Thai Food is Healthy Right? So Why am I Gaining Weight?

Most people arrive in Bangkok from the western world and immediately indulge in the Thai cuisine, which is very delicious I might add. The spices are rich and the flavors are quite unlike your local Thai restaurant in the West. The Pad Thai, Tom Yum and the Som Tum and the various other dishes leave our palates yearning for more. We eat until our hearts desire and in the first month of our stay we lose weight, even though we’re eating all of those infamous forbidden items like noodles and rice.

Many people report losing up to 10 pounds within the first month of their stay in Thailand. However, a few months later the weight begins to slowly find its way back onto the midsection and thighs that we lost it from.Why does this happen?

Well, upon further review it seems quite clear. When we arrive from the Western world where portion sizes are twice to three times that of the average Thai dish our body falls into a calorie deficit straight away. Although we are consuming all of those forbidden products, our total caloric intake is lower, which naturally will cause the body to lose weight without lifting a finger.

Our body however, likes to maintain homeostasis, meaning it doesn’t like to lose weight this way and so it learns over time to use the calories in a different way and slowly it begins to stabilize at a weight that is comfortable. It is at this point in time that the yo-yo begins to swing in the other direction. Who said Thai food was healthy for you? With the amounts of MSG, table sugar dumped in most dishes, recycled oil and empty carbohydrates, along with a lack of fresh green leafy vegetables, this food is a diabetic cocktail all ready to go.

As we all know, MSG is banned in western products, but not in Asia. Common side effects of MSG according to Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D of are:
  • Headache
  • Flushing
  • Sweating
  • Facial pressure or tightness
  • Numbness, tingling or burning in face, neck and other areas
  • Rapid, fluttering heartbeats (heart palpitations)
  • Chest pain
  • Nausea
  • Weakness

These are all stressors to the body. As a result of stress upon the body, the usual response could be to increases cortisol levels, which has a direct effect on fat deposition.

Sugar is related to insulin secretion in the body. Increased insulin levels have been related to the storage of body fat as well.

Finally, oil that has been used multiple times is typically high in saturated and trans-fats. These fats are difficult to break down and affect the body’s cholesterol levels.

So how does typical Thai food look to you now? If prepared at home and prepared in a healthy way, Thai food can be one of the healthiest, low calorie foods around. However, on the street and in restaurants, beware!

But, I digress. The point here is that once the body becomes stable at the lower calorie intake, it begins to become more efficient at using these calories, however the continued spike in insulin from sugar and fat intake without enough fiber from fresh fruits and vegetables to slow the uptake, the body resorts to what it knows best; Storage of body  fat. So slowly but surely the body begins to pile on the fat again and that slimness you achieved when you arrived in Thailand is slowly trickling away.

How do we fight this problem? Here are 6 simple things you can do to lose more fat:

  1. Eliminate all simple carbohydrates e.g. rice, bread, pastas, noodles.
  2. Increase Fiber intake by eating a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables.
  3. Increase Protein Intake to slow digestion and uptake of carbohydrates.
  4. Increase Weight training and Cardiovascular training.
  5. Limit your food outings to once a week and make it a reward but get right back on the horse.
  6. Hire a fitness coach or personal trainer for motivation and accountability and safely structured guidance.

Follow these steps and you’ll be well on your road to a healthy, more active lifestyle.

Feel free to leave your comments, questions or your own personal input in the comments section below.

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By Rich Thurman, B.Sc., MA, CSCS, CPT

Health & Performance Coach

Active Lifestyle Co. Ltd

With a degree in Physiology from UCLA and a Masters Degree in Sports & Fitness Management, Rich combines his knowledge of rehabilitation and sports performance as well as nutritional studies to provide a complete and holistic approach to training clients. The focus is on lifestyle change which creates long term health.


About Rich Thurman III B.Sc, MA, CSCS, NSCA-CPT
Rich has a Bachelors of Science in Physiological Science from UCLA and a Masters of Sports Management from USF. He is certified by the National Strength & Conditioning Association, (NSCA) as a Personal Trainer (CPT) and Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS). He is primary author of The Fitness Library and writes for various other publications, including the San Francisco Police Officer's Association. Rich is the founder of Xodus Fitness, which offers Fitness Consulting & Personal Training, Urban Body Transformation Bootcamps, Corporate Wellness. Rich also conducts Workshops and an annual lecture at the San Francisco State University Kinesiology Department. Please feel free to contact through any of the links below to inquire about professional services or opportunities.

One Response to Thai Food is Healthy Right? So Why am I Gaining Weight?

  1. Pingback: No Leftovers » Bangkok Fat Ass Threatens to Tweet Heath Nut to Death

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