When I first moved to Tokyo, my weight was 44 pounds (20kg) higher than my normal weight. I told my worries to the Japanese lady who lived next door, and her response really confused me. ‘Take a hot bath. It will help,’ she said. A hot bath? At the time I didn’t have a clue what she was talking about.

I stuck to a strict diet, tortured myself by exercising really hard for at least 2 hours a day, and I couldn’t stop thinking that I wasn’t trying hard enough. But just changing my attitude towards my body helped me easily lose 66 pounds (30kg). By the way, this was a ‘side effect’ of my new way of life, not its purpose.

I think we pay too much attention to proteins, carbohydrates, and calories, and we lose sight of the most important thing: our body strives for health naturally, and we only need to listen to it.

Now I help people stay healthy using my knowledge of some aspects of the Eastern lifestyle. If you want to look fit and feel good you need to remember these following four essential rules.

1. If you exercise like a sumo wrestler, you will look like a sumo wrestler.

Sumo wrestlers don’t eat breakfast. In the morning they immediately start doing power training, then they have a huge lunch, and after that they go to sleep. Then they wake up and repeat the whole routine one more time.

I was exercising like a crazy person, and this made me look like a beast. It didn’t matter if I ate healthy food as the portion size was too large. After an exhausting workout and a big dinner all I wanted was sleep. Turned out I was building muscles and gaining layers of fat at the same time.

Another shortcoming of excessive exercise is hyperventilation. Calm breathing signals the body that everything is fine, but as soon as your body starts feeling stressed, your brain warns you that you quickly need to get a dose of energy, most of which is in sweet foods. The main sign that you overdid your training is when you feel as hungry as a bear.

2. Warmth is life.

Food energy is one of the popular directions in Western dietetics which is based on the Eastern principle: warmth is life. Food is an energy that we consume to survive. Summer vegetables and fruits help the body to adapt to the heat. Winter foods contain more calories so our body can keep the warmth in cold seasons.

Many nutritionists advise eating raw vegetables and fruits and more greens. There is no doubt it’s healthy, but your body gets cool because of the large amount of raw food. Therefore, you want to eat something more to get warm.

Don’t forget that you can cook your vegetables. Maybe they won’t contain as many vitamins, but your body will get more warmth and energy.

3. Drinking liquids during your meal is unhealthy.

Japanese people never drink anything while eating. First, liquids cool your body. And second, it’s bad for digestion. Scientists explain that water neutralizes the acid that the stomach produces for digestion. As a result, your body needs more energy to finish this process and that’s why you want to eat again.

Food can also provide your body with enough liquids, which is why the Japanese love hot soups. You should try it too!

4. A hot bath prolongs your life.

After a hot bath you always feel really calm, your muscles are relaxed, and your blood circulation improves naturally. Taking a bath at least twice a month will help to make your skin cleaner and improve digestion.

Japanese people get the water level of the bath up to the level of the heart: if the water level is higher, then blood pressure will rise. The temperature should be 100ºF — 104ºF (38°C — 40°C), as this is ideal for improving blood circulation.

We are accustomed to thinking that weight loss is a fight against calories, therefore, some may find these pieces of advice strange. But look at the Japanese: the whole nation looks great even in their old age and the people are renowned for their longevity. Maybe there is no need to reinvent the wheel, and we should just follow the rules of those people who know how to live in harmony?

Author: Katheryn Gronauer
Photo credit: © Columbia Pictures Corporation