How did I lose weight naturally: travel and eat what locals do!
If you are here, the chances are that you got hooked onto this captivating title so read on. Whatever the reason, this post is going to be about one of the things that get me really excited: how to effectively reduce weight, eat delicious food and not make sacrifices. The answer is simple – pack your bags and travel! You are bound to lose weight naturally! I have been a foodie for a good few years now.
To be honest with you, at least since my late teen years. To make things worse, despite frequent visits to the gym I simply did not have enough resilience or motivation to sell my life away to weight loss plans only to drop a few pounds. Especially if it involved me having to eat tasteless foods like dry cardboard cakes! I love trying new things.
I hate and love myself for it at the same time. You can say I may end up wasting so much food this way but I see it as a trial and error technique, an ultimate way to discover what my taste buds crave, what should I avoid next time or what an acquired taste is.
What’s the easiest way to lose weight? Travel!
I can’t hold in my enthusiasm about how easy it was to lose weight whilst traveling. I am talking about the whopping 8 kgs in 3 months! Where is the trick? It’s the synergy effect of healthy Asian food and traveling around the world! End result: dropping some frustrating pounds and feeling great without selling my soul to not necessarily easy to follow diet plans.
I know you hear stories about some of us losing 3 stones, 6 stones or even 8 stones. Well, maybe I should be a bit more humble about this questionable to some ‘achievement’ but I still feel that there is hope for everyone.
Asian diet – a safe way to lose weight?
It’s no brainer that the foods in Asia are distinctly different than in Europe and they have great influence on your dietary habits. Luckily, there is no need to import all fresh veggies from Asia. All you really need to do is to make small tweaks and be more disciplined if you aren’t traveling. In a few simple words, this is what a typical Asian diet consists of:
- Green tea
- Very little oil
- Variety of sauces
- Desserts are not as common
Small plates and chopsticks
I find the idea of sharing your food at a family dinner table amazing and don’t understand why Westerners don’t do it. To start with, you eat what you want and pick the food from the selection. Rather than having a fixed portion, you choose when it’s too little and when it’s too much as you go along.
This way you don’t feel guilty for not finishing your portion or asking for the seconds. Eating from the smaller bowls or plates meant that I would often need to reach out for more food from the table. However, using chopsticks makes it easier to eat less thanks to the smaller food quantities you would be able to grab with your chopsticks.
This, in effect, leads to eating slowly and gives you more control over what you actually should eat. You eat what you are able to rather than scoffing your food down in no time when you are hungry and then feeling bloated right after.
How does the climate affect our diet?
Everyone will find climate affecting them differently but what I’ve noticed is that shortly after moving to a hotter climate I would feel less and less hungry but more thirsty which undoubtedly triggered those small changes in my body.
When it’s so hot and humid outside and you have trips to tick off your list, you not only drink a lot more but also work out double due to high saturation of water in the air which leads to increased perspiration. Lastly, you may not crave steaks and other meat as much as you would back in Europe. It is simply too filling! Instead, your body starts craving fresh steamed or grilled fish, seafood and veggies that are easy to digest and keep you energised.
My effortless tips for losing weight during traveling
This section is all about the simple ways to lose weight during traveling I did without planning to drastically lose weight. To be honest, I knew I would lose weight a little bit but the outcome has exceeded my expectations. The lifestyle, accessibility of certain products and climate were different from my lifestyle before we left the country.
I thought you should know that I did not suddenly cut out eating carbs or fats from my diet or even starved myself. I find it quite hard to follow rigorous diet programs. What I was doing when traveling required literally no effort. By the way, I did not even mention anything about having to exercise in case you think the only way for you to lose weight is to exercise heavily.
Surely, if you add gym workouts you can increase and fast forward the effects. With some you may think I am stating the obvious but it’s the simple habits and healthy balanced diet that will get you where you want to be.
The importance of sleep and staying active
Getting enough sleep
On average, I was getting between 8-9 hours of good quality sleep. Upon becoming a full-time digital nomad, I finally did not need to be woken up by an alarm clock! Instead, I would wake up a couple of hours later when my body would be ready for it. I would make sure that my body gets enough rest at night as sleep deprivation distorts your body functions and concentration at work.
