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).
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.
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.
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.
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.