Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The whole FAT thing


Well, I'm back in the land of the rice patties and it turns out I'm homeless.


I didn't know I wouldn't be able to move into my new place until the end of February until after I had already booked my ticket back. Whoops. Oh well. It's only for 10 days or so. I'm looking at it as a time of plentiful slumber parties with friends. While living out of a morbidly obese suitcase.

Speaking of morbidly obese...America. Let's just say I experienced a bout of reverse culture shock upon my return home. People were just...so...BIG. I suppose it doesn't help that my hometown received a No. 1 ranking as the fattest city in the country by Men's Health magazine back in 2010. Talk about hometown pride. I've sure got some of that. 

While home I realized that the portion sizes of our food (along with all of that processed crap we call "food") are truly killing our nation. Really, though. Being overweight is the leading risk factor for type 2 diabetes (CDC) and currently, 25.8 million Americans have diabetes, which is a major cause of heart disease and stroke, and is the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S. (NDIC). The "aha" moment for me was when I went to a movie with my dad. I ordered a small Icee, one of the many vittles I had been craving over the last year.

"You wanna make that a large, honey? It's only an extra fifty cents and you get a whole lot more," the woman behind the counter told me as she held up a cup three times the size of the "small" (which, just so you know, is actually the size of a Korean "large" at fast food joints).

"Three times the empty calories and probably a full scoop of processed white sugar? No thanks," I said......in my head. Really I said: "No, the small will be just fine, thanks." But I couldn't even finish it. Nor could I finish any meal, really. I realized that my stomach shrank. That and American portion sizes actually serve two -- at least. 

Weightier than the Rest
I think the penny-pinching mindset has contributed to our weight gain for sure. We've come to believe that if you can get more for your money, then why not get more? Which isn't necessarily a bad thing. But it certainly can be when it comes to food, if you're not careful.

Another factor is the sedentary lifestyle that we've comfortably settled into. People just don't move their bodies enough. They walk or bike a lot here in Asia, whereas in the States, we rely on our cars...even to go a mile up the street to the store. It's true that the layouts of U.S. towns and cities -- places are spaced much further apart than in Asia where things are quite literally stacked on top of one another -- are sort of a setback when it comes to pedaling around town and such.

Americans also seem to have acquired a dependency on crappy, unwholesome foods. I do think this is slowly shifting, though, which is great. More people are shopping for whole foods, going veg, and cutting out all the bad stuff. But at the same time, while home I still saw a TON of people filling their shopping carts with sugary cereals, juices that aren't actually juice, white breads galore, and all of that garbage on the cookie and cracker aisles. And guess what? They were fat!

Tips from the Thin
An overweight Korean is somewhat of a rarity. So why not learn from them. It might not be possible to do exactly as they do. But we can still apply some of the ideas to our own western lifestyles.

1. Eat smaller! When I first arrived in Korea, I was unpleasantly surprised by how much smaller serving sizes were. I mean, there were a LOT of servings (K's are big on side dishes). But they were all healthy and weren't spilling over the sides of the plates.  I grew accustomed after about a month or two and realized -- we seriously don't need as much food as we seem to think we do. That, and most American portions sizes are truly made for two. Honestly, if you can eat two cheeseburgers in one sitting, your stomach's probably stretched. So save money and share a dish. Or take home half for later. You don't have to eat it all in one sitting to avoid feeling wasteful. And you can still eat often, if you must -- just decrease the size of your portions. Your stomach will start to shrink, your muffin top will begin to recede and you'll be pretty proud of that flat tummy of yours.

2. Get off your butt and keep moving! Funny story -- I was battling sciatic nerve pain after the 15-hour flight home. I laid on a heating pad for two days straight, but the pain was still excruciating. So I finally just hopped on my bike and started riding. Pain disappeared. I wonder what other pains you could rid yourself of if you just exercised more? So that's another incentive besides weight loss. Ride your bike or walk to get your errands done when you can. This is certainly more feasible for people who live in downtown-y areas. At the very least, start going on walks more. If you must watch your daily line-up of shows at night, do it standing up. While in plank position. And then do some squats. And leg lifts. Ta-da! Your butt just shrunk.

What to buy organic
and non-organic
3. Invest in real food! Stop giving your money to the people who are making products that are making you fat and unhealthy. Eat more fruits and veggies. Eat less foods with preservatives (aka: the foods with an expiration date of 2020) with off-the-charts sugar and sodium. Give your bills to the companies creating whole foods that will sustain your energy, give you less mood swings and crashes, and a slimmer waist.

Before I conclude this rather long-winded post, I will leave you with a little FOOD FOR THOUGHT (hah! ...lame, I know): Just so you know, Koreans do still eat at fast food places like you and I. But, as I said earlier, a large soda is the size of an American "small." They also walk themselves to the fast food restaurant. So what does this mean for you and I? Yes, it's okay to treat yourself. But moderation is key, as my mom says! And remember:
 Fewer calories = Fewer pounds 
(or kilos, if you're a non-Amurican)

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