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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. 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
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. 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
  6. DON’T TAKE IT IN THE BUTT!

    7 years ago
  7. Is there no brown rice in korea? but then you’d want to cut out all carbs so it wouldn’t matter anyway. Im not Korean but in my house we eat rice with all of our meals, it somehow feels incomplete w/o it. I wouldnt have been able to cut it out.

    7 years ago
  8. soooo you guys are basically in ketosis! good job! <3 keep up the great work!

    7 years ago
  9. I was eating Ho Hos while watching this.

    7 years ago
  10. I am really excited about this TL:DR because it is exactly what I have been dealing with since I decided to change my lifestyle and eat right and exercise. You should see the look on people’s faces when I say, no thanks when they offer bread or candy, or when I go out to dinner and don’t eat the rice. I live in Barbados and food is a huge part of our culture so when I gave up eating those refined things, it was a ge deal for my friends. Now I don’t really drink when I go out, and if I do, it’s one drink that is not so sugar filled.
    The exercise was the biggest thing though. I have had injuries in the past and sometimes felt like it was futile but I started going to the gym with a special group and a trainer and I have been motivated. I am hoping that when school starts back ( I am a teacher) I will have my exercise routine so deeply ingrained that I will keep up with it. 25 pounds lost in 2 months!
    I am also motivated because I am planning to teach in Japan from next year and I want all these healthy habits instilled from now, so that when I do get there, I won’t have that weight gain that comes from living in a new culture with diffferent foods and eating habits. Here’s to saying no to white rice!

    7 years ago
  11. I agree with you here. I also cut out refined carbs and focused on whole grains and a change in lifestyle with exercise and I have lost 25 pounds in the last 2 months. The exercise is good for cardio development and building stamina and also tones you so you look firm and not all lose and flabby.

    7 years ago
  12. arrgh i knowww u have to cut out carbs but they’re just so NUMMEH
    gotta have more self control like u guys lol

    and ive heard of that eggplant lasagna thingy before! it sounds good…

    7 years ago
  13. Congratulations on your weight loss!  I need to cut down on carbs too.  But I’m obsessed w/ bread :P

    7 years ago
  14. wow this sounds really cool, especially how it changed your lives, good luck to you guys with the projects <3 i think i need to try some of these tips :) 

    7 years ago
  15. I suggest a video on working out just so you guys have an excuse to exercise :P

    7 years ago
  16. 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
  17. I love that I’m watching this while eating fried rice.

    7 years ago
  18. 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
  19. 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
  20. 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
  21. 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
  22. 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
  23. I would love it too , Please  : )

    7 years ago
  24. You guys are epic. Srsly.

    Talk about being huge role models for eating healthily on top of reviewing amazing K-Pop songs and trends.

    Simon and Martina, you guys are practically idols. *ish starstruckk* XD

    7 years ago
  25. So Simon, no more ranch for you now?

    7 years ago
  26. y’all probably know this, but standing up while working instead of sitting down can help a little bit :). i’m not sure how often you have the Super Epic Dance Partays, but I also heard it’s good to make sure you get up once every hour to walk around or WILE OUT!

    okay, so they didn’t say wile out, but that sounds more fun than walking around anyway.

    7 years ago
  27. Are you sure white rice makes foreigners put on weight? There are at least a few overweight Koreans. It also depends on your body type (kapha, pitta or vata).

    7 years ago
  28. you guys are part of my inspiration to lose weight! my college has a gym on campus and is free to students so i think i’m really gonna take advantage of that now. congrats on the changes you’ve made and good luck losing those last few pounds!

    7 years ago
  29. uhmmmm…..i also would like it

    7 years ago
  30. dear martina,can you post cooking videos on Open the happy?I would really like to see you cook :)

    7 years ago
    • C.L

      Yes!! omg this would actually inspire me to cook properly haha

      7 years ago
    • Ash

      Yes! And maybe go into the nerdy stuff about the ingredients you skimmed over in the video 8)

      7 years ago
    • i second that! that sounds like such a perf idea. (:

      7 years ago
      • I THIRD that. I have a kitchen in my apartment and I would love to cook along with the videos if she makes them. Definitely an awesome idea.

        7 years ago
  31. I feel like I’m forced to rely on carbs as a huge part of my food just on the fact that I’m a vegetarian. Although I try to use brown rice and whole grain pastas, as well as using natural cane sugar, etc.

    7 years ago
  32. Do you have a specific recipe you use for the bread made with cauliflower? I’d love to try it! 

    7 years ago
  33. No problem! what is your email?

