Weight Loss

Gaijin Survival GuideLife in JapanWeight Loss

How Huge is Anne?

Anne-Kyoto-2019Kyoto, Japan, 2019

I’ll be up front; I don’t like talking too much about my state of health. For me, it’s deeply personal, something I only share with family and close friends. But today, I’m going out of my comfort zone and sharing it on our travel blog of all places — well mostly because of this website’s title: 2 Huge in Japan.

Before stepping foot in Japan, I weighed 132 kg (290 lbs). Unlike my 190 cm (6’3″) husband, who’s hight to weight ratio sits well on him, I look pretty fat — especially since I stand at 162 cm (5’4″). FYI: my heaviest was in 2016 at 140 kg (310 lbs).

Today I weigh 116kg (255 lbs), with a net weight loss at about 25 kg (55 lbs) in roughly two years. Since landing in Japan in November, I’ve lost about 16 kg (35 lbs) which is about 0.6 kg per week (1.5 lbs/wk).

Sig & I at Glacier National Park, Montana, USA
Sig & I at Glacier National Park, Montana, USA, 2017

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

In 2008 my doctor diagnosed me with Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). After seeking help for ungodly 3-week long periods, a series of lab tests discovered that I had a strong resistance to my own insulin, an excess of male hormones, and ovarian cysts — pretty much the tell-tell signs of PCOS.

When I was told I had a “strong” resistance to insulin, I immediately translated it as: “Well, that explains why I have to work 2 to 3 times as hard to lose weight than another normal person.” I already knew that insulin is used to turn glucose into energy for the body since my mother was diabetic. By the way, I’m prediabetic with my AC1 tests at 5.8 and my fasting glucose at consistently in the mid to upper 90s.

But this would also explain why low carb diets work really well for me. In fact, a few years before my PCOS diagnosis, I did the Atkins diet and got down to 100 kg (219 lbs). Sadly I then gained it all back after I had a really bad gout attack from eating too much meat.

Grand Canyon West, Arizona, USA
Grand Canyon West, Arizona, USA, 2016

Understanding My Habits

For the past several months, I’ve been relatively carb restrictive diet, eating mostly veggies and a reasonable amount of meat. I’d say the most significant change in my eating habits is that I only eat between the hours of Noon and 5 pm. Dieticians call this “Time-restricted eating” or “time-restricted feeding” where one limits eating to a certain number of hours each day.

I didn’t select this method of weight loss because it was a fad — I’ve made that mistake many times before and failed. This time I researched. I became convinced of this method after reading “Time-restricted eating can overcome the bad effects of faulty genes and unhealthy diet.”.

After reading that, I spent a few weeks building a baseline of when and what I ate, how I slept, and activity levels. I discovered that I slept poorly, ate way too much food at night, and wasn’t regularly active enough.

Various things I noticed were small but interesting, such as mistaking thirst for hunger. I found that drinking water or tea pretty much solved that gnawing feeling I got when I woke up. I didn’t need to gorge myself on a high-fat high-carb American breakfast.

Bunker Hill Monument in Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Bunker Hill Monument in Boston, Massachusetts, USA, 2017

Eating Healthy in Tokyo

It’s effortless to eat healthy in Japan. “Konbini” ( コンビニ) or convenience stores in Japan regularly stock fresh single sized salad bags. Plus heat-and-go meals are portioned modestly instead of oversized. It’s only a bonus that much of it is reasonably priced. For example, a salad plus a pork-leek bowl with rice cost about 600 yen ($5.40 US).

Furthermore, I’ve discovered that Tokyo supermarkets sell whole produce at a premium price. Fruits are especially more expensive than vegetables. Despite that, I still try to cook my meals at home about 80% of the time.

Don’t get me wrong: one could still eat poorly while in Japan but must admit that finding healthy ready to eat meals in Japan is about as easy as finding junk food in America.

Exercise in Japan

Without a car, I mostly walk to where I need to go. So for a trip to the store, I’ll walk the long way around to get my 30 minutes logged.

On exploration days with Sig, we can walk up to 8 to 12 km (5 to 8 miles). I also try to coincide the walks with a moderate carb cheat day. There’s way too much to see, do, and eat in Tokyo to keep still and keep a strict diet.

For rainy days, I fire up Youtube and do 30 minutes of low-impact-no-equipment exercises. Here’s my YouTube “Low Impact” Playlist if you are interested.

Me at Lotte World Tower in Seoul, South Korea, 2019
Me at Lotte World Tower in Seoul, South Korea, 2019

What’s it Like Being Overweight in Japan

For the most part, people in Tokyo tend to ignore me. That or they’re being polite by not staring or making comments in my close vicinity. It might also help that my current ability to understand Japanese is at a basic level.

I’m grateful that I’m not working a regular job in an office or going to school: I’d expect that I’d get shit for being overweight. But that’s just my assumption because there’s always some regular news about bullying in Japan life.

When I go grocery shopping, which is mostly once a week, there isn’t much of issue despite the aisles being narrower than in American stores.

As a self-proclaimed qazi-minimalist, I hate clothing shopping for its mundane materialism. But for the few department stores that I’ve wandered through, I would highly expect extreme difficulty in finding my clothing size.

Meanwhile, taking a Tokyo commuter train isn’t that much of a problem. Much of the time there is little to none sitting space, to begin with, and I end up standing to my destination.

Overall, I’m doing okay and losing weight in Tokyo, and frankly, that’s good by me.

Just a few week ago at Arashiyama Bamboo Forest, Kyoto, Japan
Just a few week ago at Arashiyama Bamboo Forest, Kyoto, Japan
Weight Loss

How Huge is Sig?

Sig Eating Meat on a StickSig Eating Meat on a Stick

The short answer: coming to Japan I weighed in at 147-kilograms (325 lb) and I am 190 cm (6′ 3″) tall.

In the US, I’m a big guy, bigger than most, but not always the biggest in any given situation. It was presumed that in Japan I would seem almost freakishly large. That the size of Japanese living spaces, transportation and the like would pose some real challenges from time to time.

For the most part, that didn’t prove true. I’m often the tallest person in my subway car, but not always. And I don’t feel any more out of proportion than I usually do in the US. There are situations where the proportion of chairs or doorways are not well suited to me, but this is neither the general rule, nor exclusive to me. Plenty of the locals run into the same challenge.

There is one notable exception, my feet. My feet are 32 cm long which translates to a size 16 US shoe. While on my feet, most folks don’t take notice of them because on me, they look pretty normal, but when I take them off and put them next to other peoples shoes I do get some serious double takes with wide eyes. My realtor was quite certain they were the largest shoes she’d seen in her life.

Americans are notoriously fat, and compared to what I am used to, the Japanese are rather fit and slightly built. But there is wide variation. I’m not always the fattest person I can find here, though again, I’m fatter than most. In the US I’m often told I’m not truly fat, but I don’t think that’s how the Japanese see me. Mind you, this doesn’t bother me, it’s the honest truth and I’m not ashamed about it.

Sumo Body

Amusingly, the body type I’m closest to is that of a Sumo wrestler. I have a big, strong frame with heavy legs and broad shoulders all wrapped up in a layer of flab. Make no mistake, they are in much better shape than I, they train vigorously every day. But I may have missed my athletic calling in life by being born in the states rather than Japan.

Sumo wrestlers gather in a circle around the gyōji (referee) in the dohyō-iri (ring-entering ceremony).
These guys are huge! But so am I.