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“Sawatdee, Nice to see you – Gee you’re FAT!” – Leveraging Culture to Fight Obesity

by Stuart Jay Raj on November 26, 2011

After realizing that I had become OBESE on the 13th of Sept 2011, I tackled my fight against obesity in the same way I approach language learning. Following the Dukan programme, I lost 18kg in just over 8 weeks without once feeling hungry, having to count calories or feel sick and lethargic.

Too Fat to Flip

On the 1st of September 2011, I touched down back home in Thailand to run a training workshop with one of my clients. The workshop was at Phuket’s Club Med resort, and part of the training involved all the participants having to climb up onto a trapeze high off of the ground, swing out on it and flip upside down, followed by a back-somersault dismount. As a child, I was a keen gymnast and used to pride myself on my agility and ability to flip and tumble. When it came to my turn on the trapeze however, the trouble all started even before I could scale the tower. I had to fit a special size harness on, because the normal one wouldn’t wrap around me properly. I reached the top of the platform and I was puffed. I then swung out on the trapeze and on the call of the coach, attempted to bring my legs up so that I could latch the bar under them and hang upside down. I tried once. I tried twice. I tried three times. I failed. Why? Because I was TOO FAT and couldn’t for the life of me bring my legs up above my stomach.

Political Correctness? What’s That?

It was wonderful to be back in Thailand. I was able to catch up with many of my old friends, go to some of my favourite restaurants and do some shopping in my favourite areas. No matter where I went though, the conversation usually went something like this:

“หวัดดีพี่เจ อ้วนขึ้นนะ”
“(Sa)Watdee Pee Jay, you’re FAT!”
OR
“โหพี่เจ อ้วนเป็นหมูนะ”
“Wow Pee Jay, you’re as fat as a pig!”

  • Language notes: 
    • In Thailand and Indonesia, I’m known by my middle name ‘Jay’ – เจ;
    •  พี่ ‘Pee’is the term used to address an older brother / male;
    • Sawatdee สวัสดี is often shortened to หวัดดี ‘watdee’ in spoken Thai which is a general greeting word for meeting and departing

I walked into some of my favourite clothes stores and the shop attendants that greeted me with:

“Wow, you know you won’t be able to fit into our clothes anymore don’t you?”

This is the thing that I had really missed about Thailand.  That is, the apparent complete void of western Political Correctness.  Almost in a child-like fashion, if someone meets you, whether they are a stranger or not, chances are they will be very straight forward and honest with you.  If you have a big ugly mole on your face, they will say “You know you have a big ugly mole on your face”.  If you have dark skin, they will say “Wow, you’re black.” This might be followed up by (if not out loud, definitely in the mind) “Are you doing anything about it?”.  If you have a flat nose, they’ll say “You look like a hillbilly” and if you’re fat they’ll say you’re fat.  Actually, if you’re the right body size for your height and frame, they’ll also say you’re fat.  It’s probably only if you’re skin and bones that they will say “You look look wonderful”.

It was then that I realized.  I had actually become a big, bona fide, fat, lard-ass!

Why is the West Obese?

Before moving to Australia in 2010, I was on a good food and exercise regime in Bangkok.  My weight had come down and I was hovering around 76kg-78kg.  I was still heavier than what I would have liked to be, but I was on a good track.

Moving to Australia was a shock to the system in many senses.  It was culturally very difficult to adjust and still is.  We couldn’t bring our maid or nanny with us, and so ended up taking the easy way out when it came to meal time – FAST FOOD.  In Australia, it seems whatever you order, it always ends up coming with a side of French Fries and a soft-drink.

Within around six months, I had put on over 18kg without realizing it.  One by one, I would have to stop wearing clothes from my old wardrobe.  I was burning holes in the bum of all the jeans I owned through too much rubbing when I walked (I guess) and none of my belts would fit me anymore.

 Political Correctness Blinds us from the Obvious

One of the first things that strikes you moving from Thailand to a western country is the jump in the amount of obese people you see walking around.  Kids, teenagers, mums, dads, grandparents.  There are fat people everywhere.  So why don’t they get up off of their butts and do something about it?  My theory is that political correctness could be one reason why many people are staying fat.

