Mindful Eating in China

We’re back from China!  Before I get into what I ate while we were in China, I have to tell you that we had a fabulous time.  After living in Japan for the past three years, I thought I had an idea of what to expect from the Chinese people, but boy was I wrong.  The Chinese people are very different from the Japanese.  Don’t get me wrong, we loved it there, but it was definitely crazy and reminded me of being back in Peru in a lot of ways.  Once I got my elbows out and remembered how to fight the crowds, touring around was much more enjoyable :).

Our first week was spent in Beijing where my husband had a class.  Since he was busy all day, I spent the time getting to know the city on my own.  I went on a group tour one day, but the other days I was on my own.  I’m happy to admit that I only got lost once!  I thought touring on my own would be boring, but I actually had a lot of fun.  I really wish Giff could have come with me because I saw a lot of really cool things that I know he would have loved, but c’est la vie, right?

At a Chinese garden.

One of the many streets I walked in Beijing.

Some peanut noodles that were out of this world!

With the Forbidden City in the background.

At the "Bird's Nest" (one of the stadiums from the Olympics)!

After his class was over, we got to visit The Great Wall together with many of his classmates.  The Great Wall exceeded my expectations.  It was awesome—totally worth a trip to China!

At The Great Wall!

So many steep stairs....

The next day we left for a mountain town called Yangshuo.  We took a two-hour boat ride down the Li River to get to Yangshuo.  It was really beautiful and another place we would highly recommend to anyone planning a trip to China.  Yangshuo was touristy, but we still really enjoyed it.  It was very different from both Beijing and Shanghai so we’re glad we got to see it.

Our bamboo boat

Cruising down the Li River

Hanging out in Yangshuo

Shanghai was the last stop on our trip.  It is a really cool city—very modern with a Western feel.  Shanghai has an awesome skyline!

Shanghai Skyline

At the Vue Bar

I wasn’t really sure what to expect from China, but I have to admit that the trip was even better than I imagined it would be.  With that said though, it’s always nice to come back home.

Anyway, on to my food adventures in China.  Before Amanda and I started our naturally sweet summer, I told her that I wasn’t going to worry about what I ate while we were on vacation in China for two weeks.  Since I don’t speak Chinese or really know much about what goes into Chinese cooking (i.e. sugar), I decided it wasn’t worth worrying about it while on vacation.  Vacation is usually a time when we allow ourselves to splurge a little anyway, right :)?!?

Even though I said I wasn’t going to worry, I still didn’t want to go over the top because I really want to reach my goal of not eating sugar until August 20th.  For the most part, I steered clear of sugar (as best I could) with a few exceptions:

  • I ate bread.  Bread is almost always made with sugar (though not very much).  I didn’t eat bread that often, but sometimes it was my only option (like on our flights when I thought the main entree wasn’t very good).  I know I could have passed it up altogether, but I get pretty crabby when I’m hungry and for Giff’s sake, I thought it was better to eat the bread than be crabby :).  Other times we ate bread because we wanted it….
  • Shanghai Steamed Pork Buns...Delicious!

  • We found authentic Neapolitan pizza.....I was in heaven!

  • I had Chinese Bubble Tea…twice.  I LOVE Chinese bubble tea and I can’t get it that often.  The first time I tried it was in college and I loved it.   Almost every time I see it, I treat myself to it so I thought I had to try it in China.  I tried it twice just to be on the safe side J.  I’m sure it has sugar in it, but it was worth every sip!
  • Proof of my Bubble Tea

  • I tried one bite of Giff’s dessert.  This was the only bite of dessert I had in the two weeks we were there.  This is definitely a vacation record for me.  I always treat myself to dessert on vacation, but I passed it up every time except this once.  It was actually at a German pub and looked too good to pass up (fried apple rings….yum!).
  • The one and only dessert I tried.....and some delicious German beer.

  • I drank beer and had some cocktails that may or may not have had sugar.  I have been drinking wine since we started this challenge.  I’m not sure if wine has added sugar or if it’s just sweet from the grapes, but I decided it was something I would allow myself to have since I only treat myself to it on the weekends.  I had not been drinking beer though because I thought it had added sugar, or any cocktails.  I’m not sure if beer does have sugar or not, but I had some on vacation and I had some fancy cocktails at some of the fancy bars we went to in Shanghai.
  • Chinese food.  I’m guessing that some of the foods I ate had sauces that were made with sugar.  They were all savory dishes, but some of them tasted slightly sweet.
  • I ate “plain” yogurt that I’m pretty sure had sugar in it.

Other than that, I think I did a pretty good job of not eating sugar.  Believe it or not, I actually lost 3 pounds on vacation!  That is definitely a first for me.  I worked out three times and walked A LOT.  Despite all the walking, I actually felt like I had more energy than I’ve had in a long time.  Perhaps not eating sugar is a good thing for me.

Lessons Learned

  • Despite the fact that I ate sugar, I was conscious of it every time—more so than I ever have been before.  This challenge has taught me how often I eat sugar during the day without even realizing it.  Although the sugar I consume throughout the day might be consumed in small quantities, it adds up over the course of a day/week/month.
  • It is possible to watch someone eat dessert without having to try it.  (You can ask any of my friends…I am notorious for asking for bites of people’s food so it’s quite a feat for me to not ask for a bite.)
  • Is it really worth it?  There were many times when I wanted to try a bite or sip of something Giff was eating or drinking, but I would ask myself, is it really worth it?  The only time I decided it was worth it was for the German dessert.  I ate my one bite, without any remorse, and didn’t feel like I needed any more.
  • My motto is not “all or nothing”.  I have said before that I do not plan on giving up processed sugar for the rest of my life, but I’m doing this challenge to see how giving it up makes me feel.  Just because I ate sugar a few times on vacation, I don’t feel like a quitter or that I should give up the challenge altogether.  It was good for me to see that I can have it here and there without overdoing it.
  • Cravings will go away.  There were some nights when I was really craving something sweet—especially chocolate.  If I were home, I would go to the kitchen to try to make something or eat something to satisfy my craving.  Since we were on vacation though, I didn’t have that option.  The cravings went away every time.  This is something I need to remind myself now that I’m home again.

I’ll wrap it up here since I have already written a novel.  If you made it to the end, thanks for sticking with me J.

Questions: Do you usually ‘splurge’ on vacation?  What are your tips for staying healthy while traveling?

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Mindful Eating in China

  1. judy cummings

    You already know what I am going to say….. unfortunately, I do splurge while on vacation. I think the lesson to learn is that whatever it is that I really want I could just have a taste of some one else’s and learn to be satisfied just as you pointed out….. And I do know from past experience that one can over come cravings. The longer one can go without a certain food the easier it becomes to live without it….. NOW, I just have to put all that philosophy into practice since I will be traveling for most of the month of August….. I need to follow in your footsteps and start NOW!!!! hhhhmmmmmmm……..

    • I definitely think starting now will help you Mom. It will give you a good foundation so when you’re traveling it won’t be so hard. Dad and I will both help you too. It’s hard, but I know you can do it!

  2. judy cummings

    I CAN do it… I have done it before. I just started yesterday, so keep your fingers crossed for me.

    • Good Job Mom!! I’m really excited for you. This time you have to think of it as a lifestyle change….allowing yourself treats here and there, but not overdoing it. I know you can do it. We can do it together. Is Dad doing it with you?

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