Wacky diets everywhere

I have gotten a couple of emails, not to mention a ton of spammers, that mention something called the “Japan Lingzhi Diet”. The people sending the emails were asking sincerely if the diet is effective, since they assumed this was indeed some kind of Japanese concoction. The spammers were, of course, selling some dodgy ‘diet pills’. (And my mere mention of the pills is probably going to attract more stupid spammers who can’t read, I’m sure.)

I had no idea what lingzhi was, so I had to Google it. It turns out that it’s the name of a mushroom that has been used in Chinese medicine for a long time. The kicker though is that the Japanese name for this mushroom is not lingzhi; it’s reishi (霊芝). (Confusingly, reishi is also an alternative name for litchi or litchee fruit in Japan, especially in Okinawa.) Incidentally, a good clue that a word is not Japanese in origin is, when spelled out phonetically with the alphabet, it contains the combination of z and h, since that sound doesn’t exist in Japanese. Anyway, whoever decided to try to hawk this dubious ‘diet’ pill decided to take the Chinese name for a mushroom and slap “Japan” on it, presumably because…well I don’t know really, because it makes it sound more hip? Relates to anime? You tell me.

Now as I said earlier, the reishi or lingzhi mushroom has been used in Chinese medicine (which is caled kanpo (漢方)in Japan) for ages. Serious scientific research has been done on the properties of the reishi/lingzhi mushroom, and while they may have some mild beneficial qualities (I’ve seen claims ranging from it helping to prevent allergies to even anti-cancer properties), none of these studies even remotely talk about any kind of weight loss benefit.

And here’s another thing: while Japan, like anywhere else, abounds with diet books and weight-loss aids and the like, none of them mention the reishi/lingzhi mushroom at all, as a diet pill or supplement or anything of the sort.

I’ve looked at the packaging of these pills on the sites that sell them - I’m not going to link to them since I don’t want to give them the traffic. The packaging does not look Japanese in any way, and have no Japanese on them. My guess is that they originated in, and are made in, China somewhere. Now you decide whether you want to trust your health to unregulated ‘diet pills’ with dodgy naming and mystery contents, imported from a country with a very iffy track record recently concerning food safety.

It’s amazing to me how, in this internet age where anyone with do a little research online, that claims about how such-and-such is so popular in another country or continent can still be made, when they are patently false. Like all of those European-women-love-swear-by-this skin treatments and such that are sold in the States when they are unheard of in Europe.

If you want a ‘real’ wacky Japanese diet plan

If these mushroom-containing pills really did work in any remote way to help people lose weight, you can be sure it would be promoted as such in Japan. You may have heard of the banana diet craze, or the natto diet and its sorry aftermath. The trendy weight loss theory at the moment is that you can correct your posture and your bone structure through exercise and other means, so that you create a ‘body that slims down naturally’. While you’re at it, you can also cure stiff shoulders, aching backs, constipation and bandy legs too. The field of body-structure correction is called seitai (整体) - it’s sort of like chiropractics meets yoga meets Pilates, often with a dash of other stuff thrown in like acupuncture, massage, herbal medicine, and so on. (Keep in mind that in Japan, the phrase ‘diet (daietto, ダイエット)’ encompasses anything related to weight loss, including exercise, diet pills and supplements, and so on.) Based on this general theory, there are books like the ones below.

makudake-diet.jpg

This is a book called the Lose Weight With One Band! The Just Wrap Diet. It comes with a flat exercise band. The band is meant to be wrapped around your body, which presumably helps to correct your posture, your body structure, re-position your organs and so on, and help you drop the kilos. There are variations on this theme such as the “stick tape on yourself diet” and so on. This book apparently got mentioned on some TV show, and has been selling out at bookstores in Japan.

kokandiet.jpg

This one is called the 1 Minute Groin Joint Diet. The sub-header is great: “Lose 13 kilo, 13 cm off the waist, raise butt by 10 cm.” Hey I’ll take that for exercising my groin for a minute a day.

elbow_rotate_diet.jpg

And this one is even more out there. It’s the 1 Minute Elbow Rotation Diet, with the sub-header: “Lose 17 cm off the waist, 7 kg of weight, 12cm off the underbust area”. So, if my calculations are right, if I buy both books, exercise my groin for 1 minute and rotate my elbows for another minute, I can lose 20 kilo, 30 cm off my waist, 12 cm off my underbust, and raise my saggy butt sky high. Wow.

