Skinny Daily Post

Invincible.

I was in Thailand last year and I swear I never saw so many skinny people — in relatively well-off surroundings — in my life! To a lesser degree, I’ve noticed the same thing on my trips to Tokyo, Hong Kong, Beijing and Singapore. Large populations of people with a reasonable standard of living, a huge variety of foods available, and yet very little visible obesity. Since my partner is Taiwanese, I’m no stranger to Asian cuisine, and it strikes me that there are just as many UN-healthy choices as healthy ones. For every dish of raw fish and veggies, there’s another that involves deep frying, sesame oil, or sugary sauces. Even that fantastic Vietnamese national dish, Pho’ soup, comes laden with about three solid cups of noodles per bowl. So how does this work?

For one thing, the “snacking” culture appears to be somewhat less prevalent in Asia. While they do have convenience stores and junk food outlets, visits to such places apparently remain a more occasional experience than they do for Americans. For another thing, portions are just smaller. Most food in Asia that I’ve seen comes in dishes and containers significantly tinier than in the U.S. And who knows, there may be an obesity epidemic waiting in the wings, as their economies continue to surge and they continue to import western eating habits.

In the mean time, I had an interesting discovery. Because I like salads, veggies stir frys, and other healthy, but messy foods, I discovered that I was getting a lot of balsamic vinegar and mustard on my ties. Finally one day, after dropping a forkful of lettuce on my freshly dry-cleaned dress trousers, I recalled that I have a drawer-full of nice wooden chopsticks. Amazingly, I am far neater with these tools and now that I’ve taken to using them, I’ve almost completely eliminated the need to cover myself from head to toe in napkins while eating.

But here’s the REAL kicker. Although I’m great with chopsticks, when I use them I am forced to eat small, reasonable bites, one at a time. I cannot shovel food into my mouth the way I often have in the past. As a result, I’m taking my time, savoring the food more, and stopping sooner. I’ve even taken to using smaller serving plates!

How do you slow down? Can you think of ways to savor food more, while keeping portions reasonable and stopping before you get full? We’ve heard time and again that too much food, too fast, can yield really terrible results. The question is, for those of us without a natural stop sign, how to we figure this out?

For now I’m sticking with the chopsticks. I’m even thinking about bringing some along on my next trip, just to see how it works when I’m away from home.


– Contributed by Jonathan

18 thoughts on “Chopsticks

  1. Rachel says:

    I live in Taiwan now, but I lived my first 25 years in America…and I’ve done some research on the Chinese diet as well. It baffles me that Asian women are so skinny when they fry everything in oil! But they also walk all over the place. People are just more active here! And few Taiwanese indulge in desserts on a regular basis. But obesity IS becoming a problem. With so many Western fast food chains around, the taste buds are changing.

  2. JuJu says:

    Can you use knitting needles for chopsticks? Because I’m seeing a perfect blend of new obsessions on my horizon…

  3. jappy says:

    I think I’d need dental picks (with the hooks)! Have not mastered chopsticks. I do crochet, though…

    All kidding aside, the obviously slowdown of eating with chopsticks is a key factor. I’ve slowed down, but not enough. I have stopped drinking fluids while eating, that’s helped keep me fuller longer.

    Love the idea that I could possibly keep from dropping food on me. Hasn’t stopped since my last pregnancy 25 years ago!

  4. Bobbie says:

    Since there are three of you posting now can you put the name of the writer at the top of the entry so we know who is writing? I am guessing this is Jonathan’s entry.

  5. Lesli says:

    I too have found that when I eat with chopsticks I eat much slower. I should invest in some of those for home.

  6. Emily says:

    Hi guys,

    JuJu — so sorry to hear about your parents illnesses.
    Jane and Jonathon — welcome!

    While I think bringing on new writers is a great idea, I have a request — some sign near the top of who is writing! I usually read these first by email these days, and I had the following reaction to today’s post: “Wait, I don’t remember JuJu writing about going to Thailand… or Tokyo, Hong Kong, Beijing and Singapore! And her partner doesn’t seem to be Asian… so which of the other two is it? Well, a tie was mentioned, so I guess that means it’s Jonathon… now, what was the point of this again?”

    Maybe others aren’t as distractable as I am, but I really like to know who I’m reading…

    Thanks for all the great columns!

  7. Smurphy says:

    That is interesting…

    I wonder if chopsticks could be used with American food. BBQ chicken (off the bone and diced of course) and potatoes?

    Something to experiment with.

  8. layla says:

    the best way for me to slow down, is to take a couple of deep breaths before eating to stop the mad pace I usually keep most days, and, hardest of all, not reading while I eat. Thank you for this web site, it is a life saver!

  9. nannygoat says:

    I insist on using chopsticks when eating any Asian food–it slows the eating down so I can enjoy it more! But you talk about mastering the chopstick; this girl can pick up a single grain of rice with those babies so that the plate or bowl is clean as a whistle. Hmmmm…I’m getting a visual. Maybe I ought to eat the whole meal one rice grain at a time. That would surely give my brain time to catch up with what’s in my stomach. Thanks for reminding us that it isn’t just WHAT we eat; it’s how, and when as well.

  10. Denise says:

    Eating slower tip I don’t see often…

    Really hot food… I used to heat food to barely warm. I was so anxious to begin eating and I could eat it FAST.

    HOT food forces me to slow down. I can’t wolf down a bowl of HOT oatmeal or HOT, HOT soup. It isn’t physically possible!

  11. Susan says:

    Besides, food just plain tastes better when you eat it with chopsticks. People laugh at me when I tell them this, but it’s true. And since I didn’t grow up using chopsticks to eat normally, now it feels kinda like an etiquette-sanctioned way of playing with my food, which appeals to the little kid in me.

  12. Carrie says:

    What a great article…it’s something I never thought about. Finding something to help me eat slower. Thanks for the hint…gonna go find some chopsticks, knitting needles, toothpicks, something…

  13. Steph says:

    Hmmm. Interesting idea. I definitely eat too fast, so this could help me.

    I’m having a veggie burger tonight. Do you think my roomates would find me strange if I cut it up in little pieces and ate it with chopsticks? Maybe I’ll try it just to freak them out. šŸ˜‰

  14. JuJu says:

    Hi folks. Sorry, my bad, the nickname feature wasn’t working when Jonathan posted this morning. You’ll find the names of the posters at the bottom of the post. But maybe we’ll start “bylining” at the top too so nobody misses it.

    Also, the pics are up. See our B&As on the About Skinny page, link is always on the left column, bottom bubble.

    Thanks!

  15. TLo says:

    I’ve only recently discoverd your site and just love it. Thank you thank you for the oh-so-real observations and practical tips.

    My way of slowing WAY down when I eat is a bit against conventional wisdom; I do much better when I read while I eat. Have no problem stretching a meal to over an hour that way, and enjoying it greatly. For me, it’s much harder to eat slowly when all I have to do is eat … just get bored, I guess.

  16. Ruby says:

    Oh, so it’s not the high glycemic white rice that makes them skinny and makes me fat….

  17. Annie says:

    My husband used to frequent an Asian restaurant/lounge and eat huge portions while there. He started using chopsticks to control what he consumed and it worked for him. He has taught me how to use chopsticks as well and we always have several pair around. For those that can’t get the hang of those “tricky sticks”, try using a fork with your opposite hand. If you are right handed, eat with your left. Left handed, try eating with your right. Not only will you slow down, you will concentrate more on what you are eating. It also helps to put down your eating utensil between each bite!

  18. Cynthia says:

    ..My dad can shovel food into his mouth with chopsticks. If you can’t, then you’re probably not that great with them.

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