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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. Would you mind sharing a few recipes, in say a Open the happy? That bread sounds DELICOUS! I’ve been meaning to get healthier, and some recipies for what worked for you guys would be really appreciated.

    7 years ago
  2. I’ve been living in Taiwan for about a week now, and I have to say I’ve been eating things that I wouldn’t normally eat! Back home in Canada (in a small town of less then 4000 people) I can pretty much control what I eat. Of course this last year I’ve started to earn money, and can now go out and buy my own snacks, where as before I wasn’t able to. So this last year was a lot of learning how to control what I eat, and picking healthy options. But here in Asia~ Woo! My first time in Asia and I have to try everything! It all looks so shiny and new! I’ve been kinda feeling guilty about it, because I know I have been over eating (I learned to control that this last year) and I haven’t been exercising (started doing that this last year, but I can’t find a gym for me to regularly go to yet!). So I’ve been enjoying so much my first week in Asia and trying out so many new things, WHILE feelings so guilty! So I just wanted to thank you guys for making me feel even more guilty xD~!!!!!! Maybe it’s a good thing tho, and it’ll be the kick in the pants I need to start eating better and exercising again. Hope so because I can already feel my heart rate speeding up from all the bad food I’ve been eating!

    7 years ago
  3. I would love to see Martina do a cauliflower bread tutorial. I like eating cauliflower “mashed potatoes”. 

    7 years ago
  4. Fighting guys!!!! (▼へ▼メ)(Itry to exercise in the morning…it gets me out of that sleepy state faster *not a morning person = . =*)

    7 years ago
  5. Congratulations guys, you both look amazing!! I put on quite a bit of weight during my year in Korea, I lost it since I got back though and kept going. So far I’ve lost 39lbs but I’ve hit a bit of a rut. I’ve got to check out this cauliflower bread it sounds awesome. Cheers for the inspiration!

    7 years ago
  6. Thats awesome and encouraging. I need to shed alot of lbs right now as well.

    7 years ago
  7. you can email me the recipe heheh :P..you know if u want :P

    7 years ago
  8. you guys are amazing LOL. Martina we wanna know the geeky stuff!!!! 

    7 years ago
  9. Do you guys know about bosintang? an horrible thing that is supposed to be dog stew? D: next year I’m going to korea and I’m terribly scared to eat something like this because apparently bositang can have different names in menu and I may end up ordering it without knowing. So I wanted to ask if it is something that is usually served in normal restaurant or small restaurant ? 

    7 years ago
    • Dog stew is an uncommon dish not typically served in regular restaurants anymore. Generally speaking, you would have to seek out a dog-stew-restaurant specifically to find it. (Plus its generally the er…gentlement that are known for eating it? So I don’t think anyone will try to spring it on you :)

      After the olympics awhile back it fell out of favor and so don’t worry :)

      7 years ago
  10. Nic

    You guys look awesome. The other week I said to my husband, “Look at how good Martina looks now” and he came over to my laptop and looked………. then I was like “You can stop looking now.”

    And ugh the rice thing, I get in trouble sometimes for not finishing my rice but it’s so filling! I just cannot eat that much.

    7 years ago
  11. Oh, while you talked about the things you don’t eat on a regular basis anymore (I think you said that you have one day in a week on which you just eat what you want?) , what is it that you guys eat in Korea? Both selfmade and in restaurants.

    7 years ago
  12. I couldn’t live without eating pasta, rice, and potatoes… Since I don’t really eat a lot of meat I wouldn’t know what to eat to not be hungry, yes there a lots of salads, but I couldn’t eat that everyday. The biggest problem would probably be no sweets/snacks… If I cut all of that I wouldn’t be eating anything :D And probably have the weight of a regular Kpop idol…

    7 years ago
  13. question for next TL:DR!!!!! 

    i’m not sure if this was asked before but in south korean schools what kind of events do they hold for the students?? like here in usa (when i was in HS) we have homecoming, prom, spirit week (where we dress up differently on different days like nerd day dress up like a nerd), prep rallies and mm can’t think of the other ones but stuff like that?????????? if not those things then do they do things that are similar??

    7 years ago
    • K

       Go to archives and in the year 2008 they talk about high school activities and they have a video.

      7 years ago
  14. how did you guys get spudgy?

