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How We Lost a Lot of Weight in Korea

August 29, 2012

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This week’s TL;DR is a question we have been getting a lot ever since we started to lose weight…you can guess where I’m going with this: how DID we lose the weight?

Basic rundown of what we went over in this video: we really don’t like calling this a diet, because it is more of a lifestyle change that we are sticking to, rather than just a quick fix diet to lose weight. The main step we took was cutting majority of carbs out of our diet including white rice, white noodles, and things made with white flour. Simple rule: don’t eat anything white, except for Cauliflower.

Note: we sure as hell picked the WRONG country to live in for this kind of a diet. HAHAHAHAHaaaaaaaa *sobs* Korean twisted donuts (꽈배기 gwabaegi) I MISS YOU EVERYDAY!!! *ahem* I mean, lifestyle change FIST PUMP TO THE SKY!

I’m sure there is some scientific study out there to back me up, but it seems that if you grow up eating white rice or pasta, your body digests it differently than someone who later on in life incorporates it into their diets. That is the only way I can account for the fact that my Korean friends can eat SO MANY THOUSANDS OF POUNDS OF WHITE RICE AND NOODLES and not gain weight! Seriously, yo: how…how are people here so skinny after eating all those carbs? As for us, white rice just stores fat on us like we are grizzly bears going into hibernation.

It doesn’t help that it is really, really hard to avoid rice in Korea, and no, asking for brown rice is not an option, either at restaurants or for us on this diet. Very few restaurants will have rice with beans in it or maybe a mixed rice with grains but it’s not a common thing. In fact, personalizing your meal is not very common in Korea; you just order what’s on the menu, which is why a lot of people with food allergies/vegetarians have a tough time getting the meal customized to what they want. Growing up in Canada, we really took for granted to be able to ask for no meat, extra cheese, over-easy eggs, whole wheat bread, or for something to be served on the side. In Korea, though, just us asking for rice to be left out, something which isn’t even cooked INTO the meal, is an event that results in us describing our whole diet in Korean to convince the waiter to not waste their rice on us!

The worst part about not eating rice (and I’m sure some of you living in Korea can attest to this) is that if you try to explain to your co-workers, friends, waiter that you don’t want rice, or you only want to eat a little, it’s very shocking. I’ve been told that white rice is very healthy for me, that I’m not eating a meal without the white rice, that if I want to lose weight I should just eat rice. But don’t be discouraged! It is possible to eat tons of Korean meals without rice! Besides giving up on all types of kimbap 김밥 (*sobs*) we stick to soups and stews that serve rice on the side, rather than in the soup, as well as ordering grilled meat in lettuce wraps, grilled fish, and noodles made with buckwheat rather than white flour (Buckwheat’s a good kind of carb). The local restaurants that we visit frequently now know that we don’t eat rice anymore, so we don’t deal with any difficulty there. Otherwise, we do a lot of home cooking and pack snacks to keep us from snapping in the middle of Seoul and eating everything at a ddeokbokki stand.

So what do we eat now? Here is a comparison.

Normal Korean Meal Day for us Before:

1. Breakfast on the run: Tuna salad stuffed rice ball 참치주먹밥 (chamchee jumokbap)

2. Lunch: a bowl of white rice + a soup/stew/fish + kimchi + Korean side dish (usually veggies/seaweed salad)

3. Snacks: fruit, rice cakes 떡(ddeok), steamed sweet potato, stir fried rice cake 떡볶이 (ddeokbokki) or a bowl of ramen

4. Dinner: a bowl of white rice + stew/fish/meat/soup

Coffee: latte or cappuccino

Normal Korean Meal Day for us Now:

1. Breakfast: huge micro green salad with grilled chicken breast, cheese, unsalted cashews/pumpkin seeds, tomatoes, peppers, and low-carb salad dressing

2. Lunch: grilled fish, stew with no rice,

3. Snacks: nuts, berries, hard boiled eggs (easily found at local convenience stores)

4. Dinner: grilled meat, homemade eggplant lasagna (no noodles, just eggplant stacked with homemade meat sauce and cheese)

Coffee: hand drip or Americano (milk free, because milk has carbs in it)

Another thing we didn’t mention that much of in our video: we stopped eating a lot of crap, like all the candies that we were getting. More than that: we watched what we were drinking. Caramel Lattes and Frappuccinos, Gin and Tonics, Beers, Orange Juices: all have ridiculous amounts of sugar in them, and that was definitely adding to our…rotundity.