People are desperate to lose weight everywhere. Sure, the obesity rate in Japan is a lot lower than it is in most Western countries, but people, especially women, are still anxious about losing weight - especially since the ideal body presented on TV and such is quite, quite small. It’s funny and sad at the same time.

However, I guess you could say that rotating your elbow, doing something with your groin, and wrapping elastic bands around your body are likely to do less harm than popping mystery pills. So if you want to (allegedly) follow what your favorite J-dorama actress does for her figure, why not.

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Re: Wacky diets everywhere

Groin diet?! Sign me up! There are wacky diets everywhere but Japan takes the cake I think - I remember when I lived there there were these awful beauty pageant style things on the train which crowned the biggest loser. I mean seriously, the train? Is nothing sacred? ;P

Saya | 12 August, 2010 - 16:23

Re: Wacky diets everywhere

You know what they say; you can't spell diet without DIE.

Niku | 12 August, 2010 - 16:33

Re: Wacky diets everywhere

I live in Japan (for one more month!) and last month I tried the kanten diet. That bologna did not work! I gobbled down tons of kanten jelly and never felt full. I tried to reduce my calorie intake to 1,200 a day and I was so hungry. Boooooooooooo!

Kristin | 13 August, 2010 - 07:52

Re: Wacky diets everywhere

Uh...did you have kanten jelly that is sweetened with sugar? Because that would rather defeat the purpose...

maki | 13 August, 2010 - 11:34

Re: Wacky diets everywhere

So many Japanese idols are waaaaay too thin. I worry about some of them when I look at their arms. I want to feed them cheeseburgers. :D

Sile | 13 August, 2010 - 15:02

Re: Wacky diets everywhere

People are just plain l.a.z.y., that's why.

I could understand why some people believe that improving posture might make you feel healthier and then somehow vaguely lose weight, but the groin joint diet book and elbow rotation diet book are a joke. I am surprised that they even have positive reviews.

anon. | 14 August, 2010 - 15:49

Re: Wacky diets everywhere

sadly weight loss will always be big business

WizzyTheStick | 15 August, 2010 - 17:24

Re: Wacky diets everywhere

It's not just the Japanese idols but American actors as well. They are all way to thin. Marlin Monroe who is still considered one of the most beautiful of all time would be considered overweight and fat in today's standard. It's sad really.

Suzzique | 15 August, 2010 - 19:50

Re: Wacky diets everywhere

I wouldn't mind trying on the groin exercise! ahahahah... Looks like fun.
Aside from wether these kind of books are jokes or not, I guess the underline is that you have to exercise regularly. :D

Jane | 16 August, 2010 - 05:23

Re: Wacky diets everywhere

My sister came back from Japan and brought back some "diet" sandals for me. They look like children's shoes. I'm not sure how they are supposed to work but it made me smile.

Fiona | 17 August, 2010 - 02:41

Re: Wacky diets everywhere

Does anyone else suspect that the popularity of these diets may be based partially on the vaguely perverse thread running through diet names like "the morning banana", and "1 minute groin exercise", and so on? Seriously though, even though these books may go about it in the wrong way, correcting one's posture strengthens all of your minor muscle groups, and the bigger your muscles are the more calories you will burn to maintain them, even when you are resting... so it's not really that wacky... I just don't think taping yourself up counts as correcting your posture. But this is based on some legit stuff.

anon. | 17 August, 2010 - 17:46

Re: Wacky diets everywhere

When my friend was teaching in Japan, the big body image fixer upper was the idea that you could move fat from one part of your body to the other. For example, her coworker was trying to move back fat into her boob. Of course, only trained professionals could do this, so you had to pay for sessions consisting of them rubbing their hands around your body.

"especially women, are still anxious about losing weight"

We think we're obsessed with image in the West, but I've heard some really nasty things my best friend's mother (they're Taiwanese) and her friends have not only said to my friend, but also about me to my face. And it's not like, "I don't think you need that extra brownie, dear" sort of comments, but more like, "OMG YOU'RE FAT. Your face is fat, your hips are fat, you sound fat, and that makes you ugly!" And it's never about being healthy, but being marriageable.

I wouldn't be surprised in the slightest if they were saying things about me behind my back (wee gossip!), but to my face is all out ballsy. My friend told me that it's socially acceptable to do so in Taiwan, and my friends from Korea and China confirmed the same for their countries as well.

