How I Was Able To Throw Away My Fat Pants While Eating In Asia

By Mark Wiens 42 Comments
Street Food Chinatown Kuala Lampur
Eating while remaining healthy in Asia!

Mark’s Note: Nearly everyday, without fail, I receive a message or two asking how I’m able to eat so much and remain relatively slim and fit. In this article, travel blogging friends of mine Meg and Tony from Landing Standing, share some great tips on how they were able to eat in Asia without putting on the pounds (and in fact Meg lost some weight!).

Now over to Meg.

I have yet to meet one world traveler that wasn’t obsessed with food.

Maybe it wasn’t always this way for some people, but if you are traveling the globe, you are bound to become a foodie. In every country you are introduced to a new cuisine with new dishes, new ingredients, new flavors, new textures It’s impossible not to be enchanted by the magic of food!

This is also the reason why I have yet to meet one world traveler that didnít have a general concern about his or her weight/health at least once on their trip.

When traveling the world, you are experiencing many things for the first time. You want to see, hear, touch, smell, and EAT everything in sight.

In Europe, Tony and I traveled to some countries famous for their food – Italy and France being my biggest weaknesses. Despite my efforts to eat healthy most of the time and exercise when I could, I still left Europe in tighter pants than when I arrived.

Our next stop on our journey was Thailand. In my mind, the buttons on my jeans were about to get even more of a workout. I was obsessed with Thai food back in the states and backpackers would ALWAYS talk about how Asia had the best food in the world.

Massaman Curry Bangkok Thailand
Insanely good Massaman Curry in Bangkok

And the rumors were proved correct.

In the first few weeks spent in Thailand, Tony and I ate our faces off. Curries, mango sticky rice, fresh fruit juices…We had it all.

On one fateful day, I decided to hop on a scale just for general curiosity. Never a good idea.

But to my surprise, I had lost a whopping 7 lbs since arriving in Thailand from Europe.

How could this be?!

How I Was Able To Throw Away My Fat Pants In Asia?

Shashimi Koh Samui Thailand

Portions Are Teeny Tiny

Actually, they are probably normal sized portions, it’s just the rest of the world that has it all wrong – Especially America!

But this played a huge factor in losing some extra lbs. When traveling, I am eating out three meals a day and normally restaurants give you much larger portions than you need. Well, not in Asia. In Asia, I am ALWAYS a member of the clean plate club and yet, I never leave a table uncomfortable or stuffed. But I also never leave a table unsatisfied either.

I leave juuust right.

Soybean Milk Kuala Lampur Thailand
Enjoying Soybean Milk in Kuala Lampur

Dairy Is Almost Non-Existent

In France, I didnít think twice about sharing a cheese plate with Tony each and every day.

In Italy, a gelato a day was the norm…

What can I say; I am a sucker for good cheese and ice cream.

One might say these two food groups are my vices. But in Thailand, dairy really isn’t a big thing. Sure, some hotels and Farang restaurants will serve up some yogurt and other Western specialties, and there are always the delicious Magnum bars from the 711’s on every single corner.

But traditional Thai food doesnít really include dairy in the mix. Instead, coconut milk is the substance of choice for soups, curries, sauces, and desserts. And I am not complaining!

Side of Rice
It’s a rice turtle!

Rice Is The #1 Carb

No heavy pasta or bread in this hot climate! Rice is really the only starch you ever see being used in traditional Asian dishes. Even though rice is still considered an evil carb, it has fewer calories than other heavy starches, is gluten-free, and is often only used as a side or accompaniment to Asian dishes, not the main element on the plate.

Feast in Koh Samui Thailand
Tony working through the heat of Thailand… And his meal!


Asia is HOT.


Prior to arriving in Asia, I never thought of myself as a sweaty person. But I swear I sweat like an obese man when I am here. As such, I like to think that calories are literally dripping out of me throughout the day.

It’s science.

Plus, your appetite tends to go WAY down when its hot out!

Green Curry Ingredients
The healthy and colorful ingredients of Green Curry

Dishes Are Nutrient Dense and Healthy

Most of the dishes in Asia are loaded with herbs, vegetables, and spices. As a result, you get fuller more quickly and on fewer calories. And when eating so many veggies, you just feel healthier overall. I call this a win/win!

Aside from straight up eating healthier in Asia, there are a few additional tricks you can try to help be even meaner and leaner on this continent:

Green Curry Koh Samui Thailand
This green curry is pretty delicious all by itself!

Limit Your Intake Of Rice

Sure, rice is served with almost every dish. But that doesnít mean that you have to eat ALL of it.

I usually limit myself to half of the rice portion and if I am not famished when I sit down for a meal, I often won’t even touch my rice. After all, I like saving every bit of room in my stomach for the delicious curry in front of me.

Chillies Kuala Lampur
Eat lots of chillies!

Eat Lots Of Spicy Foods

This also could contribute to why I sweat so much in Asia. I always make sure to load up each dish with extra spice. In my opinion, it’s not a good meal unless I get a workout!

Sweat aside, if you eat spicier food, you eat slower and fill up more quickly. Plus, your metabolism may get a little boost when you’re eating spicy foods!

