It's that time of the year when people get opportunities to feast away at year-end gatherings and Christmas parties, but at the same time some might be telling themselves, "I shouldn't eat too much." Many women, especially, try to cut back on calories.
However, some people experience malnutrition due to their determination to diet. It's been reported that the daily calorie intake of an average Japanese woman in her 20s today is approximately 1,700 kilocalories -- about the same figure as seen in postwar Japan when food was scarce. While it depends on the individual, 1,700 kilocalories per day is reportedly around 300 kilocalories less than what is necessary.
When there was little food available right after World War II, everyone in Japan must have thought they wanted to eat until they were completely full. But now that people live in abundance in this country, they are refraining themselves from eating. How ironic.
When I told this to my students in a class I teach at a college, everyone seemed to be surprised. A female student told me that she is on a diet and has been cutting back on her meals. She cited television as one of the reasons why she was on a diet, saying that actresses who are thin are pampered by everyone on TV while chubby comediennes are made fun of for being "sloppy" and "unattractive." She said watching that made her "afraid."
I've heard that making fun of someone's body as comedy only works on Japanese TV. Regardless, I want this to stop by any means possible.
Meanwhile, another student said they changed their mind (about body image) after they started watching American TV shows on their smartphone. Actors of different body types appear in American drama series and their characters solve crimes and fall in love. The student told me that watching those shows made them realize "not just skinny people are cool."
It is true that fit and good-looking actors are featured in Japanese and South Korean TV drama programs, while their American counterparts cast actors of different race, body type and age. Come to think of it, the latter is more natural.
It's easy to say "what counts is inside not the outside" when it comes to humans, but when you flip pages of a magazine, all you see are beautiful men and women posing as models, and you unknowingly develop the idea that at the end of the day everyone likes people who look like those in the magazines.
I hope, especially for young people, they come to like how they look regardless of what is presented as desirable. I hope they eat what they can until they are full whenever possible and also fill their hearts, and feel, "It's fun being alive." Once you come to like yourself, your outside will surely shine.
(By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)