Chinese Girl Shares Chinese Weight Loss Secrets
Ever wonder why Chinese people generally weigh less? Until 25 years ago, before the advent of fast-food in China, Chinese people have the lowest obesity rate. What is their secret to maintaining a trim waistline given their great obsession with food? If you look at their way of life, it revolves around food. Their common traditional greeting, “Have you eaten?” (Ni chi bao le ma?) and the number of people in the family is defined by the number of mouths to feed (kuo-mouths) show the emphasis on food. They even qualify the ability to eat as a blessing.
I was brought up on Chinese food (my grandparents were from China) and have always maintained a size 0 despite eating 5 meals (3 main meals, 2 snacks in between) a day. I analyze the way Chinese people eat and their whole approach to food and come up with some observations as to why they generally weigh a whole lot less. I have also incorporate some tips from Chinese food expert, Lorraire Clissford, author of the book, Why the Chinese Don’t Count Calories.
To the ruler, people are heaven; to the people, food is heaven ~ ancient Chinese proverb.
A gourmet who thinks of calories is like a tart who looks at her watch ~ James A. Beard (I know he’s not Chinese but who can resist such wisdom?)
Calories? What calories? Chinese people don’t have a word for “calories.” Surprising? Not really, they don’t map out their meals in terms of how many fat calories—in fact a 1990 survey found that Chinese people actually consumed 30 percent more calories than Americans, and they are not necessarily more active. If you do the Math, that spells disaster with the “FAT” word. So, where did the Math go wrong by all reasoning? Chinese people view food as nourishment and enjoyment, they tend to eat a more balanced meal—a little meat, some vegetables and always, rice or noodles. And that’s the way to go when eating. Western nutrition expert, Patrick Holford has this to say, “The latest research into weight loss shows that calorie-controlled, low-fat diets are less effective than low glycemic load diets, which is exactly what a traditional Chinese diet is.”
Verdict: Eat a well-rounded meal with the 3 main groups of foods—some carbs, some proteins and lots of vitamins and minerals (i.e. vegetables and fruits). Avoid waist-enhancing sugary, nutrient-deficient foods.
The way you cut your meat reflects the way you live ~ Confucius
If you eat at a Chinese restaurant, the chances are that they don’t serve huge chunks of protein. They cut their meat up into bite-sizes and they like to toss them with other ingredients such as vegetables or an assortment of spices. Vegetables, as you know, are low in fat calories and high in vitamins and minerals. Spices offer huge favor benefits (some even burn fat like chili pepper, ginger, garlic) without unnecessary calories. If you put all the tiny pieces of meat together—they don’t add to much meat intake. Again, using your Math skill, less meat consumed makes for good dieting, even without you knowing it.
Verdict: Instead of eating huge slabs of steak or preparing hunks of meat, opt for the leaner version—slice them up and you’ll be surprised how little meat you need for a dish. Cost effective and very good for the waistline.
A Toast to Tea
Better to be deprived of food for three days, than tea for one ~ Ancient Chinese proverb.
Chinese’s love affair with tea is a well-known secret and they’re not bashful about it. Since the chance discovery of tea by Emperor Shen Nung back in 2700 B.C. when some leaves fell into his cup of hot water, tea is almost always serve with food. Growing up, the pot of tea was always near, in the kitchen, and instead of soda or juice with a meal, hot tea is often the beverage of choice (actually the only choice with the exception of water in my house).
So, what’s so good about drinking tea? A whole slew of researches have shown health benefits of tea—it eliminates toxin, aids digestion (that’s why it is often consumed at meal times), fights damaging free radicals (because of its potent supply of catechins—powerful antioxidants) and reduces risks of cancer and cardiovascular diseases. Tea, especially green tea is a fat burner and it can also freshens breath (another fringe benefit). A recent study in Geneva showed that tea’s catechins and its naturally occurring caffeine help to reduce weight. The study shows that both catechins and caffeine increase metabolic rate and rev up the body’s ability to burn fat.
Verdict: X-out soda and juices or fancy drinks to go with your meal. Elect to drink tea (black, green, white or red) for that extra fat-burning boost.
He that takes medicine and neglects diet, wastes the skills of the physician ~ Chinese proverb.
Chinese people love soups—in the morning, noon and night. Not the creamy, heavy version of most western diet but light, liquid based soup with an assortment of vegetables, meat and often, herbs. For instance, they use goji berries, dates, ginseng, galangal, lemon grass and ginger—among others, to flavor their soups. They generally don’t add up to many calories, since water has zero calories and they fill you up to induce a feeling of satiety. Chinese herbs used when preparing soups have various health benefits—from improving immune system, detoxifying toxins to maintaining good eye-sight (see goji berries health benefits).
Another western nutrition expert, Ian Marber says, “I’m a great believer in soups before food. Miso soup, for instance, or anything fermented—these are probiotics, which help release nutrients from the food you are about to eat.”
Verdict: Enjoy soups with your meal. Make it light, make it healthful to enrich health without taking a whole bunch of supplements to make up for nutritional lack.
Yin and Yang
Yin and Yang are synonymous with the Chinese take on life—they believe in balance—even in their food preparation. Yin “cools” the body whereas Yang “heats” it up. In their food preparation, they often use yin (wet and moist) to balance yang (dry and crispy). A popular dish comes to mind—Szechwan beef—strips of crispy beef stir-fried with cooling celeries and carrots.
