Japan goes bananas

The latest craze to hit Japan is known as the Morning Banana Diet. This simple weight loss program involves eating only bananas for breakfast and drinking only room temperature water. With the exception of desserts, the dieter can then eat whatever they choose for lunch and dinner and may also have a snack at three o’clock in the afternoon. Dinner must be eaten before 8:00 pm and the dieter is advised to go to bed before midnight. Exercise is not emphasized as this diet is meant to be stress-free.

Obesity is rare in Japan. It seems to me, however, that Japanese people in general have a rather distorted body image. The majority of them are quite thin. In Canada, I am considered thin, maybe even skinny, but here I’m a giant of a woman! Even the young girls who are as tall as I am are much thinner. They simply have a much more delicate frame. It’s amazing how many of them consider themselves fat, however.

The society as a whole seems to be overly weight conscious. We’ve been told by several businessmen that after a certain age they are required to have an annual medical check-up which is usually performed by their company doctor. If they are found to have a waist measurement greater than 85 cm, they are diagnosed with what is known as a ‘metabolic syndrome’ and are required to go on a weight loss program.

Is it any wonder then that the banana diet has caught on to such an extent that there is actually a banana shortage in Japan? Grocery stores simply can’t keep them on their shelves. In recent weeks, Dole Japan, one of the country’s leading banana importers has increased it’s imports by more than 25% and still cannot keep up with the demand. The phenomenon leaves companies like Dole in a quandary. Fads like the banana diet tend to be short lived. Even if they could find a supplier that is able to handle the present demand, would they want to increase their orders to such an extent that they end up with a huge surplus when the demand dries up?

We have eaten a lot of bananas since coming to Japan. In general, fruit is a lot more expensive here than it is at home in Canada but bananas are one of the few exceptions. Until the diet came on the scene, we were able to buy four or five small bananas for 97 yen, less than a dollar. Interestingly, though, I had stopped eating many bananas just about the time that the diet craze began to catch on. My finicky stomach has been giving me grief again lately so I decided to cut out or down on a few of the foods that I had been eating in large quantities in case any of them were causing me problems. Fortunately, there are many other fruits available at this time of year. Oranges are ripening on the trees all around us and the deliciously sweet mandarins are back in the stores. Since they’re locally grown, they are sold at reasonable prices and with them to satisfy our need for fruit, I don’t think we’ll miss the bananas when we can’t get them.

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