Forced Healthy Eating

I first came to China when I was 22, and my metabolism was raging. I was one of those people that could eat anything, in any quantity, and remain skinny. Combined with the fact that I’m not a very picky eater, I had a grand time in my new environment. (Oil? What oil? That’s juice! [slurp!])

When I was 24 my metabolism finally decided to slow down from a full-on sprint to a slow jog. It took me some time to adapt my eating habits, so I chunked up a bit. It certainly didn’t help that I was living in a ZUCC teacher apartment, with an on-campus convenience store conveniently located right next door. Beer has never been much of a factor in my weight gain/loss, but the snack foods — like crazy Lays and anything by Glico — were plentiful, and my cupboard was always stocked. Not the healthiest.

After moving to Shanghai, supermarkets and convenience stores are nowhere near as convenient. Instead of being right downstairs, the nearest convenience store is a five minute walk away. That might not be far at all, but my laziness is almost always stronger than my attacks of the munchies (particularly in the winter). Furthermore, I don’t stock up because the supermarkets are 10-15 minute walks away–easily within walking distance. But walking to (and mainly from) the supermarket means you have to carry everything the whole way. I could take a cab back, but I’m too cheap. Consequently I buy significantly less on my trips there, especially when it comes to snack foods and drinks (which are always the heaviest).

So now when I find myself getting an attack of the munchies, I go into the kitchen and find… nothing. Leftovers from dinner in the fridge, and virtually nothing else. Drinks are generally limited to water and tea. I very rarely have food delivered because I’m cheap (Sherpa’s is expensive, dammit!) and impatient. I find myself considering raw spaghetti noodles as a snack, or speculating on how they would taste with barbecue sauce on them. I literally have nothing to snack on. Last time this happened I got so desperate I ate an orange. My snacking skills are totally slipping.

As a result, I’m pretty slim these days, even if I don’t get nearly as much exercise as I should. My weight sticks to around 200 lbs. (I’m 6’4″).

So there you have it: better health in Shanghai through laziness and cheapness.

Related: Junk Food Review, Junk Food Review 2


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. Have you finally stopped eating toothpaste then?

  2. Carl,

    I don’t know what your problem is. Never once in that entry did I mention anything that might indicate that I have stopped eating toothpaste.

  3. Hehe. Good to hear things are still normal over yonder in ol’ ZS Park.

  4. Haha… I love eating and maintained my weight comparatively easily… though i don’t get a craze over snacks like that….I don’t have snacks so I always eat a lot during the meals.. and I try not to eat too junky though. I advise you to keep some apples or organges as your snacks , so it can quench your thirst over snacks but contribute to your healthy body building too.

  5. Maybe I am wrong, but is 6’4″ 200 lbs. slim???

    Definitely between the extreme weather and eating lots of Shanghai food and not driving everywhere, it’s easy for an American to experience a dramatic weight shift after moving here.

  6. Jeff,

    OK, maybe I’m less “slim” than “average,” but I’m definitely not borderline overweight as the webpage you linked to would have me believe. And if I were to work out more and bulk up a bit, I would gain weight without putting on any fat, which would put me in the “overweight” category on that website.

  7. CaptainEO Says: March 1, 2006 at 10:17 pm

    The BMI is BS… It was developed on recommendations from the diet-food industry.

    According to BMI, Tom Cruise is “obese.”

  8. In my wild and crazy youth, I snacked on dry spaghetti. If you suck on it long enough, it turns into a sharp point. If I had to choose between that and an orange, I know what I’d choose. (How can it be called healthy if it leaves your hands sticky, that’s what I’d like to know).

  9. According to my Chinese friends, I was never fat in China…only “strong.”

  10. I have gained a ton of weight since I got married.

  11. matt,

    that’s because you secretly yearn for death.

  12. Chen Xi Says: March 2, 2006 at 4:07 am

    Hmm. You mentioned Oranges and this Annie up above said something about Apples. I’d like to ask the obvious question here. What are these mystical foods? It seems I may have heard of them…but I most assuredly have never eaten such a thing. Are they like those fruit thingies people keep telling me about? God, I couldn’t imagine eating anything that wasn’t a part of the four food groups: dumplings, chips, rice/noodles, chocolate.


  13. Greg Pasden Says: March 2, 2006 at 7:39 am

    I’m glad to hear that you are staying healthy (even though it is an odd way to go about it…being lazy), but I’m happy that you are not over eating (which some how makes your clothes fit tight).
    Take care and see you soon

  14. JR,

    I don’t follow you, do you mean like this guy in the movie SE7EN?

  15. I friggin’ hate BMI! Ever since it reared its ugly little head in women’s magazines a decade or so ago, I’ve thought that BMI is of the dumbest ideas on the face of the planet. According to BMI, even this guy was over-weight in his prime. That’s because fat, muscle and bone are all pretty much equivalent, right? Lobotomy patients make more sense than that.

  16. I know just how you feel, John. It’s a GOOD thing that you’re not stocked up on junk food galore… ice cream in the fridge and plenty of pop soda fruit drinks. To health!

  17. Out of curiosity, are there enough parks and trails in Shanghai to make regular running or cycling reasonable? I find that the biggest thing about living in Asia that’s put weight on me hasn’t been the food, but the lack of convenient exercise options. It wasn’t so bad in Taibei, since it had gyms, but exercise just isn’t something many people do here in Guishan.

    I’m embarrassed to admit that since moving to Taiwan, I’ve gone from a 32″ waist to a 42″ waist while keeping the same weight!!! Of course, I used to weightlift twice a week and run six days a week in Colorado…

  18. Mark, 42″ waist?! Geez, have to say it, but that’s fat! Run Daan Park, there is plenty of eye candy there. Running was tough in China just because of the air quality in general – but that never stopped anybody.

  19. You’re totally right, Wilson. Unfortunately, Da-an park is about an hour commute from me, and there are no gyms in the city I live in. I’m strongly considering buying a bicycle, even though the traffic is pretty dangerous here. It’s better than staying in this kind of shape for too long.

  20. I’m no BMI expert, but I think the BMI charts are a pretty good guide to what’s overweight and what’s not, with the caveat that it doesn’t apply to people who are really strong – say, professional athletes, or actors who make their living from starring in action movies. The vast majority of the population isn’t in that kind of shape.

    But mostly I was speaking as a person around 6’4″, with many of my friends back in America being around 6’4″.

  21. have u tried sleeping the hunger off

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