I'm originally from Florida but have spent the past 15 years working in Japan; seven years as a teacher in the public school system and eight years in the Japanese wedding industry. I am very active in the professional basketball circuit here in Japan, and am now planning on building a health-centered B&B (focused on organic food, exercise, massage/detox and natural healing) near Niigata City, which is located on the Japanese Sea Coast.

When I first came to Japan, I was FAT, at least by Japanese standards. Anyone peddling weight loss products in this land of wafer-thin women is bound to make a killing in a land where 'thick' people have a hard time finding clothes, can't fit into Japanese-designed train or plane seats comfortably and find it hard to say 'NO!' to Japanese hosts who plop mounds of food on their plates when they visit a home (as if all foreigners eat THAT much food in one setting). Some of my foreign female friends even refuse to go to the beach here, mainly out of fear of being harpooned by local fishermen.

Naw…that last one was a joke!

But Japanese women are, for the most part, pressured to weigh around 45 kilograms (99 pounds). I find that too unflatteringly TINY for my taste since I want to keep those devious curves that GOD has undoubtedly blessed so many of us Black women with. But not at the expense of losing good health. My mother lost a leg to diabetes and I'm doing all that I can to keep both of mine. We embrace the thought that we are 'big boned' and many Black women, in my opinion, use that idea to keep holding on to unhealthy weight. I thought I had those big bones, too, until I pulled a muscle in my back while moving furniture about 11 years ago. I went to a Japanese doctor who took x-rays of my spine. I was ANYTHING but big-boned. The x-rays showed that my spine was actually about 1/4 smaller than that of an average adult spine, so he suggested that I take some of the excess weight off. I did and now feel and look so much better as a result. Still got my curves going on, though!

At 41, I am finally coming into my own, and I love the healthy version of the woman I am transforming into. It feels like some long, overdue metamorphosis that was not encouraged in the Black community when I was growing up. I know the importance of keeping my body healthy. I gladly accept that I am worth every bit of 'trouble' it may take to cook a meal or commute to the gym. Here are some other things I do to keep my health in check:

Get annual check-ups and diabetes test (AIDS test included; easy on x-rays)

Eat fresh food: I buy organic, local produce whenever I can. You won't find too many boxed or canned foods in my home

Soymilk only: research shows about 90% of Asian & 70% of African people are lactose intolerant

Chew each mouthful of food about 30x before swallowing: colon cleaned once a year (sorry if that was TMI for some of you but I feel it is vital)

Go to the gym 3-5 days a week: focus on biking, walking and weights. I plan to start waking up earlier to get my morning walks in; nightly walks starting soon

Buy a vegetable or fruit that I have never eaten each month. Vegetables = 50% of my meals, fruit = 20% rice/soup = 20% and meat at 10%

As for meat, I eat fish and other seafood about 99% of the time

Drink a gallon of H2O a day - mostly before, during and after exercise

I rarely use salt to season, preferring the natural taste of the foods I eat to that of seasoning and high-fat sauces

I take supplements, especially those with extra iron and calcium, to ensure better health

I do not take medicine

My regimen includes a few other things, including only putting what I need to eat on a plate and when I'm full, I STOP eating. No more forcing myself to eat everything on the plate! Leftovers are snacked on later. I rarely go back for seconds. I do not go to all-you-can-eat restaurants. Though it may be a bargain on your wallet, it's terrible on your thighs and waist!

In Japan we have a product that works to draw toxins and poisons from the body. I use this on my food to take off pesticides. I use a similar product made specifically for human consumption that helps clean out my body. This has done WONDERS for my appearance and skin tone.

Also, my hair (which I now have in locs) is growing like I never thought possible. On my 3rd year of growth since I did the India Arie thing and "...cut it all off" and now it's down the middle of my back.

I heat my bath water to 37 degrees (C) and sit in the tub for about 45 minutes nightly. (I'm lucky, as our tubs are computerized.) I’m trying to take fewer showers and more baths.

I stretch first thing when I wake up and right after saying my prayers before going to sleep. This has helped me to become more limber lately. Also, I get a massage once or twice a week. This has also done wonders for my circulation.

I don't let stress fester inside of my body anymore. I address problems in a civil manner. I take drives or sit on the beach when I am emotionally drained. Sometimes, I need to get away from everything Japanese...which often takes me to Singapore.

Oh, and last but not least, I pray to GOD for health and strength. Great meditation… Anyway, here's to becoming and staying healthy. Until next time, when I'll share a little more about Japanese culture,

Stay blessed!

