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Japan To Get 'Taste' Of Durham Weight Loss Centers

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DURHAM, N.C. — Durham is famous for its weight loss programs. When a Japanese television network decided to do a special on obesity, they chose the Bull City.

When TV Asahi, a Japanese network, decided to do a show on dieting, they came straight to Durham and set up shop at Structure House. Director Tetsuya Inagaki wanted to give people in Japan a "taste" of American weight loss centers.

Health experts claim that Americans should eat more like the Japanese do, but unfortunately, Japanese people are starting to eat more like Americans.

"Because we have many fast-food stores now in Japan, younger generations are having more obese problems," Tetsuya Inagaki said.

The World Health Organization estimates 21 percent of Japanese men and 24 percent of Japanese women are overweight. Over the past 15 years, obesity rates among children in Japan have tripled.

Carla Jackson is spending the summer at Structure House, but she teaches American students in Japan. She says finding low-calorie, low-fat "American" food is nearly impossible.

"They have Coke Light and that is the only diet drink there is anywhere in Japan, and believe me, I've looked," Jackson said. "It's shocking to walk down the street now and see overweight Japanese."

Weight loss clinics do not exist in Japan.

"What we have is more like a fasting temple where people go and just do fasting all week," Inagaki said.

Inagaki and his crew said what surprised them during their stay is learning that most people eat for the wrong reasons.

"This is really about their relationship with food," Inagaki said.

Health clubs are becoming popular in Japan, but due to urban sprawl, there are few outdoor places to exercise. Just like in the United States, health experts claim physical education programs at their schools are being cut and many children are getting little activity.