When I first moved to Seoul I wanted to eat everything! I love tasting new foods. It’s my main priority when visiting a new country. Korean food is so delicious and, when you’re a vegetarian, tends to get a little carb-heavy. Each season brings new seasonal dishes and I didn’t want to miss out on anything.
I was noticing that my clothes weren’t quite fitting the same way after a few months of living in Seoul. There was the daily presence of birthday cake in the teachers’ room that I couldn’t resist, the white rice with every meal and the alcohol (shhh…don’t tell my mom).
Being a teacher in Korea was wonderful but there were definitely temptations. After learning that I could still enjoy all the foods I wanted to taste while maintaining my weight, I became a much happier person.
I want to share a few tips with you below that I hope you will find helpful 🙂
The key to successful weight control is learning to listen to your body’s cues. You want to eat when you feel hungry, but not famished. Feeling overly hungry can trigger overeating. The following tips can help you get in touch with the signs of hunger and satiety to prevent overeating:
- Stick to a schedule – Plan to eat every three to four hours, stopping after dinner.
- Include lean protein – Protein-rich foods such as lean meat, fish, poultry, egg whites, tofu and legumes help you feel full longer because they require more time to digest and absorb than other nutrients. Divide your protein intake among three meals and two snacks. Protein-rich snack choices include nuts, soy nuts, edamame, hard-boiled eggs, part-skim cheese, yogurt and/or a protein bar.
- Don’t skip protein at breakfast – Research suggests that eating lean protein in the morning keeps you satisfied longer than if eaten at other times of the day.
- Choose low-glycemic foods – Avoid refined (white) and sugary foods (hard to avoid white rice in some restaurants, but there are places that serve brown rice). These are high-glycemic foods that cause blood glucose and insulin levels to spike after eating. In response to excess insulin, blood glucose levels drop more quickly over the next few hours, which can trigger hunger and overeating. Low-glycemic foods are more slowly digested and help keep hunger at bay. They include beans, lentils, nuts, pasta, brown rice, sweet potatoes, steel-cut or large-flake oatmeal, oat bran, Red River cereal, 100% bran cereals, yogurt, milk, unflavored soy milk, apples, oranges, peaches, pears and berries.
- Add grapefruit – People who eat grapefruit have significantly lower levels of insulin after eating which was thought to control hunger.
- Spice up meals – Capsaicin, the component that gives red chili peppers their heat, can reduce hunger and increase calorie burning. Adding cayenne pepper to meals was effective at reducing appetite for fatty, salty and sweet foods, especially among people who did not consume it regularly. (Lots of spicy food in Korea!!)
- Chew sugarless gum – A recent study found that chewing gum for one hour in the morning helped participants eat fewer calories at lunch. Chewing stimulates nerves in the jaw connected to the brain region that regulates satiety.
- Slow down – It takes roughly 20 minutes for appetite-related hormones to kick in and tell your brain you’ve had enough food. After every bite, put down your knife and fork, chew thoroughly and sip water. Do not pick up your utensils until your mouth is empty.
- Savour your food and ban distractions – Eating in front of the television, while reading, or while driving leads to mindless eating. Reserve the kitchen or dining-room table for meals and pay attention to the delicious flavors and aromas in your meal. (This was difficult for me when I lived alone – try listening to podcasts instead)
- Rate your hunger – Determine how hungry – or satisfied – you feel before you eat, halfway through a meal, and after you finish. Stop eating when you feel about 70% full.