My post last week about my Japanese student’s observation that most white people are the shape of Doraemon, the Japanese Garfield, got me thinking about something I noticed a while back while I was visiting my original home of Canada.
As someone who’s lived in Japan for over ten years now, I’ve found that most North Americans are suffering from a kind of inverse-dysmorphia. It is not like dysmorphia, such as anorexia, where they think they have a body flaw when they don’t, but rather that they think they are far less flawed than they are. Particularly in terms of weight.
Normal people are thought of as skinny; chubby people think they are normal; fat people think they are chubby; and obese people might, at a stretch, admit that they are fat. And the morbidly obese are now afflicted by a disability completely beyond their control
I observed this phenomenon at a big barbecue. One woman said to another, “No, I won’t have any cake, I’m trying to lose a few pounds.” Another woman responded with, “Oh, don’t worry about it, you’re just a little chubby.”
In looking the two women over, and everyone else there, I could not help but think:
“No, you aint chubby. The both of you are fat. Everyone here is fat. Ya’ll are real fat.”
Now, don’t get me wrong: I was and am fat too. So I wasn’t going to say anything and upset the whole delusional scene everyone had set up for themselves. But at least I know where I’m at.
And if I were to say anything, the most reasonable response to my observation probably would have been something like:
“Oh, but you’re just used to living in Japan were everyone’s too skinny. It’s not healthy being that skinny.”
No. Just, no.
The way people look in Japan is the way humans are supposed to look. Check out the family photo albums of your oldsters if you don’t believe me. People were not all shaped like balloon animals back in the day.
It is not like there’s some inherent racial reason that Japanese people in Japan are thin this way, either. I recall when my father was visiting us in Japan a few years ago, I was waiting for him to arrive in Narita airport. His plane was late, so I was watching other planes’ passengers coming through the arrival doors. Lots and lots of Asians, from all over Asia. All normal shaped. Then, a load came through the doors: about half East Asians, twenty percent South Asians, and thirty percent white people. Almost everyone was fat.
“Ah,” I said to myself, “this is the flight from Vancouver.”
Sure enough, it was my father’s flight. He’s also really fat, by the way.
I make all these observations not to be mean. It is simply a curious thing that North American society has collectively slipped into this mode of thinking that willfully ignores what is healthy for what is comfortable and comforting.
You can move the goalposts on what is normal, or beautiful, or natural, all you want. This will not change human physiology. Being obese is unhealthy. It leads to hypertension, heart disease, stroke, and physical infirmity. It is also a major comorbitity in corona virus deaths.
Suit yourselves. Everyone has the right to abuse themselves in whatever manner they want. I do! But I’m not kidding myself about what I am. And it couldn’t hurt to pull our perceptions out of our bubbles once a while and find out how we and our culture are perceived by others once in a while, could it? Particularly when, in many people’s cases, their bubbles are delusional and killing them.
Just an observation.