Can Chopsticks Help You Lose Weight?
Kimiko Barber thinks so. The Japanese-born British food writer came to this conclusion a few years ago while writing two Japanese cookbooks back-to-back. While testing all the recipes and eating everything with chopsticks she says, “I lost 10 kilograms and two dress sizes!”
This led to another cookbook The Chopsticks Diet. Barber has produced a cookbook that does not involve any calorie counting, includes all essential foods and can be prepared with ingredients available at most large supermarkets.There’s only one simple rule – eat her delicious Japanese inspired meals with chopsticks, which naturally make you take smaller bites and in effect limits the quantity of your food intake.
Why does this work? To begin with, portion sizes in Japanese cooking are smaller than most Western styles of cooking. Then, using chopsticks and focusing on every bite, emphasizing eating slowly, has the additional effect of creating a feeling of fullness even when less food is involved.
When you eat quickly, you take in a larger amount of food before you feel satisfied. So using chopsticks and a slower eating style work together to reduce the total calorie count, but you will still feel satisfied at the end of the meal.
Also, the content of Japanese food helps with weight loss. Barber says, “Traditional Japanese meals feature…fresh vegetables, rice, soba noodles, and beans. Also, we don’.t add fat or dairy products.”
Japanese food emphasizes vegetables, grains and fish and is better balanced. And the Japanese diet is lower in fat than many Western cuisines.
Barber’s chopsticks diet book contains a couple hundred recipes, basic Japanese home cooking and some of her fusion recipes. But the real emphasis is on the ingredients, not the recipes, plus the lifestyle: Japanese food is famous for small, varied portions and visual appeal.
And slow, measured eating with chopsticks is a tradition in Japan. After all, Japanese people eat mostly with chopsticks. On average, they weigh less than people in most Western countries. They also enjoy the longest lifespan and a very low rate of cardiovascular disease.
You will find some interesting ideas in Barber;s book, like ways to increase the visuaial appeal and flavor of dishes, like her recipe for crab meat sushi with pomegranate seeds or a salad made with smoked mackerel, broccoli and green beans.
There are both health and beauty benefits here. As Barber says, “Japanese women on the whole end to be slimmer, keep their youthful appearance and enjoy active healthy lifestyles for years longer than women in the West.”
Barber of course did not independently invent the concept of slow, measured eating. It has been discussed by others in Japan, including the expert hosts of the science program Gatten on NHK Television and by the eminent gastroenterologist Dr. Hiromi Shinya.
Hara Hachibu. There is even a Japanese saying hara hachibu 腹八分, meaning “stomach eighty percent full,” which reminds people the importance of moderation.
There is a word of caution, however, since the Japanese diet is high in sodium, from the soy sauce, seaweed, miso and pickles used in many dishes. Too much sodium can increase the risk of hypertension and stroke.
There has been increased interest in this issue in recent years and some Japanese food writers have even developed a special sub-genre of Japanese cooking that addresses the salt problem. The topic is too broad to cover here, and we will discuss some of the new approaches to sodium in Japanese cooking in another article.
Barber, who first came to the United Kingdom in the 1970s to study economics, had a career in investment banking before turning to food writing. She has now written several books on Japanese cooking and is active in several other media as a food writer, editor, commentator and teacher.
Barber’s writings on Japanese food are interesting and easy to follow, but not completely unique. Several others, including Doyle, Takahashi and Moriyama, have written about Japanese food as a route to health and beauty while eating well at the same time.
For Further Information:
Kimiko Barber, The Japanese Kitchen; A Book of Essentials
Kimiko Barber, The Chopsticks Diet
William Doyle and Naomi Moriyama, The Japan Diet; 30 Days to a Slimmer You
Naomi Moriyama, Japanese Women Don’t Get Old or Fat
Hiromi Shinya, Icho wa kataru (The Intestines Tell All)
Yoko I. Takahashi and Bruce Cassaday, The Tokyo Diet; Lose Weight the Japanese Way