A lot of my friends have commented over the last year or so (since I’ve been living in Japan) about how tiny I’ve become, how skinny, etc. While I appreciate their enthusiasm, many of our readers will know how I feel (and felt then) about it: I lost the weight because I have a disease that causes severe weight loss when it’s not kept in check. So while I definitely lost weight, I actually managed to reach a point of being smaller than I was in high school, which is pretty much the least I’ve ever weighed. To be BELOW that number was actually quite scary, and I worked pretty hard to get out of it.
I’m currently at something like a ‘new happy weight’: with a small amount of exercise and a good diet, my body is at a size that feels like a new normal, and it has been there for quite some time.
I won’t attribute my current weight to my disease, though, since I’ve been back on some amazing medication since April 2014. Since then, I’d attribute the weight I got back to (and have since remained around) to diet and a physically active lifestyle, although I still don’t ‘work out’ every day.
I often explain to my students (who also feel the need to comment on my body size) that I have something I refer to as an ‘American metabolism’: while all Americans come from different backgrounds, motherlands, and parts of the country (of course), we all have a few things in common: we all eat food we bought from a store in the US, and we all generally have to drive our cars to work, to sit in an office for 8 hours, and then drive our cars back home. Or, drive our cars everywhere, because ‘Urban Sprawl’.
While this doesn’t necessarily apply to people who live in NYC or DC, SF, etc, it applies to just about everyone else (Kamay is also excluded from this, but I think farming is an exception to this semi-rule): all I had to do to lose weight was get the hell out of the USA and start walking to get places.
I’m not saying this to be negative about living in the US in general, but I have seen the evidence and tested it on my own body (as I often prefer to do), and it’s clear: when I moved to a country with smaller portion sizes, less sugar in the food, and a good public transportation system that forced me to walk more (not to mention: more safe than Baltimore, so walking is OK!), I lost weight. It just fell off of me. I didn’t even have to try. The physical act of walking to a train station, riding a train, and then walking from the station to my office every day, and then having to do it to get back home, has been more exercise than I got most days living in Baltimore. I walk about 1 mile each day. And a lot of it ends up being power-walking.
Of course, that alone can’t keep the weight off. As we’ve written many times in the past, one of the keys to keeping unwanted weight off is generally eating well and having a good fitness regimen. Some people need more physical activity than others, but the best rule is ‘do more than your body is used to’. Changing up your diet and your workout routine on a regular basis is a good way to keep your body on its toes, and keep your metabolism working at top-speed.
My diet here is mostly Japanese food, but imported snacks from the US or EU, etc are easy to find, and thankfully a little expensive, due to import taxes and VAT (value-added tax). As you can see in the photo on the left, you CAN get Haagen Dazs here, but this little guy (one serving size) will cost you almost $4. This is a huge difference, compared to the literal vats of ice cream I used to buy from Giant for the same price. Even a small Ben & Jerry’s ice cream would give me more for that amount of money. That’s not to say that larger packages of ice cream don’t exist: they do. But I want good flavors, so it’s Haagen Dazs for me. It also works out well, since this is the most dairy I can eat before my body gets angry.
I took that photo to show what’s going on with me over here: I can still eat Ben & Jerry’s or Haagen Dazs whenever I want, but when 3 of these cost $12, there is really no way for me to overeat.
In the same vein, most packets of crisps, or anything for that matter, come in a single-serving size unless you buy them from the grocery store. This is actually really helpful, as it’s a great way to control portion size and intake. The largest bag of crisps I’ve ever seen here was 150 grams, and that was the XL-size. And of course, that night Mark and I finished the entire bag in one go while watching a movie, because that’s what always seems to happen.
Any time one of my glorious friends sends me a box of Cheez-Its from the states (and please, dear jebus, keep sending them!!) or a packet of Twizzlers, I run the risk of eating the entire package in one sitting. Because my mouth LOVES them so much. I can’t stop eating them. Honestly, the only reason a box of Cheez-Its or a bag of Goldfish lasts more than a few hours at my house is because I want them to last for as long as possible, since I know it might be a while before I see them again.
Here, a box of Premium (also called ‘Saltines’) crackers comes with not 2 long sleeves, but 9 small sleeves of 6 crackers each. So if I open sleeve number 2 to get more WisPride Port Wine cheese spread in my mouth, I actually feel bad about it, somehow.
Although I’ve tried for years to get my portion sizes under control, I have to say that living here and having everything portioned down and individually packaged has actually proved very useful. Although I am 100% against the 25 layers of plastic packaging that most things come in, I have to say I appreciate this (possibly) unintended bonus of having everything portioned out for me. It’s made me a LOT more conscious about what 100g looks like, and also about how much I eat on a daily basis. Not having to weigh and separate my snacks into 100g or less sized-portions has really helped me eat healthier, and smarter.