So, yeah! There are more details to our lifestyle change but we’re thinking that this blog post will go on for too long. We’re not giving up all carb foods and banning the existence of chocolate and ice cream to another planet, but we’re trying to be more conscious of how much sugar and processed food we’re putting into our bellies, and just by doing that we’re amazed at how we’ve changed. Apart from losing weight:

1) We have a boatload more energy than before (seriously: we wake up REFRESHED while before we woke up exhausted) and we’re practicing a lot more self control when it comes to eating junky things like ramen (*sobs*) and candy.

2) We’re also amazed at how our tastes have changed. After doing this for a few months now, whenever we do try something that we loved before, we’re amazed at how uncomfortably sweet it is. Like, appallingly so. We’ve lost our taste for sweet stuff now!

3) We don’t have crazy cravings for sweets anymore. It used to be very demanding. We’d be working perfectly find on something, and then we’d stop and say: I need something sweet. If we couldn’t find it easily we’d tear apart our apartment trying to find it, and if that didn’t work we’d go out to buy it (yes, we’re cheap and lazy!)

Lastly, Martina has gone into crazy baking lady mode. Did you know you can make bread out of cauliflower, egg, and cheese? Well apparently Martina does. She’s a crazy healthy baking lady! O______o

So, that’s it! We’ve still got a bit more to go before we’re fully happy with our looks, but we do feel a lot better about them than before. Those last few pounds, though, are just SO HARD TO GET RID OF! We need to exercise more, that’s for sure, and we plan on doing so. We just have some big projects that we have to settle first (namely, trying to set up our business in Korea, which is quite complicated, as we mentioned last week in our TL;DR on Blogging in Korea)

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How We Lost a Lot of Weight in Korea

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  1. I just bought and tried the Fuji Apple and the Pineapple Coconut flavors, and I loved them! My only issue is I can’t find anywhere where I can buy these online…seems a little crazy in this day and age. The first two I bought I bought while visiting my mom where Walmarts are everywhere; I live in a big city with hardly any around and everywhere else they seem to be located are out of the way. very nice post about skinny girl diet.

    5 years ago
  2. Rice is also a staple food in the Philippines, especially white rice. Brown rice is quite hard to find nowadays and sometimes it’s quite expensive too. I used to eat a lot of processed/junk/fast foods but now I try curb my intake as much as possible. I used to hate vegetables but I’m now very fond of them. Hypertension and diabetes is quite prevalent in our family, and I still want to live long and go on a world tour (that includes visiting South Korea hehe ^^) so I think it’s not yet too late to start eating and living healthy. I definitely understand how difficult it is to give up on some things, but you guys did an awesome job! Hope you can keep it up! :)

    7 years ago
  3. I’m glad you guys are feeling healthy! ^____^ That’s the most important thing. It doesn’t hurt that you look fabulous, too. XD
    I’ve also been losing some weight with a low carb diet. The hardest thing for me is nigiri sushi that I can’t get sashimi style. OTL Other than that, I’ve been able to avoid white rice pretty easily!
    Do you guys eat a lot of fruit, or is it too expensive in Korea?

    7 years ago
  4. I can’t understand how can you cut off milk… It’s so cold~~! :D And healthy for your bones

    7 years ago
    • I love milk too and it is a known fact that milks help you stay slim!