The lack of people telling me every day that I was getting ‘fat’ let me become complacent and feel a false sense of satisfaction with my self-image.  It’s an image that I would have never allowed of myself back in Thailand. You meet people everyday, and although you’re bloating up, they won’t say a thing.  Chances are, they are probably bloating up themselves, so saying something about my being fat would probably mean that they have to do something to address their own problem.  In the end, we all walk around getting fatter and fatter, lazier and lazier until we reach a point that seems too far gone to ever be able to return from.

If I was going to get serious about losing weight, I knew that I needed to get back into a Thai state of mind.  I needed to leverage culture to fight obesity!

No Support From Loved Ones

When I arrived back in Australia on the 11th of September, I thought enough was enough.  I was FAT.  My wife actually didn’t want me to lose weight, and fought with me to try and convince me that I was crazy for wanting to lose weight.  I realized that this was probably selfishness on her part as she too has put on weight, and for other reasons that might make her insecure about me losing weight.

The Dukan Diet by Pierre Dukan

Dukan Diet Comes to the Rescue

That just made me even more determined.  I saw a segment on the Dukan diet, and saw how much Princess Kate had lost before the Royal wedding a few months back.  I figured, if she could do it, then so could I.  I got the e-book of the Dukan diet, loaded it into my Kindle and read it all that night.  The next day, I went out and prepared everything I needed – my proteins, oat bran, yoghurt etc.  This is the KEY to being able to follow through.  You need to prepare stuff so that you’re not tempted to go out and buy crap from outside.

In saying that, if you have no choice but to have to buy food outside, I’ve realised that high protein foods are all around and actually make your eating out bill a lot cheaper than if you were eating regular food!.

 Falling in Love with Good Food – Similar to Falling in Love with a Language

One of the bits I love is having Oat Bran and Greek Non Fat yoghurt mixed together in the morning. Tastes great and gives a lot of energy – for the next couple of hours until I have another high protein hit.  I don’t know how do describe the change in mind-set that I’ve gone through.  It’s very similar to the feeling I get when I’m learning a new language.  When I’m learning, I can’t get enough of the language.  I almost consume dictionaries, grammars and other language books trying to get more and more linguistic ‘nutrition’ into me.  This time, the words were healthy foods.

 Where to Find the Food

In most supermarkets here, you can find ‘heart smart’ meat – that is that have very low fat contents.  These are great. I have also bought some really nice cuts of meat from a Hormone Free Butchery near my place.  I use a lot of chilli, garlic, ginger and other non-sweet / low salt condiments to marinade / cook my meat in.

 Burger King Helped me Lose Almost 20kg!

If you’re on the run, I have found going to Burger King and asking for a non salted Angus Burger patty is great – especially at only $1.30 each.  I drain any oil off of them for about 3 minutes before eating them.  Diet drinks are also allowed.  I’m not a big fan of aspartame, but I must admit, I have been enjoying Diet Ginger Beer – tastes like the real thing and keeps me from craving sugary drinks.

For in between snacks if I’m in court, I will often take a non-sugar, lo-carb, high-protein chocolate bar with me.

My favourite vegetable dish is คะน้า(ลวก)น้ำมันหอย  蠔油芥蘭菜 – Boiled Kailan with oyster sauce.

 

What About Exercise?

I must say that in the Dukan diet, there is an emphasis on walking every day, but not on full exercise workouts.  I have had so much energy since starting it and have been working out every day too.  I bought a weights set, pilates ball and other workout equipment and do it while I watch TV of an evening.

 Anti-Ageing 

Another bonus is that recently I have had a lot more grey hairs popping up (I’m 36) – but since doing this, the colour has been coming back!  I have a whole bunch of hairs that are grey at the tips, but have colour come back at the roots.  I figure I must be doing something right :)

 

Oh yeah … prepare to have your libido go into overdrive .

 Criticisms

I have heard a lot of criticism about it – I don’t know where this has come from (from friends).  They say ‘bahhh… no fad diets… I don’t believe it’, or they have the opinion that weightloss should be done with blood sweat and tears.  This has literally been one of the most enjoyable experiences for me, I’m never hungry, I feel like I’m in top health, never had a headache and am eating awesome food.  Where’s the down side?

 Is it only a Temporary Thing?

Will I yo-yo?  That’s part of the psychological game.  I think that the programme sets out to re-train your eating habits, and that’s what I intend to do.  The fact that I’m making it so public will force me to keep me in shape and not slip up by falling into crappy eating habits in the future.

