What are the favourite ways to get and stay slim across the globe? We look at some of the most popular and get lowdown from a dietician to see if they’re worth a try.
Sometimes we need to look further afield than our fridge to find the answers to our weight loss dreams, which is why we scanned the globe to find out what dieters in other countries do to slim down.
To save everyone time and money – (plus nobody wants to be downing turmeric shots for no good reason (see number 7) – we spoke to Kiri Elliott, dietitian and media spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association, to suss out whether these tactics are worth trying for yourself.
1-Pu’er tea in China
You might be wondering what pu’er tea is and ironically, the clue is in the name. It’s a fermented tea that promotes bowel movement and weight loss.
In China, they tend to drink it after a large meal to aid digestion. And they are quite specific about the timing – around one hour after you’ve finished eating.
Kiri says: ‘In the case of Pu-er tea, the contents and size of the meal eaten are likely to have a much greater effect on weight loss goals than the tea drunk after it! There is limited scientific evidence that any teas actually work, and people need to be cautious as well as high levels of caffeine, some teas contain herbs that in too high doses have side effects such as dehydration, electrolyte imbalance and can damage the gut.’
2-Rice and beans in Brazil
Brazilians may manage to stay slim due to indulging in a traditional dish of rice and beans. ‘They eat it with just about meal,’ Sergio Charlab, editor of Reader’s Digest Brazil, explains. And a recent study, published in the Obesity Research journal, supports this.
Scientists found that a diet consisting primarily of rice and beans lowers the risk of becoming overweight by about 14% when compared with the food we typically eat here. That’s because it’s lower in fat and higher in fibre.
Kiri says: ‘Rice and beans can be a great part of a balanced meal, as they are naturally low in fat and high in fibre, especially if wholegrain rice is used rather than the traditional white rice which is staple in Brazil. However the key really is in the preparation.
‘The other thing is that size of portion will have a large effect on weight loss goals and that for a healthy balanced diet the rice and beans should be part of the meal (they can contributing the main source of carbs and protein of that meal) and not an additional accompaniment.’
3-Yoga in India
It may not be the high-intensity workout we are told will burn tons of calories but it research shows it does still facilitate weight loss. In a study carried out at North Central University in America, scientists found that those who regularly practiced yoga had a lower body mass index than those who engaged in other forms of exercise.
Yoga is muscle building, boosts your metabolism and encourages you to tune into your body. Yogis often comment on how many of the poses aid digestion and also help them become more mindful of when they are full.
Kiri says: ‘To lose weight the body needs to use up more calories than it takes in and one way to shift the balance is via more movement and exercise. The best results for long-term weight loss happen when activity levels are increased and that this increase becomes part of lifestyle for the long term.’
4-Herring in Norway
The Dutch love herring – they eat around 85 million of them per year. They’re particularly enjoyed lightly pickled, served as snacks or in bread. So, why could herring be good for weight loss?
For starters it’s an oily fish, which helps reduce stress due to its omega-3 fatty acids. Cortisol, the stress hormone, is known to increase the amount of visceral fat we gain around our tums.
As well as this, it’s just simple maths. Herring is low in calories – so swapping your usual sandwich filling for this fishy alternative is going to have an impact on your weight loss.
Kiri says: ‘Oily fish are known for their omega-3 content and the benefits of these are related to heart health and many, such as herring, include vitamin A, D and protein. However, there is no substantial evidence to suggest that oily fish keeps our waistlines slim. We recommend that two portions of fish (140g) should be eaten each week and one of these should be oily.’
5-Rooibos tea in South Africa
Swapping your afternoon cuppa for a rooibos tea (also known as redbush tea) could be a good way to cut calories from your day and give you the sugary hit you need. South African’s enjoy a cup of the naturally sweet drink which helps reduce cravings and is a good afternoon go-to instead of a handful of biscuits.
Kiri says: ‘Again, back to the teatoxing! The way Rooibos could work here is more about the added ingredients to the great British cuppa! A traditional cup of tea with milk and sugar has around 40 calories per cup. If this is swapped to Rooibos taken without milk and sugar then that’s a saving of 40 calories per cup. Over the course of a day, 4-5 cups means160-200kcal/day.’
6-Power nap in Japan
This one sounds too good to be true and might have you packing your belongings to move across the world. Many Japanese people allow time for naps during the day, just a short 20 minutes or so, but it could be the difference between a healthy meal or an evening carb-loading binge.
