Monday, March 23, 2009

Adding up

Delicious but deceiving  

All visitors that we've had have said the same thing during their first attempt to eat with sticks:

-Gosh, it is hard to pick up food with these things! But in a way it is good! I normally eat so fast, and with sticks I can’t so I eat much slower and therefore also less!

I normally just smile, nod and go ‘yeah, isn’t it great’ although I know it is not.

Sure, you might eat a bit slower with sticks during your first, hesitative week in China. But wait until you’ve figured out how to use those babies. And worked up some speed. That’s when sticks become more dangerous than a fork and a knife. While a fork and a knife might be good helpers to cutting meat and picking up stuff, sticks allow you to ‘shove’ food into your mouth (not that I’ve done that… eh... or OK, maybe once or twice…)

And since we are on the subject of ‘food myths’….. Chinese food doesn’t make you eat less. Rather, having 4-5 different dishes to pick up food from (as well as a bowl of rice) often leads to overeating. Especially if it is yummy. At least in my case, since I don’t know when to stop (or OK, I do… but still, I don’t).

So, what does eating fast + overeating often lead to… yup… weight gain! You need to be no Sherlock Homes to figure that one out. And then I haven’t even gotten into the fact that most Chinese food is swimming in copious amounts of oil.... Oil that simply cannot be good for you. Not in those amounts anyways. 

I wasn’t one of those who moved to China and put on a lot of weight during my first 6 months. Rather, I lost quite a lot of kilos as a result of: not training (farewell muscles), being stomach sick at least once a month (farewell flab), not loving Chinese food (and therefore not eating it on an everyday basis), not being able to work the sticks with speed, and not being in love with rice… (where I come from, it is all about potatoes).

But, once the stomach got used to the new bacteria environment, the fingers worked up some ‘stick’ speed and I worked up an appetite for Chinese food things started to turn around. Still, because of my love for healthy, home-made food, as well the fact that I started exercising, I managed to stay in shape….

…until I got lazy. It happened around the beginning of this year. Oven made salmon with veggies was replaced by every-day-eating-out or ordering in. Hello dumplings, mapu tofu and gong bao ji ding (chicken). Hello oil, rice and eating much more than you need. Every day. At lunch and dinner.

And then I realized I was addicted to rice. I couldn’t eat a single meal without a rice bowl next to me. The painful truth hit me when I was at a Xinjiang restaurants and ordered a lamb meat/bread dish, as well as a spicy chicken-potato-noodle pot. And a bowl of rice.

-You really need rice as well?! Asked my Chinese friend.

-Of course I do!!

(ehhhhh??? I did? I am not so sure).

Reality hit me as a painful slap in the face during the beginning of this week when I decided to wear my lose ‘comfy’ jeans to school… and realize that I could barely button them up anymore. Whoa whoa whoa… what’s going on here?!

Well, eating fast + over eating + carb overload + oily food = weight gain. DESPITE the fact that I work out almost religiously.

Since I am (or OK, used to be) a bit of a health freak (although I admit it –I am mainly strict about working out 4-5 times/week –I rarely care about what I eat) I am going to take immediate action. Wave farewell to the sticks and the rice bowls for a while. And start making my own food. Maybe limit eating out (which includes ordering in) to 3 times/week. It sucks –because I looooove Chinese food. But large amounts of oil and carbs simply aren’t helping me to get ready for summer. Even though I really wish it was.

Don’t get me wrong though. I am not going on any salad diet. Gosh no no no. Salad doesn’t do it for me. And ‘diet’ is a BAD word in my world. But cooking on your own is good because it gives you a more honest idea of what you are eating as well as how much you are eating. So that’s the only thing I am changing. Although I admit, I am going to miss the rice bowl a lot.... 


. said...

Wow this was really interesting

Anonymous said...