 

The Diet is broken into 4 phases:

  • Attack Phase 5-7 days
  • Cruise Phase – as long as it takes to reach your target weight
  • Consolidation Phase – Depends on how much weight you lost
  • Stabilization / Consolidation

Here is a detailed review -

http://blogs.howstuffworks.com/2010/04/21/how-the-dukan-diet-works/

 

And here is one where he debunks some of the ‘warnings’.

http://blogs.howstuffworks.com/2010/06/28/all-the-dire-warnings-i-have-gotten-about-the-dukan-diet-have-turned-out-to-be-wrong/

You can download the e-book from Amazon.

From Fit 2 Fat 2 Fit

This is FIT Drew on May 7, 2011, and FAT Drew on Nov 5, 2011

Another interesting project that’s going on which adds an extra ‘twist’ to the whole weight-loss story is being done by a guy named ‘Drew’ who has been updating his progress on a website called ‘Fit2Fat2Fit.com

Can this work for You?

All I know is that this has worked for me, I feel great, my body has turned into a fat burning machine and I can fit into clothes that I could never wear 2 months ago.  I find that now I’m losing on average 300g-500g per day.

On September 13, 2011 I weighed 91kg.  On November 26, 2011, I weigh 73kg.   I actually lost 16kg in 6 weeks.  I have been stabilizing since then as well as doing a lot of weights work to help me tone up.  My goal is for a 2012 New Year 6-Pack.  I’ll keep you posted!

 

Oh yeah … and one last thing that I think has made it work for me…

 

DRINK LOTS and LOTS and LOTS and LOTS and LOTS and LOTS and LOTS of WATER!!!!

This helps your kidneys, hydration and works as a natural laxative.  I have never had troubles going to the bathroom as other people on high protein diets have – Dukan suggests that drinking lots of water acts as a natural laxative.  He is correct – it really keeps you regular.   He suggest having around 1.5L per day – I think I have closer to 5L a day!  Can’t get enough water.

I hope that I have been able to be some inspiration for some others of you out there.  Let me know how you go!

Stuart Jay Raj

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  • http://womenlearnthai.com Cathering

    Congrats Stu. I found one that worked for me and now I’m just maintaining good health.

    Funny, the complaints I got from Thai friends were “You are TOO SKINNY”… but the closer I got to goal, the less they complained.

    And isn’t that how it goes in Thailand? If you are really crap at Thai they rave about your Thai language skills. When you get good, nadda is heard. lol…

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Cat!

      You would have to be the first person I’ve ever heard in Thailand say that someone has called you TOO SKINNY! I never thought that the two words could be used in the same sentence with each other! 55555

  • http://www.facebook.com/webcoursesbangkok Webcoursesbangkok Carl

    Firstly congrats mate and this is really inspiring and something I would not mind trying. I recently started meditation and that has really helped change my mind set, so now it is time for outer health to come into play.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Carl :)
      It just got to the point where I got fed up with being complacent. One’s physical appearance has so much of an impact on what you do in your daily life – self image, what you set your goals at … everything ends up revolving around avoiding stuff coz you’re ‘fat’… well it did for me anyway. Feel so much more free now.

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  • Daniel Hershcovich

    Good job on the new attitude!

    What I dislike about the term ‘diet’ is that it always sounds like a temporary thing that you do to lose wait, and then go back to your regular life. But actually, it simply means ‘nutrition’ – maintaining a healthy style of eating and living from now until the end of your life.

    I’m vegan, so I don’t really have the problem of the temptation to eat fast food full of meat and animal fats. I end up making a lot of the food I eat, which is great for 3 reasons -
    1. It actually tastes better, perhaps because I feel it should be worth the effort, and because I just make things that are more apt for my taste
    2. It is more healthy, as I only put in what I want to, and there is no need for preservatives or artificial taste substances, etc.
    3. I improve my cooking skills, which serves to impress other people too :)

    I also eat a bowl of oat bran, fruits and (soy) yogurt every morning. It’s great!

    One thing I wanted to warn you against is drinking TOO MUCH water, because it can also be dangerous. I’ve heard of people who took the advice of drinking a lot of water to the extreme, and ended up diluting the blood.

  • Aundreasarah11

    I am in Phuket where can I get oat bran

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