to Japan a couple of days ago. That helped me to build enough self-loathing to kick start a strict diet and so far I haven’t done my usual and quitted already.
While I was in Finland, I met up with some old school friends in a park over a picnic. It was a hot summer’s afternoon but many of us were wearing leggings under our skirts. This prompted one person in our group to mention that leggings had been mentioned in a reality TV show called ‘Swedish Hollywood Wives’. This is a TV show I have not had the pleasure of watching. In any case, these Nordic Hollywood babes had apparently criticized the fact that many women in Scandinavia wear leggings under their skirts and were perplexed as to why Scandinavian women do not want to show their legs. In case any Swedish Hollywood wives read the present blog post, it might be useful to clarify here the reason for the legging use (since the reason does not seem to be obvious to you). As one picture tells more than a thousand words, Swedish Hollywood wife please have a look at the picture below. That should clarify the issue here. (Photo taken from http://ic.steadyhealth.com/lose-cellulite-on-legs).
I appreciate that leggings may not be the most flattering piece of clothing but neither is cellulite. Before I start getting nasty responses from Swedish Hollywood wives or their fans along the lines of ‘Do some exercise you fat cow’ I should probably explain that I am planning to start doing some, as soon as I have acquired a good enough level of Japanese so that I can take up on the aerobics classes I used to do in England. So, I’d say in about 2 years time. For the next 4 weeks I will also under no circumstances do any exercise other than perhaps clenching my buttocks for a couple of sets of 20 while writing my blog posts. Doctor’s orders. You see, while on holiday I broke my little toe, badly (see photo). No weight on the ball of my right foot or toes until bone has set in its original place. And this is something I don’t want to risk – I don’t really find the possibility of my toe permanently pointing east attractive. For one, it would make putting shoes on a little difficult.
Anyway, diet has started and I can already see myself getting back in my usual East German shot putter shape. Wish me luck and if you see me please do not offer me any crisps, strawberry pastries or pineapple ice-cream.