18 comments
  1. Sandra Hurd, CNC July 7, 2008 at 2:46 PM  

    It is always a great experience to go to another culture and just live and learn how they do things. I came from an island culture which was still American based but very different than living on the continental USA. So it is great to read about your experience and how much you learned, accepted, and changed because of it. It shows your maturity, and willingness to embrace life that was different that what you knew just a few years earlier. It also displays your unique qualities to share what you learned with others by creating an environment that they can feel at home, yet make the transition to that culture. Some people need that. My niece loves the Japanese culture and she is looking forward to visiting or even living there some day soon. I also would like that for her and as soon as she is able to decide on what she wants in life we will be planning her trip. Your B&B would be perfect for her to visit, so keep me informed on how it is coming along.

    You have a spirit of adventure. It is nice to know people like you exist just on the other side of the world.

    Best of luck to you,
    Sandra Hurd
    Certified Nutrition Consultant
    http://www.stopmychildseczema.com

  2. That Girl Boo July 7, 2008 at 3:09 PM  

    Welcome Angie, what a wonderful post, and a wonderful mission, you know I'm all about health when I'm not eating my Lays Potato Chips (just joking of course) I look forward to reading more from you.

  3. Eddie G. Griffin July 7, 2008 at 3:10 PM  

    Welcome aboard Angie. I hope that this will help us span the globe and break down the walls of international communications.

  4. Adrianne July 7, 2008 at 3:14 PM  

    Hi Angie, it's so good to see you here! I have heard many interesting things about Japan and you seem to have created a whole new life for yourself as far as your health. CONGRATS!!!!!!!!!!!

    Maybe you will share some recipes with us and the names of some of the products you are using.

    Please join the Women of the African Diaspora social network:
    http://blackwomenunite.ning.com

  5. shawn July 8, 2008 at 2:32 AM  

    thanks... thanks for visiting my blog... HIHI please visit soon... thanks... HIHI

  6. Villager July 8, 2008 at 10:11 AM  

    I look forward to your future blog posts here. I'm in need of your health tips here in America even if they are originated in Japan!

    And your jokes, uh ... well, at least your health tips are great!

    peace, Villager

  7. Dogon July 8, 2008 at 11:16 AM  

    hey u i loved living in africa, sure u will feel the same

  8. Angie-in-Japan July 8, 2008 at 11:41 PM  

    Hey everyone: hope all is well. Thanks for responding to this post. I've responded to some of you via email but to the rest of you:

    Sandra: Thanks for the nice message. Please encourage your daughter to look into the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program. It is a program sponsored by the Japanese government that would allow her to live and work in Japan. That was my starting point. PS... I'm looking forward to learning more about nutrition!!

    That girl Boo: Thanks for the bath detox info. I feel like a new woman today. WIll be in touch soon...

    Adrianne: Thanks for the BWIE invite. I will check it out later this week. By the way, I loved the Italian Vogue info. Can't wait to see the models!!

    Shawn: Hello there. I visited the Philippines about 10 years ago. Didn't make it to Cebu but plan to one of these days. Will be in Singapore this August before returning to the States for a mini-vacation!!

    Dogon: Thanks for dropping by. Please share some thoughts on Africa when you have time. Would love to hear about your experiences.

  9. HEALTH NUT WANNABEE MOM July 9, 2008 at 12:32 AM  

    How facinating your post was and I agree on all your healthy living tips but need to work on a few. I did not know taht about lactose intolerance and the chewing your food 30 x's. So nice to appreciate your curves!

  10. Angie-in-Japan July 10, 2008 at 11:34 AM  

    Hello Health Nut Wannabee mom:

    Thanks for the nice comments! Any special things you do to stay healthy and in shape?? Please do share...

  11. Crys July 11, 2008 at 2:39 PM  

    hi angie-in-japan! can you tell me what kind of detox you use? is it available in the US?

  12. Regina July 11, 2008 at 5:35 PM  

    Hi there Angie!
    WELCOME ! WELCOME! WELCOME!
    Great introduction post!

  13. Angie-in-Japan July 12, 2008 at 3:39 AM  

    Hello Crys:

    Actually, I just finished a cleanse (using ginger) a day ago. The product I use is available in the States; the herbs used are capable of pulling up to 40 times their weight out of the body! The cleanse is called the "Colon Cleansing Kit" and is sold through BLESSED HERBS (http://www.blessedherbs.com). The herbalist is Martha Volchok and she lists some detailed comparisons here at http://cleanse-usa.com/. Also, here are some testimonials regarding the product...but please be aware that some of the pictures are VERY detailed. Please don't look if you are eating....or if you have a weak stomach for stuff like that!! http://www.blessedherbs.com/bh/colon_testimonials. Some of the mucoid plaque covering the walls of the colon range from a few inches to over three or four feet in length! INCREDIBLE cleanse!! I've used it 5 times so far...very happy with the results.

