18 Weight Loss Secrets From Around the World That Are Totally Worth Stealing

Just about every culture has some habit that can keep people slim. Get ready to send your belly packing!

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Thailand: Spice it up

Thailand: Spice it upistock/RussieseO
Thai food is among the spiciest in the world. Hot peppers raise your metabolism, but the real benefit of food with a little zing is that it slows your eating, says James Hill, PhD, past president of the American Society for Nutrition. "Americans eat too fast," he says. "By the time your body signals that it's full, you've overeaten. Eating slower is a good weight-loss strategy, and making food spicier is an easy way to do it."Need major weight-loss motivation? Here’s the secret weight-loss advice used by the folks on The Biggest Loser and other reality shows.

Brazil: Serve a side of rice and beans

Brazil: Serve a side of rice and beansistock/diogoppr
All that shaking at Carnaval isn't the only body-friendly habit in Rio; Brazilians stay slim by enjoying this traditional dish with just about every meal. A study in the journal Obesity Research found that a diet consisting primarily of rice and beans lowers the risk of becoming overweight by about 14 percent when compared with typical Western fare. That's because it's lower in fat and higher in fiber, which is thought to stabilize blood sugar levels. It may be counter-intuitive, but a diet full of beans equals a beach-ready body.

Indonesia: Try fasting once in a while

Indonesia: Try fasting once in a whileistock/Tarek
Islam, this country's leading religion, encourages periodic fasting: no food or drink from dawn to dusk. Others in Indonesia practice mutih, which allows only water and white rice. Although experts don't recommend fasting for weight control, fasting in moderation can break patterns of mindless eating, says Dr. Hill. "Most Americans never get hungry," he points out. "We've eaten the next meal before we've entirely digested the last one." No need for strict abstinence to get these psychological benefits: Try just cutting your calories in half for a day.

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Poland: Eat at home more often than you eat out

Poland: Eat at home more often than you eat outistock/PeopleImages
Poles typically spend only 5 percent of their family budget on eating out. According to U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics, the average American family spends 37 percent of its food dollars at restaurants and fast-food joints. To save money and pounds, start tracking how often you eat out and how much you spend each month, and gradually cut back. "People who don't cook at home tend to eat less healthy food and be heavier than people who do," says journalist and activist Michael Pollan. "In fact, the collapse of cooking in a society tracks very closely its rise in obesity."

Germany: Eat your breakfast

Germany: Eat your breakfastistock/Geber86
An impressive 75 percent of Germans eat breakfast daily (compared with just 44 percent of Americans). They're not grabbing Egg McMuffins either; they're sitting down to fruit and whole-grain cereals and breads. Nutritionists have been advising people not to skip breakfast for years, but recent studies give a better picture of its importance. In one, British researchers discovered that if you haven't eaten breakfast, your brain's reward center will light up more vividly when you see a high-calorie food-making you more likely to indulge. Finally: a scientific explanation for that irresistible urge to pull into Dunkin' Donuts.

Netherlands: Swap the gas pedal for the bike pedal

Netherlands: Swap the gas pedal for the bike pedal istock/ArthurHidden
Bikes (18 million) outnumber people (16.5 million) in the Netherlands. But unlike Americans (most of whose two-wheelers languish in basements and garages) 54 percent of Dutch bike owners use them for daily activities, such as shopping and traveling to work. The average Dutchman pedals 541 miles per year. Traffic lights in parts of Amsterdam are even synchronized to bike speed. Try using your bike to commute that day or just for errands close to home. If you're of average size and pedaling at a moderate pace, you can burn around 550 calories per hour. Here's what successful people do while they commute.

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Switzerland: Try a bowl of muesli

Switzerland: Try a bowl of muesli istock/Anikaart
Muesli is a porridge or cereal made from oats, fruit, and nuts, each of which has been linked to better health and weight control. It was developed by a Swiss physician more than a hundred years ago to nourish hospital patients, but the Swiss eat it for breakfast or as a light evening dish. Muesli's fiber makes it slow to digest, keeping you feeling full longer. Read the label carefully, though: Sugar content can vary from 2 to 14 grams per serving. Here are 25+ ways to add more fiber to your diet.

