I Can’t Read the Menu! (and other ways I lost 20 pounds in my first 3 months living in Korea)

A couple weeks ago one of the teachers at my school asked me if I’ve lost weight (clearly she noticed because no one ever says anything when you get fat unless it’s my Mom). I said yes. I didn’t tell her how much I’d lost but I knew that I was at around a 20lb weight-loss. One of my co-teachers was in the room and she seemed impressed and asked me how I did it. I sort of laughed in my head as I thought of a lie that wouldn’t offend her or make her concerned for my health. I stuck with the fact that I don’t drink in Korea. And although that’s true, it’s not the whole truth about how I’ve lost the weight.

What I didn’t tell her is that although yes, as I stated in this previous post, one of my goals in coming to Korea was to get healthy, I had made ZERO effort to lose weight. Here’s a list of why I actually lost the weight.

1. I can’t read the menu and uh — Korean Food  

For my first two months in Korea – I wasn’t eating. Why? Because I had no idea how to order food, I had no idea what anything was and it turns out – I’m not crazy about Korean food.  I was literally making myself a ham and cheese sandwich when I got home from work everyday and aside from some fruit, that’s all I really ate.

My attempts of trying to order food were limited to places that had pictures I could point to. I was a two year old all over again and it sucked because not many places have pictures to point to!

2. I was Moving

I was doing a lot of exploring in my first 3 months (and climbing plenty of mountains on the weekends). I kind of have been to every corner of the country at this point and the reason for that is I know that I’m not going to want to do much during the winter. I don’t like the cold but maybe I’ll join a gym or something for the colder months.

3. I wasn’t hungry

I mentioned in this post that I was diagnosed as being pre-diabetic before coming to Korea. I don’t have diabetes, I have pre-diabetes which means I’m at a place where I can prevent myself from actually getting the disease (although my genes aren’t in my favor). Because of this, my doctor back in NY ordered me to stay away from rice. Uh, yeah, stay away from rice… in Korea. It actually hasn’t been that hard. I attribute this to the diabetes medication that I started taking when I got to Korea. I don’t need to take the medication but my doctor talked me into it because she said it would help me suppress my appetite and lose the weight needed to get me out of the pre-diabetes blood glucose levels. She was right. I’m not hungry and a cup of rice just doesn’t look exciting to me anymore.

4. I wasn’t really eating the school lunches

One of the things I was excited about coming to Korea was to eat delicious Korean food. I quickly learned from eating my school lunches that what I was exposed to as Korean food back home isn’t actually what Koreans eat regularly – at least not at my school.

If you don’t know this, at Korean schools all of the kids eat the school lunch. None of them bring their own lunch and that goes the same for teachers. The lunches weren’t unhealthy they just weren’t necessarily healthy for me. Most of it is rice or rice cake which, I can’t eat (or didn’t want to) for reasons mentioned above. The lunches also got a little too exotic for me. One day we had cow lip but of course I didn’t know it was cow lip. Another day I thought I was eating some kind of shellfish but it was some kind of snail. None of it was bad and I like to think of myself as open minded, but I like eating lunch. I get hungry around lunch time and I prefer to know exactly what I’m eating for lunch. So, I decided to pass on the school lunches and my life has been much better since I decided to eat my fruits and home-made salad at my desk, by myself instead of surrounded by my Korean co-workers who seem to be having great conversations with each other – in Korean.

Here’s a screen grab from a video I made for my open class. This is me unknowingly eating the snail soup. I think this was my last school lunch.

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5. McDonald’s Doesn’t deliver to my neighborhood

Ok this isn’t really a reason, but I know that in my first two months when I wasn’t eating anything, I would have leaned on McDonald’s for survival even though I don’t even eat McDonald’s back home. Now, if you don’t know this, in Korea you can have McDonald’s delivered to you – anywhere. Except my apartment, which is what I learned when I tried to order from there during my first two months. I honestly think this has been a blessing in disguise.

6. No drinking

Yeah, this makes me sound like a total wet blanket, but I actually do enjoy a beer here and there and I won’t be giving up my wine anytime soon. Let’s talk about my drinking habits before coming to Korea so you understand what I mean by ‘no drinking.’ I was living somewhat of a ‘Sex And The City’ lifestyle so there were plenty of drinks with the girls after work, on weekends, drinks on dates, drinks at work, drinks for lunch, drinks at networking events and holiday parties. There were lots of cocktails and those empty calories add up. Not to mention, they always come with food and shots.

That’s not happening anymore. If I have a drink it’s usually just one drink or my glass of wine at night.

I’m on my 4th month now and things have gotten a lot easier. I’ve since learned how to read Korean and I’m utilizing the hell out of Google translate to help me figure out what I’m eating. Kim Pasa (basically Korea’s McDonald’s with staple Korean foods) has turned into a Go-to for quick after work meals. I eat out fairly often. There are a lot of good Korean and non-korean restaurants in Daegu.

I’m still big and I am still within an unhealthy weight range for my height. What’s most important right now is that I feel good. I feel like I can breath better and I feel like I can move easier. I’m definitely going to take this unexpected head start and use it to my advantage as I actually start making an effort to work-out and tone my body. We’ll see what happens by the end of this Korean adventure.

Anyway, this is the last week of school before the kids go on summer vacation. Last week was my last week with my low-level after school class. Here’s a photo of me with my 4th graders. They can be a pain in the ass but I’ve grown to really like these guys regardless.

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