Some restaurants (common in Asia) even employ this concept when serving their foods. They actually do a thorough examination (by means of questioning and taking pulses) to determine your yin-and-yang status and then they proceed to prepare a meal for you based on their findings to restore the balance of yin and yang in your body. What a way to dine!
Why the emphasis on balance? According to Holford, it makes good health sense: “Most protein foods are seen as yang, carbohydrates as yin. The combination of these two helps stabilize blood sugar, which is key to good energy (chi) and minimizing weight gain.”
Verdict: Balance is key—as in a well-balanced diet, so utilize this concept in your food preparation.
Sincerely full, the epicure would say, Fate cannot harm me; I have dined to-day ~ Sdyney Smith “Recipe for Salad.”
Sure salads are healthy and rightly so, if they are prepared with nutrient-rich fresh vegetables and healthy dressings. But fortunately, or unfortunately, Chinese people don’t like raw vegetables for the most part. They like to rock their woks with their stir-fries—lightly cooking their vegetables with intense heat. Is it healthier? While it may not necessarily be so, Lorraine Clissford says that sautéing vegetables can make the nutrients easier for the body to take on. She goes on to amplify a Chinese concept regarding raw food: the stomach finds it hard to digest too much raw food and this can lead to bloating and weight gain.
Verdict: Try lightly sautéing your vegetables instead—one more creative way to eat your vegetables and you may be doing your body a great service—since lightly cooking vegetables make nutrients more bio-available.
What’s for desserts?
Eat first, talk later ~ common Chinese saying
Chinese people love desserts too. But desserts is often looked upon as a side, an after-thought kind of arrangement unlike Westerners who view desserts as the grand finale to their meal. For most part, they like to end their meal with a plate of fruits. And if you ever look at their selection of desserts, you may be tempted to say, “You call this dessert?” Their selection?—red beans soup, mung beans with sliced dough sticks, almond jelly with lychees, banana fritters, glutinuous rice balls with sesame paste, and mango pudding—to mention a few—they don’t sound too appealing but maybe that’s a good thing for the waistline. With the exceptions of some, most Chinese desserts are not terribly sweet and some desserts are made with medicinal value in mind—Ginseng sweet soup with red dates and eggs, bird’s nest soup, for examples. They are not piled up with heavy cream or loaded with icing.
Verdict: Short of skipping dessert, why not opt for a very healthy alternative—eat fruits as desserts.
Well, a full belly conquers all ~ From the film Saving Face
Talk doesn’t cook rice ~ Chinese saying (meaning talk means nothing, if there’s no action)
The rice is cooked ~ another Chinese saying (It’s too late to change, or to regret something. The English equivalent—don’t’ cry over spilled milk)
Chinese people love their rice, especially white, fluffy rice. In fact, if a woman cannot cook good fluffy rice, her culinary skills are often called to question. They also love noodles—oodles of them—they carry auspicious meaning: eating noodles on your birthday ensures a long life. Now, this love for simple carbohydrates doesn’t sound like a good diet plan. Not so, says Clissold-- although rice is high in carbohydrates, it is also low in fat and high in nutrients and it fills you up quickly, so you are not snacking on low-carb and high fat foods, which can translate to weight gain in the long run.
Verdict: So white rice and noodles may not be the best thing about the Chinese diet but if you watch the portion size (should be no more than a quarter of your plate or no more than a small bowl of rice), it can actually fill you up, thereby preventing unnecessary snacking later to quell hunger pangs. Another good alternative is to replace rice and noodles with brown rice or the healthier whole-grain version.
So there, you have it—secrets from an insider, who still retains her Chinese way of eating food, despite the fact that she’s surrounded with fast food restaurants and hamburger joints.
Other Chinese quotes about food I can’t pass up, because they’re so darn good:
- I just love Chinese food. My favorite dish is number 27 ~ Clement Atlee, former British Prime Minister
- Tea tempers the spirit, harmonizes the mind, dispels lassitude, relieves fatigue, awakens thoughts and prevents drowsiness ~ The Classic Art of Tea, by Lu Lu
- We think fast food is equivalent to pornography, nutritionally speaking ~ Steve Elbert
- There is one thing more exasperating than a wife who can cook and won’t, and that’s a wife who can’t cook and will ~ Robert Frost
- And I find chopsticks frankly distressing. Am I alone in thinking it odd that a people ingenious enough to invent paper, gunpowder, kites and any number of useful objects, and who have a noble history extending back 3,000 years haven’t yet worked out that a pair of knitting needles is no way to capture food? ~ Bill Bryson
Well, actually they have. Chopsticks is their ultimate diet control solution—how much food can you pick up with a pair of skinny bamboo contraption, that takes even greater effort to maneuver?
Agree, readers? Now, run out and buy yourself some good-looking chopsticks and half of the weight battle may be won, just like that.
Other interesting related reads:
Why are Thai People So Skinny? : http://hubpages.com/hub/Why-Are-Thai-People-So-Skinny--Try-Thai-Green-Curry
How to trim the waistline without going on a diet: http://hubpages.com/hub/How-to-Trim-the-Waistline-Without-Going-on-a-Diet
Whittle away belly fat: http://hubpages.com/hub/Whittle-Away-Belly-Fat
How to build dieting success into your daily life: http://hubpages.com/hub/How-to-Build-Dieting-Success-into-Your-Daily-Life
© 2009 anglnwu