Why It Takes Longer to Fatten Up If You Are Chinese: The Secret of the Tao of Eating

As we, in the Southern hemisphere, move into Autumn and Winter, I tend to think of what I eat. When I was younger, my Aussie friends used to say that Chinese eat a lot and don’t put on weight. Of course, like most sayings, this one also has some truth but it is not always true at all times for all Chinese people. If Chinese eat a lot, they too will be fat. However, it is true nevertheless that a lot of my Chinese friends who follow a Taoist diet seem to remain slim no matter how much they gorge themselves. So the secret is in the Tao of eating.

The ancient Taoists really knew what they were talking about. In my years of research on Taoism, I particularly like the subject of healthy eating. The Taoist diet has been plagiarized or re-named macrobiotic or “combination eating” in the pop literature to do with dieting and weight loss. A macrobiotic diet is a poor Chinese’s diet. In all my years I have only also succeeded in losing weight when I followed the Taoist diet or eating like a poor Chinese.

So what is a Taoist diet or the Tao of healthy eating? There is only one main rule: balance the Yin and Yang. Without going into the intricacies of the various categories of Yin and Yang foods, let me simply say, do not combine meats or anything that swims, walks or flies with carbohydrates in any one meal. Therefore steak or fish with chips is out. Combine only vegetables or fruits with carbos. For example, ice cream (carbos ie sugar, fats) with strawberries is fine.

A poor Chinese’s diet illustrates this rather well. The meal could be rice (carbo), a soup of beans/peas(protein) and vegetables, with a side dish of pickled cabbage preserved from last summer and being eaten in winter. This sort of diet is still eaten in Chinese villages all over China. A Chinese bowl of rice porridge, a Chinese rice bowl of bean soup and bits of pickled cabbage, and a touch of chillies is less than 200 calories!(3,500 calories = 1 pound).

Yin yang of foodModifying a poor Chinese’s meal and applying it to today’s first world eating, as in OZ, can look something like this: rice, stir fried vegetable with some oil made from vegetable or nuts, not butter or animal fat. The Taoism in this meal is that it is totally vegetarian. This vegetarian diet is usually practised by Taoist monks and nuns.

But the Ying and Yang balance in the Tao of eating can also be non-vegetarian. The balance is in the combination of foods eaten at any one meal. This is the crucial thing to remember. At any one meal, do not combine proteins and carbos. So for example, if you are going to eat a piece of steak (concentrated protein),just omit carbo and have green vegetables only. The operative word here is green as some vegetables are carbo ie potatoes. In a day consisting of three main meals, you can have cereals for breakfast with fruits but no milk; or bacon and eggs without bread; a chicken salad for lunch but not with dressing that has sugar; and a steak with steamed green vegetables for dinner. This would be considered a balanced diet for the day. It is crucial that the Yin Yang balance is consistently maintained at any one meal.  It is no wonder that the mix and match way of eating e.g. McDonalds burger with veggies, fish and chips, KFC and Subway sandwich upsets the Yin and Yang balance.


This Yin and Yang way of eating is a great and healthy way to lose weight or not to gain weight. It is also great for detoxing and most green vegetables contain antioxidants.  When your body is healthy, your whole self, physically and spiritually, feels wonderful! Eat the Tao Way and your body will thank you for looking after it.

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