    Once you receive the package, there are three programs to choose from:
    * Best = 9 day program which requires a 5 day fast
    * Better = 8 day program with modified diet changes; no fasting
    * Good = 30 day program; diet changes optional...no fasting

    The herbalist suggests organic apple juice be used with the toxin absorber drink. My favorite is Eden Apple Juice: http://www.edenfoods.com/about/

  14. msladydeborah July 13, 2008 at 12:41 AM  

    Hello angie-in-japan!

    I enjoyed reading your post and look forward to learning more about your experiences.

  15. Angie-in-Japan July 13, 2008 at 12:47 PM  

    Thank you, Msladydeborah. Is there anything in particular that you'd like to know about Japan? Please let me know.

    Stay healthy, happy and blessed...
    Angie

  16. Eddie G. Griffin July 16, 2008 at 10:51 AM  

    There was a mass demonstration yesterday in Japan. What was that all about? The western press says that it was the price of fuel.

  17. Angie-in-Japan July 16, 2008 at 6:13 PM  

    It more than likely was about the rising price of fuel. We just had an increase in July of about a dollar a gallon. The guys at my favorite gas station tell me that prices are expected to rise another 30 yen/gallon on the first day of August. That means our prices are now rising at a monthly rate of a little over $1 per gallon. Help?? Time to invest in a bike, horse or new pair of tennis shoes.

    We are now at approximately $6.15 per gallon; less than prices in Europe but still painful. You know, I wish these politicians who are making all these crazy decisions affecting our oil paid for their own gas. Maybe...if they were forced to walk a mile in our shoes... they'd be more interested in actually curing the growing 'blisters' regarding this situation.

    Very wishful thinking...

  18. Angie-in-Japan October 3, 2008 at 7:19 AM  

    Hey Boo:

    Here's one for you to try from Dr. Weil!!

    ------------------------------

    Broccoli Pancakes

    Description:
    Even if your kids don't like broccoli, they will eat these pancakes. You can serve them as a side dish, however they are certainly a meal on their own if you want to serve them as an entrée. Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables including cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, turnip greens and kale are rich in antioxidants, which help protect against both cancer and heart disease.

    Ingredients:
    1 large head broccoli
    1/4 cup coarsely chopped onion
    1/2 small hot chili pepper or 1 teaspoon chili paste
    1 large garlic clove, peeled and sliced
    1/4 cup vegetable oil
    2/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour
    1/8 teaspoon dried dill weed
    1 pinch salt
    1 large egg or 2 egg whites
    1/4 cup low-fat milk
    A sprinkling of paprika

    MOCK SOUR CREAM:
    1 cup plain non-fat yogurt
    1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice
    1/2 small onion or large shallot, finely chopped
    1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce, or to taste
    Sprinkling of chopped fresh dill

    Instructions
    1. Cut the florets off the head of the broccoli and separate them by cutting the large ones in half so they are all more or less the same size. You should have about 3 cups. Discard the stalks, or save them along with any remaining florets to use in soup or a vegetable stir-fry.

    2. Bring 1/2 cup water to a boil in a medium pan, then drop in the broccoli florets, cover, and let steam as they cook, for 3 minutes. Strain in a colander.

    3. Put the steamed broccoli, onions, chili and garlic in a food processor and pulse on and off to chop (do not puree the vegetables), or chop by hand. Transfer the chopped ingredients to a mixing bowl and stir in the oil, flour, dill, and salt. Add the egg or egg whites and milk and mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon.

    4. Smear the bottom of a large, nonstick skillet with 1/4 teaspoon of butter and set it over medium heat for about 1 minute. Drop tablespoons of the batter into the hot skillet, placing them far enough apart so that the pancakes don't touch, and cook over low to medium heat for about 1 minute. Turn the pancakes and cook the other side for 1 minute. Transfer them to a hot platter to keep warm while you continue making the rest until all the batter is used up.

    5. Mix all of the ingredients for the Mock Sour Cream together and spoon 1 teaspoonful on top of each pancake, then top with a sprinkle of paprika.

    Makes 20 1-inch pancakes = 2 per person. Enjoy, my sis!!