      7 years ago
    • maybe its good you’re cutting milk then you wont have to carry cartons around with you all day and Matina doesnt try to hide it on the side of the street for Simon to find

      7 years ago
    • Poor Martina… T^T

      7 years ago
    •  I’m glad I’m not the only one who loves to drink milk all the time. But the added benefit for me is that, for some unknown reason, my body does not absorb vitamin D like it should so milk helps~ I’m switching to 1% soon by doctor recommendation. ^-^

      7 years ago
  5. It’s an Asian thing to eat rice and carbs…..I don’t know why but we just do. I won’t feel full unless I eat rice. And congratulations for losing so much weight!!!

    p/s: I bet everyone who sent in those junk feel guilty. :P

    7 years ago
  6.  The cauliflower bread is awesome, the flavour changes based on spice and the cheese you grate into it, but you don’t have to use cheese if he’s allergic. I use it for pizza crust, open face sandwiches, and breakfast!

    7 years ago
    • D L

      Being on a gluten free diet in Korea is not easy (1.5 years for me). One thing I have been making is alternative bread (wheat free, soy free, gluten free, sugar free) using a variation of brown rice flour ( ₩ ), coconut flout (₩ ₩), tapioca flour (as a necessary starch)  (₩), almond flour ( ₩ ₩), and  수수가루 ( ₩ ₩ ₩). There are other flours to choose from as well but they cost a lot (15,000₩ per kilo up to 30,000₩ per kilo). I use brown rice as my base flour because it’s the cheapest to purchase especially in bulk. It’s different but it hits the bread craving every now and then. You can find all the flours at Gmarket or at 가루나라. Will share recipes if you are interested^^ Image is of Mediterranean Herb Brown Rice Bread with Sea Salt

      7 years ago
      • That gluten free bread looks fabulous! Would you mind sending me the recipe? I have to maintain a gluten free diet and finding delicious gluten free bread in Hong Kong is hard~ my email is [email protected]~

        7 years ago
        • @twitter-17607870:disqus I was wondering what you’re doing in Hong Kong for?? If for teaching, do you mind telling me about it? I’m thinking of going to Hong Kong after i graduate. 

          7 years ago
  7. You guys really do look wonderful I’m always gobsmacked at how freakin pretty Martina is and the handsome-ness of the Dothraki man warrior :)

    7 years ago
  8. Hi~ This is super late, but I’m trying to become a healthy baker and macaroons are my dream right now. Can I please get the recipe for it? Sorry it’s so so late! Thanks in advance!

    6 years ago
  9. Hello, Lindsay! I was wondering if you could e-mail me the recipe as well. My address is: [email protected] :) Thank you!

    7 years ago
  10. Hmm… there’s several items you can make out of three ingredients. Unfortunately, they’re the carb-heavy stuff you guys shun now…

    7 years ago
  11. I’m quite fine living fat and uncomfortable. If I only live to be 25, at least I’ll die eating whatever the hell I want.

    7 years ago
    • We were at that point for a while.  When we were gaining weight, we just thought that we’d get snugglier as a result.  But we didn’t feel good, you know?  Not just aesthetically, but we didn’t feel healthy.  We FEEL a lot better now.  More energy, better rested, less bloated.  I think we’ve even been getting sick less.  Sure, we don’t eat whatever the hell we want anymore, but we kinda don’t want the things that we wanted before.  They taste different now!

      7 years ago
      • its not just ‘feeling’. In fact you ARE healthier, since fat for example sticks on our veins after a time so they get tighter and less blood floats to the heart and so on and so on. But to be honest i used to think same.

        7 years ago
  12. lol the hand signal not to long ago I saw the video where you guys shows us what it means in Korea made me laugh so hard :-)

    7 years ago
  13. me too please?  lmgymgirl at yahoo dot com (written out to avoid spambots)  Thanks!

    7 years ago
  14. TLDR: First of all CONGRATS on the lifestyle change and weight loss! Im still trying to lose my baby weight from 14 months ago so thanx for the tips.
    Im curious, what are the differences you see in the way people raise their children in Korea vs in North America? And would you raise children there, or go back to Canada?

