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Sayonara, Mr. Fatty! Food for thought.

July 8, 2009

At first Sayonara, Mr. Fatty! might seem like a odd title for us to be reviewing but it is on target for several reasons. The first and foremost is the author: Toshio Okada. Okada is one of the co-founders and the former president of Studio Gainax. He also holds the title of OtaKing or King of Otaku. Okada has had such a huge impact on the Japanese anime community as both a person who has contributed to through projects he has worked on and as commentator and scholar of otaku culture. Secondly, it is an interesting piece of Japanese culture and literature outside of its context in the otaku world. Lastly, Sayonara, Mr. Fatty is just very good. It is more than just a diet book; it is a book that shares with you a method of approaching life.

My interest in this book was my many layered curiosity more than anything else. The memoir aspect was easily the most attractive feature of this self-help book. Like our Otaku Diaries project may suggest, we have a interest in the underlying personalities, habits, and thoughts of geeks. And Toshio Okada is considered one of the most famous geeks in Japan! The book sounded like a positive look at losing weight and not changing who you actually are. A person’s personal philosophy and story should make you think or consider things that you might not have otherwise. Also as an ex-overweight geek I was just plain curious what his method was. So with all directions pointed to picking up this book, I sped through it in a mere day.

Sayonara, Mr. Fatty! is one third personal story, one third diet book, and one third philosophy. He starts the book telling the reader who he is, how he slowly became overweight, and what in his life changed to make him commitment to losing weight. He then moves on to explain the general philosophy of his diet method and how is compares to other diets. He also goes into the many benefits of losing weight to help encourage the reader. The next few chapters are the recording diet, as he calls it, itself. He explains how you start by simply writing down what you eat without consciously modifying your diet in the least. However, you slowly but naturally modify what you eat almost unconsciously by recording. All along the way Okada gives stories from his own experience of developing the diet. He gives us the hows and whys of each step of the program with bits or encouragement and advice from his triumphant struggles.

One of the key elements to this book is that Okada is a geek, plain and simple, and he didn’t stop being a geek in order to lose weight. In other words, he didn’t radically change his lifestyle to do this diet. He says quite plainly, he hates physical exercise but he likes to use his brain, so instead of trying (and most likely failing) to fight that impulse he found a way to use it to his advantage. Okada explores his own mindset and in doing so appeals to those who aren’t the athletic type or even the type with a strong will. He often talks about his own lack of willpower as being the most significant factor in keeping him from successfully staying on a diet. So with pen and paper in hand he set out to see just why he weighed so much and thus an unknown destination stretched out before him.

Socrates once said that, “Thou shouldst eat to live; not live to eat.” In a way the whole goal of the book is to change your mindset into the first type instead of the second type while still enjoying food. You are changing your way of thinking more than changing your way of eating. Okada noticed the more he looked at what ate and then when and why he ate it the more he realized it was his attitude toward food that was making him overweight. Of course the only way to change his habits was to confront them head on. This led him to examine them in detail. After that point it was a matter of slowly changing his attitude when he was aware of what exactly he was doing wrong. He slowly changed his mindset and habits towards only eating when he had to but enjoying those meals to the fullest.

Okada’s anecdotes are amusing in the same way they are encouraging. He often remarks on how popular you will be because everyone will want to know the story of just how you lost all that weight! As Okada delves further and further into the recording diet we see his awareness increase. It becomes especially fascinating to see him theorize about the differing mindsets between people extremely overweight and those who aren’t. According to Okada he would eat anytime he wasn’t completely full and never wait for the body to say, “I’m hungry!” He thinks perhaps others have acted as he did and have stopped listening to their bodies. Of course, he makes it very clear these are only pet theories. The bits of wisdom shared in the book will seem so simple that you must have known it all along but Okada makes you aware of it.

So, how useful is this book to the average person who is going to pick it up as a diet book? Clearly no diet will work for everyone. For one thing, no matter how effective or easy a diet is, it requires an honest desire to change your life. Even a diet as simple as the recording diet will not be effective if you are not willing to put in the commitment necessary. The changes are gradual and minuscule but the willpower must there in the first place. That being said, I see no real reason for anyone interesting in losing weight to not giving it a try. The Recording Diet does not require you to starve yourself, not eat certain types of food, eat only certain types of food, or modify how you live your life in any inconvenient manner. If you follow the procedures correctly you will modify your own eating habits slowly but surely and begin to slim down.

His method goes through many sub-stages before it reaches it full height and after that comes self-awareness. So much of it that you are no longer on a diet you are just living. Okada’s approach is universal and infectious. He never comes off as preachy or better than the reader because he isn’t. Okada shares with us a simple story and how we use it in the rest of our lives is up to us. I can’t say it’s the best diet book I’ve ever read because I’ve never read any others. However, there was never one that sounded like Sayonara, Mr. Fatty!

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