Fruit Shake Bangkok Thailand
Fresh fruit shake in Bangkok

Drink Juices That Are Low(er) In Sugar

Juices are BIG in Asia. Wine (another one of my many vices) in Thailand is scarce and expensive, so my love for this drink has been replaced by fresh fruit smoothies, not a bad alternative!

In many places, there are fruit juice stands everywhere you walk. Combine the sweltering heat with deliciously fresh fruit juice and you’ve got one darn good drink.

However, some of these juices can be sugar bombs and if you drink too much, you could be doing a bit of damage to your waistline. Instead of always going for the mango or banana juices, why not try a lower-sugar option, such as watermelon juice? It’s equally delicious and has fewer grams of sugar than its cousins!

Drink Water in Asia
Lots of water!

Drink Lots Of Water

This should be an easy trick for you to master in Asia. As I said previously, Asia is humid and hot, so you are going to want to drink a TON of water throughout the day. Not only will this help you fight off the heat and stay hydrated, but it will help you stay satiated and help you trim down as well.

Your turn: Do you find yourself in overall better health when you are in Asia? What are your tips for staying lean and mean during your travels?

Author Bio: Meg Rulli writes with her husband, Tony, for the blog LandingStanding. ìCarpe diemî is her favorite cliche and also her motto. Meg is a high-energy girl that loves being active (and the naps that follow), spending time outdoors, and eating (A LOT).

Meg and Tony left their jobs in January 2012 to go RTW and try out this location independent thing. They are aspiring entrepreneurs & digital nomads that blog about travel, food, and all things ridiculous. You can follow their adventures on Facebook and Twitter.

42 comments. I'd love to hear from you!

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  • Robert Williamson

    5 years ago

    Four months to northern Thailand in 2013, mostly in Chiang Mai and the mountains north west of Chiang Dao. I lost almost 25 lbs without thnking about dieting. Felt 30 years younger and much more energy. Was able to go off my blood pressure meds. Returned to Canada… all the weight went back on and more… back on blood pressure meds. Felt like crap.
    Next… in 2017…two months in Cambodia, followed by five days in Bangkok…. lost 22 lbs… again felt younger and with more energy… again able to go off the meds. Back in Canada…. packed all the weight on again… back on the meds… Feel like crap. Next time… I might just stay in southeast Asia… maybe live longer. Can’t explain it… It’s crazy…

  • Josias Lopes

    10 years ago

    Yep… I have to move to Thailand… Eat and get thinner… My dream…lol…

  • Beverley | Pack Your Passport

    11 years ago

    Ah this is awesome! I’m heading to Thailand in October 2013 to teach English on an internship for 6 months (and then, if I enjoy teaching, finding another ‘proper’ teaching job in Thailand) so it’s good to know that I’m hopefully not going to put on tons of weight in the process! This post also made me SO excited to go to SE Asia, even though it’s a little under a year away for me!

    • Mark Wiens

      11 years ago

      Hey Beverley, great to hear you’ll be coming to Thailand. There is lots of fresh food to eat!

  • Ayngelina

    11 years ago

    Love this post, I wish the same were true in South America. So much bread and potatoes!

    • Mark Wiens

      11 years ago

      Thanks for reading Ayngelina! Meg did a great job!

    • Meg from LandingStanding

      11 years ago

      Totally agree Ayngelina… And then there is Argentina with all it’s steak and delicious desserts. I managed to keep some weight off in South America because we hiked a TON in Patagonia during our stay there, but Europe was another situation haha.

  • stephen

    11 years ago

    I have to agree with you that when in Asia the weight really drops off. I still go out and eat but I limit the amount of rice and eat a lot more fish and vegetables than I would at home. Fruit is also a much larger part of my food intake.

    I am sure it is better for me to eat like this and although I do like the occasional Magnum I don’t eat biscuits, cheese and bars of chocolate like back home.

    After 3 months back home I find the fat pants come out of the wardrobe again without fail.

    Great story Meg.

    • Mark Wiens

      11 years ago

      Awesome, thank you for sharing Stephen, and Meg did do a fantastic job with this article. The occasional Magnum is a must!

    • Meg from LandingStanding

      11 years ago

      Totally agree on the occasional Magnum – the chocolate truffle and brownie ones are my favorites! But with all the healthy foods in Asia, the Magnums seem to get cancelled out!

  • Steph (@ 20 Years Hence)

    11 years ago

    I love this post so much! I know there is this popular idea that women ALWAYS gain weight when traveling long-term, but I have actually found that not to be the case at all. In the three months since we’ve been in Asia, I have lost 20 pounds, and Tony has lost 50! It’s crazy, but true! We eat pretty well, though not as often or as much as back home and we are so much more active and sweating so much, the pounds are melting away. I think the fact that so much of the food here is made with natural ingredients rather than artificial preservatives goes a long way to helping us stay healthy too.

    (For the record, I also found I lost weight when I backpacked through Europe, but that was probably because my friend and I simply couldn’t afford to eat very much at all! Whatever the way, it seems that traveling is my favorite way to diet! 😉 )

    • Mark Wiens

      11 years ago

      This is great, thanks for sharing Steph. Being active paired with eating fresh food is the best way to go!

