Advice Health & Wellness

4 Japanese Wellness Concepts That Transformed My Body

This is the first of a four-part series on health and wellness from holistic health coach Katheryn Gronauer. Stay tuned every Saturday this month for more!

I remember feeling really confused and disoriented when I first moved to Tokyo. All around me, there were slender women with gorgeous skin, eating rice and noodles and everything I was told was “off-limits” when it comes to weight loss. Surely they could keep petite thanks to their genetics….right?

At the time, I was 40 pounds overweight and had tried everything I could to lose it. Counting calories, Weight Watchers, high protein-low carb diets, no sugar, lots of salads – everything. I was also exercising at the gym daily, for 1-2 hours per day doing anything from cardio to weight lifting and high intensity trainings. But the weight just wouldn’t budge.

I kept feeling like something was wrong with me. I’d see my friends have a slice of pizza one day and fit into a bikini the next, and felt a wave of jealously when I realized that I’d have to keep on working hard at dieting and exercising for the sake of maintaining a body I wasn’t happy with – much less, make progress.

And I was embarrassed to dine out with people because I felt like they were judging my food choices against my appearance. I made up these thoughts in my head that if I ate a salad, they’d see that I was trying to be healthy (but confused as to why it wasn’t working), but if I ate anything else, then they’d think I’m overweight thanks to poor eating habits. It was a constant struggle to make everything work.

But when I was in Tokyo, I felt a wave of curiosity about health and body care. What if they’re slim not because of genetics, but because of something else? Is there a way to eat rice and noodles without gaining weight? Is there something that they know that I don’t, and have been doing wrong this whole time?

Here are 4 concepts I learned that made all the difference in my weight loss:

1) Rethink how to stay hydrated

Whenever people read that they need to “stay hydrated”, I think the first they they do is to try and drink more water. I remember attempting to have a 2L bottle of water every day, yet feeling sick from all of the water sloshing around in my belly. It was just too much.

Instead, you want to think of how you can get more hydration from the foods you eat, as opposed to trying to add in more water.

For example, let’s say you have a tunafish sandwich with an iced coffee for lunch. The bread in the sandwich is very dry as the water has been baked out of the bread. Tuna doesn’t have water content. And coffee is dehydrating to the body (even though it’s a liquid).

You’ll notice that traditional Japanese meals come with a bowl of rice and soup, both of which are incredibly hydrating to the body. Not only are you providing your body with more hydration, but it helps aid your digestion. All you have to do is discover if the food choices you’ve been making are dry or moist, and if they’re dry, then how can you add in something like a soup to rebalance the hydration?

2) Taking Baths

One thing you rarely hear about in the West is to keep your body warm. It’s so important to make sure that your body has proper circulation. Many women I meet tend to feel cold (ie cold hands/feet) and they’ve been eating cooling foods like raw fruits and vegetables. This makes it difficult for your body to have proper circulation.

To get the most out of your bath, make sure you set the temperature to between 38-42 degrees C. This will ensure that you have enough heat to stimulate circulation, but no too much where it’s overwhelming and stressful to your body.

Next, only fill the tub up to just below your chest – if it’s higher than your heart area, then it can put too much pressure on your heart, so you want to make sure that the water is lower than that point when you’re sitting in the tub.

Not only does taking a hot bath help you with circulation, but it also helps with de-stressing your body and loosening up your tight muscles. Less stress means better hormone regulation, which means better body balance.

3) Eating Seasonally

In Western countries, I feel that we tend to think way too much about diet science (protein/carbs/minerals/vitamins/calories etc.) then we do about nature.

For example, bananas grow in hot climates like the Philippines, and from an eastern holistic standpoint, they are designed to cool off your body in hot temperatures.

Thus, if you live in an area that has all 4 seasons or tends to be quite cold with snow in the winter time, do you think that having imported bananas that are designed to cool off your body is the right kind of nutrition your body needs, regardless of the nutritional content?

From a season and nature perspective, the idea is no. It’s really important to make sure that you eat seasonal produce not just because they happen to taste nice if they’re picked fresh and locally, but because they are catalysts in making sure your body stays acclimated to your climate. The more acclimated you are, the less stress your body has to adjust.

Take a look in your kitchen and fruit/veggie basket and ask yourself which ones you’ve purchased are local to you, and which are not.

4) Having a balanced body doesn’t have to be so hard

This was the first time that I had tried to be kind to my body and connected to nature, and they made all the difference in how I cherish foods, how I take care of myself, and my overall body weight.

I think we live in a world where we need to do more to get the body we want, and that it has to be hard in order for it to work. But it really doesn’t – self care is much easier and effective in the long run.

Over to you! Have any of these wellness concepts helped you in your life, or are they brand new? Share with us in the comments!

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  1. Avatar

    Leah Lisee

    July 8, 2017 at 3:54 pm

    I really like this article! And was surprised about the how-to’s of staying hydrated, I hadn’t thought about wet vs dry food. And I love taking baths, but sometimes feel like it’s too much, so I’m going to start making sure it’s below my chest. And I’ve heard of eating seasonally but it didn’t really click until you talked about the bananas and why though they are healthy, it may not be the right food for the time of year (depending on where you live). Thank you so much for such helpful hints! I am looking forward to making some minor changes and see where it gets me! Much love <3

    1. Avatar


      July 10, 2017 at 6:17 am

      Thank you, Leah! I’m glad you enjoyed it 🙂 Yes, the part about seasonal foods and hydration are the ones that intrigue people the most–sometimes it’s our interpretation or perspective on food that impacts how we take action. Our bodies know what to do to stay in balance, and eating with a natural flow is the easiest way to be in harmony.

      I have a Facebook group for likeminded women talking about the same topics you mentioned. Do come say hello if you’re keen!


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