Diet Begins Tomorrow

Saying goodbye to peanut butter brownies

When it comes to the best food in the world, I do not doubt that Asia has it all. And of course, in my terribly biased opinion, the best country in the world when it comes to food would be Malaysia.

Malaysia is a confluence of cultures. We have three major ethnic races – Malay, Chinese and Indians and a growing minority with their excellent cuisine as well. What I love most about Malaysia is that because we have so many diverse cultures with diverse cuisines, living together means we are exposed to so many fantastic foods that it is no wonder that eating is our national hobby. It does not matter what cuisine – we are not like the Italians that pride in a single cuisine, we are a mish-mash of everything. As long as it’s good, we’ll eat it.

With that in mind, it is no wonder we Malaysians are leading Asia in tipping the weighing scale towards obesity. That includes, Yours Truly. While I am not obese, I fall in the comfortably overweight range.

Now, a few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of being diagnosed with PCOS or Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. My doctor said it so nonchalantly that I did not take it to be an issue at all. It was only by going home and looking through the issues with PCOS did I realize what it actually meant.

There are so many issues concerning PCOS but one of the problems that really hit me when I read about it was the issue of insulin resistance. This explains why so many PCOS sufferers have problems with weight loss and why a number of PCOS sufferers also suffer from diabetes.

What is recommended with women with PCOS is to lose weight which should help to minimize the symptoms, but the problem is, well, insulin resistance isn’t exactly going to make things easy on the weight loss front. Looking back, it began to make sense. I never understood why I had so much problems losing weight as a kid and why as a teenager, despite working out for ages on end, I was still on the heavier side to all my friends.

It took a lot of soul-searching to understand that the best way forward is to accept the situation at hand. As a severe asthmatic, the best way forward in taking care of my asthma was to fully accept that I was an asthmatic and that I will forever be on medication. Well meaning relatives sometime say stupid things like ‘All those medication can’t be good for you! Maybe if you take XX supplement, you’ll get better naturally!’ After accepting that I will be an asthmatic for life and that it won’t just go away drinking a goat’s colustrum – I took care of my asthma more diligently; making sure I avoided my asthma triggers and taking my inhaler daily. The end result? A managed asthma without having to rush to the ER in the past two years.

In the case of PCOS, it meant that I would have to lose weight and reduce my sugar intake. And while most diets don’t work very well for PCOS women, the best diet to undertake would be a low-carb and low-sugar diet to stop the insulin resistance and jump start our metabolism.

Which sounds so much easier on paper than in reality. The thing is, Asians LOVE their carbohydrates. Rice is a staple and pasta probably had gained so much popularity in Malaysia, precisely because it’s a carb. A carb is a carb is a carb. And what’s the best carb for the average Malaysian? The processed kind. That’s right – we’re talking white rice, white bread, white potatoes. Anything that’s pristine white: noodles, pasta, rice, bread – that’s the kind of carbohydrate that we Malaysians like to eat. And to top it all off, we prefer it fried. Have you heard of fried macaroni? It is the noms.

I can’t think of anything more daunting than giving up carbs for a diet, especially in Asia. And switching out from processed flour to wholewheat is going to be difficult. And there are very, very few ideas out there how to do South Beach for an Asian. Sure there is plenty of menu ideas if you’re used to eating a predominantly Western diet – but for an Asian who loves her curry, fried fish and sambal – this is very difficult.

After a long thought and many discussions with the husband – both of us decided that love for food is one thing, our health is another. I am an impatient one, I wanted to jump into the diet immediately but it’s never as easy as just starting. The South Beach diet required massive changes to my life – which means removing a number of my favourite ingredients, like Japanese and Thai rice, white bread. Even a number of the condiments are a no-no such as ketchup. Which by extension means no sambal and chilli oil as they are made with a lot of sugar.

I should start my diet tomorrow (I do realize the irony in this statement: diets always begins…tomorrow) and I have already written up a menu which took me hours to put up. I realize that there is very little Asian food inside this menu but I do not want to wait too long to begin. Having said that, I am currently researching and experimenting on ways to make my favourite Asian foods healthier, and hopefully, slightly lower in carbohydrates but no less tasty.


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