Maybe There is a Reason Other Countries Are not as Obese as Americans?

I had a friend and neighbor for 4 years who is from Viet Nam.  I learned so much from her about food because she didn’t grow up in America!

At her household (consisting of 3 families cooperating to live together) she cooks for everyone one time a day, in the morning.  She makes enough of one food item to last for every family member for the entire day.  Think cabbage soup for the day, or spring rolls, or chicken and rice – a family favorite. As her family got hungry they would snack on that one item all day long.  They eat for hunger not for taste.

The food is still very tasty, but after having it already several times in the day, they are not as apt to gorge themselves on the same item the rest of the day.  They eat less and less as the day progresses.

Being raised in America, we have specialty foods for each time of the day.  We have ‘breakfast foods”: eggs, bacon, pancakes, biscuits, fruit bowls, cereals, muffins, and hash browns.  We have designated “lunch foods”: soups, salads, sandwiches, chips, lunch specials, lunch menus, and to go lunches.  We have dinner foods: roast, potatoes, burgers, casseroles, spaghetti, and more.  We even have designated foods between these meals for snacks: bars, snack packs, roll-ups, etc.  Frankly, in America, we are spoiled.  We are over-saturated with flavor options.  We eat many times for yummy flavors rather than true hunger or when we are simply thirsty and not hungry at all.

Think about the week following Thanksgiving.  Do you really want another turkey sandwich?  Having the same healthy thing over and over causes us to eat less.

I find that when I control my menu I have better success at weight loss.  When there are too many options I don’t always make the better choices.  I’m more tempted by the options than eating smart.  So if anyone were to look at my weight loss menu as well as maintaining menu, it’s rather boring.  I don’t branch out much.  I eat what keeps me on track only.

I have a friend who lost 70+ pounds.  He ate a grilled chicken salad EVERY day at lunch.  He limited his variety so he could maintain his goals.  Fewer options meant more control over his eating.

My Viet Nam friend was also surprised how American’s often have multiple items at one meal.  Of course this is coming from someone who eats one thing all day every day.  She works hard to feed a ton of people.  Her trying to figure out how to make several things is overwhelming and not really useful.

Also a result of the way they cook and eat, they naturally eat more in the morning and less later in the day.  How many times have you tried to do this as part of a diet?  I know I have!  But if the only option was the same thing you had for breakfast and lunch, would you really go back for another serving before bedtime?

Her portions were much smaller too.  They just needed enough to fill their bellies.  They were not eating to satisfy lingering cravings.  They had already eaten the same thing earlier that day.  There weren’t any taste cravings left, just hunger.  As hunger lingered they kept it at bay with a scoop or two.

I’m thankful for the time I had her as a friend and neighbor.  I was thrilled she was willing to share such valuable cultural differences.  I see much value in the way her family manages food on a daily basis.

Have you seen friends or families that eat very different from your family?  What are the differences?  Have you been to another country, how is food consumed differently?

Do you eat for hunger, for the flavor, or to feed a craving?  Have you fought to try to eat less later in the day?

Could limiting your food options help your caloric intake?

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