Using an anthropological approach that emphasizes understanding the total social and political context of eating behavior, I draw on ethnographic research in Japan in order to understand factors that enable or mitigate obesity. Japan is an important comparative example in obesity research because of its low obesity rates despite being a wealthy nation with affordable access to high-caloric foods. This is found to be an outcome of social and institutional processes that limit food intake and stigmatize weight, producing desirable outcomes in physical health but through pressures that have negative implications for psychological/emotional health. Consequently, while Japan provides an intriguing cross-cultural model for weight control, the possibility or desirability of replicating this elsewhere may be limited.

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