Why You May Gain Weight If You Spend a Lot of Time in a Hot Country


When I moved to Bangkok, Thailand, 10 years ago, I gained weight quickly and there were five very good reasons why. At the time, when it first began happening, I couldn’t believe it as, living in the US, I’d managed to stay fit and thin for years. But six months in Bangkok and I’d already started piling on the weight. Then I did some research online and found out quickly, it wasn’t necessarily my fault.

If you move to or spend any length of time in a hot country like Thailand, you too may be surprised to find the pounds piling on. These are some of the reasons why.

The Heat Makes You Gain Weight – As daft as this might sound, more than just a few scientists think it’s true, and when you listen to their rational, it’s easy to see why.

In a cold climate, so the scientific theory goes, your metabolism actually works faster to keep your body warm and functioning correctly. Your body also shivers to keep you warm, thus burning more calories. This causes it to lose weight as it’s using energy faster than it would on a hot summer day.

In a hot climate, like Bangkok, Thailand’s however, your metabolism slows down as it doesn’t need to be moving at fever pitch to burn energy to keep you warm. Thus, the fast weight gain.

You Walk Less – If you suddenly find yourself in a hot place, particularly if you come from somewhere colder like Detroit, Michigan or Oslo, Norway, when you arrive in a city like Bangkok, you can’t believe how hot it is. Everything seems like a chore, including just moving around so, where once you walked several blocks to the store, you’ll now walk really slowly, or take a taxi or a bus. It’s just too hot, and you sweat too much. So you ride or you stroll. And, then you gain weight.

Eating Different Foods – In some countries, like Thailand, more sugar or fat is added to food than you might be used to. Where, in the US or Europe, you might order a rice-based meal and no sugar is added, in Thailand sugar is in sauces, rice, rice-based meals, curries, noodles, drinks, desserts, it’s eaten with chili as a dip for fruit and on and on. In Bangkok, if you order a drink on the street, you may cringe to find your drink has about three tablespoons of sugar more than you’re used too. You can taste it too.

The same goes for fat. A lot of Thai food is cooked in oil, and some of it is deep fried. Of course, it’s delicious, so you eat it. And you love it so, the next time you see it, you buy more of it. Then you gain the weight.

Trying New Foods – When you move to an exotic, and hot, country like Thailand, you’re faced with all these cool-looking foods you’ve never seen before and you want to try them all. Food just grows better and faster in a place like Thailand, so there’s always a plethora of it, which often makes it cheap too.

When I first moved to Bangkok, I was trying five or six new foods, plus snacks, every day. They were cheap, they were delicious, and they were on every street corner. Plus, because it’s hot all the time, there’s never any downtime when it’s snowing or raining, where you can’t get easy access to food. And that piles on the pounds.

Stress – If you’ve moved to a hot country, or even if you’re just spending a few weeks or months in one, chances are it’s a completely different environment than what you’re used to back home, and the continual heat can really get to you. That often leads to stress. Stress leads to eating more. And that leads to weight gain.

When you look rationally at what changes suddenly appeared in your life after moving to a hot country, it’s not surprising most people gain weight and some really balloon.. ..something like the fabled ‘Freshman 15’ (it’s actually more like ‘Freshman 5’ but it’s still a weight gain), in Bangkok I’ve heard it called the ‘Bangkok Bulge’ and, yes, for a while there, I had it too.

So, if you’re planning on spending some time in a hot country, just be aware you might gain some weight (my weight gain was 12 lbs). Prepare in advance for it though, move around a bit more when you get there, spend time in air conditioned malls and restaurants so your body has to work to keep you warm, and try not to eat every new food put in front of you, and you might be lucky to only gain a couple of pounds.