Here’s my simple logic behind the hunger, sleep and weight loss: the longer you sleep, the less you crave food and the better you feel in the mornings. By going to bed a little earlier, you may not need to reach out for a midnight snack. Longer hours of sleep helped me restore the energy, I felt more awake in the mornings and didn’t need any sugar aid or caffeine to keep me going as days went past.
Walking to places
We did not rent out motorbikes during our stay in Thailand. We were relying on the public transport to get to places like night markets, temples and other sightseeing spots. Having a petite kitchen area and so many affordable food places within walking radius from our condo was tempting us to go outside and explore Chiang Mai.
Sunshine almost every day with average temperature outside in high 20s was a good excuse to have a break from work and turn it into our power walk in the heat for yummy food!.
Try exotic fruits and vegetables that Asia has in abundance
Eating local Asian fruits There are so many of them that you won’t get bored of trying something new. Some fruits can be quite filling and in my case they were a good alternative to my breakfast options.
I used to have sliced papaya with pastries or coconut chips in the mornings and this would keep me going for a few hours, often leaving me too full to have sizeable lunch. Sometime, I would need to divide sliced papaya snack into two and have the rest for another day as one portion was simply too filling.
Amazing source of soluble fibre with high level of satiety that makes you feel full. Occasionally, I would swap papaya or mango for a coconut yogurt with a pastry or coconut chips available from any convenience store like Seven Eleven.
That was topped with freshly squeezed orange juice with bits from the local fresh juice stall. Make sure you pick the stall that does not add sugar to the drink, the juice tastes better without it!
The amazing effects of a soup diet that really fills you up
Noodle soup for lunch
I don’t mean the instant noodles with seasoning that you would see in the supermarkets. If you are looking for some healthy lunch alternatives, give it a go. There are so many different types of noodles and even more ways they can served that you will never get bored of them. Well, maybe sometimes you will switch to rice or chips for a change.
I fell in love with soup noodles and I preferred them over solid foods. Those noodle soups were made in humongous saucepans, almost size of cauldrons, with freshly made pork, beef, prawns or squid, tons of delish veggies and sometimes mid boiled egg.
Variety of toppings and sauces for additional flavouring were available to anyone who wanted spice things up the way the liked most. I cannot tell you how highly I recommend you to try the noodle based soup diet or noodle diet if you want to call it somehow.
Those noodle soups were very filling and light on your stomach, never making you feel like you are about to wobble when you get up from the table. Quite the opposite, the vitamins inside would wake you up to and make you more energised.
This was very different from having Western food when shortly after lunch or dinner I was so full that I’d be falling asleep at my office desk or curling up on the sofa at home in a semi-lying position. People in Europe are still opening up for the Asian foods.
I am not talking about Chinese takeaways that are catered towards Western taste buds and therefore, have very little to do with authentic Asian foods but the more authentic places like Chinatown in London.
Some Asian food is relatively easy and other recipes can take more time. However, I’d recommend to try if you are considering Asian dishes as an alternative to your well-established, never failing signature dishes that are often served with potatoes or pasta just to mix things up a little.
How to not feel hungry before bedtime and between meals
Drinking water and fresh juices
Whether I felt thirsty or not, I always had a bottle of water right next to me. In more tropical parts of Asia, like Singapore, south of Thailand or Bali, you will need to drink more than what you would usually drink in Europe.
As much as in Europe I thought I would never be able to drink pure water without forcing myself to it, this very same drink was what I needed most. Luckily, I got used to drinking it that now I drink it out of choice.
Coconut water and young coconut jelly
Drinking this divine potion is working miraculously on my skin, wellbeing and digestion. One of my favourite coconut water properties is its ability to keep you hydrated during scorching heat and soothe your burning mouth during spicy meals. Never forget to scoop jelly from the young coconut.
This wonderful snack is yummy, goes well with anything and is amazingly filling. Have you ever tried sponge cake topped with coconut jelly? It’s as good as Oreo or red velvet cake and it’s definitely a lot healthier!
Real weight loss secrets revealed – no snacking at night!
Rarely having food at night
It was not as bad as I initially thought. For a few years during uni time and corporate work I dreaded going to sleep hungry. As much as no one really likes it, I have learnt and taught myself how to not feel hungry right before bedtime.
Being in South East Asia where you choose water over food in the high humidity was a big contributor to taking first baby steps. However, it requires more will power to maintain it. My tip – drink loads of water about an hour before you head for bed. This way you won’t wake up in the middle of the night but you will surpass your hunger.
