Doing Atkins diet in Thailand
Posted: 22nd February 2005
I am not one of those persons that go on diets one after the other. My feelings on the subject has always been, "You only live once, you might as well enjoy yourself and eat what you like!" I have always felt sorry for the people who go on strict diets for years on end, eating very boring meals, and having very little to show for it.
A few years ago, I twisted my knee pretty badly and was out of action for probably nearly a year. It is a bit embarrassing really. I don't really tell many people what happened, but the fact is, I twisted my knee while bowling! The floor was a bit slippery and I went down rather hard. Anyway, that happened during the October holidays and I didn't have surgery until the April holidays. Then after that it took a few months to recover. As a result of all this inactivity, I just started putting on weight. Until finally last year I decided I had to do something about it.
My problem wasn't just a question of limited exercise. It was also to do with mixing a diet of Thai food together with Western food. I first came across the Atkins diet in a newspaper report in The Nation newspaper last June. It sounded interesting but I didn't pay it much attention. But then, by coincidence, my sister, later the same day, sent me an e-mail detailing how much weight she had lost by using the Atkins diet. It seemed like fate and I decided to look more into it. That weekend I went to Asia Books in Seacon Square and bought a book about the "Atkins New Diet Revolution".
Basically, Atkins is very different to low-fat diets. It asks you to limit your carbohydrate intake in the form of sugar, white flour, and other starches found in breads, pasta and potatoes. The idea is that if you limit your carbs then your body will have to burn fat instead. The induction period lasts for 2 weeks (longer if you like) and limits you to only 20g of carbs per day. After a month you can start adding more carbs each week. The idea is that you stop adding carbs when you start to gain more weight. That is then how many carbs your body can cope with.
Before starting the Atkins diet I had to decide whether it would be possible (or realistic) for me to maintain the diet and what foods I could eat. First I will list the foods and drinks that I wouldn't be able to have:
Western foods such as: bread, potatoes, pasta, cereals, fruit, marmalade, ice cream, yoghurt, cakes, cookies, pies...
Thai foods such as: rice and noodles!
That is the bad news. On the surface it would seem that it would be impossible to keep to this diet in Thailand. After all, most people eat rice or noodles for just about every meal. Then, personally, I also eat a lot of bread, pasta, cereals etc. However, there was some good news.
Food that I could eat: All meat and most fish, eggs, salads and vegetables. It was at this point that I decided I could do this diet. I loved eating steak. Egg and bacon for breakfast was fine. I was also happy with salads and stir fried vegetables.
I took about a week preparing myself, looking at labels in the supermarkets to see how many carbs were in each package, and basically buying what I was allowed to eat. I then started the diet the first week in July last year. Each day I ate about 15-20 grams of carbs. To give you an idea of how much this is, a can of Coke has 38.7 grams, a bowl of corn flakes has 88 grams, a pork chop has zero, eggs have zero and tuna has zero.
Personally, I found it easier than expected to keep below 20 grams a day. Though you must make sure you drink plenty of water and take multi-vitamins. After about a month I wasn't bored at all and was losing weight all the time. During the second month I had the occasional meal of rice or noodles. By the end of the third month I had reached my target of losing 15 kilos. I can tell you that felt pretty good. Now the teachers were saying how thin I looked. The only thing is, some asked if I had been ill and others inquired whether I had just stopped eating altogether! I always replied that I ate a lot each day and was always very full. And that was true. The good thing about eating protein is that it fills you up.
The next thing I knew was that my Thai colleagues starting asking how I did it. I explained to them about the low carb diet and how strict you have to be. Some were interested and did make a start at doing the diet. However, all of them found it very difficult not being able to eat rice or noodles. Eating steak for them was actually quite an expensive option. So, I think they have all quit now.
More than four months have passed since I reached my target. Although I am no longer strict about counting my carbs, I do try and choose foods that don't contain so much. However, that doesn't mean I can no longer eat rice or noodles. I now enjoy eating them again though in moderation. (Meaning not every meal and not every day.) I still like cooking steak and vegetables for myself. Also eating salads. And of course I like experimenting with Thai foods as there are a lot of recipes out there which don't contain a lot of carbs. The good news is, I haven't put on any weight!
Don't forget to visit the forums to discuss Thai food!
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