I went to China for a three-week vacation. It was awesome because I got to meet with a lot of relatives and friends and traveled to some places. People welcomed me with a lot of food, and the trip felt like the Holiday season in October!
It was a trip of indulgence really. Hanging out with relatives and friends three or four days a week, a typical lunch or dinner at the gatherings looked like this:
While my mom is a great cook and she cooked at home a lot, we ate in the restaurants sometimes too.
Besides eating with family and friends, hubby and I also ate and snacked on our own.
On one day, we explored the old Southern town of the Nanjing City which is known for flocks and flocks of delicious, local traditional food. It was a town of restaurants and street food that represented the best of the city’s history.
After enjoying the “plum blossom cake” at the small street food stand, we walked a few streets down to have the duck wraps, and then, a few more streets further down for a vermicelli salad, wonton soup, and some buns.
Plum blossom cake.
Vermicelli salad and pepper sauce.
Wonton soup with the hot chili spice.
Besides being delicious, some of the food we ate had some stunning artistic properties in it too. For instance, during our travel to the city of Yangzhou, we had this special tofu stew where the tofu was finely sliced HAIR THIN and carefully cooked in the soup of the rare black-boned chicken.
Look at the hair-thin slices of tofu:
This dish was first innovated about 500+ years ago by a monk. We heard that it’s a cultural heritage that’s going into extinction soon as only a single digit number of chefs can make it today.
We also tried exotic food, such as this humongous, hot spicy goat meat stew in this authentic Central Asian restaurant.
Take a closer look at this mouth-watering stew….
So when I tell you we indulged, you know this is no joking, and it happened every day non-stop for three weeks.
Then HOW COME I DIDN’T GAIN ONE POUND AT ALL?
Not for the “skinny Asian genes” (remember I did gain 50 pounds before) nor the super fast metabolism (I actually have the type of body that’s easy to put on weight). Also, I didn’t have access to the gym during my stay in China and nor did I rely on calorie-counting at all.
It was all because of some simple tips and mindset that I followed. And in this email, let me share with you what I did at the dinner table so that you can easily avoid weight gain this holiday and lose weight!
#1. Use caution towards food that you can’t tell right away.
This is not as simple and vague as “know what you eat.” In fact, it’s important that you can tell the original food ingredients AT THE FIRST GLANCE at your plate.
Why? Because anything that you can’t tell right away means that it’s somehow processed. That meatball which looks so yummy can be stuffed with fat and oil; the cookie that looks simple and clean can be a mixture of lots of sugar and oil too. There are also many ways for the hidden calories and food allergens to sneak into your plate, and might as well have that braised pork or tofu in which the ingredients like garlic, ginger, meat, vegetable, and oil are fully exposed and visible.
So look for food that is straightforward would be an easy solution to the hidden calories. It can be a beef and arugula sandwich or a well cooked spicy, grilled shrimp just like the one on the picture below. You don’t need a second look to know that the fresh shrimp on it isn’t overly buttered, and you see the herbs and spices on the food which make it very flavorful and nutritious.
Download the recipe from Wellness Mama.
Another good example below – see how everything is fully exposed.
Download the recipe from Pickled Plum
This way, you can completely get rid of the guessing work and eat clean, healthy food without any uncertainties.
And for illustrative purpose, let me give you a bad example. Look at the picture below, with everything stuffed and mixed together, you really can’t see how much hidden “bad elements” have been inserted in the plate.
Photo credit: Food Network
With this idea in mind, apply some extra caution whenever you see a menu item that has words like “mashed,” “stuffed,” and “chowder” in it. However, this doesn’t mean that you have to deprive yourself of the craved lasagna and burgers. What truly matters is the portion. Take a bit of that onto your plate, then crowd it with the ingredients that you are sure of.
If you are like me who really love to eat food with stuffing every once in awhile, home-made ones are always better options because you have full control over the ingredients.
#2. People vs. Food.
During these three weeks in China, I’ve been to eight wedding banquets and six big family reunion dinners in total. All the food on the table was very tempting, but what got me really excited were people around me and their stories.
A cousin recently sold his condo to start a pet grooming business, it has been going surprisingly well.
Another cousin recently decided to move from Chicago to Shanghai for a new career.
My uncle just became an Uber driver, and he insisted that Mel B. of Spice Girl had a ride in his car last month.
My grandma used to have a thriving business while raising four kids when grandpa was fighting battles after battles during the WWII.
And my beloved dad who’s super nice to everyone used to be a bully in primary school (Really?! Still can’t believe it today!)
I learned something new about my family at every reunion – the ambition, the risk-taking and the courage behind it, the highs and the lows, and the surprising moments, etc.
Instead of food, people were the real center of attention on the dinner table, and chatting with them usually involved me taking a plate/bowl of well-portioned veggies, meat, and rice then sitting next to them, slowly using the spoon or chopsticks to feed my mouth while spending most of the time being a silent, focused listener. Sometimes, I shared my stories too.
Whether I was sharing or listening, I gave people my full presence and was completely immersed in the conversation. It means I was a slow eater, and I even forgot to move the chopsticks sometimes. This way, I was naturally avoiding overeating despite the table-full of mouthwatering food in front of me.
According to many scientific studies, being a slow eater means you are allowing enough time for your brain to receive signals from the stretch receptors in your stomach to realize you are full. The more I felt full, the less and more slowly I ate. Eventually, I still finished all the food on my plate, but I felt extremely satisfied because both my physical and intellectual desires were fulfilled throughout these deep, slimming conversations on the dinner table.