    7 years ago
  15. That whole “White rice is good for you!” reminds me of my family (I’m Chinese). Every time I don’t get much rice because I want to eat more vegetables, she tells me I need to eat more rice and less vegetables. xD I eat about 3 bowls worth of white rice every dinner? And if I eat friend rice in the morning, it’s about two bowls worth. I’m thinking that statement you said about growing up eating white rice is true. ^_^;; /is below average in her BMI because she’s underweight/ ; _ ;

    7 years ago
  16. So carbs from rice just doesn’t affect koreans because they’ve been eating it forever. So do you think you guys would eventually be unaffected by a korean diet if you continued to eat that way forever? 

    7 years ago
  17. Ash

    Question: Do you guys eat brown rice and is it widely available in korea?

    My boyfriend and I want to send you guys a care package for thanksgiving (cause you’re awesome) and it’d be cool to have a health food themed one that you’ll actually use! (Maybe some homemade soap n stuff too oO0oOO0oooooo~

    7 years ago
  18. A great rice alternative is quinoa (pronounced kee-nwah).  Whatever goes well with rice, goes well with quinoa.  In fact it cooks just like rice in the rice cooker, you don’t have to do anything different.  The difference is that it’s super high in protein.  It’s actually a complete protein, so it’s a fantastic protein source for vegetarians and vegans.  You can eat it with honey and nuts for breakfast, a lot of people like to make salads with it, there are a million and one side dishes you can make with it. The United Nations declared it a super food or something like that because of it’s nutritional value.  Unfortunately, since quinoa is a South American grain, I doubt it’s easy to obtain in Korea.  Somebody send them quinoa, so they can make quinoa kimbap!    

    7 years ago
    •  Thanks for the quinoa tip! I love to eat rice with quite a few meals (I try not to but sometimes I cave in) so it’s nice to have an alternative. I’m gonna look into getting some and trying it :D

      7 years ago
      • Yay for quinoa converts!  Just so you know, there are three main kinds of quinoa.  Red, gold and black.  Gold is the most “rice” like.  Red has a stronger nuttier flavor than gold, and tends to hold it’s shape so it’s good in salads and side dishes, but probably won’t stick very well in a rice roll situation like sushi or kimbap.  I’ve never tried black before, so I don’t know much about it, but the internets tell me that it’s very nutty like red.  

        7 years ago
  19. My sister and I have a question for Simon, unrelated to dieting.  As fellow Skyrim players, we were wondering which K-Pop idol you would choose as a follower or housecarl.  We can see CL or G-Dragon yelling “I’ll kill you if I have to,” but Rain has all that fighting experience from Ninja Assassin. 

    7 years ago
  20. I have been confused about something for quite a while now. Could you give any insight on overt sexuality (for lack of better wording) in Korea? For example, in dramas women are often portrayed as being in their twenties and never been kissed or on a date. I have seen sex insinuated MAYBE 3 times, and when couples do kiss it is often AWKWARD. And apparently being an unwed mother is a big no-no.

    YET, there is sooooo much FARTING in Kpop videos. It boggles my mind.

    Thanks!
    Robotcat

    7 years ago
    • There is certainly sex in Korean entertainment, but not on TV. I’ve seen some very realistic sex scenes in movies like Oldboy and Frozen Flower. Basically stuff targeted for viewers that aren’t under 18.

      7 years ago
      •  Ah! I haven’t watched very many Korean movies yet. Of the few I have seen my experience has been the same as with dramas. I just noticed a lot of mention of man and women not sleeping in the same room before marriage, it’s strange for women and men to hug, etc.

        Thanks!

        7 years ago
        • Just like the US and other countries, Korean films have a ratings system.  Basically the movies you have seen would be rated to the equivalent of PG.  All the sex and violence are in movies with higher ratings.  Actually, they can get away with A LOT more in a Korean film than in an American film.  There are plenty of very popular and commercial Korean films that without a doubt would have been hit with an NC-17 rating in the U.S.  They do things that Tarantino can only wish he could get away with.  I really recommend watching some of the South Korean film output though.  There is some brilliant, brilliant stuff out there.    

