Getting fat in Korea

Since starting at my new school I have put on about 5kg. Now I know I’m not a triathlete or scuba slave anymore but I’m not exactly a slacker either. I mostly eat unprocessed food, I hate donuts and I mostly follow a vegetarian diet at home. I drink less than last year too so why the hell am I getting lardy? Two facts about me: I do sport and I don’t do diets/ skipping meals/ weird eating fads.

The other day my co and I looked at the menu posted outside the cafeteria. I was shocked that Monday’s lunch contained 831kcal, Tuesday 630kcal and today was just over 700kcal! Suddenly it all made sense! My school is my feeder!

Now that I know what the problem is, what do I do about it? Some of my friends suggested bringing in my own lunch. This is not a valid option in my opinion, since lunch is about more than food in this country. It’s about socializing, communing and showing your appreciation for the culture. If you stop eating with your co teachers and kids they will judge you. Bad Foreigner! I can’t be asked with the political fall-out of NOT eating the cafeteria lunch. That’s on par with not attending teachers’ dinners and outings- it’s not going to do you any favours. The food is amazing too so I don’t want to give it up either.

Last year I was allowed to dish up for myself, which was perfect as I could control my portions. This year I get served. And how. The ladies heap about 2-3 cups of boiled rice onto my plate every day. I’ve tried to ask them (via my co) to cut down on my portions and today I actually asked for a kiddies portion. I hate wasting food and I don’t want them to judge me for throwing food away. I want them to serve me less! I’m hoping if I throw food away and I keep asking for less that I will finally achieve my goal.

It also got me thinking that I haven’t looked at a food label for ages usually because I try to eat clean, which doesn’t require label reading or calorie counting. I found this handy blog post that sheds some light on how to read Korean food labels and the Korean version of the food pyramid.

Here are translated versions on the ingredients you might find on packaged food (including TRANSFAT):

열량 Calories
탄수와물 Carbs
당류 Sugar
단백질 Protein
지방 Fat
포화지방 Unsat fat
트랜스지방 Trans fat
콜레스테롤 Cholesterol
나트륨 Sodium
칼슘 Calcium
식이셤유 Fiber

What’s my plan? I will combine cutting calories with upping my exercise level. You need to burn 3,500kcal to lose 1 pound of fat. That’s 7,700 kcal per kilogram! I’m not going to obsess about calorie counting cos life’s too short, but having a general number in the back of my head can’t hurt. You can use a calorie counter and I find Runner’s World to be a useful resource too. If you dig High Intensity Training then go here. You don’t need to go to a gym- use what’s around you: run, swim, cycle, use your own bodyweight, a big bag of rice, use an exercise ball, yoga mat and skipping rope. Smaller portions at school and less/ none pre-mixed instant coffee sachets.

On the up side I am riding Seoul to Busan in two weeks’ time so that should melt some lard. I’m bringing sexy back.



2 thoughts on “Getting fat in Korea

  1. Say, thanks for linking to our blog post about Korean nutrition labels!^^
    I totally understand how you feel about the eating culture here. It’s not quite like the excess that I’m used to from America, it’s just different.

    Before I got married, I was a solid 80kg, did TaeKwonDo, the gym, and biked everywhere. But IMMEDIATELY after getting married, when I went to my new in-law’s home for the first time (during Seollal New Year’s no less), they just kept bringing out the food every hour or so. Breakfast, followed by fruit, followed by snacks, followed by barbeque, followed by lunch, followed by fruit and coffee,.. It’s a wonder the Koreans themselves aren’t fatter than they are – but they’ve grown up with it and know how to pace themselves and LEAVE food on their plates when full (I was raised to clean up the plate with whatever I was given – that just gets you more heaped on top in Asia).

    Anyway, good luck with your training and daily diet in Korea!~

    1. Thanks Aaron! If you have any blog posts that deal with organic food labelling in Korea, please feel free to share it with us. 감사합니다 ^^

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