You can try this tip during the holiday simply by being an engaged conversationalist around your family and friends. Grab a well-portioned plate of food, then sit and talk while eating. Be fully present with that person, and be mindful of your body’s “full” signal.
Oh, don’t forget about sharing too. Besides your stories, your cousin Katie might want a piece pumpkin pie you just got but don’t want a whole slice to herself. How about splitting it? And maybe ask Aunt Joan if she wants to share a piece of it too so that all of you can enjoy without indulging.
#3. The “Rule of X” around sweets.
Like most people, I love sweets too. But I like to use the “rule of X” to create a boundary between pleasure and indulgence. X is a number, and in the case of sugar, it’s one, meaning that I won’t have more than one serving each day. As Cornell University has found out, you get the same level of satisfaction from 10 pieces of chocolate as from one. I don’t need more to feel good, and I hate to see moderation flounder.
It’s good because it implies that you are giving yourself permission to own what you want while not giving into the obsession. It’s better than “all or nothing” because you don’t need to submit to either indulgence or deprivation. Either means lacking.
A little moderation on sweet has immensely helped me avoid getting into a series of weight-related and emotional problems – such as sugar craving, leptin resistance, calorie overdose, fatigue, inflammation, mood swing which are all significant causes of weight gain. Besides causing various chronic diseases, sugar overdose can increase the risk of dying of heart disease.
When it comes to dealing with the sugar craving, instead of fighting it when it’s high, what I suggest to do is to naturally silence it on the root level so that there won’t be as many struggles.
There are simple ways to do it:
- Used flavors to “deactivate” sugar craving. For instance, foods with bitter tastants in them are the best one to use for this purpose. This is a scientifically proven finding a taste of bitter helps you remove sugar cravings. This is why food and drinks like lemon, coffee, tea, kale, arugula, grapefruit, and bitter lemon can be a part of your daily eating plan. Besides, I love the “teassert” technique which I’ve shared with my audience and the US News and World Report. If you are suffering from uncommonly high sugar cravings and need an immediate solution to mute it, teassert is the way to go.
- Create a sugar-lite living environment. If you’ve been on my list for a while, you probably still remember I once shared with you a picture of my grocery shopping cart which had a 500g almond chocolate bar in it. That was for a week, and if I happened to eat all of it at one instance, I wouldn’t buy more. So you see, I’m giving myself the flexibility to eat chocolate, but I don’t over indulge it by limiting my access to it. In fact, with the help of 1, I rarely need more sweet than what I allow for myself.
Sugar is like the heroin: the more you have it, the more you want it. On the other hand, once you kick off the change to have less of it, you’ll crave less of it naturally. Using the right method, you can easily go from sugar addicted to sugar lite within just weeks.
Note that I just talked about setting boundaries. During the holiday, feel free to have the pumpkin and apple pie to honor the cozy, sweet moments with your family, but make sure there’s a boundary. When it comes to the “Rule of X,” “X” doesn’t need to be one but any a number that you are comfortable with. Think: what’s your X? And don’t hold back from sharing your piece with cousin Katie and Aunt Joan who want satisfaction and sanity around the sweets as much as you do. They’ll thank you for that.
#4. Drink wisely.
On the dinner table, you need a glass of water, preferably a cup of warm water with a slice of lemon in it. Water hydrates you and helps you lower your cravings. Lemon – as one of the bitter tasted food – helps you decrease sugar cravings.
Water with lemon is excellent stuff, especially for the winter.
But usually, I like to take things to an extra mile and upgrade my drink to the natural green tea. Being in China which has the strongest and longest-standing tea culture in the world, I probably had at least one litter of green tea every day. It has all the calming, soothing, moisturizing, and cleansing effects that water has, plus some extra advantages that are game-changers to weight loss.
First, tea helps you mute your sugar cravings immediately. We just talked about the “why” above, and to learn the “how,” read about the “teassert” technique I shared here.
Second, green tea also helps to clear inflammation, which means faster, more comfortable and even automated weight loss. I will send you a separate email about why inflammation is the major hurdle for weight loss and why clearing it can help you automate it. For now, just take these words as they are.
Meanwhile, green tea can naturally block fat from being absorbed by the body. Mind that there’s a wall between food fat and body fat. And the way you eat determines whether and how quickly food fat is converted into body fat. A study at Penn State University found that when obese mice on a high-fat diet ate a compound found in green tea, they gained weight 45% more slowly than those that didn’t have it. This compound is commonly known as EGCG, and it’s in most types of green tea. The mice which had green tea also had 30% more fecal lipids, and it indicated that their body didn’t absorb a significant part of the fat intake.
There are a few other major benefits involving green tea. I’ve written a full guide which tells you everything you need to know about how to maximize its weight loss effects. And if you can lose 1-2 pounds a month with it naturally, it’s up to 24 POUNDS of weight loss and a completely different body image in a year.
These are four major things I did in China which helped me maintain weight naturally even though I was facing festive, big meals almost every day.
This is so far a long write-up about the tabletop tips I used for a healthy, slim vacation, and I want to make sure I’ve covered everything that will help you get through the upcoming Holiday Season happily and relaxingly without gaining the inches. If you apply all of the tips here besides a healthy routine, I won’t be surprised if you find yourself a couple of pounds lighter.