Even if your workout routine feels on point, you might feel like something’s missing. Are you having to work too hard to keep your results? We’re going to take a world tour to discover how people of other nations manage to stay healthy and gorgeous…some without even breaking a sweat.

From Japan to Africa, these people know how to keep their bodies in great shape. With America leading the charge of the obesity epidemic, it’s easy to want to learn why other cultures aren’t having as hard of a time. The next time one of your friends compliments you on your progress, you can say you’ve gotten a little more worldly with your fitness journey.

JAPAN: EAT BEAUTIFULLY, SLOWLY, AND SMALLER

Japan has perhaps one of the lowest obesity rates in the world. Standing in at a mere 3 percent as compared to America’s 32 percent, Japan definitely seems to have some tricks up their sleeve. What is it?

Firstly, Japan prizes beautifully presented dishes. No, we’re not talking about your local hodge-podge Asian buffet. If you do even a quick Google search, you’ll likely see gorgeous looking plates of food that look like they’re being presented to a king. Hate to break it to ya, but that’s just normal. The Japanese are a culture that enjoys beauty and art. Even the food is presented as if it were going into a museum.

Presenting the food this way makes you want to appreciate it more. You’re not as apt to start shoveling everything in your mouth as you admire it. I know it sounds funny, but it’s true. Surely you’ve heard of something being “too pretty to eat?” You’d constantly be saying that in Japan.

Examples of seemingly normal Japanese foods that always look flawless would be sushi, donburi, and bento boxes.

And speaking of bentos…

The Japanese also eat smaller portions. Even I’ve made the typically American response, “That doesn’t look like much food” when I see a bento in an anime, or even in real life! Bentos have actually taken off in America, but you’ll notice they still seem to have bigger portions than ones you order from places that source from Japan itself.

To most, it might look like a midday snack. These bento boxes ACTUALLY serve as their lunches! And it isn’t this way just for bentos. Most all meals, even at fast food restaurants, have much smaller portions than in America. I’m frequently tripped out when I see someone hand me a “small” drink through a drive-thru, only to think they’ve wrongly charged me for a large. That’s ridiculous…

Last but not least, Japan also eats their food more slowly. If you’re into anime, maybe you’ve seen Naruto eating ramen like a madman, or Goku scarfing down Chi-Chi’s food. They are an exception to the rule, since they’re always training…hard. Your average person shouldn’t eat this way. You see, the faster you eat, the less likely your brain is to tell you that you’re full in time. This is why a lot of people end up with stomach aches after dinner, or needing that gross, pink stuff that taste like plastic. By the way, if you have to take medicine after you eat something, that’s a problem…

Just as I touched on briefly with the beauty of Japanese food, they want to savor the beautiful food presented to them. This is why they eat slower, and this is also why they get the “full” signal on time. In addition, chopsticks, the most commonly used utensil in Japan, keep you from being able to eat as fast. It takes a little more patience and tactfulness to use two sticks as opposed to stabbing everything onto a fork.

For simple and delicious Japanese meals, I recommend this blog, and also this YouTube channel (I learned to make tonkatsu don here).

FRANCE: FRESH FOOD, INDULGENCE IN MODERATION, SMALL PORTIONS

Ah yes France…The country of love and leisure. French people have a similar style to Japan, with some minor differences. France has only an 11 percent obesity rate, still nearly a third the rate of America. How do they do it?

Firstly, the French enjoy fresh food on a daily basis. Instead of opting for preservative-filled, greasy, sloppy fast food, French people can be seen in marketplaces filling up their baskets with fresh vegetables and meats. Even though there are fast food restaurants present in France, they aren’t really there for the French citizens. They’re there for the tourists!

I find it a little sad that anyone visiting France would opt to eat the same old mcnasty burgers and fatty fried chicken they eat at home. It must be appalling to watch an American walk into a restaurant like that instead of a French cafe. I mean, if I was there, I’d be eating what they ate! Otherwise, what’s the point of the vacation?

Okay, rant over…But seriously, no Parisian woman is going to eat a filthy Micky D’s burger.

And while France may conjure up images of baguettes, rich pastries, and fancy cheese, these women can eat this stuff without even gaining a half a pound. How can you indulge in chocolates and pastries without gaining weight? It’s all about moderation. Just the same as Japanese women, French women eat smaller portions. Instead of massive deli sandwiches and salads overflowing with fatty dressing, French women eat small, but still indulge. These smaller servings allow them to enjoy richer foods without the consequences.

Not to mention, a common idea among the French is enjoying their meals (are we seeing a trend yet?) Unlike Americans who deprive themselves of everything and condemn certain foods, French people partake in everything they enjoy…in moderation.

