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Is Thailand Making you Fat?

When I first moved to Thailand almost 5 years ago I was 72kg, 4 years on I weighed 82 kilograms. At least for me Thailand made me fat. I always thought that coming to Thailand I would lose weight! If you look at most Thai people they look pretty thin right? But for the past 3 months I’ve been looking at the situation differently and have come to the conclusion that Thailand is making people fat!
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thailand making you fat

Firstly Thai people are not thin, they are what I call skinny fat. They appear skinny but really they are just small boned which helps give us the illusion that they are thin. Next time your with a Thai girl ask her to get on a scale that can measure her body fat percentage as well. I’ve been doing that lately and found that many girls, even ones that appear really thin have more than a 24% body fat percentage.

Eating a lot of junk food back in the states I was still less heavy that I was eating fried rice and Pad Thai. Thailand is awesome in the fact that if you’re on a super budget you can still get by. Eating at food side stalls for 30 baht a pop might be light on the wallet but it’s not exactly light on the stomach. Take a look at some of the nutritional stats of the food they sell on the side of the street. The facts are suprising. While most Thai food is better than fast food the stats don’t really add up in reality. For 30 baht your getting crap rice  and enough oil to drown a rat.

Nutritional Facts (Care of My Fitness Pal)

Big Mac Meal (Farang Food)

Calories 1,130  Sodium 1,320 mg
Total Fat 48 g  Potassium 0 mg
Saturated 13 g  Total Carbs 151 g
Polyunsaturated 0 g  Dietary Fiber 8 g
Monounsaturated 0 g  Sugars 67 g
Trans 2 g  Protein 29 g
Cholesterol 75 mg

6 Piece Chicken Mcnugget Meal With Diet Coke (Farang Food)

Calories 510 Sodium 700 mg
Total Fat 29 g Potassium 0 mg
Saturated 5 g Total Carbs 0 g
Polyunsaturated 0 g Dietary Fiber 4 g
Monounsaturated 0 g Sugars 0 g
Trans 0 g Protein 16 g
Cholesterol 29 mg

Pud Thai (Thai Food)

Calories 759 Sodium 3,956 mg
Total Fat 15 g Potassium 0 mg
Saturated 2 g Total Carbs 124 g
Polyunsaturated 0 g Dietary Fiber 5 g
Monounsaturated 0 g Sugars 51 g
Trans 0 g Protein 34 g
Cholesterol 209 mg

Fried Rice (Thai Food)

Calories 405 Sodium 634 mg
Total Fat 6 g Potassium 0 mg
Saturated 1 g Total Carbs 62 g
Polyunsaturated 0 g Dietary Fiber 3 g
Monounsaturated 0 g Sugars 5 g
Trans 0 g Protein 25 g
Cholesterol 40 mg

Fat Getting Fatter

When I moved here I met this Irish guy, likable character who I’d see in Starbucks nearly every day. He enjoys the Thai street food as much as anyone. Now almost 5 years on he too looks like he’s put on a lot of weight and admits to me he’s now 15kg heavier. The problem he tells me is time. He’s so preoccupied doing nothing that he’ll just sit at coffee shops and hanging around few beers and parties over a few years it’s taken it’s toll.

My mate isn’t the only guy, I too fell into the rut as has many other thousands of Farang. You might be him too. Fried rice and Pad Thai, noodles and other bullshit is fattening and believe it or not this is not what Thai people eat! In a Thai household you’re more likely to eat fish, som tam, random vegetables and even more random meat followed by a blast of hot peppers to make sure none of the shit stays in your body. There’s no Starbucks and lazy days eating cake.

Did you put on weight in Thailand?

So I wonder if the majority of people out there has experienced the same as me. Has Thailand made you fat? Please let me know by filling out the form below or leaving a comment.


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About Chris

Chris founded Living Thai and author of the books Learn the The Thai Alphabet and How to make money in Thailand also the Blueprint for Living in Thailand. Chris started this blog with the aim of educating westerners on how to have the best time in Thailand, to make new friends and to vent his frustrations Chris is also fluent in both written and spoken Thai.

20 Responses to Is Thailand Making you Fat?

  1. Nils Side August 13, 2013 at 8:46 am #

    Yes, it is true I also noticed that Thai girls look quite thin but they aren’t actually! Most of them have quite some “love handles” but they are also pretty good at concealing it :D
    For myself I dropped a lot of weight. It is kind of hard to keep my ideal weight. On the other side if you don’t work out and only hang out and being lazy you can’t expect to be thing neither in Thailand nor in your country of origin.

  2. Ryan August 13, 2013 at 10:28 am #

    I think getting fat is probably OK for guys, as most women will say that they prefer big guys. I have been thin all my life and Thailand is definitely not making me fat. Every girlfriend I have had at some point mentions the “if you put on a bit of weight you’d be so handsome” line. I don’t really mind, most of the time I never think of it but guys getting fat is better that being too thin. Still, might not necessarily be good for your health and life expectancy.

  3. Mr M August 13, 2013 at 1:47 pm #

    Defo the MSG (pong chu rot) is none too healthy. Thai´s tend to eat a lot of fresh fruit and smoothies as well as the ones you mentioned.

  4. gmp360 August 13, 2013 at 10:35 pm #

    24% body fat is normal for woman. You’re basing your numbers on numbers you find on the internet. 99% of those numbers are posted by bodybuilders and fitness people. Even a skinny hot girl will have at least 21% body fat.
    Yup fit western girls that diet and go to gym will have 16% body fat. But you can’t get those girls. Thats why you’re in Thailand. Now stop complaining.
    This is from the Mayo Clinic in the US that has done the most research on Obesity

    Description Women Men
    Essential fat 10–13% 2–5%
    Athletes 14–20% 6–13%
    Fitness 21–24% 14–17%
    Average 25–31% 18–24%
    Obese 32%+ 25%+

    • Chris August 14, 2013 at 6:43 pm #

      You provide the right information but it depends on age. I only like girls under 20 and under 20 24% fat you’re basically average, 19-23% is more ideal for girls this age. I mentioned the women because yeah they look thin but as per my point their basically just average. I’m in Thailand cause my family live here.

