Navigating Japan’s cultural landscape can be fraught with triggers when you are recovering from disordered eating behavior. Learning to balance mindfulness and self-care with all of the tastiness that Japan has to offer can bring you one step closer to being at peace with your body and soul.
In the last few years, in bookstores in Japan, I have often been drawn to the women’s lifestyle section and dieting books. Maybe all of the advertisements on the Yamanote Line when I was in Tokyo in 2018 had pierced my subconscious, but Ishimura Tomomi’s book, ゼロトレ(“Zero Training”), in particular, has recently caught my attention again.
“After trying Tomomi’s exercises, my waist shrank by 7.5 cm in one hour!”
… so it says on the publisher’s website, as well as the ad that I stared at with my daughter strapped to me in a baby carrier on the packed train. It doesn’t attract my interest because it’s an especially interesting idea, however. Rather, it merely reflects one of the biggest weights that I carry—a history of food restriction and disordered thoughts about eating—repackaged in the country I now call home.
My own story with disordered eating
By the time I first visited Tokyo, I was in my early twenties and had already spent many years dodging questions about my weight from doctors and mental health professionals in Canada.
Unfortunately, my history with disordered eating, like many women’s goes back far too long: to when I was still in elementary school. I can remember the first time that dieting seemed appealing. It was the late 1990s and I was flipping through a magazine at the dentist’s office. By chance, I came across an article about butter as the “enemy of a slim figure.” Enthralled, I kept reading, strangely attracted to the idea that one could achieve an ideal merely by omitting a simple morning toast topping. And so, I declared my own personal and very quiet war against butter, cutting it out of all of my routines, morning and otherwise. I relished the sense of calm that I felt when I declined an offer of it, followed by the statement, “I don’t really like it.” This was blatantly untrue when it came to flavor, but very true on an emotional level. By banishing butter, for a moment at least, I was in control.
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