Weight-Loss Tips From Around the World

From the chili peppers of Thailand to the gardens of England, get ready for a world-class weight-loss tour.

world weight loss tips intro

It's no secret that the United States has a weight problem: Nearly 70 percent of American adults are overweight or obese, according to the CDC. And while no person — nor country — is perfect, it can't hurt to take a leaf or two out of our international neighbors' weight-loss books, right?

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1 Thailand: Chili Peppers

Some like it hot, especially people in Thailand, where fiery chili peppers are a kitchen staple. In fact, the classic Thai chili — also known as bird's eye chili — is at least 40 times hotter than the jalapeno. The spicy kick comes from capsaicin, a compound in chilies that may activate our "good," calorie-burning brown fat stores.

Researchers have also found that capsaicin helps us feel fuller after a meal, which prevents overeating. Just 1 gram of red pepper — think single-serve packets at pizza chains — is enough to help curb appetite and boost post-meal metabolism, say researchers at Purdue University. So why not turn up the heat? Give this Grilled Chicken With Red-Pepper Salsa a try.

2 Japan: Beautiful Food

If you want abs of steel, think like an Iron Chef. Research suggests taking a characteristically Japanese food-as-art approach to dining can help with weight management. "The Japanese are the absolute gold-standard when it comes to beautiful and meticulous food presentation," explains celebrity chef and cookbook author Candice Kumai, who is half Japanese.

"We believe that when food looks colorful, beautiful and delicious, you and your family will be more inclined to eat healthy, fresh and nutritious foods." And there's science to prove the weight-loss potential of a pretty plate: A 2012 study in the Journal of Consumer Research revealed that people served a monochromatic plate of food ate 22 percent more than those served a colorful plate that provided more contrast.

Similarly, findings from a small 2014 study suggest that meal presentation can even affect the way food tastes: People tend to perceive balanced and artistic plates as tastier than messy ones. Speaking of pretty, this super-colorful Quinoa Tabbouleh Salad tastes even better than it looks.

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3 Indonesia: Intermittent Fasting

While the reason for fasting during Ramadan is spiritual, research suggests periodically closing the kitchen can benefit our health — and our waistlines. "Fasting kickstarts weight loss because it lets the body tap into fat tissue and start burning fat calories," explains Nour Zibdeh, RDN, who integrates aspects of fasting into her practice in Herndon, Virginia.

"When you constantly eat, your cells will constantly use glucose (from food or glucose stored in your body) first as the source of energy. Without a fast of at least 10 hours, the body will never reach the stubborn fat stores."

In fact, researchers found intermittent fasters lost twice as much body fat in a 2013 study in the British Journal of Nutrition that compared periodic fasting and daily calorie restriction in overweight women. And while not all experts recommend fasting for weight management, fasting in moderation provides the added benefit of helping to break mindless eating habits, says Zibdeh.

"Taking a bite here and there, finishing off your kid's meal, or eating when bored are all eliminated during fasting." Fasting overnight and pushing breakfast a few hours later in the day is an easy way to reap the benefits, she suggests.

4 Switzerland: Muesli

You rarely hear of hospital food making waves in the culinary world. But muesli, a porridge meal developed around 1900 by a Swiss doctor to feed his hospital patients, is still a widely popular breakfast in Switzerland today. "Muesli" translates roughly to "mixture" in Swiss German, and that's exactly what it is: A mix of rolled oats and nuts, traditionally soaked overnight in water and lemon, and then enjoyed with yogurt and fresh fruits. It's similar to overnight oats, and the creamy porridge has serious waist-whittling benefits. That's because, in comparison to cooked oatmeal, raw oats are particularly rich in resistant starch, a type of dietary fiber that resists digestion, meaning fewer calories are absorbed.

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5 India: Home Cooking

Indians spend an impressive 13.2 hours per week in the kitchen, according to a 2015 survey by market research firm GfK that analyzed cooking habits in 22 countries around the world. That's more than double the 5.9 hours reported by Americans, and great news for weight loss, research suggests.

A June 2015 study published in Public Health Nutrition showed people who eat home-cooked meals six to seven times a week consume an average of 140 fewer calories per day than those who cook at home less, which may not sound significant but can seriously add up over time.

