As I spend a lot of time with both Westerners and Japanese, I can't help noticing the distinctive difference between them all the time. One thing that I would like to point out today is the amount they eat!
When my Japanese clients come to Europe and I take them to dinner, usually they are shocked with the size of the dishes in which European restaurants serve. Well, take the size of Fish and Chips in London! A generous pile of chips and a cod tail sticking out of the plate are pure amazement to my Japanese guests. Probably they were imagining a elegant piece of fish Tempura and a small pack of Mac french fries. Maybe I should have introduced them to Goujon first.
They also like sharing their food. The concept of three course meal, i.e., starter, main and desert, doesn't make sense to them. That is alien to them. You don't believe how many times I had to explain that to them and they still look at me like I am some sort of French aristocrat!
So usually I am in charge of ordering food in a restaurant. In a formal setup, I suggest a s tarter and amain for each person. But they often struggle to finish their two plates, especially when one orders soup as a starter. You know, even starter-size soup in Europe is much bigger than a bowl of Miso soup. When served with bread, it can easily fill up Japanese men's belly.
Therefore, I sometimes have to totally ignore the whole idea of 'plate per person' and turn any kind of cuisine a type of Tapas. They seem to be more comfortable when they are given a small plate by their side and tackle the huge piece of buttered cod together with mighty group members. Empirically speaking, it works out four starters (especially involving Carpaccios aka Sashimi for them) and three main courses are just enough for five people.
Here, my problem is, if there is one Western person is in this group, that person will probably be left hungry after the dinner. Or that person could be me thinking that I don't want to share my melting-on-my-tongue pork belly with anyone... Anyway, this proves the point, how much the amount that Western and Japanese people eat differs!
You can just say, Japanese are weird, like I sometimes say, but when you flip this story around, a very informative take-away here: Japanese eat less.
Traditionally Japanese cuisine is known as healthy associated with less calories. But is it the only factor contributing to our relatively slender physique? I don't think so. You could claim Japanese are smaller so they don't need to eat as much. That's not true. I know plenty of smaller Western people who eat more than taller Japanese.
It goes down to a simple fact. If you eat less, you stay thiner.
Good news is, eating less doesn't mean you need to limit and restrain the things that you eat. If you do it in the way like Japanese do, you get to taste more things than you would like because you are sharing. You don't need to share if you don't want. The point is, if you just eat a small potion, it doesn't matter what you eat. You can still eat burger if you make a mini version of it while going on a diet.
And if you want to go a bit further, I give you another tip of Japanese diet. Try and eat with chopsticks with your hand that is NOT dominant to you. If you are right handed, hold chopsticks with your left. This process will slow down your eating speed and give your brain more time to register that you are full. Ultimately, most of us put in our mouth the excessive amount of food that is more than necessary to keep ourselves going in modern life.
So maybe these a bit weird Japanese clients of mine are right staying loyal to their own good eating habit wherever they are in the world.