    7 years ago
  34. Guys, can you share some new recipes? Espcially the bread and the lasagne ones?…mmm…

    7 years ago
  35. A D

    hey guys! my weight has yo-yo’ed (yo-yo-ed. yoyo’ed. argh) for ages. i’m finally figuring out how to stabilize it. some ways in which i’ve changed my diet:- i can’t live without rice! so i mix one bag (like the 2kg bags) of white rice with 1 bag of brown rice and store it in a big container. i only eat rice at dinner, and i’ll keep myself to one rice-bowlful.
    – quinoa and wheatberries: whole grains! wheatberries are amazing in salads. and when you’re making rice, make one part of rice (the white/brown mix) with one part quinoa. cook it in the rice cooker with the regular amount of water and you’ve got super-healthy rice time! don’t cook wheatberries with rice though – the texture is too weirdly sticky. quinoa and rice together are really good. or just eat quinoa instead of rice – it’s got tons of protein and is low on the glycemic index. cook it in the rice cooker – boom.
    – whole wheat pastry flour: baking with regular flour can make everything really heavy. using whole wheat pastry flour is almost just like baking with regular white flour. just make sure to sift. i just made banana bread…in the rice cooker…mmm.
    – baking: i found super-healthy baking to be tough. instead of completely replacing butter and sugar, i’ll cut their amounts in half, and replace the 1/2 butter with oil, and the 1/2 sugar with agave, maple syrup, whatever. for me, the ingredients weren’t so much the problem as the quantity of baked stuff i ate…baking with the whole wheat flour helps with that, it makes me fuller with a smaller quantity.
    – hummus: not sure if you guys have access to hummus/chickpeas in korea (if you have chickpeas, make hummus in the blender!). It sounds weird for breakfast, but whole wheat toast with hummus in the morning keeps me full, and keeps me from craving other snacky-nibblies between b-fast and lunch. or eat it as your snack after your awesome-sounding bfast salads!
    – snacks: nuts, cheese…you can take tomatoes and slow-roast them with olive oil and herbs for hours, keep them in the fridge for snacks…oh and i LOVE the small packets of korean seaweed sheets for snacks.
    that’s all i can think of for now. i love reaching that point in a diet change where you stop craving all of the not-so-great stuff you couldn’t live without before. best dinners out are korean, incidentally – all of the amazing grilled meat and veggies are good for the diet. :)

    7 years ago
    •  All of that sounds very good, but white rice doesn’t really do anything for you nutritionally and it has more calories than brown rice.  I would recommend just using all brown rice.  BUT if you really have a hard time with brown rice or whole wheat bread then partial whole grains are a start.

      7 years ago
      • A D

        oh, i’ve tried eating brown rice only and quinoa only – never tried mixing just brown rice and quinoa, though, i may try that…thing is i grew up eating white rice, it’s what literally makes me feel “full” – also eating home-cooking just isn’t the same if i don’t have rice to accompany it. :) bread, crackers, and baking, though? all whole wheat, all they way – i’m so happy i’ve discovered ww pastry flour, it’s delicious!

        7 years ago
  36. It’s probably genetics because I’m Asian and the opposite. I can’t eat so much bread and pasta, but I can eat a lot of rice and noodles! You should cut out dairy products if you want to lost more weight. :)

    7 years ago
    • Children 2 and under need whole milk for good development, but anyone older should be drinking skim milk.  It has all the same benefits of whole milk without the calories.  Greek yogurt is a great dairy and protein source.  I usually just eat one greek yogurt for breakfast and nothing else.  It’s very satisfying.  Cottage cheese is good for you too.  Eat a variety of foods in moderation and always go for the nutrient dense foods versus energy dense foods.

      7 years ago
  37. Thank you, guys, that was really useful, actually! As I said in one of the previous comments, you really do look great now!
    I stopped eating rice and pasta several months ago, too, and amazingly, I just don’t want them anymore (I’m not even tempted by sushi!). 
    By the way, how did you actually plan your diet/lifestyle change – did you look for tips in books or on the Internet or did you just rely on…common knowledge?:) And also, do you have any favourite websites for healthy food recipes? 

    7 years ago
  38. That’s awesome u guise! I just started to do the same thing.. changing my habits.. I need to lose like 15 pounds, and not only because of looks, I want to be healthier, and also because I’m a Nutriologist and you know… when every one asks me: “Hey, what did you study? What do you do?” I’m like…”AkadhI’manutriologistjhasga” hahahaha and you know.. they look at you like thinking “OMFG A FAT NUTRIOLOGIST!” hahahaha kind of embarrassing. Anyways… let’s all eat healthy~ fighting! 

    Greetings from Mexico!

    PS: Meemers is soooo cute! ~

    7 years ago
  39. Congrats, you guise!  Lookin great. Is true about rice.  I’m Korean and even here (Stateside), they look at you a bit oddly if you say you don’t want to eat the rice/only a little.  If there are four of us, my mom will usually tell the lady to take back two of the rice containers–there’s a lotta rice in there!  They pack it in!  I think that not having grown up with rice might be equivalent of not having grown up with breads, with similar repercussions and similar temptations. Alas. Fighting!

    7 years ago
  40. I’m hoping to be able to live in Korea in the next few years and I’m a type 2 diabetic. I’m not really familiar with Korean foods. How difficult do you think it’ll be to find quick, easy, cheap (because I don’t really like to cook much) foods that won’t destroy my diet?

    And I totally understand everything you’ve said about how tough it is to make those changes. ;.; I only found out I’m diabetic about 2 years ago. It’s been tough cutting out most (not all! NEVER! XD) carbs and sugars and how your tastes change. I used to hate yogurt, but now I absolutely love it! I don’t know if it’s because I’ve had to get used to foods that are a different kind of sweet than the usual super sugary?

    7 years ago