Thursday, June 01, 2006


Weight Loss the Korean Way

In mid-May I had been back from Korea about two weeks, when one of my oldest friends saw me for the first time in nine months, and noticed how my church suit clung less tautly to my shoulders and elbows than it did last August. He became roughly the 32nd person to make the same observation, though I credit him for saying it in a more creative way:

“I see the Asians took their pound of flesh while you over there,” he said.

“More like thirty-five,” was my reply.

The variations of this same observation have been plentiful, and expressed in ways ranging from banal amazement (“Wow, you HAVE lost a lot of weight.”) to the trenchantly observant (“I know one thing, they sure didn’t fatten you up over there.”) to those implying I’ve somehow done something wrong (“So what have you been eating…or not eating, I should say?”).

Thanks to years of weight lifting and regular protein intake, I left the land of my birth weighing approximately 210 pounds, which is more than the combined population of the Korean peninsula (okay, not really, but certainly more than the North Koreans). Upon my return, all my well-learned politesse could not convince the scales to move past 175 pounds when I stood upon it. In many circles (which is what many of my countrymen are becoming, if you know what I mean) this would be cause for celebration.

However, since I’m 6’3 and have a family history of beenpolia, this was considered more of a return to form among past acquaintances and, among my co-workers in Korea, cause for alarm. “Are you starving yourself?” other foreign teachers would ask. “Here comes the skeleton crew” they would announce. Other times, they would speculate that it was a kind of fad diet involving a tapeworm.

The truth is, there were many factors involved, many of which I think my fellow Americans can learn from (in fact I’m sure of it; I saw more abdominal abundance within one hour of landing at the Nashville airport than I had in my entire time in Asia). For your edification, I can outline my simple Korean weight loss plan as follows:

Eat more rice and less of everything else-The Far East has a reputation for people spending long hours harvesting rice fields in the hot sun while wearing funny pointed hats. This is no longer true of South Korea, which industrialized during the 1960s and ‘70s, to the point where they now have machines capable of harvesting the rice and wearing funny pointed hats.

Nonetheless, in the Korean language, rice is called “bap,” which thus becomes the suffix of 90 percent of all Korean food. For example, there’s “kimbap,” or rice wrapped in seaweed with various vegetables/meat found inside, and “bibeembap” which roughly translates into “rice mixed with various vegetables and hot sauce, mixed together haphazardly.” These foods contain virtually no fat, and bibeembap should actually result in a net loss of calories since the hot sauce will cause you to sweat profusely.

Travel often-It’s good to have a series of business meetings in a far away city, which I had for a time in Seoul, requiring long trips via public transportation. These generally result in long periods of time with nothing to consume save potato chips and bottled water. Upon arrival at one’s destination, one is certainly hungry enough to eat, but energy from nothing but potato chips does not translate into enough force to lift a frying pan or push a fast food restaurant door open, so one tends to simply retire.

Walk everywhere, and in a hurry-It helps to have a work schedule requiring one to wake up and teach a class at 7 a.m. and several more spread throughout the day, culminating in a work day which ends at 9 p.m. This virtually ensures that the next morning one will not be compliant with an alarm clock that buzzes at 6 a.m. One will be much more compliant at, say, 6:52 a.m., at which point one may attempt to compress getting dressed in a professional outfit, taking an elevator down 15 floors and making a 10-minute walk to work quickly enough to avoid having all his students ask for refunds.

Have the right genetic material-This works not only for me, but for nearly all of East Asia. It is evident in the fact that there were several students at the Seventh Day Adventist Language Institute who were both mothers, and thirty-something-years old, and yet weighed about as much as a Magic Marker™ whose ink is entirely spent.

However, in April, a Korean public interest group proposed a ban on soft drinks in public schools to stop mounting obesity rates in children which had recently surpassed a rate of one out of every 10 students.

Wait a minute…one out of 10 is cause for concern? In America, one out of 10 students will have a minor heart attack between Spanish and Algebra classes during the month of November. In American school cafeterias “one out of 10” is what an average student might say to describe how many hot dogs he has had for lunch so far in comparison to how many he will wolf down by the time the bell rings.

So, in conclusion, in order to lose a significant amount of weight in a short time, one simply has to eat right, get plenty of physical activity and be less American. I fully expect this advice to revolutionize not only the diet industry, but how we prepare for the World Cup.

So during your quest for weight gain in the US, you're going to go to Taco Bell, right? And while there pick up LOTS of sauce for your good friend in Korea who has only 6 left.. RIGHT????!?!?!?!?
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