One night while in Japan, we visited “Pizza in the Sky,” a pizza place located high up in the hills overlooking the ocean. On the Japanese style fan was the menu: one kind of pizza in small or large, a few fruit juices, tea, water, and one simple salad, all served from an open kitchen in a traditional Japanese style home. We waited about an hour for a small table in the corner where we sat on little mats on the ground, after taking off our shoes, of course. I was hesitant about eating pizza in Japan, its not like that’s what they’re known for! But, I reasoned, no matter how bad the pizza might be, the setting was wonderful and it would be worth the experience.
We waited on a few minutes for our salad, a blend of iceberg lettuce, shredded carrots, cucumbers, corn, onions, and a tangy dressing that I could not make out the ingredients for, but it was light and delicious. The guava juice I ordered was out of this world, and a few minutes later came our pizza; a blend of cheeses topped with green peppers, sausage, and corn…they use corn in the most unconventional ways. The large pizzas we ordered were the size of small pizzas served in the U.S. and the small pizzas, usually shared by two, were the size of a personal pan pizza that would normally be served to a child in America! With just the smell of the pizza, my apprehensions about Japanese pizza were gone…it was awesome. I really think I would put it on the list of the best pizza I’ve ever eaten!
I know this is a nutrition blog and I’m describing pizza to you, but there’s a method to the madness. There are multiple lessons to be learned from my trip to Pizza in the Sky. Lesson one: life’s pleasures, such as pizza, are even more delicious when they are an occasional treat, as opposed to a staple food. Lesson two: size matters–just because something is delicious doesn’t mean we need to eat as much as physically possible! I ate a couple pieces of pizza, savoring every bite, and was perfectly satisfied. Learning to put down your fork (or chopsticks) before you are too full can be hard work, but the benefit of being comfortable (and being able to move after a meal) are huge perks!
The pizza was not the only thing that was smaller in Japan. The entire time I was on Okinawa, I saw maybe 5 locals who were overweight and none who were obese. At one point, I found myself looking for someone overweight or obese because I just could not believe my eyes! All over we saw people walking, jogging, hiking, surfing, and staying active, and in every restaurant portion size was DRASTICALLY smaller than that of the United States. In the grocery store, every container was smaller than those sold in American groceries. They had a lot of Western-style foods, they were just in much smaller sizes! Even at McDonald’s, the large fry was the size of an American medium and the small french fry was actually small! I did see a lot of rice and noodles as part of their staple diet, but even when you ordered rice in restaurants you got 1/2 a cup ,as opposed to American restaurants where you would get more like 1 cup.
So if you are struggling with your New Year’s Resolution to diet, don’t get overwhelmed by all the things on the list that you can’t eat. Gradually remove those unhealthy things from your diet by eating smaller portions. If you are in a restaurant, eat half (or less!), if you are at home, get one small serving. SLOW DOWN, chew, enjoy and you’ll notice you get full LONG before your plate is empty.