Russia: Carve out a dacha plot

Russia: Carve out a dacha plotistock/masterovoy
Country houses, or dachas, where 51 percent of city folk spend vacations and summer weekends, almost always feature a garden. Russians grow their own vegetables and fruits and preserve and can what they grow. That makes their diet more nutritious. And "there's not much you can grow in a garden that will make you fat," notes Dr. Hill.

Malaysia: Turn up the turmeric

Malaysia: Turn up the turmeric istock/Fudio
This spice, a key ingredient in curries, grows wild in Malaysian jungles. One of its chief components is a substance called curcumin, which may turn out to be a potent fat fighter. A recent Tufts University study found that mice fed a high-fat diet with small amounts of curcumin gained less weight than did other mice given similar but curcumin-free meals. Researchers think the ingredient suppresses the growth of fat tissue and increases fat-burning. Try some in your next stir-fry.

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South Africa: Sip some rooibos tea

South Africa: Sip some rooibos tea istock/mathieu boivin
Enjoyed throughout the country, rooibos tea is more robust than green tea, and because it's naturally sweet, it needs no sugar. Ditching your daily Frappuccino for a cup of rooibos could save you thousands of calories per month. "Tea-drinking cultures generally have lower rates of obesity," says Fred Pescatore, MD, a natural medicine physician and author of The Hamptons Diet. "That may be from special compounds, such as catechins, that certain teas contain, or it may simply be that we often think we're hungry when we're really dehydrated."

Hungary: Crunch more pickles

Hungary: Crunch more pickles istock/DebbiSmirnoff
Hungarians like things pickled: not just cucumbers but bell peppers, cabbage, and tomatoes. These tart treats can help keep you thin, probably because of the vinegar that pickles them. Growing evidence suggests that acetic acid, the main component of vinegar, helps reduce blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and the formation of fat. Pickles aren't your thing? Swap your ranch salad dressing for oil and vinegar.

Norway: Take a Sunday family tour

Norway: Take a Sunday family tour istock/PeopleImages
It's a deeply rooted Norwegian habit: On Sunday, everyone from toddlers to grandparents heads out to hike (in summer) or cross-country ski (in winter). Compare that with the typical American household, where the only Sunday expedition is from the fridge to the football game on TV. Start a Nordic tradition in your house. At halftime, shoo everyone outdoors for a walk around the neighborhood.

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India: Get yourself all twisted up

India: Get yourself all twisted upistock/Oleh_Slobodeniuk
Most Americans respect yoga's stress-busting and flexibility-enhancing power, but not many realize it facilitates weight loss. In fact, a recent study found that yoga devotees have a lower body mass index (BMI) than other exercisers do. There are probably multiple reasons. Yoga is best done on an empty stomach and can build muscle (depending on your preferred poses), which boosts your metabolism. And it encourages mindfulness, which includes paying attention to whether you feel full.

Japan: Perfect the power nap

Japan: Perfect the power nap istock/deeepblue
In this on-the-go country, many people take time for a daily 20- to 30-minute nap, says James Maas, PhD, a sleep researcher and author of Power Sleep. There's increasing evidence that chronic sleep deprivation raises the risk of weight gain. Dr. Maas blames two hormones: leptin, which helps the brain sense when you're full, and ghrelin, which triggers hunger. The less sleep you get, the lower your leptin levels, and the higher your ghrelin. "Many people think they're hungry when they're actually sleepy," Dr. Maas says. "Instead of a snack, they need some shut-eye." Steal these secrets to a perfect nap.

Mexico: Make the midday meal the biggest

Mexico: Make the midday meal the biggest istock/GMVozd
Instead of ingesting the bulk of the day's calories in the evening, as most Americans do, Mexicans traditionally eat their biggest meal between 2 and 4 p.m. If you eat less at night, you'll wake up hungrier and eat a bigger breakfast, which facilitates weight control. As a general fat-fighting rule, try to get the bulk of your daily calories at breakfast and lunch.