  5. Atmas August 14, 2013 at 2:28 am #

    Hi Chris. Interesting read and quite relevant to my interest as I just moved to Thailand 2 months ago. I have had the opposite problem, the first 3 weeks of my stay I lost 5kg of fat and muscle even though I ate and ate, both street food and farang food. And on the 5th week after loosing 7kg I was very concerned so I went to hospital to have myself checked. They suggested it was the bacterial flora in my stomach that was eating up all my food……..I have no idea if that is true or not but at least they didnt want to make a big deal about it. It is now week 9 and I am kind of keeping up, not lost weight and not gained weight. But I eat A LOT more in Thailand then I ever did back home.

    Did anyone experience similar “problem” the first months of their stay? Will it get better? And thanks for a great website Christ I have used a lot of info from here since I came over.

    • Fred89 August 14, 2013 at 8:28 pm #

      Where can i get some of your bacterial flora ? 555 After 15 months i’m +15kg, Yes i eat a lot of street food 3 times a day, drink many beers and whisky every day but in my country it was same, without the thai street food….

      • Atmas August 15, 2013 at 1:28 pm #

        They said something about my bacteriflora changing since I came to Thailand I don’t know since I am no doctor. All I know I have a hard time keeping up my weight here. How ever I don’t drink beer…..maybe that would solve the problem

        • Fred89 August 15, 2013 at 11:37 pm #

          Yes maybe….. i would like to exchange my diet with you 555 for exemple tonight i was hungy and ate whole wheat bread with butter 555 maybe you can do same ;)

  6. Bam August 15, 2013 at 11:04 am #

    Hi Fred89

    You are so funny. I had to laugh with your joke 5555555555555555555555555555555 and thanks! made me have good mood.

    Fur Atmas don´t worry too much it will come soon because you just new here okay!!!

  7. ChiangMaiGuy August 16, 2013 at 12:35 am #

    yea I’m up 7kg

  8. Frank August 16, 2013 at 7:57 am #

    I also came here 6 years ago weighing 72 kg , after 6 years it was 82 as well . Now i am losing weight by eating almost daily a baguette with smoked chicken or roast beef.
    No more pork for me did the trick.

  9. Bangkok Legend August 22, 2013 at 9:43 am #

    I have lost 7kgs in the past 6 or 7 weeks since coming to live here.

    Usually when abroad or travelling I put on weight from all the doing nothing, drinking and eating junk food but this time I’m not drinking every day, eating a sandwich I make at home for lunch and then thai food for dinner and not snacking much and the weight is falling off. I definitely don’t need to lose weight as pretty light already but I don’t mind as long as don’t loose too much.

  10. Johnnie Walker August 23, 2013 at 10:36 am #

    I always lose weight when in Thailand for more than a month.

    I find that in the hot climate I don’t have the same appetite as back home so I tend to eat about twice a day as against 3 – 4 times in the UK.

    I walk much more than at home, sweat more, swim more and various other exercise from time to time ;-)
    I don’t rent a motorbike or get a baht bus to go 200 metres.
    Rarely have fastfood such as McDonalds or KFC. Don’t eat much street food either.
    I’m not sat in a beer bar from 10am. Average about 4 – 5 small bottles of beer most nights. Don’t go out ’till 10pm+

  11. Food Lover August 25, 2013 at 5:06 pm #

    Chris, your weight gain might also have to do with metabolism changes. It happens to most guys in their late twenties.

    Personally I lost weight the first time I was in Thailand, but now that I know of all the delicious stuff they offer (snacks, fruits, etc.), I’m only able to keep my weight, though I eat a lot more than when I’m at home, where it’s a struggle to stay at the same weight.

    I see lots of fat thai people, but I think it’s a combination of soft drinks and unwillingness to do physical activity (even walking).

  12. csxtr October 11, 2013 at 9:04 pm #

    I lost about 10kg in three months, but I did get high blood pressure. I now see why.

  13. John November 8, 2013 at 7:26 pm #

    I left the UK in early 2009 for Thailand at which point i was in shape and 11 stone, i arrived back in the UK late 2012 weighing 14 stone. I lived on the street food, thai bbq, and all the other stuff. It looks healthy, vegetables, rice, fish but they just soak it all in oil.

  14. Ron January 4, 2014 at 5:11 pm #

    Came to Thailand about 6 years ago at about 110 kilos, dropped down to about 95after about a year. Dropped to about 90 after working out for 6 months. I think the heat definitely helped out, loosing a lot of the water weight. Hurt my back, couldn’t go to the gym, had to take it easy with activities and what not. Jumped up to about 114 kilos after about 2 years of being lazy, eating crap food, and drinking too much.

    Cut out the beer, have a good drinking session once a month or so. Started cooking most of my own food in bulk, freezing it up. Started going to the gym again for about a year and am now down to about 87 kilos.

    My weight varies here. If I were to still work out and eat crap food and drink, I would probably just maintain my weight. If I continue to eat healthy and work out I will loose weight. Simple math. Just hope this back keeps holding up.

    • Chris January 4, 2014 at 5:41 pm #

      Getting under 100kg is no small feat you should be proud of that and I hope you keep it up!

  15. Ron January 5, 2014 at 4:12 pm #

    Thanks Chris. I have another 5 or so kilos to go.

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