Another thing I noticed about the way French people eat is they often enjoy yogurt as a dessert. I always wondered why people didn’t consider yogurt a desert. After all, it IS sweet in most cases. Plain Greek yogurt with a dab of honey or brown sugar (as they do in France) is quite indulgent to me. Instead of cake, ice cream, or pie, the French opt for a serving of natural yogurt.

Americans are also usually on the go, therefore our food is on the go too…except it’s usually while we’re sitting in a car driving, or at a desk working overtime. In France, you’ll often find women sitting in cafe’s reading a book while they drink a *small* glass of wine. The leisurely pace at which they eat their food aids in giving them that “you’re full” signal we’ve been talking about. Being able to take your time and slow things down seems to really help with keeping the weight off.

For some traditionally french cuisine, try this blog out for delicious meal ideas you can include in your diet!

AFRICA: EAT YOUR VEGETABLES (AND SPICES!)

While Africa is an entire continent and not a country, many of the countries within it share similar eating habits. Because of Africa’s image of poverty however, people don’t often see the day to day lives of citizens, impoverished or not.

African people spend a lot of their time (like the women in the aforementioned countries) moving. In addition, refined carbs are not a natural part of most African diets. The rice and bread that many impoverished Africans eat are imports meant to be cheap, but filling. However, as this article explores, it may still be riddling the African nation’s budgets thin.

The same phenomenon of eating a refined carb-rich diet can be witnessed in poor communities in America. If you look at an impoverished family’s dietary makeup, you’re likely to see a lot of pasta, rice, and bread filling in the gaps because fresh meat and vegetables can be too expensive. Not to mention refined carbs are addictive because they mimic sugar. Now even when alternatives are offered, poor American families may still choose to eat refined carbs. Unfortunately, even the above-named countries are beginning to eat more junk and seeing rising obesity rates due to western influence. On the by and large however, Africa as well as the other countries here, are keeping their dignity.

If you look at the typical African diet however, you’ll more likely see meat, vegetables, and fruit as their primary sources of food. African women can stay leaner because they eat these healthy alternatives. Yams, bananas, leafy greens, coconut, okra, and eggplant are common foods eaten in Africa. It’s no wonder African women can keep lean and trim figures when their diets consist of these foods.

One notorious African meal is the Kenyan dish Sukuma Wiki, which is a combination of braised beef or chicken mixed with spices, collard greens, tomatoes, and onion to create a hearty stew-like meal. It’s usually served with flat bread or ugali, which is like a soft loaf of cornbread. If you’re familiar with it, you might be noticing soul food in America seems to take quite a bit from traditional African cooking…with some fatty American additions now added.

And one final thing that African meals have that aid in weight-loss: Spicy food. A lot of African cuisine is spicy, and if you look at Caribbean countries as well, you’ll find spicy food seems to play a key role in most dishes. Food additives such as chilis, jalapenos, and hot mustard have been shown to speed up your metabolism quite a bit. Since chili spice is quite a staple in Africa, one can only assume it aids in keeping bodies trim and slim. This can also be seen in countries that have had close ties to Africa throughout history such as many of the Middle Eastern countries and India.

If you’re interested in making some delicious African-style cuisine, I recommend checking out this blog for some great eats!

We have a lot we could learn from these cultures and their eating habits, but to put things simply, here are the basic rules you should follow to help you stay leaner:

  • Eat Smaller Portions: Instead of scarfing down a huge plate of food, mind your portions sizes. Start checking the backs of boxes and cans to make sure you’re not eating too much, and invest in a food scale to measure things such as meat.
  • Take Your Time: Don’t be in a rush to eat. If you know you have obligations to take care of that might get in the way of your meal, plan your meals well in advance so you can eat slower.
  • Don’t Snack: None of the countries mentioned snack like we do in America. This could be due to the fact that they take their time eating, and don’t have as much idle time. Eat only breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and drink water in-between and after meals.
  • Get Moving: This is a lifestyle feature that all of the above named countries have in common. Instead of driving around in cars 99 percent of the time, people in Japan, France, and many African countries go by foot or sometimes by bike. Try walking more to get some unintended workout sessions in your day. Then you won’t have to stick to a rigid workout routine that bores you.
  • Don’t Eat Out So Much: People in the countries we discussed prepare most all their own food, and if not, they still mind the other rules so it doesn’t impact them. Try preparing most of your food at home so you can control what you’re eating.
  • Don’t Deprive Yourself: Instead of ripping whole food groups out of your diet, just eat the food! All you have to do at that point is continue to be mindful about what you’re eating, and how much.

Do you have something to share about your own country, or country you know about that has a healthy lifestyle habit? Share in the comments, and subscribe for more cool articles like this one 🙂