I've debated a bit on what type of recipes to put here as well as the format to place them in. Many people have requested some of my recipes in an easy-to-follow visual and ingredients list layout, as well as splitting recipes into a more "Americanized" variant alongside a more traditionally "oriental" variant - so as to give cooks a few more options depending on the flavor preferences of their audience.
In addition, I've also been asked to provide a brief explanation of some of the ingredients used that aren't normally found in a typical American grocery store. This is to provide a little bit of a backstory behind ingredients and their flavor profiles, which might also aid cooks in switching ingredients a bit on ingredients that have unpreferred tastes.
While I'm heartily in agreement with these suggestions and have some recipes in "the works" right now to add, I've decided that the first entry here in the area of cooking should be an explanation of why I cook the way I do.
I hope you'll find it informative, and help you make a more rounded decision on possibly changing your diet as well once you've taken a few extra things into consideration!
Comparing Obesity Between Cultures
Now, I'd tried several different diet plans in my life before to try and counter this, and failed. The "salads" approach failed because the food simply didn't have enough "substance" to sate my appetite. The "exercise a TON and generally eat whatever you want" approach failed because it's simply not efficient to try and exercise off all the excess calories you'd otherwise eat and you're fighting a losing battle 99.9% of the time with this approach, etc.
In light of these past failures, I took some time to instead examine other cultures that don't struggle with obesity in the same fashion that America does to see what they're doing "right" that I'm otherwise doing wrong. Checking on the CIA's World Factbook site, America's adult obesity rate is 36.2% - inordinately high. By contrast, Japan's adult obesity rate is 4.3%, with China's being 6.2%. What could these countries be doing differently that America isn't doing?
Dissecting Japan further, I found that Japanese people live busy lives that don't normally incorporate gym sessions, etc. Many Japanese salarymen drink alcohol daily, and eat out at restaurants at least once every two days. This doesn't sound too dissimilar from my lifestyle, or the lifestyle of many other Americans for that matter - so the problem in itself likely isn't a lifestyle problem, although I'll readily admit that daily exercise is necessary, even if it's only a little bit.
Examining the Japanese food system compared to America's food system, I noticed several things right away:
- Japanese lunches and dinners rarely exceed 600 calories
- The food emphasis is on freshness and presentation - not on overseasoning
- Oil and grease are used sparingly, usually for a small amount of meat items and little else
- Trans fat is nonexistent, along with nearly all genetically engineered foods
- There's a large emphasis on vegetables in each meal
- The serving size on things such as sodas and sweet teas is much smaller than America's
Looking at my own diet, I started to see a sharp difference between the Japanese food system which notedly works, and my own which had failed on itself multiple times.
And so, I committed to structure my diet in Japanese fashion for a month to see how much of a difference it would actually make for me. In that first month, I lost 19 pounds almost without even realizing it - I was never hungry or felt calorie-starved, and had more energy than I'd had in years. Due to this first month's success, I continued the trend into the following months as well.
The Results, & How To Keep Them Up
I've learned a lot of things due to cooking in this fashion, and felt that I've not only turned my life around from going down a miserable road, but also grown considerably as a person.
Some of the permanent changes I've made would probably be frowned upon by many Americans as something that's foregoing aspects of the "American way of life". I don't eat pizza at all anymore. I can only eat beef once every two weeks. Eating out at most restaurants is something I have to do sparingly, and even when I do consent to eat out, I have to be pretty selective. "Cheat meals" have to be compensated for after-the-fact 100% of the time.
The easy way to get around these passive "negatives", to return to one of our points of Japanese cooking from earlier that we didn't touch on previously, is to put a decent amount of time and effort into making foods look and smell unbelievably tasty.
The presentation aspect is what subconsciously affirms to you that what you're doing is actually good for you. While you might laugh at this at first, it plays an enormous part in helping you to avoid cheating on your food plan on a regular basis - it also gives you a great amount of confidence that you actually made something pretty impressive with your own hands.
Questions? Comments? Go right ahead.