If you cannot stand water, try freshly squeezed juices that deceive your brain. I don’t like forcing myself to drink water but staying in the hot climate, where humidity levels where often quite high made me want to drink water more than sweetened drinks. This way, I learnt how to drink water and I actually started liking it.
If you feel really hungry, try coconut, banana or jackfruit chips, seaweed snacks, freshly squeezed unsweetened juices or seeds. There is so much to choose from in Asia that you won’t be short of ideas!
Nothing compares to a cup of tea that helps you lose weight
Trust me, in the past I would do absolutely everything not to drink water but loved tea with sugar, including Jasmine tea. I learnt to enjoy drinking green tea, Matcha tea and JJasmine tea in their natural form. I honestly didn’t even notice how I managed to switch from 2 sugar spoons in my English breakfast or Earl Grey to nothing in green tea. However, drinking Thai tea with sugar is a must!
Spice things up in the kitchen
It’s not for everyone and it takes time to build your tolerance towards certain foods. However, learning to eat spicy meals means you get to eat them at a slower pace and drink plenty of liquids that make you feel fuller.
Going for a spicy dish also means you really get to taste what the locals eat and train your taste buds so you can handle a wider variety of food choices without having to ask for places mainly catering for tourists and thus offering Western-influenced dishes.
When eating spicy, my favourite drink during meals (especially the spicy ones) is chilled, fresh coconut water and coconut jelly that have soothing properties and are great for speeding up your metabolism.
Hot pots amongst healthy alternatives to fried food
Grilled, steamed and boiled food
Whilst Thai food selection consists of fried foods which are so enticing, the grilled selection somehow looks more appealing. Especially if you are at a night market and watch how your sizzling hot food is being prepared right in front of you. Swapping fried food for healthier alternatives is equally as tasty only if you know how to prepare it well.
I can’t count how many times we stood in front of the BBQ section outside three favourite spots in Nimman, Chiang Mai, Thailand for the premium quality grilled meat, vegetables and seafood. Top-notch farang (foreigner in Thai) to Thai spicy seasoning went incredibly well with this grilled food.
Alternatively, noodle soups with boiled or steamed vegetables were another great way of not even thinking once about fried chicken and craving heavily oil-influenced Western dishes, like one of my favourite Tom Yum soups.
I won’t even ramble on about the heavenly steamed or grilled fish with salt that I could die for and would always be left with an itch to have more (despite full belly). Try it and you will be back for more.
Hot pots are simply delish Don’t forget about the hot pots, especially when you can add your own selection of greens, mushrooms and seafood. Just thinking about it wants me have some right now.
Bread and diary
Eating much less bread
In some less touristy places of South East Asia bread does not taste as good as in Europe and it’s usually quite limited in choice. Bread is often more expensive than fresh vegetable or fruit. Sometimes the price of small loaf of bread is on par with fresh, sizeable lunch with meat, seafood and veggies.
Do your maths and think about this rich in flavour dish over probably very average quality bread. For someone like me who literally had to have bread or pastry at least once per day was a big change. In particular when I realised I somehow stopped craving bread.
On the upside, I felt energised, the food I had was light and would not make me feel bloated or stay in my stomach for a long time. Instead, I would sometimes leave some room for a fresh snack, like coconut chips, pumpkin seeds, Thai tea or naughty crisps with oriental seafood or seaweed twist.
Rarely having cow’s milk and cheese
I drank cow’s milk at the beginning of our stay in Asia but I didn’t feel the need to drink it. Actually, I did not crave having semi-skimmed cow’s milk with my morning cereal for breakfast that I used to have before we set off. However, it was an easy alternative to noodles, toasties from Seven Eleven or pancakes for breakfast.
The change wasn’t intentional and despite liking milk, I felt the need to try other things and soon I was very grateful for that. I started swapping milk for fresh, juicy fruits and fruit juices from the market. I got to try the array of colourful and yummy fruits which I would mix with nuts or Asian style pastries.
This way, I didn’t have to rely on a poorer version of Asian-style English breakfast often served with frankfurters and no baked beans, mushrooms and hash browns or going for a meat-based porridge in the mornings.
Decent quality cheese was sold only in the more touristy and up-scale supermarkets but at a lot higher price and obviously imported rather than fresh from the farms.