Though it could be because I'm Korean, so her mom thought it was okay even though she knows I'm adopted and effectively a white girl? The saddest part, though, is her mom doesn't have a clue how many issues my friend has because of it.

CS | 18 August, 2010 - 11:56

Re: Wacky diets everywhere

Nah, in Japan people don't tell you stuff like that to your face. (Unless they are very drunk ^_^) I understand that in Korea and China, people are way more direct. Which can be a good and bad thing.

Moms, of course, are in another category all together.

maki | 18 August, 2010 - 12:22

Re: Wacky diets everywhere

Re. Japanese Lingzhi diet, I've never heard of such a regime despite being a Chinese and aware of the health prolonging properties lingzhi supposedly possesses (cancer curing miracle mushroom, for example). As for why they've labelled it as Japanese... well, with all the food scares and perceived "lower" quality of anything produced in China compared with Japan, it's not surprising. Especially when you consider the lengths (and prices) new mums are willing to go to for Japanese baby formula following the milk scandals of recent times, most people are willing to pay that extra dollar for "Japanese" goods so they won't face the "higher risk" Chinese equivalents.

yygall | 25 August, 2010 - 00:17

Re: Wacky diets everywhere

What these people are doing really angers me in some ways, because they are giving a bad name to Chinese medicine, which has had a very long and distinguished history.

maki | 25 August, 2010 - 16:26

Re: Wacky diets everywhere

few years ago I tried that lingzhi apple pills. deff from CHINA. I don't think its good for our health... those pills made me couldn't sleep at night, forced my body to keep moving, heavy sweat,thirsty all the time n lost appetite. I ate it for 4days and stop. I loss 3kg but I'm not happy with the side effect. Right now I'm on diet, skip carbo(rice,noddles)n 3times a week 1hour swimming or treadmill, can loose 2kg a month and very healthy.

cecilia | 25 August, 2010 - 11:31

Re: Wacky diets everywhere

Ugh...those pills sound terrible! Thank goodness you didn't suffer any permanent damage...and good for you for losing weight the healthy way!

maki | 25 August, 2010 - 18:10

Re: Wacky diets everywhere

Ergh. I really hate all these silly diets, it's like come ON exercise! The only way you're going to lose weight effectively is by getting off your butt and actually moving, and eating healthy. But noo, people would rather pay hundreds on "miracle" pills (=.=)no pill will make you be thin, except maybe like... crack or something. XD

I tried a pill once, phentermine, that stuff actually did make me drop like 60 pounds but I ended up putting it all back on so it was like..meh. Now I'm a member of Urban Fitness gym and doing soooo much better.

I really love your site ^^, it helps me to lose weight, eating bento and all the healthy recipes you give!

Matsuko | 19 September, 2010 - 06:19

Re: Wacky diets everywhere

It's great that you're doing it the healthy way Matsuko ^_^ I have to learn from your example myself! I'm glad you find my sites useful!

maki | 19 September, 2010 - 11:10

Re: Wacky diets everywhere

Sad and funny, indeed. As a personal trainer, I've seen and heard the gamut of desperate lengths people will go to in order to avoid proper nutrition and exercise. I was one of those people, too, until my health started to fail me in ways that were inexplicable to my doctors. I'm still looking for an answer to that issue, but in the meantime, I've taken control of what I can, which led to a third career. In so doing, I've discovered that the time and effort devoted to taking care of myself is a bigger treat than any food item could ever be.

The key, which many diets (and even many trainers) won't tell you, is consistency. Exercise doesn't have to come in the form of forty-five minutes on an elliptical machine while you watch TV (although it can, and that's gotten me through many a reluctant session). Make a point of doing little things, like parking further away from the store, or taking the stairs, doing squats while waiting for water to boil - it all adds up. Just be sure to do it, and do it every day. Build it into your life, and let nothing or no one deter you from getting your daily "Me Time".

Nutrition responds to the same rule; be as consistent as possible. Don't beat yourself up if you overindulge at a friend's wedding (this is life, after all), but get back on the horse the next day and compensate by eating a little less with each meal (and you should be eating at least five smaller meals over the course of the day). Bodybuilders like to aim for eating "90% clean"; even they build in a little wiggle room. We're only human, and there are many sensual indulgences to be enjoyed in our lives. We should enjoy those indulgences, just as we should recognize their impact on our bodies and adjust accordingly. Making those adjustments becomes far easier when you learn to make them consistently.

caseycastille | 25 September, 2010 - 18:04

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