"When people cook most of their meals at home, they consume fewer carbohydrates, less sugar and less fat than those who cook less or not at all — even if they are not trying to lose weight," Julia A. Wolfson, MPP, lead author of the study said in a news release. "The evidence shows people who cook at home eat a more healthy diet." Need inspiration to get started? Try this easy-to-make, mouth-watering recipe for Ratatouille With Chickpeas and Quinoa.

6 Brazil: Beans and Rice

Pull up a chair at any Brazilian lunch table and you'll likely find a bowl of arroz e feijão (rice and beans), a traditional dish that may be the world's most delicious antidote to elevated blood sugar levels. Researchers in a small 2012 study found that the combo could effectively reduce post-meal blood sugar spikes associated with fat gain among people with diabetes. Researchers attribute these benefits to the resistant starch in the beans that, when combined with rice, lowers the meal's glycemic load — a measure of how quickly blood sugar rises in response to a certain food, with lower numbers being better for weight management. While you'll get many of the benefits from a serving of beans alone, adding rice turns the fiber-rich dish into a complete protein that provides all nine essential amino acids, which are the building blocks of lean muscle tone.

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7 The Netherlands: Active Commutes

With approximately 1.1 bicycles per Dutchman and and almost 30 percent of the population either walking or cycling to work daily, the Dutch have embraced a workout that may be able to help you slim down without setting foot in a gym, according to a May 2015 study published the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health. Researchers found people with physically active commutes of more than 10 minutes a day lost an average of 4.4 pounds over a two-year period, and people who spent more than 30 minutes each day actively commuting had an average weight loss of about 15.4 pounds.

"This study highlights the potential to contribute to reducing the average weight of the population by helping commuters build regular physical activity into their daily routines through walking, cycling and using public transport on their journey to work," suggested lead study researcher Adam Martin of the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England, in a news release.

8 France: Mindful Eating

The French spend a leisurely two hours each day eating and drinking, which is nearly twice as much time as Americans spend at the table, according to a report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Experts say the slow-down approach to dining may speed up weight loss.

"Adopting the French habit of taking time at the table can help you to feel more content, not deprived and avoid overeating," says Michelle May, MD, founder of the Am I Hungry? mindful-eating programs. "When you slow down and pay attention, you'll enjoy the eating experience more while recognizing the subtle signs of satiety before you are overly full."

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9 Greece: Olive Oil

Greeks are the world's leading olive oil guzzlers, with each person consuming nearly 40 pounds of the "liquid gold" every year, according to another report published by the OECD. And while it may sound counterintuitive to add fat to your diet in order to drop fat, research suggests extra virgin olive oil may be one of the best ingredients for attaining a Greek God bod. A 2014 study published in PLOS ONE showed a Mediterranean-style diet rich in olive oil reduced weight-gain risk by 43 percent in obese participants. Researchers attribute the weight-loss benefits to phenols in the olives, which many studies have shown help to reduce inflammation. And in case you're curious, research shows that Koroneiki olives from Greece contain the highest levels of the waist-whittling compounds. Try this Shaved Asparagus Salad With Apple and Cheddar recipe to get your extra-virgin-olive-oil fix.

10 England: Gardening

The English have a well-established passion for gardening, a hobby that research has linked to numerous health benefits, including weight loss. In a 2013 study published in the American Journal of Public Health, University of Utah researchers found that active gardeners have smaller waists and better diets than their non-gardening counterparts: Green-thumbed women were 46 percent less likely to be overweight and about 11 pounds lighter, while male gardeners were on average 16 pounds lighter and 62 percent less likely to be overweight than their peers who did not work in the garden.

"Gardening, especially during the growing season, demands nearly daily maintenance. This draws people outdoors daily and requires that they get moving in some form or fashion," explains Andrea Faber Taylor, PhD, horticulture instructor and environmental psychologist at the University of Illinois. "Any form of gardening presents a time away from everyday activities and concerns that can naturally restore our attention and diminish mental fatigue that may lead to poor diet and exercise choices," Dr. Faber says.

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