Losing weight abroad. How to not gain weight as an expat

Losing weight abroad. How to not gain weight as an expat

Losing weight abroad?!  Sounds like no easy feat right. For me, my weight and my body are really serious issues. I spend a lot of time watching what goes into my mouth. Firstly, because I care about what I look like. Secondly, because I care about any health problems that may arise now and in the future.  Last year in 2017, I led a very nomadic lifestyle. I had the opportunity to work and travel which was fantastic. Losing weight was easy because I ate healthier and did a lot of walking around the beach areas.

My initial diet as an expat

As soon as I came to Korea I found that the food content had a lot more calories. The the staple was also rice. My work hours and environment changed. Working in a new environment, without friends or family lead to a lot of stress. When we are stressed we tend to eat more. We also crave sugar because it increases our endorphin level, so naturally that is why we want to eat it so often. So, there was rice (I hardly eat any rice) and stress which meant that I only wanted sugar and lots of it.

In the first three months it was really difficult to NOT GAIN WEIGHT. New country, new foods, language barrier. I ate a lot of junk food and a lot of food which I thought was healthy, which wasn’t helping in my aim of losing weight abroad! So, in this post I want to share some tips and advice on how I lost around 4 kilograms since May and how I am hoping to maintain it.

1.Check the calorie content and count calories!

This is single best piece of advice I can give to you. If you are serious about losing weight whilst living abroad, track
what you eat daily by paying attention to the calorie content of the food you buy. Losing weight abroad does not have to be difficult, but at first can require you to know what is available first.if you would like to know how many calories you should be eating a day according to your biological factors and activity level you can check out this website : https://www.calculator.net/calorie-calculator.html

Losing weight abroad. How to not gain weight as an expat.

When I first came to Korea, I didn’t understand the number calories of most items (actually I thought I did because it showed a certain amount of calories, but right next to it would have a number 2 or 3 or 5 in Korean, which meant that the calorie level would be multiplied by 5!) So what I thought was low calorie, was actually insanely high calorie and I did not manage to lose weight! These kinds of things make it a lot harder for losing weight abroad!

So, if you need to translate any information from your language to the country that you are in, you should download the google translate app available for Android and ios. https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.google.android.apps.translate&hl=en It helps me to understand calorie level, food content and of course reading any other material in a foreign language.

2.Drink zero calorie or low-calorie drinks!

Forget what others are drinking or eating, remember they are not you and if you want results you have to make conscious choices. I personally enjoy water, black coffee, coca-cola zero as well as any teas of coffees that have a very low-calorie level. Aim for drinks with a calorie level below 100. Less is better. I drink these when I feel as though I am not eating for hunger but rather for maybe a pms craving. I firmly believe that it has aided in my weight loss as I have stayed fuller, before I put something extremely unhealthy into my mouth!

3.Move as much as possible!

Exercise! Some love it, some hate it. If you are serious about losing weight abroad you have to increase your activity level. In some countries, like Korea they have many fitness centers or parks and a lot of people stay active. Taking daily walks or just discovering the cities a lot more can be really beneficial for your weight loss program. When I first got to Korea I did an insane amount of walking, but because I did not know the calorie content of my food I did not lose any weight. Therefore increase your activity level with depleted calorie intake for maximum weight loss results. I am walking 5 – 6 km a day and I hope to keep this up in the winter months. Exploring the night-life and dancing the night away can also be really beneficial for your weight loss program.

4.Tackling eating out/fast food

Eating out or trying new foods or dishes is probably one of the things that we all want to do whilst trying to lose
weight abroad.It can turn into a nightmare or you can simply incorporate it into your routine.  I’ve eaten a lot of high calorie Korean dishes. I have also eaten Burger King and other unhealthy fast foods. However, I’ve made sure that I ate just one or two high calorie meals in a day and that it did not go over my calorie limit. If I do go over my calorie limit I exercise more to burn off the consumed calories. I have also found that many convenience stores have very low-calorie burgers readily available. I have eaten them many times and most are not more than 400 Kcals.