    7 years ago
  15. haha I get this exact reaction from my mother about white rice being an absolute essential.  I’m back in Korea this summer and recently cut out rice from my diet. I grew up with rice as a staple food, so this sudden change has made her worry for my sanity. she still always tries to sneak a spoonful on my plate (“without bab, you’re not eating!”)

    I appreciate how hard it must be to maintain a no-carb diet over here. I’ve found it pretty easy in europe but all these korean carbalicious temptations are coming back to me now.
    You both look great anyway :) keep it up! 

    7 years ago
  16. i lost 20lbs recently and have really no clue how i did it. it shocked me one day when i had to use a belt to actually keep my pants on my body. it’s ironic too, cause i lost all the weight after i had quit going to the gym and seeing a trainer. 

    7 years ago
  17. Your “lifestyle change” sounds very similar to the diet I’m on. It’s called 4 hour body. I think the only difference is that you would be cutting out fruit and cheese too AND you get a cheat day once a week where you can eat anything you want in order to shock your metabolism. (Cheat day is the best!)

    7 years ago
  18. I’m guessing you guy gave up drinking SOJU as well…alcohol has ridiculous amount of carbs.!!! Question: Don’t you guys have like a day of the month to indulge yourselves with something yummy? I think that if you restrain your self from eating (not junk food but for example noodles) it can backfire you after a while…By the way…..You guys look great ..greetings from El Salvador, Central America!

    7 years ago
  19. conratulation guys. you sure look great. I really appreciate that you say clearly it’s a lifestyle and not a ‘diet’. people often think it is to heavy to do it, but you basically can eat the ‘same meals’ like before just with few substitudes. I started with it 2 years ago when i turned 25 and can just agree with you 10000000000000000000000000000000000%

    7 years ago
  20. If you want to get back to eating rice and noodles, the only thing you can do is start exercising regularly. Carbs are pure energy (essentially), but if you don’t exercise regularly, your body stores it as fat, which is unfortunately what happened to you guys.

    Just be careful of your low-carb diet, and make sure you’re eating enough fruits and vegetables because otherwise it can lead to complications.

    It’s good that you guys are feeling healthier. That’s all that matters. My dad’s a doctor, and he always says that if you look great, too, then that’s just the gravy on top. I hope you keep on. Kudos on making a lifestyle change instead of dieting. Hwaiting!

    7 years ago
  21. I quit smoking 6 weeks ago and put on 9 pounds.  I might use some of these tips to help lose my extra baggage.

    By the way, you both look great!

    7 years ago
  22. Thank you for sharing your weightloss regime. I’m very inspired. I live in Malaysia, where rice is also a staple, and I know a few people who have gone the less-carb route. I love rice and pasta too much to give it up entirely :) but I do think that the “caveman” diet (water, vegetables, fruits, fish and meat) is the way to go. My bro-in-law, who is diabetic, was recently in the hospital because he had some problems with one of his foot, so that was a wake-up call for my husband  who has a major sweet tooth. So he’s drinking more water now and really watching what he eats. So thanks again for sharing!

    7 years ago
  23. I do dance parties but for 15 minutes….it goes by fast! maybe try jogging with spudgy? he might scare away the locals so you don’t have to run around people hehe ;)

    7 years ago
  24. So are there any healthy items that you would like to try with your new lifestyle that just aren’t available to you in Korea?

    7 years ago
  25. hahahahaha!!!! rice is the asian way of life!!!!! my mom can NOT go a day without rice!!!! and on a few rare days when we (me and my siblings) don’t eat rice for a meal she gets all worried like ‘oh my! you haven’t had rice all day, let me quickly make you all some rice!’ like we ain’t gonna survive or something!! i always laugh at her for it! (BUT I LOVE YOU MOM!!!) *ehem*….
    yeah…anyway if we told her we didn’t wanna eat rice any more she’d probably go all death glare on us!! 
    honestly though, i’m pretty sure i’d miss rice after a while if i did stop eating it seeing as i’ve been eating it my whole life!!

    i think you guys look good!! hope you get to your desired weight!!
    and lastly….PON PON WAY WAY WAY PON PON WAY PON WAY PON WAY!!!!

    7 years ago
  26. I saw it!!  Don’t take it….popped up on the screen…yeah its there….