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France: Sit long, talk lots

France: Sit long, talk lots istock/pixdeluxe
The French excel at the leisurely family meal. On average, 92 percent of French families dine together nightly, compared with 28 percent of American families. "For the French, eating is the event of the day," says Dr. Pescatore. "For us, it's something we do before heading out to do something else." Lengthy meals actually encourage less eating, Dr. Pescatore says. Conversation slows down the fork and gives you time to realize you're full.

Finland: Take up nordic walking

Finland: Take up nordic walking istock/blyjak
This is one of the Finns' favorite outdoor activities. It's not as exotic as it sounds: All that's required is a pair of inexpensive, lightweight walking poles. Holding these in your hands aids balance, which is great if you're older or if you're on slippery terrain. Even better: Because they make you use muscles in your shoulders, arms, and torso, the poles transform walking into a total-body workout that burns 20 percent more calories, according to a study at the Cooper Institute in Dallas. Winter or summer, it's a simple way to derive more fat-reducing benefit from your regular walk.

Netherlands: Swallow more herring

Netherlands: Swallow more herring istock/Barbara Dudzińska
The Dutch down about 85 million of these slippery fish per year (raw). That's about five for every person in the country (and five more than eaten here). They're pickled, then served unadorned as snacks or in soft buns with onions and gherkins for lunch.Oily fish like herring is slimming for a few reasons, says Dr. Pescatore. It contains lots of omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and cortisol is known to increase the amount of fat deposited around your middle. What's more, lunching on herring or canned sardines guarantees you'll ingest far fewer calories than you would if you eat a burger or even fish sticks. Just don't forget the breath mints.

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27 thoughts on “18 Weight Loss Secrets From Around the World That Are Totally Worth Stealing

  1. My husband and I sit down at the table for dinner, and we actually talk while we eat. I also serve controlled portions, and leave the rest of the food in the kitchen, so we have to stand up to get seconds, which makes us more conscious of what we’re doing. We almost never get seconds anymore. And because we almost always have leftovers, he gets to take a good, balanced lunch to work to eat instead of running to get fast food on his break. I’ll try these other things now, too. :)

  2. All in all, some very useful tips on weight control. Some, however, are certainly more feasible than others. Case in point: Getting the family out of the house for an evening walk? Okay, I guess, just as soon as you peel junior away from his Doritos and Xbox or  Sally away from her Twinkies and Facebook (both kicking and screaming the whole time).

  3. Instead, we Americans can embrace our fatness and displace Japan as the Sumo Wrestling capital of the world.  By the time we’re done with it, there will only be fat Americans with NASCAR like ads pasted to our tubby behinds at the top of the Sumo rankings!  I love the idea!

  4. I will never eat anything with the word “porridge” in it; I’m not Oliver twist or Annie.  Raw Herring: Yuck.  I’m not a big-Mouth like all French people seem to be, so talking for an hour while eating is out.  Most Mexicans I see are fat.  Yoga is for sissies; and I won’t put that stupid dot between my eyes just because an Indian says it’s good.   Japanese are thin, not because of naps, but because they live on an island and eat a lot of seafood, rice and vegetables.  I like my Fries!

    1. Japanese are genetically programmed to be thin, anyway. Now that they’re a first world country, their rate of Type 2 diabetes is SOARING, but they aren’t, in general, fat. The same is true of South Asians. Genetics will tell, and meanwhile, fatness/thinness does not tell anywhere near the whole story.

  5. When growing up in California on 5 acres of ground we had fruit and nut trees and always a big garden.
    We had a chicken’s and grape vines.  Mother canned fruits and vegetables.  We rode bikes to town which was only 2 miles away.  With a large mexican population, we had a big influence.  We grew up loving rice and beans and salsa with lot’s of peppers.  My brothers tried to get the hottest ones as a sign of man hood I supose.  Meals always included fruit, for desert.  Surrounded by lakes we swam for entertainment.  Going to town mean walking long distances since you couldn’t park close to anything.  We never had a weight problem any of us children.  At 50 years old my husbands job took us to Oklahoma where you drive everywhere and meat is the main food source.  Rather than BBQ chicken we ate chicken fried steak, rarely seeing a vegetable.  Instead of big salads and fruit salads was chocolate cake and piles of everything fried.  I went from always being about 135 to 140 to being 200 pounds.  Unable to get it off, so where you live matters.

