Weight-loss Taipei style

My New Year’s resolution for 2010 was to lose weight.  I made quite a bit of progress in the earlier part of 2010, but things have stalled a bit due to the move to Taiwan.  A quick glance at the restaurant reviews on this blog will give an inkling as to why … as you can see, food is a national obsession in Taiwan.

Down in the deep-down South of Taiwan, where I studied for a year between 1997 to 1998, food was such an integral part of the culture that the usual greeting was “have you eaten yet” (in Taiwanese, “lim ghia baa bway”, or something thereabouts).  I wasn’t sure whether this was an actual question or not, so one time I actually answered “no, I haven’t eaten lunch and I’m a bit hungry”.  The person I was speaking to was so visibly uncomfortable that they almost tried to feed me then and there!  As a result of all the food options, I put on heaps of weight during my year there which no amount of cycling around town seemed to shift.

Yet despite all the abundance of good food, Taiwanese women are still quite slim.  Most shops only sell women’s clothing up to an equivalent of size 10, or if you are lucky size 12.  So on the surface of it, it seems that Taiwanese must have either a high metabolism, a healthy diet or some special secret.

In part, the relative lack of obesity is a result of smaller portion sizes.  Restaurants serve dishes around two-thirds the size of equivalent dishes in Chinese restaurants back home, and even Western-style restaurants serve smaller portions (albeit with many courses).  Rice is served in smaller bowls and there are often options for brown rice mixes such as “five grain rice” (wu gu fan).  At home, Taiwanese generally follow a balanced diet that includes lots of seafood, fruit, vegetables and grains, and not so much sugar and fried snack foods.  Fruit is of high quality, and it is common at social gatherings to serve fruit platters instead of chips and dips.  A very healthy habit which I plan to continue when I return to Australia.

But good diet and small portion sizes is only part of the story.  Look deeper and you may see that Taiwanese women are all-too human and can also succumb to temptation of the many and varied eating options in Taipei.  Everything here is just so convenient (fang bian), with food shops open from early morning to late at night.  Young couples in particular like to stroll out for an evening snack (xiao ye), perhaps in part to get some breathing space away from the in-laws.  And did I mention that the bakeries here are fabulous?

From watching advertisements on television, I can see that there is a huge industry peddling weight-loss products.  The most popular seem to be weight-loss teas, marketed principally to the office workers.  I suspect that it works as a detoxifier, but I am yet to try it.  For those wanting to squeeze into a special outfit, there is a huge array of figure-hugging slimming undergarments.  Exercise options also abound with gym chains such as ‘Curves’ opening shop.  Classes aimed at women such as yoga and aerobics are also very popular.  But if all else fails, then there is always acupuncture.

After my more recent trip to the Duck Nazi place, a friend at work happened to mention that she had used acupuncture for weight loss.  I was interested to hear more: my Chinese Doctor in Australia, Claire, had told me that acupuncture could assist in weight-loss.  However, I was still breastfeeding Austin so it was not the right time to pursue it as an option.  What I didn’t at first realise was that this particular Chinese medicine clinic specialises in rapid weight-loss.  My colleague, for example, lost 15kg in an amazing six weeks. 

The clinic, situated on Zhongxiao East Road in a bustling department-store precinct, was at first hard to find.  But once I arrived, I immediately noticed the dozen or so (mainly women) waiting for their appointment.  Some of them were a bit on the plump side, but most of them would be considered within a healthy weight range in Australia.  A young nurse in a 1960s style starched white nurses frock took my weight and handed me a slip of paper that helpfully pointed out my fat percentage and ideal weight (seven kilograms less than my previous goal weight).  I could see that this is definitely not a hold-your-hand and make-you-feel-good about yourself type of place.

After waiting for around quarter of an hour, I was eventually shown to a small cubicle.  The Chinese doctor was a no-nonsense middle-aged lady who wasted no time in telling me (after pointing out again that I had a long way to go) that her method would not only assist in losing weight, but in the right places, too.  Always good to know I guess that I will end up with a perfect figure.  She put in lots of needles, mainly in my stomach, and then a nurse connected it to an electric current.  The doctor also added some small needles into my ear: I was to press on these for three minutes at least half an hour before each meal, and again whenever I felt hungry.

