Can chopsticks help to solve global obesity?

IMG_6952The other day I ordered ‘Fuh’ in a vietnamese restaurant.

As delicious as it was, I struggled to eat this broth (full of beef slices, noodles, bean shoots and thai basil) with only a spoon and a pair of chopsticks.

It suddenly dawned on me that eating with these mimimalist utensils might be a good way to lose weight.


Noting that there’s not much new under the sun (as my mother used to say), I was not surprised to find lots of links to a so-called ‘chopsticks diet’ on the Internet. This was definitely not a new idea.

For example, this concept was promoted by Kimiko Barber in her book ‘The Chopsticks Diet: Japanese-inspired Recipes for Easy Weight-Loss‘ (here).

The ‘theory’ behind such diets is that chopsticks force you to eat smaller portions and chew your food more – especially if you put the chopsticks down between each bite. (And assuming you don’t starve before you become a proficient chopsticks user.)

Chopsticks also feature in Eileen Daspin’s ‘Manhattan Diet‘ (here), along with practical alternatives such as eating risotto with a teaspoon, mixing milk and green tea to substitute ice cream (which would be quite challenging to eat with chopsticks), and only buying small containers of food.

Despite the obvious focus on Asian-inspired cuisine, there is no reason why you couldn’t experiment with less typical foods – such as slicing chicken wraps like sushi.

As for calorie-rich sauces, you simply eat the sauce that coats the pieces of food that you are able to pick up with your chopsticks (and resist the temptation to soak up the rest of the sauce with bread).

You can even indulge in unhealthy snacks –  but will probably be bored long before you finish a packet of chips or M&Ms using your chopsticks.


Unfortunately, my experience with the bowl of Fuh was quite different to what Barber, Daspin and others describe.

I ended up having a few huge mouthfuls as I couldn’t cut the large slices of meat and had to find a way to stuff these in my mouth along with long tendrils of soft noodles and crisp bean shoots that stuck out at all angles.

No petite portions in sight – apart from when I sipped genteel spoonfuls of broth and looked around to check that no one would be watching me engulf my next mouthful.


It suddenly occurred to me that the obesity epidemic gripping many Asian countries may not be simply due to a change in the type of food consumed.

Perhaps it is also related to a change in the way in which it is eaten? (i.e. a shift in dining etiquette or ‘eatiquette’?!)

Forks help you shovel much larger volumes of food into your mouth. They also allow you to stab and consume large chunks of meat and multiple fries before they can escape.

And wrapping food in a bread roll adds lots of carbs and means that the volume you can consume is only limited by the size of your mouth and appetite.


The chopsticks diet may be worth a go even if you don’t have a black belt in the chopstick culinary arts.

It may also encourage you to practice mindfulness while you eat.

(Note: Every action has consequences. For example, you may need to consider health risks such as repetitive strain injury, and environmental impacts if you use disposable and/or bleached chopsticks.)

But if you really want to lose weight, a wise friend suggests that you heed the advice of a lesser known cousin of Confucius:

“Man with one chopstick no get fat.”

And if you want to learn about cooperation and sharing, then try eating with a pair of extra long chopsticks (as the only way to eat is to help feed someone else first and hope that they return the favour).

I’m not convinced that chopsticks can prevent gluttons from over-eating but who knows…?

Categories: Health & Wellbeing

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7 replies

  1. Love the thought of eating M&Ms with chopsticks!

    The other thing that makes it hard I suspect is portion sizes. Good restaurants are better at healthy sizes but go anywhere near fast food and it gets ridiculous. In movies from the 50s a fish and chip serving can be held easily on the palm of one hand. Trying getting fish and chips in England now and you struggle to hold the serving in two hands. There must be enough carbs in these meals to last a good couple of days.

  2. I love this post (and your sense of humor!) — I did try a chopsticks ‘diet’ in the way-back, when I was a college student. I don’t remember now if it worked for me, but time to time I have thought of it and laughed, and wondered about trying it again.


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