This story first appeared in Platform, Daegu’s newest magazine aimed at “reconnecting the people living here with the everyday highlights the city has to offer”. Read the first issue HERE! All illustrations done by the talented Stephen Elliott.
Before I came to Korea I was fairly certain the only food they ate here was kimchi. I’m going to get so skinny, I thought gleefully. Six months and an undisclosed amount of weight gained later, here I am. Myth busted.
I tried lowering my consumption of rice, much to the exasperation of my coteachers (“WHY don’t you have any rice on your plate? I don’t UNDERSTAND!”), and suffered through Jillian Michael’s agonizing cackle during the 30 Day Shred, but all to no avail.
A friend suggested we check out one of the ubiquitous weight loss clinics and, although I doubted their ability to really help me, I shrugged and decided to go. If nothing else, it would make for a good story, right? And it absolutely did.
My friend, Jen, made an appointment with a place she’d seen frequently advertised on facebook as having an English speaking doctor. When we arrived we were ushered into the “Foreigner Consultation Room”. Yes, there was an entirely separate room designated, in large stenciled writing on the door, for foreigners. Maybe we have different germs from them?
The doctor asked us some questions about our eating and exercise habits and then put us on a fancy machine that measured all kinds of statistics, like our body fat percentage, muscle composition, water content, etc.
When it came time to review the results, the doctor looked at me grimly. “Everything is good–I think you workout a lot–except your body fat percentage. In fact, you are obese.”
I looked at him with my best you-must-be-joking face. I’ll be the first to admit that I presently have a little extra cushion for the pushin’, but I also think I am entitled to at least 15 more cheesecakes before I hit the realm of obesity. “Obese? Really?” I asked dubiously.
“Yes, obese. You should lose your appetite. Lose your appetite at every meal.”
“Every meal,” I repeated. “Right.” In other words, just stop eating for a month or two and you won’t be obese anymore! Anorexia for the win!
Next he took us to meet with another doctor who would prescribe us with a “treatment”. They started with Jen and asked her what she would like. Pills? Surgery? Just a quick little procedure?
“I just want to work on my stomach area,” Jen said. The woman asked Jen to stand and then reached out to her stomach. She started pinching Jen’s abdominal region, grasping it in her hands and giving it a little jiggle, releasing a concentrated “hmm” as she groped and explored her belly fat. Jen and I looked at each other, simultaneously horrified and amused; the male doctor, suddenly realizing it might be a little inappropriate for him to be observing, turned to face me and said, “Just talk to me for a moment. Let’s talk so I don’t watch this.”
After the woman had finished feeling up Jen it was my turn. They asked me about my diet and exercise and when I explained that I most of the time I ate really healthy and I exercised almost every day, they seemed perplexed.
“So why can’t you lose your fat?” they asked. If I knew the answer I wouldn’t be here, I wanted to grumble. They kept asking me questions, determined to find the culprit of my weight gain and certain there was a clear answer.
“Do you snack? Do you eat any foods late at night?”
I conceded that sometimes if I’m hungry at night I’ll eat a tablespoon of peanut butter. They looked at each other suddenly, and smiled and nodded as if they had just solved the world’s most mysterious crime. They began speaking in Korean and the woman mimed eating spoonful after spoonful of something. Ah yes, she eats a jar of peanut butter every night, that is why she is obese! they were saying. I sighed; this was getting ridiculous.
They were willing to sign us up for an array of plastic surgery or weight loss procedures on the spot but we opted just to hear about the diet pills. They took us to the in-house pharmacy and, without having asked us anything about our health history or telling us what drugs they would prescribe us, gave us some unmarked white pills wrapped in individual plastic. Because taking unlabeled little white pills never killed anyone, right? Perhaps when we go into cardiogenic shock they use Foreigner Defibrillators on us.
We left laughing and shaking our heads in shock at the whole experience. While it’s not something I would personally recommend, if you’re looking for some entertainment or are curious about the world of Korean weight loss, feel free to check it out. Just don’t tell them about your peanut butter addiction.