    • Meg from LandingStanding

      11 years ago

      Wow that’s awesome Steph – Thanks for sharing! In South America, I stayed the same weight as when I left the U.S. for my RTW trip… But back home, I also ate very healthy and worked out a lot. I gained a fair amount of weight in Europe – I blame all the carbs and rich foods in France and Italy. In Asia, I lost all my Europe weight, and then some. But I agree, on the road you are much more active than you would be back home working in a 9-5 job. And it, of course, is all about being sensible with food and healthy lifestyle choices.

  • Yvonne

    11 years ago

    Mark,..hmm, you are from the States and, slim. You are in Asia now, you are still ..slim.:-)

    • Mark Wiens

      11 years ago

      Haha, Hey Yvonne, yup, but even in the States I avoided things like chips and most packaged snacks and stuck with real good meals!

  • Marco

    11 years ago

    Very good information to remember and apply in our lives. Also I really like your photos, though the food pics are very enticing – yum!!

  • Nadiah Shahrilnazim

    11 years ago

    Hi there, I’m from Malaysia and I really like this post (: I’m very pleased to know that tourists who came to our country do enjoy our food. You guys are now my role models, all my life I’ve been dreaming of to become a food traveler/food journalist. In god’s will, as soon as I graduate from college, I’ll soon to be a food traveler just like you guys (: I would gladly be your tour guide if any of you are planning to visit Kuala Lumpur again! 😀 Hav a great day! xo

    • Meg from LandingStanding

      11 years ago

      Thanks so much for your nice words Nadiah! We loved the food in Malaysia and will certainly reach out to you for a food tour around KL next time we are in the area. We wish you the best of luck in your future travels and I will be excited to read your food blog when you are finished with college!

  • Dadaista

    11 years ago

    Quite usefull info. Nice post!!!!!!

  • Kieu

    11 years ago

    One of the reasons why I miss Asia. We tipped the scale coming back to the States and during our short stint in South America. I need some Asian spice and fruit shakes pronto before I keel over. Lol! Europe is next on the list so I guess I’ll have to wait.. what a tease post!

    • Meg from LandingStanding

      11 years ago

      haha it definitely was hard for us to eat really healthy in South America. We left Asia less than a week ago and I already miss it!

  • Joel Bruner

    11 years ago

    Nice 🙂 I also noticed that although I went from a Novice to Professional Indulger over my years spent in Asia, I never gained weight. Only one thing to add, dont forget that in the same vein of supporting Chili Peppers you also add due support towards Garlic. Garlic accompanies chillies in almost every Thai dish, and they work hand in hand to keep your intestines and metabolism in fighting shape! Great post Meg!! Nice pictures as well

    • Mark Wiens

      11 years ago

      Awesome Joel, thank for the extra input. Garlic is probably the top super health ingredient in the entire world and it also produces some insanely good flavor. Thanks for reading this post man!

    • Meg from LandingStanding

      11 years ago

      Thanks Joel and great tip. I never think of Garlic playing a role in losing weight but it is so good for you… And so delicious!

  • Lauren Heineck

    11 years ago

    Yay!! I’m so thrilled to drop this dairy and carb filled European diet for some spices and coconut milk!! Thanks Meg for the encouragement : ) Cheers to skinny and delicious travel!

    • Mark Wiens

      11 years ago

      Thanks for reading this Lauren!

    • Meg from LandingStanding

      11 years ago

      Hi Lauren – As much as I love dairy, carbs, wine, chocolate, etc. (all the good stuff!) the food in Asia is so yummy and cheap that I never really missed the food on my western diet. Enjoy your time in Asia!!

  • Bethany ~ twoOregonians

    11 years ago

    Love it, guys! Those fresh fruit shakes are so amazingly delicious…

    • Mark Wiens

      11 years ago

      I agree, great article and the fruit shakes are amazing!

    • Meg from LandingStanding

      11 years ago

      We have become addicted. I personally adore the coconut ones, but they are all pretty amazing – And so cheap!

  • Claudia

    11 years ago

    great little write up there, with some great pointers!

  • Leanne pittsford

    11 years ago

    Omg. This is exactly what I’ve been telling people. If you cut dairy out and live in sweaty places you can eat your face off. We lost weight in Colombia for the same reason although dairy wasn’t non existent, but definitely not as much as America or Europe. And as much as I love magnum bars and cheese I am so excited to return to Thailand and eat my face off and sweat my ass off 😉 ps I’m on my phone so excuse the typos.

    • Mark Wiens

      11 years ago

      Hahaha, awesome comment Leanne. Living in sweaty places is the recipe for eating a lot and remaning slim!!

    • Meg from LandingStanding

      11 years ago

      Leanne! I remember you telling me all about your weight loss in Asia and I didn’t fully understand it until I arrived there – You we’re so right! The drop 10 after Berlin was so easy (and much needed after all the doners and peanut butter cheeseburgers!) 🙂

  • Nick

    11 years ago

    Yes, I’ll agree the profuse sweating definitely contributes to trimming the waistline!