Before leaving, a nurse explained what my diet would be like while on the program: one egg, one tomato or grapefruit and a glass of low-fat milk for breakfast; a small platter of meat and vegetables for lunch; and a light dinner of vegetables and either some tofu or an egg.  I worked out that I could have miso soup for dinner, which thankfully I quite like.  While clearly there was no CHOCOLATE on the diet, there was also no rice, bread or in fact any other kind of fat or carbohydrate at all allowed.

Philosophically, I disagree with a diet that does not include basic grains.  I figure that humans are designed to eat whole grain food, which is after all why we have so many molar teeth for grinding.  And how can a diet so restrictive be sustainable?  But then, the clinic insisted that I pay for ten sessions up front:  a whopping NTD$5,000 (AUD$170).  There was no way that I was going to ‘waste’ this money; I am way too money-conscious for that. 

So I decided to give it a go.  The first day was awful.  Breakfast was fine, but by lunchtime I was desperately hungry and no amount of pressing on my ear lobes would assist.  To make matters worse, we went on a day trip to Yangminshan and it was nearly 1.45pm in the afternoon before we stopped for lunch.  I was even starting to look at Austin’s baby food longingly.  But by day three I was in the routine, and didn’t have any cravings at all.  And knock me down with a feather, the diet works.  I reduced 2.3kg in less than a week, and had reduced 3kg in around a week and a half.  Birthday cake may have slowed down progress for the current week (well, some things need to be celebrated), but as of today I am back on track.  My aim is to reduce 10kg by Christmas so that I can go on a shopping spree when my Mum visits.  And who knows, maybe by then I might even be able to squeeze into some off-the-rack clothing without having to resort to slimming undergarments.

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About taiwanxifu

‘Taiwanxifu’ (pronounced ‘shee foo’) means ‘Taiwan daughter-in-law’ in Chinese and has been my nickname ever since I married my Taiwanese husband, Sam. I love sampling Taiwanese food, even local specialties such as stinky tofu, pigs blood cake and Taipei beef noodle soup with offal. But there are many other options on the menu. Promise!
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13 Responses to Weight-loss Taipei style

  1. Rhoda says:

    Hi ! Serina,

    Just drop by to say hi. The article about Taiwaness food and what you are “suffering” from diet is really interesting. I like it very much. Hope you can reach your goal before Christmas. This is it for now. I will write you later.


    • taiwanxifu says:

      Hi Rhoda,

      Thanks for your comment. How do you Taipei gals deal with gourmet life in Taipei? Are you just used to it, or have you found other ways of dealing with things?


  2. jenny says:

    Sam and Serina ,
    Hello! How are you ? Miss you all .
    you have moved to south of taiwan?
    it is a very nice place~
    keep in touch !

  3. Pingback: Ten Ways to Lose Weight in Taipei | Taiwanxifu (台灣媳婦)

  4. Olivia says:


    Just wondering whether you have the address of the acupuncture clinic that you went in Taipei. And could they speak english?


    • taiwanxifu says:

      It was a while ago but I will see if I can remember! Most acupuncturists in Taipei will do this for you but this lady specialised in weight-loss. It was very effective, but a bit extreme.

    • taiwanxifu says:

      Here is the address. And from memory they did not speak English:

      林麗華 醫師麗華中醫診所 電話: 2778-5258 地址: 台北市忠孝東路4段48號3樓(SOGO 百貨正對面)

      Basically, it is situated near SOGO on Zhongxiao East Road Section 4. I can’t remember which MRT exit to take, but the clinic is right there.

  5. Olivia says:

    Thank you so much….your information helps a lot….

  6. Yas says:

    i’m so glad i found this blog post…i’m so going to try this out!!

    • taiwanxifu says:

      Good luck. I hope you have someone to tie it on for you. Apparently, you can get ‘cheat’ ones made of cotton with velcrose on it. I’m sure that purists would be horrified but it could be an option if you don’t have a nice delivery lady pop in every day to tie one on for you.

    • taiwanxifu says:

      Thanks for the kind comment.

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