  6. this is interesting, i have a daughter that is a little on the chunky side,, she comes from a very tall family, none extremely obeise, but heavy, over 6 ft tall, her problem is her upper body weight,, lower body, no problems, she can barely get pants to stay on her without a belt,, she wants to lose weight but the stickin to the diet is not on her top 10 list as she is only 15 years old.; it is very hard when i am very tiny and can do a different diet than she, because i have a very active matabolism.. we are going to try some of these tips to see if this is helpful.. hopefully this works.. thanks rd. 

  7. Great tips, but I had to smile at the implication that Hungary might be a country of slim people. 

  8. Thats retarted what if you go to school and you only have 30 minutes to eat!!!!!!

    1. Wake up 30 minutes earlier. No one over 20 is going to feel sorry for you.

      1. I think they mean for lunch. You don’t exactly have control of that.

  9. I have a home in Italy. I lived there 17 years. I can tell you that the biggest meal is at 1pm for most and we always had most of our  calories at that meal. The evening meal usually was small even though a little late, but consisted of either a salad with cheese and fruit or nuts. Of course a little wine. I was at my lowest weight when I lived there although I am still thin. Italians love legumes and pasta. Fish and meat and vegetables galore. The mediterranean diet is one of the best. We were very lucky we have a vineyard and my husband planted every fruit and vegetable organically. Hot peppers are widely used in cooking.

  10. I have a home in Italy. I lived there 17 years. I can tell you that the biggest meal is at 1pm for most and we always had most of our  calories at that meal. The evening meal usually was small even though a little late, but consisted of either a salad with cheese and fruit or nuts. Of course a little wine. I was at my lowest weight when I lived there although I am still thin. Italians love legumes and pasta. Fish and meat and vegetables galore. The mediterranean diet is one of the best. We were very lucky we have a vineyard and my husband planted every fruit and vegetable organically. Hot peppers are widely used in cooking.

  11. I have a home in Italy. I lived there 17 years. I can tell you that the biggest meal is at 1pm for most and we always had most of our  calories at that meal. The evening meal usually was small even though a little late, but consisted of either a salad with cheese and fruit or nuts. Of course a little wine. I was at my lowest weight when I lived there although I am still thin. Italians love legumes and pasta. Fish and meat and vegetables galore. The mediterranean diet is one of the best. We were very lucky we have a vineyard and my husband planted every fruit and vegetable organically. Hot peppers are widely used in cooking.

  12. This is very useful collection from digest to readers.
    All over the world some counters have their principle thought to loose the weight.
    We can see it on one place .

  13. On the contrary, I find that I have better appetite when I have spicy food and tend to eat more too. I suppose it is the way you eat. So this article does not apply to everyone.

  14. Americans  should adapt such  to reduce the high rate of obesity.

    1. Australians are fatter, yet the world still wants to blame the US for being obese. Even Australia doesn’t have the variety of products that the US has and it is a way for greedy corporations to get  people to buy more, eat more, more, more, more, we don’t want the 1% to lose any $$$ do we? Its manipulation people, wake up!

  15. One of the ways I get fewer calories at night is to make multi-vegetable salads; I like stir-frying some summer squash, broccoli, mushrooms and bell (plus or minus hot) peppers in a generous amount of olive oil, then toss that into a bowl of greens, tomatoes and (just a little) grated cheese. If I really need some meat, I fry up some chicken breast with my stir-fires and cut it into small chunks and toss it with my salad. Of course, I spice up my olive oil while it’s heating with some garlic or garlic powder, a pinch of salt, some cayenne powder (I love hot peppers!) and anything else that grabs my flavor-hungry attention. It’s a nutrition-dense meal, delicious, satisfying, and low in calories. The trick is to make portion sizes to fit my appetite so that I eat until I’m satisfied but not real full.

  16. this is actually really interesting! it finally gives an explanation why the rest of the world is much skinnier compared to america. i had no clue about the sardine, black beans and rice, turmeric. tea, pickles, or the nap thing. if this article can reach a wider population of americans,it may ahve an effect. maybe you could see if the new york times would accept it….just a suggestion. either way thankx for the great tips!

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