First of all you want to avoid "white food" at night. No pasta, no bread, no rice, no noddles and no potatoes. The carbs make you gain weight and eating them at night when you are inactive is a bad idea. It doesn't mean you can't eat them for lunch, though. Try to avoid eating after seven, apparently researches show that we are most likely to gain weight at night. I doubt your chopsticks have anything to do with it ;)

I personally eat according to my blood type and even though I don't excercise a lot, I've been able to maintain my weight ever since I changed my eating habits. You might want to take a look here:

The Candid Yank said...

aw man I was worried for a moment that this post was going to make me hungry (as some of yours have done!) but then you outlined some problems I am also having :/ not with greasy food or rice but dang just being lazy and not caring, and wondering whether the pants are a bit snug... off to the gym!

and ps you go 4-5 times a week? woooooowwwwwwwwww *impressed*

Chad said...

Oh, how age makes your body betray thee!

LoveANewIdea said...

Your posts about food make me think of a great movie I saw recently - "Eat Drink Man Woman." A superb chef (I think somwhere in China?) makes these incredible meals with so many dishes...might be of interest to you?

Anonymous said...

Noodle soup!
That's what I've been having a lot lately!
Soup fills you up, limited amounts of noodle provides the carb. Add some meat for protein / iron, and lots of green vegie for all your other nutrient needs!

Usually you'd feel full, but you didn't really eat much.

And it's delicious if you make your own stock to cook the noodles in!

But fish is good too!

mantse said...

This is a change from labour who sell power to their brain. Less excecise and no need to work their muscles means less energy needed. I am wondering sometimes that why there is so many fat on oil in a dish!!!

btw, i think i may not handle chopsticks as correct as you. i normally feel i cannot used them very well!

The Acolyte Tao said...

I have to admit, since going out with my ex/best friend and going to actual Chinese restaurants, I hate eating anything without a bowl of rice next to me now. Rice=Love.

Kosmo said...

Bummer about the rice.

I have a similar affinity to potatoes. I'm 33 and my body's metabolism has not yet become my enemy - I'm 5'11" and 150 pounds, despite having a sedentary job and minimal exercise (other than chasing my toddler around). Someday soon, I'm sure the pounds will start to come.

Vampire Rabbit said...

So the question becomes this... Why do Laowai gain weight, when the Chinese using the same chopsticks, at a faster pace, and eating the same oily foods, seem to be, on whole, much thinner than the Laowai?

Anonymous said...

am i the first comment? oh yes, when i went to America, i used to stave myself before i eat anything. now is all normal. i can eat anything but cheese.

Jonna Wibelius said...

kanmuri -I come from a very health conscious family so I know all about 'do's and don'ts' when it comes to eating carbs... but I've promised myself never to listen to any of that. I could never NOT eat after 7pm at night.. Normally I finish my evening run around 8pm, and then it's PERFECT to re-fuel with carbs. Changing my diet too much isn't going to work because I know I would never be able to stick to it long-term. I just need to start cooking for myself again -like I've always done- continue to exercise like I do, and then I'll be back on track again. Eating after your blood type is something I've never have heard about -but I'll def look into that page!

konichiwa, bitches -yeah, I prefer to go 6times/week if I can find the time. I love running, exercising, sweating.. well that whole life. Since I've been like that since a kid I have never experienced any sudden weight gain, until now... it just shows how bad eating out really is! (health wise)

Chad -yeah that too...

Love A new idea- I've heard about that but never seen it... ah, dunno if watching food programs would be the right thing to do right now though?!?! haha!

Pingu -Guess who's eating noodle soup at this very moment?! haha!

mantse -I would never stop exercising in order to eat less... that's just... wrong!! I don't exercise in order to lose weight, I exercise because it gives me energy, and makes me feel great!

Acolyte tao -I am with you -rice = love!

casual observer -I'm not sure... I think if u don't do any big changes to your diet you'll be fine.. I was doing fine until I suddenly started eating out... eating out has never been part of my diet...and look what happened?!