We know that we crave more sugary, high-fat foods when we are sleep deprived and this leads to weight gain. This is because the hormone leptin, which informs the brain when you are full is in low supply in a sleep-deprived body. At the same time levels of ghrelin, the hormone which triggers hunger, rise. ‘Many people think they’re hungry when they’re actually sleepy,’ James Maas, sleep researcher at Cornell University, explains. ‘Instead of a snack, they need some shut-eye.’
So if anyone catches you snoozing, just tell them: ‘I wasn’t napping, I was dieting’.
Kiri says: ‘How well we sleep has a huge impact on our overall wellbeing and yes not getting enough sleep plays havoc with our hormones which can make it difficult to understand our hunger and satiety cues.
‘Rather than grabbing powernaps here and there, having a regular sleeping pattern is important. Going to bed earlier and having a longer sleep (most people need 6-9 hours per night) is likely to be much better than having a powernap as the body has a chance recuperate properly from the day’s activities.’
7-Turmeric in Malaysia
We might add this spice to our curries over here but in Malaysia it is a much more staple part of diet. As well as having anti-inflammatory properties, turmeric also contains something called curcumin, which could be a powerful fat burner.
A recent study by researchers at Tufts University in Boston found that mice given small amounts of curcumin alongside a high-fat diet gained less weight then rodents who went without the extra substance. The team believes that this could be proof the ingredient suppresses the growth of fat tissue and increases fat burning.
Add it to your cooking or mix with milk to make a turmeric latte.
Kiri says: ‘Scientists in laboratories are researching the effects of curcumin but as far as evidence in human populations there is a lack of evidence to prove any potential fat burning properties could work safely. Ultimately turmeric is not a miracle spice and people need to be cautious of using high dose supplements until more is known.’
8-More talking in France
This is possibly the easiest weight-loss technique we have ever come across: talk more. We couldn’t have dreamt up a better diet tip ourselves!
The French love a drawn-out dinner, in fact 92% of the countries families dine together nightly.
‘For the French, eating is the event of the day,’ says Fred Pescatore, MD, president of the International & American Associations of Clinical Nutritionists. ‘For us, it’s something we do before heading out to do something else.’
Kiri says: ‘Pausing between bites, chewing food well and eating slowly definitely gives us a better chance of recognising our satiety cues before we over indulge. Whilst some people find distraction from the food like eating with family helps them to eat more slowly, many find that eating with others is a distraction and are more likely get engrossed in conversation and could miss the satiety signals.’
9-Pickles in Hungary
If you’re a fan of all things pickled then chances are you’ll love Hungary. They are a nation of vinegar lovers it seems and happily crunch on copious amounts of pickled peppers, cabbage and tomatoes.
It has been widely reported that drinking apple cider vinegar can aid weight loss but is it worth stocking up on jars of the stuff?
Kiri says: ‘A study carried out on Japanese participants in 2009 found that people who weighed around 11.5 stone lost 2-4lb by drinking a small amount of diluted cider vinegar each day. It took these participants 12 weeks to lose that much weight and the results were not sustained after the three months mark.
‘As a dietitian I would not consider this much weigh loss clinically significant for health and know of other ways to achieve better sustainable weight loss for health and wellbeing.’
But what about tucking into some nice pickled carrot? ‘There is no evidence to suggest that pickles assist with weight loss. However switching a creamy coleslaws or potato salad to a couple of pickled onions or gherkins could save a few calories!’
10-Fasting in Indonesia
Those familiar with the 5:2 diet may already know about the benefits of intermittent fasting but in Indonesia they called it Mutih. During Mutih, Indonesians eat only white rice and drink only water. Though it is not intended for weight loss fasting, or cutting your calories in half, for a day or two is a great way to make you more mindful of how much you are eating. It gives your digestive system a chance to clear out and improve its efficiency – leading to weight loss.
Kiri says: ‘Unless properly managed a fasting diet is likely to lead to a lack of concentration, tiredness and low mood. Depending on your age, health and lifestyle, fasting can also be dangerous. Tiredness and low mood can also have a negative effect on food choices once fasting has finished.
‘If you want to go down the fasting route for weight loss, it is important to choose an evidence-based plan and consult a medical professional to ensure that this is done in a healthy and safe way.’