As the results of the Reader’s Digest global poll show, people around the world struggle at one time or another with their weight. But that’s not to say that obesity is our collective destiny. In fact, just about every culture has some custom that can keep people lean and healthy.
We’ve collected 16 such health habits from 16 different countries, asking leading nutritionists and Reader’s Digest’s own network of international editors to divulge the quirks of their cultures that can help us all fight fat. Consider it a world weight-loss tour you don’t need tickets for. Ready to send your belly packing?
Diet tips from Brazil
Serve a side of rice and beans
All that shaking at Carnaval isn’t the only healthy habit in Rio; Brazilians enjoy this dish with almost every meal, says Sérgio Charlab, editor of Reader’s Digest Brazil. A study in the Obesity Research journal found that a diet consisting primarily of rice and beans reduces your chance of becoming overweight by about 14% when compared with typical Western fare. That’s because it’s lower in fat and higher in fibre, which is thought to stabilise blood sugar levels. It may be counter-intuitive, but more beans = a better beach body.
Diet tips from Poland
Eat at home more often
Poles typically spend only 5% of their family budget on eating out. According to the ABS, the typical Australian family spends upwards of $42 a week on food from restaurants and fast-food outlets. To save money and kilos, start noting how often you eat out and how much you spend. Then gradually cut back. People who don’t cook at home tend to eat less healthy food and be heavier than people who do. In fact, experts argue that the collapse of cooking in a society tracks very closely with its rise in obesity.
Diet tips from Indonesia
Try fasting once in a while
Islam, Indonesia’s major religion, encourages an annual season of fasting called Ramadan, where food and drink is banned from dawn to dusk. Others in Indonesia practise mutih periodically, a fast where only water and rice is consumed. Although experts don’t recommend fasting for weight control, in moderation it can break patterns of mindless eating, says Dr Hill. No need for strict abstinence to get these psychological benefits – try just cutting your kilojoules in half for a day.