When I first moved to Thailand, I was overweight. Food in the United States of Idiots and A-holes isn’t healthy, and neither is the American approach to diet which, in a nutshell, is “If it fits in my face, it belongs in my body.” So when I relocated to a remote jungle town in Krabi, there was more than just culture shock—there was food shock. Smaller portions, less meat all around, and food that wasn’t tampered with in a laboratory were all new concepts, as was the abundance of MSG and the lack of access to Western junk food. The short term result was a rapid weight-loss that made me look and feel 16 again, and it happened without exercise and without giving up beer. Now that I’m in Bangkok, it’s harder to stay thin, what with a Pizza Hut or KFC on every corner. But if one were to practice the principals I was forced to take on in those early days, one could, theoretically, lose weight in BKK without giving up the BKK lifestyle. The following is my attempt to explain how to duplicate the factors that helped me slim down while living in the south. So if you want to lose weight without giving up being lazy or drinking booze, here’s how I propose to do it:
First, embrace the temperature. My first job in Thailand was working for an NGO that didn’t splurge on comforts like air conditioning. My house and place of work were Thai-style structures with no glass on the windows and only fans to beat the heat. The human body works harder to stay cool than it does to stay warm (it’s true, Google it), so just the act of existing in that climate without Freon burned calories.
Second, cut down on meat and farang food—beef especially. Before I moved to Thailand, the concept of a “meatless meal” was something I did on a rare occasion to see what it would be like to be vegetarian for 10 minutes. The rest of the time, breakfast lunch and dinner all had some meat component. Americans love their cooked animal flesh. But another aspect of working for the NGO was, they didn’t have a lot of extra cash to spend on meat. So we got it once a day, for lunch. And it was always either chicken or pork—never beef. Going from meat 3 times a day to once a day made a big difference.
Also, follow this formula: FF(x) = BFF. It translates “Farang Food times any amount equals you being a Big Fat Fatty. While in Krabi, the NGO taught us how to make classic Thai dishes, and that’s all we ate Monday through Friday. Get away from bread and butter. You already know this, but it bears inclusion. The more bangers, burgers, Sunday roasts, pizza, fries, bread, cheese, etc. you eat, the fatter you will be. The more you stick to healthy Thai dishes, the slimmer you will be.
Third, don’t snack. The NGO paid so little that, if I wanted to have any fun in Ao Nang on the weekends, I had to save every baht I made. So I wasn’t able to snack between meals. It also helped that the closest 7-11 was a 40-minute walk up the road. It meant that we only went there for important things, like beer. The one luxury we allowed ourselves was beer.
Fourth, drink lots and lots of water. Since the 7-11 was so far away, and since the NGO provided free water, I drank a lot of it. In fact, when I wasn’t drinking my morning (black) coffee or beer in the evening, I only ever drank water.
Fifth, walk an hour a day. One of my duties was to teach free English lessons at the community center in the evenings 5 days per week. The center was located nearly a mile from my house, which meant a 20-minute walk there and back each day. I’d arrive at the class soaked in sweat, and teach like that for 3 hours before walking back for my nightly reward of two big Leo’s. Now I stick to vodka or red wine (the ketogenic diet says wine is less fattening than beer) or the occasional San Miguel Light.
Sixth, cheat on weekends. My weekends were always spent in Ao Nang. There I ate to my heart’s content, enjoying Subway, McDonald’s, bacon pizza at the Spaghetti House, iced coffees at Last Fisherman’s, and big touristy breakfasts. If you don’t cheat, you won’t be able to keep up being good the rest of the time.
Finally, don’t eat after 7:00 pm. The NGO provided free meals for employees, and fixed them at the same time every day. Breakfast was at 9:00, lunch at noon, dinner at 18.00. Getting used to this schedule took time. My stomach growled at around 20.30 every night for a month. But once I adjusted to my new reality, it became easier—as long as I didn’t see or smell food after sundown.
So, to sum up: Drink only black coffee, water, or booze. Eat meat only once a day and walk two miles a day. Don’t snack , don’t eat after 7, and turn off your air-con. And cheat only on weekends. That’s it. Easy-peasy.
Could a diet like this even work in a city of amazing restaurants? Yes. Would it be easy? No. But why not try it? What do you have to lose? The answer to that question is your belly. Just look down.
(On a side note: I’m not promoting this diet. I’m just explaining how I lost weight in the past. In fact, I don’t eat this way myself anymore. I’m on the intermittent fasting diet. The results aren’t as good as my forced Krabi diet, but at least I don’t have to buy fat pants–yet.)