Which is better western or eastern diets?

Posted on 21. Jun, 2014 by in Fitness , The Story

Over the past 4 years I have spent an equal amount of time in Asia and England. For two years I lived and travelled round South East Asia, and for the past two years I have been living in London. Recently I have started to compare the stuff I ate in both places in the hope of finding what works best for me.

China
This was the first country we visited and I lost a lot of weight incredibly quickly, this was mainly down to not really being able to eat! It was really difficult to order food and most of the time the meat was very, very questionable. I survived on plain things like rice and quite a few Mcdonalds (not the most healthiest of months) but it was quick and easy after a number of disappointing meals. Not quite the westernised Chinese takeaways we are used to…

This is a lolly that is made of peas! One of the many awful things I tasted during my time in China!

Vietnam
Here, there were a lot more temptations, we could easily find western food. BUT there was also lots and lots of delicious Vietnamese dishes including garlic fried morning glory! I did eat quite a bit of western food, but our main diet was rice and some sort of spiced meat along with plenty of vegetables.  A welcome change after weeks struggling with food in China.

cycling in Hoi An Vietnam

Thailand
We lived in Chiang Mai for 3 months and ate just down the road at our local street market. Our usual dinner included barbecued chicken, rice and with maybe some dried chillies and pork. Usually this was washed down with a freshly made fruit smoothie and would cost around $3!

Delicious street food

As we lived there, we did eat out sometimes, especially when friends visited – and I did become a regular at Iberry (a delicious cake and ice cream shop).

Loas
Always eating out at different street markets, by this point we really loved Asian food and most of our meals were lots of variations of things we already liked from the previous two countries. Fresh, healthy and delicious.

Jumping off a cliff in Loas

Thailand again
This time we lived in Bangkok for 15 months whilst I was teaching English in a local Kindergarten. This would be the time when we could easily have gone back to a mainly western diet – apart from we didn’t have a cooker!! Because of this we ate most of our meals the shop at the bottom of our building, traditional Thai food which as ever was much better for us than what we mgiht have cooked.  However, sometimes we did cook our own dishes but we only had a hob, so boiling or frying was our only option. No chance for chicken nuggets and chips!

Pork and sticky rice – one of my favourite breakfasts

Looking back, the main thing that wasn’t in my diet during my time in Asia was processed food – I didn’t really eat ready meals, or lots of crisps, chocolate or cake. After losing quite a lot of weight in China I stayed around the same weight for most of the time we were away, of course the heat and intense sweating most days probably helped…

Back to London

We arrived back in England in May 2012 and I slipped straight back into old habits. I remember thinking to myself I will just have all the food I have missed over the last two years, get it out of my system and then I will try and eat healthily again.

At the Paralympics 2012

So I proceeded to have fish and chips, burgers, curries, chinese (our version with less bones) and lots and lots of restaurant meals. Lots of cider (something you cannot get ANYWHERE in Asia) Ben and Jerrys, cheesecake, chocolate eclairs, chocolate brownies etc.

Within months I had added on the pounds, things that at first I thought of as a treat became a habit. In a regular day I would have a couple of biscuits and 1 cake and didn’t really think much of it. Then I started teaching in a secondary school – it became necessary for me to have chocolate at the end of a tiring or awful day, my housemates would also come home with treats when they had a bad day too!

Tasty cake in Lake Bled Slovenia


On reflection even when I was trying to be healthy I probably wasn’t – for ease I picked up a lot of ready meals – even though they were’ good for you’ with low fat. I was eating lots of bread and if I had a good day I would sometimes treat myself with a chocolate bar in the afternoon. I had definitely changed my habits from when I lived in Thailand and Asia in general.

Looking back I think it is the processed food I consumed when I was back in London that made me pile on over a stone and half in just over a year! It is a lot easier to eat junk food back in England, it’s cheap and it’s EVERYWHERE. There is also a lot of misinformation here about what is healthy and what is not. Ready meals are sold here as healthy, or we are encouraged to drink low sugar fizzy drinks rather than high sugar. Although these are accessible in Thailand there are so many other delicious treats around that I found I didn’t really need them as much.

In 2014 I have decided that I am going to try and adopt the diet I used to have back in Asia, I have ditched all of the processed food and have started cooking simple dishes. I know I will still have slip ups but hopefully this will help me lose the excess pounds that I have been carrying around the last year.

One Response to “Which is better western or eastern diets?”

  1. Shannan

    20. Mar, 2014

    I can’t believe there is a pea flavoured lolly? Why? That just sounds disgusting!

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