Japan, a country not known for its overweight people, has undertaken one of the most ambitious campaigns ever by a nation to slim down its citizenry.


A poster at a public health clinic in Japan reads, "Goodbye, metabo," a word associated with being overweight. The Japanese government is mounting an ambitious weight-loss campaign.


Summoned by the city of Amagasaki one recent morning, Minoru Nogiri, 45, a flower shop owner, found himself lining up to have his waistline measured. With no visible paunch, he seemed to run little risk of being classified as overweight, or metabo, the preferred word in Japan these days.


But because the new state-prescribed limit for male waistlines is a strict 33.5 inches, he had anxiously measured himself at home a couple of days earlier. Im on the border, he said.


Under a national law that came into effect two months ago, companies and local governments must now measure the waistlines of Japanese people between the ages of 40 and 74 as part of their annual checkups. That represents more than 56 million waistlines, or about 44% of the entire population.


Those exceeding government limits 33.5 inches for men and 35.4 inches for women, which are identical to thresholds established in 2005 for Japan by the International Diabetes Federation as an easy guideline for identifying health risks and having a weight-related ailment will be given dieting guidance if after three months they do not lose weight. If necessary, those people will be steered toward further re-education after six more months.


To reach its goals of shrinking the overweight population by 10% over the next four years and 25% over the next seven years, the government will impose financial penalties on companies and local governments that fail to meet specific targets. The countrys Ministry of Health argues that the campaign will keep the spread of diseases like diabetes and strokes in check.


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