9 August, 2011
Eat & Drink

Eating Clean in Hong Kong

9 August, 2011

Four months ago, Jen and I, along with a few friends went to Japan to join the annual Tokyo marathon followed by a few days of skiing. Despite running and skiing being the main focus of our trip, we returned chubby and bloated with a twenty-pound weight gain between the two of us. Upon our return, Jen was serious about regaining her former slim figure especially after being mocked by colleagues that her face resembled a pizza (round and sunburned). I also found my work dresses to be less fitting than before, so we resolved to drastically change our diets to go on a weight loss program.

Jen had borrowed a book from Central library on the Paleo diet for athletes and was keen to give it a go. The diet consisted of only eating fresh produce, wild game and no grains or processed foods (similar to the diet of a hunter gather in primitive times).

 The basic rules are to avoid the following foods:

  • Grains (i.e. bread, rice, pasta, cereals, noodles);
  • Beans/legumes and potatoes (as they contain toxics which include enzyme blockers and lectins);
  • Dairy products;
  • Sugar and salt (though this is hard to avoid)

However, we are able to enjoy the following foods:

  • Meat, chicken, fish, eggs;
  • Fruit and vegetables;
  • Nuts (except peanuts, a legume);
  • Berries

It seemed very practical. However, when I realized I could not eat breads and cereals, I was completely shattered. I was certain that that my slim body would eventually return with exercise without the need to cut all my favourite foods out. In the following weeks my attitude gradually shifted as I saw the changes in Jen’s body and performance. Jen had not only returned to her original shape but also lost fat and was visibly more toned. Her athletic performance also improved as her track times were also faster and she was able to recover quicker after each workout.

Given Jen’s results, I made the decision to cut all processed carbohydrates from my diet in an attempt to follow her lead. I wasn’t as strict as to ban potatoes, or the occasional bean, but I did eliminate the obvious culprits namely bread, cakes, rice, pasta and cereals. Additionally, I also didn’t eliminate dairy as I couldn’t deprive myself of coffee or yoghurt (my favourite foods in life).

When I made the announcement to my friends, they were all curious as to how I would get full from not eating any rice, pasta or bread. I explained to them that vegetables, meat and nuts have carbohydrates as well as proteins and good fats, which were all quite filling.

Eventually, my meals consisted of salads with plenty of nuts, fresh fruit, meats and vegetables. I would also snack on almonds, sunflower seeds and dried cranberries. As I could eat as much fruits, vegetables and meat as I desired, there never was a time when I was hungry.

It took a month or so to adjust to this diet and I admit that in the first few weeks, I suffered from withdrawal symptoms; my body craved for bread and rice, foods which I had grown accustomed to over the years. However, after the initial hurdle and four months of Paleo eating later, the results are quite obvious:

  • I feel more fresh and energetic (no afternoon slump or desktop munchies);
  • I have more regular digestion (great detox effect);
  • Noticeable reduction in body fat and muscle toning (achieved along with light exercise)

Sometimes, when I look at photos of food, I still think processed foods look delicious, but I have completely lost the cravings for these foods. I love my new body and this lifestyle. I enjoy eating and cooking fresh foods and cannot imagine eating and living any other way.

**disclaimer: This piece is based on personal experience. The writer is not a medical professional.

W is based in Hong Kong. She has been an active athlete since she was young having been involved in competitive swimming, waterpolo, running and rugby. Recently, she has fallen in love with dragonboating and is currently polishing her paddling skills. 

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