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How Do Japanese & French Women Keep Their Figures After Delivery? Part I

Japanese and French mothers enjoy one major benefit in common – low weight gain during pregnancy.

In Japan, the optimal weight gain is 8kg, regardless of the woman’s size or build. In fact, many believe that pregnant ladies could be scolded or even shamed for gaining too much weight, and later blamed for a difficult labour! On the flip side, Japanese mothers tend to recover their pre-pregnancy figures much faster than their Western counterparts.

In Japan, rice is a staple food source. The carbohydrates in rice satisfy your appetite, keeping you fuller for longer. Diet foods, on the other hand, have the opposite effect in that they make you hungry and you end up eating more.

I can attest to this personally. In one of my training trips to Brisbane, Australia, I was served a mixture of vegetarian and raw food for a week. I thought to myself, “That’s as good a diet as I could hope for,” and proceeded to enjoy the food on offer. However, four days into my trip I felt uncharacteristically bloated and pictures taken of me at that time show that I looked quite chubby! I then realised that, even though I was on a vegetarian diet, I ate much larger portions and consumed more meals than usual, as I was constantly hungry. Even though the diet was nut, dairy and gluten-free, and consisted mainly of fruit, vegetables and nuts, I still put on weight within just one week!

The second interesting point to note is that the Japanese serve food in a far more pleasurable size. The portions are small, but the variety of dishes delights and inspires the taste buds. So Japanese meals may be light, but afterwards you feel content and satisfied, while not uncomfortably full. It is interesting to note that Japan has one of the lowest obesity rates[1] among developed countries at just over 3%, compared to more than 35% for Americans.

In her book Japanese Woman Don’t Get Old Or Fat, Naomi Moriyama says, “You might think it’s all in our genes, but when Japanese people adopt a Western-style diet, they put on weight quickly.” So diet definitely plays an important role in the traditionally slim Japanese frame.

In Japan there is a preference for smaller babies, because this means an easier delivery. Vanity-wise, the less weight gained during pregnancy, the easier and faster it is for mothers to return to their pre-pregnancy figures. Interestingly, it is common practice for Japanese woman to wear postpartum corsets (or more passionately called postnatal girdle in South East Asia) and hip belts to help them achieve this as soon as possible. (To be continued…)

Karen Loke, Founder and Practitioner, Restoring Mums