Japanese high school girls may be some of the thinnest in the world, but more than half think they’re fatties, and only a third are happy with their bodies.

Despite the changes in food culture in Japan over the past few decades, Japan has far less of an obesity problem than most other developed nations. The rates are even lower for schoolchildren, and yet according to a new survey, Japanese high school girls are far more likely to consider themselves fat, and be less happy with their bodies, than their counterparts in China, Korea and the U.S.A.

Japanese girls’ particular lack of confidence was highlighted in the results of a survey for the National Institution for Youth Education, which questioned 8,480 high school girls (aged around 16 to 18) in Japan, China, South Korea and the U.S. about their mental and physical health. Even though the obesity rate for high school girls in Japan is a mere 2.7 percent, (the next lowest of the four countries being 6.1 and the highest a massive 20 percent) more than half, at 51.9 percent, considered themselves to be “fat” or “a bit fat“, and the survey was conducted between September and November last year, so it’s not even as they caught the poor girls after a particularly gluttonous Valentine’s Day.

When asked how they felt about their body shape, only 23 percent answered that they were either “satisfied” or “fairly satisfied”. This was the lowest rate of the four countries surveyed, with 31.6 percent of South Korean girls, 40.5 percent of Chinese girls and 60.5 percent of American girls feeling “fairly satisfied” or “satisfied” about their body shape.

Attempting to explain the disconnect between Japanese high school girls’ actual weight and their negative self-image, Yoichi Akashi from the organization that conducted the survey, suggested that Japanese people had a tendency to care less about numbers and figures relating to themselves, worrying more about how other people thought about them.

▼ Beauty, and body weight, seems to be in the eye of the beholder for a large number of Japanese high school girls.

The reaction on Japanese social media blamed the media’s portrayal of young women as one of the factors behind their lack of confidence in their own looks.

“Japan probably has the largest number of people who refuse food to stay slim. I wonder what causes it?”
“It must be something to do with having a warped way of thinking, or a lack of self-compassion.”
“It’s the influence of business and the media; it harms people.”

While it’s good to get plenty of exercise, and eat well (not that we necessarily practice what we preach), there must be something wrong if most high school girls in Japan can’t even blow up a balloon unassisted. Plus, with a balloon they’d be much more likely to be satisfied with their lives. I always am.

Source: JIJI via jin115
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert image: Gahag