    7 years ago
  27. VB

    *applauds the lifestyle change* After my dad got diagnosed with pre-diabetes, I begged him to avoid white rice and eat brown rice, and it’s really hard on him (plus he cheats on some days by “sneakily” gorging on a bowl of noodles). But slowly he is getting healthier as I am sure S&M are and the commenters who are changing their lifestyles too. 

    Sudden change in topic!
    How are you guys with the typhoons in the area? I know Bolaven hit S.Korea, and Tenpin seems aimed for N.Korea.. I’m just wondering how you guys prepare for it.. if there is any preparations needed at all. 

    7 years ago
  28. It’s really been working for you guys! You look so much healthier than before. I could never get rid of sugar or carbs XD I eat so much chocolate and rice all of the time… lolol

    7 years ago
  29. Cauliflower bread cooking demo video? Plz?

    7 years ago
  30. Ohh.  Congrats.  I bought a treadmill and cut out lots and have lost 90 lbs so far..so I am right there with you.  However, luckily rice is something I can eat.  I too use Kpop as my muse and inspiration-so cool to find someone who has a similar mentality.  So Fighting!  May we both achieve our goals in good health.

    7 years ago
  31.  while Martina is talking about storing rice in her ass  ” dont take it in the butt” pops up quickly! Too funny

    7 years ago
  32. Ha, I could never give up rice or noodles even here Toronto (being a mix of two Asian backgrounds, I feel like I eat double the amount of rice, noodles and rice-noodles. So delicious, so carby). While watching this tl;dr, I tried to imagine how I’d live without rice/noodles, and the only thing I could picture is me crawling into a corner, sobbing into an empty rice bowl while listening to sad Elliott Smith songs…I think I’m addicted to carbs, you guise. D: But I try to balance things out with exercising.

    Kudos to you guys though for leading healthier lifestyles! Please post recipes!

    7 years ago
  33. I guess I was lucky that growing up pasta and rice were a large part of almost every meal because I live on rice and ramen now along with veggies.  

    7 years ago
  34. Here in Saudi Arabia I eat rice like EVERYDAY. and I can’t live without junk food,,, I don’t eat vegetables or fruits ever !!! 
    , knowing that I don’t exercise too ….. It’s kinda weird that I don’t gain weight !!!!

    7 years ago
  35. I think it’s okay to drink milk, as long as it’s low fat milk or skimmed milk :)
    by the way, I agree that you should share the homemade eggplant lasagna recipe! or show how to make it in OpenTheHappy~

    7 years ago
  36. What is your weight loss app? ^^

    7 years ago
  37. I’d love to know more about this cauliflower bread :).  A recipe perhaps for all you new good dishes?  Have you made cauliflower rice yet, it’s one of my favorites.  And cauliflower mashed potatoes aren’t too bad either.

    I too noticed the extra weight rice was adding to my body after 2 years in Korea and several months ago made a lifestyle change just like you guys to avoid more carbs.  The trouble is they’re just my favorite ;)

    Do you find it difficult to get the products you need.  For example, I’d love some reduced fat cheese which is SO common in America but in Korea it’s non-existent.  Certain things like that make me frustrated as I adjust my eating habits but still have to accept a higher calorie food despite knowing others exist!

    7 years ago
  38. I’m trying to change my lifestyle as well, but it’s horribly hard as my mom is the one who buys all the junk in the house. In the supermarkets, she wants to buy junk but I try to stop her from buying… ._.  At least I got the drink part away, i only drink water and rarely, lemonade ever since I was 10 years old.

    7 years ago
  39. Congrats, guise, and best of luck on the whole change in lifestyle. ^^

    I’m so, SO glad that I was raised on rice, btw. xD

    My fatness comes from sugar and lazy – although I do exercise/DDR/play Just Dance several times a week to balance out the junk I eat. :P

    When I was successfully losing weight, I was keeping a journal of what/when I ate, when/how I exercised, and I stopped eating after 7:30pm (8 if it’s a weekend). The foods I ate didn’t even matter (assuming I wasn’t just gorging on stuff) because I was aware that I’d be typing it in, so I controlled how much of things I ate so as to not feel guilty later. What a coincidence that when I stopped keeping the journal that I gained ten pounds. Look at how shocked I am. o:

    7 years ago
  40. Hey! I didn’t use add blocker. Enjoy the monies honies (honeys?).

    7 years ago