5. Intermittent fasting 

If you have not heard about the benefits of intermittent fasting you really need to know how good and useful it is for your body. There are many useful benefits to intermittent fasting and have shown to increase weight loss. I have often used this method for weight loss myself and I find that not only do I eat less, but I have more energy. Also you can use this method if you really want to eat a really high calorie meal later in the day. I do love junk food, so when I want to eat something like a whole pizza (don’t underestimate me) I effectively employ this strategy. You can read more about intermittent fasting here : https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/intermittent-fasting-guide

6. Weight loss groups /apps

If you are going to be an expat and are serious about losing weight abroad, try sourcing out groups in the area that you will be situated in. Most established expat communities have a weight loss program running that will be beneficial to you. There are also APPS available on the APP store such as Noom Coach or  others that can provide motivation that will help you with losing weight abroad. You can check out some of the Apps available here: https://www.healthline.com/health/diet-and-weight-loss/top-iphone-android-apps


A list of foods and their calorie levels in Korea that have aided in my weight loss.

  1. All kinds of dumplings. I simply love dumplings I find that their calorie levels are not as high as other foods. The dumplings that I eat usually are around 40- 70 kCal per dumpling. I eat around 4-6. I make sure that I steam them. They fill me up and they taste delicious.
  2. Morning bread rolls from Paris Baguette. There are ten in the bag and each roll is about 82 kCal. There are way less calories than the conventionally thickly sliced Korean bread and chances are that you won’t eat more than 3 or four.
  3. Seaweed soup. The calorie level of seaweed soup is really low (155 kcals for 140 g) I don’t eat this too often because seaweed is apparently very high in sodium, but it does help to keep me fuller for longer on the days that I do eat it. You can check out the benefits of seaweed here : https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/seaweed-healthy-nutritious#section7
  4. Coca cola zero and Delaffe drinks. (usually Americano – 20-50 kcals or Americano sweet – 80-100 kcals)
  5. A lot of fruit. I have been eating a lot of fruit in Korea as snacks, the main ones being pineapple, grapes, blueberries, bananas and the best one of all watermelon! You can check out the calorie content of fruit here: https://www.freedieting.com/calories-in-fruit With fruit, it is not just about calorie content, but also other benefits for your body.
  6. Kimchi, if you have heard anything about weight loss in Korea, the number one piece of advice that all health fitness guru’s here will recommend is Kimchi. I eat kimchi without any rice at dinner time, with a bowl of chicken, vegetable or seafood soup.
  7. Shrimp burger – 206 Kcals (Mini-Stop) , Spicy Chicken Burger 330 Kcals (CU)

Thanks to these wonderful people for their contributions to this blog post: 

  •  Jamie Smith recommends 구구바 it’s ice cream and apparently only contains 110 calories.
  • Savannah Holtclamp recommends 비빔밥 and also 회뎊밥. It’s restaurant food and she says to have less rice with the meal. She is not sure off the calorie level.
  • Sean Welsh recommends  비빔밥, 된짱찌개, 김치찌개, 소고기덮밥, 녹차, 현미, 고구마, 배 (I am not sure of the calorie level, but copy and paste this in google to find out?)
  • Minnie Kim recommends the salads from Paris Baguette (These are actually not more than 300 calories) I have had them quite a few times and they are delicious! So I second this recommendation.
  • Sarah Louise recommends Korean BBQ, and says to leave out all the unhealthy sauces and load up on the veggies.
  • Sophia Rose recommends Light Angel ice-cream. Around 70-80 calories (please double-check this, before consuming)

Remember that nothing in life comes easy, so neither will losing weight abroad as an expat. You have to cultivate mental strength and try to find foods that are low-calorie that you can enjoy! As always, remember to surround yourself with people who are always going to help you reach your goal, so that you can be your best self!

If you enjoyed this post about losing weight abroad, how not to gain weight as an expat let me know!

Love and light as always





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