After a few weeks of traveling all over Thailand and experiencing many different foods, I realized one of the biggest differences between the U.S. and Thailand in terms of food portions is that Thailand offers dishes, drinks and snacks that are at least 50% smaller than what is available in America.
Once I realized this, it seemed like I was paying for less but after awhile it became apparent that these smaller portions were all that I needed. I'm not a finicky eater and I like my belly to feel full after a meal, but the combination of long distance walking and the hot temperature each day helped tame the urge to overeat. I also enjoy very spicy food as do Thai people, but when I ordered foods "extra spicy" the waiters all thought I didn't know what I was getting myself into, so my dishes were never as spicy as I wanted them to be. Spicy food- specifically peppers have been known to "heat up" your body temperature which allegedly speeds up the metabolism for for efficient fat loss. Of course spicy foods aren't for everyone, but my taste buds love the stimulation!
I maintained my diet quite well on my trip, but did allow myself to try a few tasty snacks that I just couldn't pass up. Rambutan fruit became one of my favorites along the way and were found in abundance the more South I traveled. The appearance of the fruit is quite repelling at first and there's no way I would have just picked one up on a whim and peeled into it without someone formally introducing me first. Luckily, a young Muslim woman who ran the Bungalows I stayed at in Ao Nang beach offered me a few pieces (also instructing on the correct way to open the mysterious fruit) before I bought a kilo myself.
This fruit is the perfect indulgence for someone who wants a quick snack without destroying their healthy diet. Rambutan contains about 7 calories per fruit and has less than 2 carbs- not a whole lot else going on there. The rind is thick, hairy and red and once peeled, the inside resembles an egg-sized peeled grape. That's the best way I can describe the consistency. The taste may be a bit acquired, especially for the typical American with a taste for something sweet. Rambutan is faintly sweet which allows you to overindulge without getting a sugar high. These things are addicting!
Snack foods like Lays potato chips, Snickers candy bars and bags of peanuts could be found almost everywhere in tiny packages. There seemed to be a 7/11 on every corner of every city I traveled! When I did have the occasional snack, I opted for the local foods instead of the familiar. The interesting observation was that everything was so small, nothing like the huge bags of chips or jumbo sized candy bars in the U.S. These things simply did no exist in large or even medium sizes.
After living in Thailand for almost a month, watching people eat literally 24/7 yet not really seeing anyone remotely overweight let alone obese, I realized there really is something to portion control in relation to weight loss/maintenance. Of course I always knew this, but being restricted to such small portions everyday really helped me realize the importance of eating small, frequent meals throughout the day to truly live a healthy lifestyle.
Quite honestly, the Thai people were conservative and modest folks, so their eating habits were certainly not vanity driven- almost everywhere I went both men and women were fully clothed so no one was trying to show off their six-packs there!