Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Why Koreans are becoming fatter

I know the title is going to get me into some trouble, but if it gets you to read this...well good on ya.
As those who know me or have been reading, I have lost a lot of weight in the past 4 months; 28 kilos (bout 62 pounds) all told. Of course, a lot of people ask me how I have been doing it and my first thought is to tell them I have been on the "Ghandi" diet; which is about how it feels at times. My wife will tell you that it is because i take two large spoons of chung-gook-jang (청국장) in the morning before eat and at night before I go to bed. But I think that the real reason is that I STOPPED EATING AT NIGHT!! I made myself a hard and fast rule, when the sun is down, nothing goes in the mouth, period. Now, you would think that is pretty easy but give it a try sometime and see.
Now, I come to the revalation: why Koreans are getting fatter. Now before the haters start in on me, do a little research and you will find that it is a hard and fast FACT that there are more fat children in school these days. Now, I am not touting the Korea Times as a bastion of factual reporting or anything, but for easy reference to the problem look here and here for starters. And as if to prove my point...here.
It seems like an easy thing to do but if you are pretty much immersed into Korean culture like I am then you will see that it is a near impossible task. The culture almost demands that you consume food at night. Before I came to Korea, I learned about post-work drinking culture and I expected that while doing business and socializing here that I would be prepared. But as most people who live here for any time know, Koreans DO NOT drink without eating. There is the ubiquitous (If you like that word, you HAVE in Korea a long time) Anju or side dishes that must be consumed when embibing alcohol.
But it's not just the drinking culture...Kids are at school all day and when they come home, mother feels the motherly need to feed her seed late at night before they stagger off to sleep weary from a long day of school and hagwons. Even socializing with family and friends means eating. So, if you meet at night...you eat.
One of the most difficult things for me is when i visit my wife's family. When we visit and the kids go to bed, it is time to eat and embibe. It is difficult to say no. Everyone is urging me to "just eat a little", "have one", "c'mon, it's just this once." and I just have to say "no" because I know that if I start, I can't easily stop.
So, those of you, Korean or not, whose waists are ever expanding. Give it a try and you will see that it is not as easy as it seems but if you are successful in kicking the latenight eating habit, you may lose a few kilos too.


EFL Geek said...

I also successfully lost 10kg because I stopped eating after 8pm. Kudo's to you for the success.

Jon Allen said...

I think another reason for Korean Youth getting fatter is the increase in the amount of Burgers and donut they are eating.

fencerider said...

I'm a little late on the backswing but I also congratulate you EFLGeek on your loss. I now have a hard and fast rule: AFTER SUNDOWN or 6PM (whichever comes first) Nothing goes in the mouth except water (and pain meds :) See november archives for info on this)

John...I agree to a certain extent about the changing diets and availability of junk food for kids. They have far too much disposable income and parents who want to control it need to put a tight leash on those things. However, that said, I still think that if you take the average Korean person who is overweight and make them stop eating at night (see rule above) they will consistently lose weight (barring binge eating prior to sundown). A lot of Korean foods are high in calorie and transfats and they WILL make you gain weight. I am living proof, having gained almost 50 kilos since coming here 11 years ago. I have always eaten mostly Korean dishes...problem is, I eat too much of the wrong (read: unhealthy and fatty)ones and I ate a lot before going to bed.