          7 years ago
  21. Good JOB!! Keep up the good work. I could give up everything but carbs, I LOVE ME SOME CARBS!! And I am an insane baker, my co-workers get the joy of my baking if not I can easily polish off a cake.. just call me Honey Sempai

    7 years ago
  22. Dear Martina: Can you share the bread recipe?
    It would be a cool video as well !

    7 years ago
  23. I would love to see a video of you guys perusing a health-food store(s) to show us the options in South Korea. I was very excited to see several of my favorite brands in this episode, and am curious to discover whether they have health food stores like North America with all-natural beauty care, essential oils, and what varieties of healthy ingredients.

    7 years ago
  24. Question for next TLDR- I know that when Martina sprained her ankle, you went to the hospital for that, but what do you do in Korea when you need other medical related tests/checkups/etc done? Do you go for checkups, eye exams, dental cleanings, etc in Korea, or do you do that when you go to Canada to visit? Are there a lot of English speaking medical facilities and is medical insurance an issue? Thank you. :)

    7 years ago
  25.  Was just about to post the same – please Martina?

    7 years ago
  26. Before I read the post or watch the video I scrolled down here to make a statement. Which is that I will do EXACTLY as you did/are doing.

    SO… this better be good. lol.

    7 years ago
  27.  Looking fly!

    7 years ago
  28. I’m majoring in nutrition and I think you shouldn’t stop eating carbs, they are very important to give energy, you just have to eat a portion that is not over than the energy that you spend in the day, you have to equilibrate.

    7 years ago
  29. There are nutritionists in Korea?

    7 years ago
  30. can’t martina post more cooking videos with little editing, cuz you guys are funny un-edited too and people usually watch cooking videos for the sake of a recipe anyway, on “open the happy’?

    7 years ago
  31. What does it cost for you to ditch white substances from your diet here? Do you have to spend an extra because you’re buying so many vegetables? Do you opt to shop at the traditional markets over Home Plus and the other marts? Sorry for all of the questions. I’ve only been here about a month and a half, and I’m very curious because I didn’t eat grains much back home and I feel like a college kid that needs to rein himself in a bit. :)

    7 years ago
  32. How do you manage your grocery shopping. People in Korea would know even at the supermarket, your choice is limited. Certain vegetables, spices, and ingredients. I mean broccoli is sooo expensive! Also how does shopping for 2 people differ from shopping for 1 person? Do you buy bulk? What kind of Bargains do you look for? 

    7 years ago
  33. First I have to say…I superduper loooooooooooooooooooove your blog, and I really enjoy watching your videos =D, they make me happy. This one was amazaing as always…I’ve always wonder why some people I’ve met and that went to Korea they gaing weight!, and u have just told me the answer: a change of diet could go both ways, to gain or to lose weight, I guess if u like the food it’s going to be gaining hahahahaha. But u guys need to enjoy all the delicious food    we have in Mexico when you come ok?

    7 years ago
  34. I am taking a tally of email addresses and will get the recipe sent out to all of you tonight or tomorrow morning   ^.^

    7 years ago
  35. Cool, I kindda follow the same principles (South Beach Diet, though rather loosely) cause I had put on weight was was difficult to shift, reached goal weight in like six months. It really is a lifestyle thingie, exercise is really really important though to keep the weight off. You guys look great and I was wondering if you were doing something as the difference is really evident.

    7 years ago
  36. Dear Simon and Martina :33
    What would yew guies do if yew werent youtubers in Korea :33
    <33 ~Love Cascia~ :33
    Pronounced like Kassia :P

    7 years ago
  37. I love that I’m watching this while eating fried rice.

    7 years ago
  38. Congrats guise!! I know how hard it can be change eating habits here in Korea. I agree with Alexandra below, you should totally do an Open the Happy about making eggplant lasagna!

    7 years ago
  39. I am not to only one how this withe people gain wight from eating rice. I had the same expirience when i was in korea…. but when i told koreans they thought i am crazy.
    BTW a hurray form your heathy-life-style =)

    7 years ago
  40. so, dancing really works!? wow, i should start learning kpop dances now haha! btw, you guys look awesome, you dont look fat now, congrats :D !

    7 years ago