Sadly, it was not of the quality to justify paying premium for it. With that being said, I would have cheese mainly in the toasties and surprisingly, I did not crave it as much as I did in Europe because there were so many new things I wanted to discover!
After all, you should try to follow diet of the locals. They know what tastes good, what gives them enough nutrition, does not rinse their wallets and lets them stay the way they look.
When did I start noticing changes to my body?
It was probably just over two weeks after we got to Asia when I started noticing that I am really full after our meals, I do not crave any snacks and even could not finish normal-sized portions. However, there was no noteworthy difference to my weight for another couple of weeks.
In fact, what I wanted more than anything was water – in the morning, afternoon, evening and at night! I would wake up 3 to 4 times at night just to take some heavy gulps at night as my mouth was thirsty. Tropical countries like Vietnam or Thailand are certainly natural healers but slowly I started replacing foods with drinks, especially right before each meal.
Not because of my own choice as the South East Asian food is absolutely divine. It was more because I just had the urge to drink and my stomach was simply getting a little fuller which left less room to eat.
Traveller’s diarrhoea AKA Saigon Squirts in Vietnam and in South East Asia
Another thing which I believe that had contributed to me starting to slowly changing my food habits was the traveller’s diarrhoea. As much as I hated being in that stage and would rather not repeat it, let’s face it, it’s almost inevitable to catch the bug if you are traveling. It is not only frustrating, painful and particularly stressful when you have multiple planes booked.
However, it can be a blessing in disguise as it your body will fight the bug, detoxify and cleanse your body and make you more immune to new foods. Staying hydrated is a must so whichever way you look at it, there is always a silver lining to it.
Whilst it’s not unheard of that many tourists get affected by sickness and diarrhea, luckily these hideous symptoms usually go within a few days and you are good to try the whole new range of rainbow-coloured fresh foods.
Less Affordable Weight Loss Retreats in Asia Vs Travelling in Asia
Which one fits your bill? Travelling is not all about losing weight and on top of losing weight you get to embrace the entire new culture, new dietary habits and totally amazing food. You may slate me for devaluing these effectiveness of Thailand bootcamp programmes. I don’t understand why people are looking for weight loss retreats in Thailand as a quick fix to their problems.
I cannot justify paying such high price for detox retreats. Would you rather jam everything you can in your luxurious 7 day extreme weight loss boot camp holidays in Asia or Europe instead of taking it easy whilst travelling? Hard core training will be ideal for anyone who needs to lose weight but you are likely to lose weight whilst traveling regardless.
Not only that, you will simply get to enjoy the beauty each tropical country has on offer without rushing things through and learn what works for you best. This way you lose weight naturally and make it last long without unnecessary yo yo effect.
Two months in back in England – is maintaining weight easy?
Many of us blame being overweight on processed foods and genetic modification in the West. I am not against this stand but I can tell you that you don’t need to stick to rigorous food regime and organic food in order to maintain your weight.
Ditching some bad habits and replacing them with some new dietary habits is the key if you want to lose weight but are not planning to travel for some time (or never). Those bad dietary habits are what I never believed could be the real culprits.
I can consider myself lucky that staying in an Asian household and eating Asian food every day simply answered my question: can you stay slim when you come back from travels? I never wanted to stick to any particular diet but wanted a guaranteed weight loss without yo yo effect a few weeks or months later.
After 2 months of being back in England I can tell you that it works and now I know it is not only the climate that helped me lose weight but the actual food. My answer is yes and that’s thanks to the food and habits that I have developed. I wish someone told me about this earlier so I could go traveling after shedding some pounds and not doing it other way round!
Are Caucasian genes to blame?
To sum up, I thought I would mention this one surprising factor. Kev and I eat more or less the same food. He has always been praised for his amazing physique and often people would stop him in the gym and ask about his diet. May I mention to you that when we trained together 3 times per week, no one ever stopped me and asked this very same question.
HOW ANNOYING IS THAT? Whilst diet, job type and active lifestyle can heavily contribute to your love or hate for your body, genes also play a big role in here. Just so that you know, whilst I lost over 8 kgs, he managed to maintain his weight and lost only 1 kg. He sometimes also visited Mc Donald’s and KFC as he simply could not live without it so this may answer why he managed to keep his weight almost intact!
Are you getting ready for traveling? If you’re already on the road, how has traveling affected your well-being and weight? Let us know if you have any questions on how to stay fit without making life changing sacrifices.
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