尼克 -that's very easy to answer. Chinese people have grown up on their diet, meanwhile we eat completely different things in the west (less oil, more diary). When I lived in Australia many of my Asian classmates gained loads of weight because they changed their diet and started eating cheese, drinking milk, eating more bread etc... things that they had never eaten before. Likewise, our bodies are not used to as much oil as they put in their dishes...

sunset -uhhh starving yourself has such a bad ring to it!! don't ever do that again. I know I wouldn't. It's not worth it. I'd rather run an extra mile every day!

Anonymous said...

Psssst..... that's a no-brainer!

just take couple of diet pills.. and you'll be fine...

that's how we do in America


Dr Sofea J.Ann Tan said...

chinese food juz woudnt b chinese food without the rice..he he..

but thr are chinese food which are not so oily too..e.g. steamed dishes.. like steamed fish ..thats really yummy !!

Ilyana said...

I think all Asians love their rice. I introduced rice to my in-laws here,whereas before rice is not on their shopping list, but now they're addicted to it too...

I just find it amazing especially the Thai and Japanese women how they managed to get flat tummy, considering japanese rice is soooo yummy but fatty ( I guess...)

In the Philippines we eat rice for breakfast...:-)

Anonymous said...

Judging by the photo, your way of handling the "sticks" is quite the standard.

I, the Chinese guy, on the other hand are told to be unable to handle the "sticks" in the proper way. I'm such a disgrace. I'll just go smash my head on a piece of tofu.

Jonna Wibelius said...

incognito - Diet pill? R u mad?! that's almost an insult... ;) I actually prefer to sweat if off...

Sofea -I don't like eating fish at restos in China.. I feel the taste is a bit 'dirty/muddy'... although I often make tuna/salmon at home. Love fish!

CD -they have rice for brekkie over here too.. it's the only rice dish I cannot get myself to like here in China, otherwise I am a big rice lover... mmmm.. I could have a bowl right now. Yum!

Chen 1 -that's not me holding the chopstick in the photo, it's one of my ffriends... Not sure I have an as correct grip as she does, however, I sure know how to work those sticks by now! :)

Nancy said...

I would have a very hard time not eating out in China. I love chinese food - once took a mandarin cooking class. But I do agree with you about the oil - and let's face it a bowl of rice at each meal might be a problem.

Brad Farless said...

I know what you mean about the Rice, Jonna. It probably wasn't as strange for me though. I'm from the US, where Chinese food is common. Also, my family has some Spanish background so I was used to having Spanish rice dishes and such for dinner on occasion.

When I moved to Singapore, my wife wanted to eat rice all the time. When breakfast time came around, and I'm thinking English muffin, oatmeal, bacon and sausage, or maybe eggs... She's thinking eggs and rice, or bacon and rice.

In fact, the concept of eating just cereal by itself for breakfast (think Captain Crunch or Frosted Flakes) seems to be the strangest thing in the world to her and her Filipino friends. You'd think I had told them I was going to eat cat food for breakfast.

Slowly though, I've found myself looking around the table for the rice, and missing it when it's not there.

Oh rice... you dirty habit you...

Anonymous said...

Jonna! You are turning Chinese with your must-eat bowl of rice at every meal. :)

Anonymous said...

>(I think somewhere in China?)

"Eat Drink Man Woman" is a Taiwanese movie. It's set in Taipei, the capital of Taiwan. The director Ang Lee 李安 is Taiwanese.

Just to avoid confusion...

Jonna Wibelius said...

Lover of Life -well I reckon the bowl of rice wouldn't be that bad.. if I didn't have it twice on an everyday basis.. so that's what I am working on now... :)

Brad F -hehe... yeah, it's funny how the love for rice has 'grown'... I wasn't that big on rice before I moved to China. I found it quite plain and boring. But now?! oh.... rice!

Nanciful -yeah, my eating habits are turning Chinese meanwhile my metabolism is not!! So better stop before things go downhill, hehe :)

Brad Farless said...

Jonna, is it just me or do you now love the smell of rice cooking in the rice cooker? It's the new dinner bell.