5 top Korean diet trends

5 top Korean diet trends

Hot enzyme baths, "girlfight"-style boxing, diet pants and other new ways to lose weight

Even though the largest sizes at most clothing stores in Seoul seem equivalent to a U.S. size zero, Seoulites are constantly on the lookout for the newest ways to shed kilos and get that perfect body. 

Less than a decade ago, the so-called “Denmark Diet” -- a two-week regimen heavy on protein and veggies and low on carbs –- made the rounds, and recently, more dieters have been jumping on the hot yoga bandwagon, willingly enduring intense sauna-like temperatures while holding painful poses. 

Then came the controversial one-food diets. The Master Cleanse aka the lemon detox diet, made famous by American celebrities like Beyoncé, caught the fancy of the get-results-fast crowd in Korea with its questionable blend of lemon juice, cayenne pepper and maple syrup.

Now that the bikini season has finally arrived (monsoon be damned), we took a look at some of the latest “it” ways to lose weight. Here’s the lowdown on five booming new diet trends in Seoul.

1. The enzyme diet

B&F Enzyme HouseAt B&F Enzyme House, customers are covered in hot, fermenting rice bran for 15 minutes in a spa treatment called the enzyme bath.
Ever since “well-being” became a Korean catchphrase, diets have been quickly taking on a health-oriented sheen. Now, it isn’t just about getting thin, it’s about “detoxing.”

Enter the enzyme diet, which takes its cue from how enzymes work within the human body, explains B&F Enzyme House boss Park Po, 50, who says that the diet started to take off two years ago.  

According to Park, eating a combination of enzyme products and enzyme-rich, fermented foods bumps off kilos as they will keep your metabolism up to speed and help you absorb nutrients better. 

While eating it is the most widespread method (just check out the vast array of enzyme products available online), the enzyme bath, popularized in Japan in the 1960s, is becoming popular as another way to lose weight. 

How does it work? Spa-goers get buried up to their necks in hot, fermenting rice bran for 15 minutes and sweat it out. 

According to Park, who incorporates the bath into his company’s spa diet program, it helps break down and expel fat by increasing enzyme activity within your body. 

He compared those 15 minutes of sweating to a two-hour cardio workout –- certainly a tempting prospect for dieters who dread the treadmill. 

2. Boxing

Lee Si-youngAfter actress Lee Si-young, featured in this Dr. You ad, won an amateur boxing competition this year, boxing has become a hot diet workout.
When actress Lee Si-young made headlines for winning an amateur boxing competition this year, many young Korean women became inspired to take up boxing as part of their slim-down strategy. 

“Now women take boxing classes as a part of their dieting regime,” says personal training-and-fitness brand A-Team boss Kim Ji-hoon, 31.

Celebrity trainer-and-former boxing champion Kim, who runs boxing classes at all of his outlets, says the sport is a great way to get slender, but warns that it has its limits. Although the workout can help shed kilos and shape your body, it is not effective in refining every little curve, which is what most Korean women are after. 

But then again, getting to jab and punch and de-stress would probably override the nitty-gritty, no?  

3. Custom design

Juvis Diet consulting chain Juvis offers clients custom-designed programs to help them get lean and shapely like Juvis model and singer G.NA.

There was a time when dieting was about getting on the scale and reading the dial. Not anymore says diet-consulting chain Juvis PR assistant manager Yu Hyun-ju, 28.

“These days, people are more into getting the right curves and lines. Then they think about how much weight they lose,” says Yu. 

Ever since After School’s Uee’s toned legs helped coin the Korean term, “honey thighs,” and male celebrities like “The Slave Hunters” actor Jang Hyuk have been upping the demand for “chocolate abs,” weight loss is just the tip of the dieting iceberg. 

Now Seoulites want their diet programs to be tailored to helping them get the celeb-like abs, legs, hips and derrieres they desire.

Juvis, which has 21 outlets in Korea, responded by introducing their custom-made diet program in 2009. 

What area are most of their clients focusing on?

“The lower body,” says Yeouido outlet director Cho Yoon-kyun, 36.

A-Team chief executive officer Kim and team also help their clientele, including members of K-Pop girl group Girls’ Generation, “design” their bodies. 

Kim goes so far as to call personal trainers “body designers” and believes that trainers need to be in tune with what is hot in the fashion world to figure out what body shops will be in vogue. 

4. Celebrity-branded diet foods

HeoDakComedian Heo Kyoung-hwan, famed for his fit physique, has been successfully selling several varieties of chicken breast under his brand HeoDak.
After word spread that eating chicken breast was a good way to get thin and toned to boot, celebrities started selling their own brands of chicken breast.

A-Team, a dieting/personal training brand led by celebrity trainer Kim Ji-hoon, released a three-meal diet program for its members this year by partnering with food styling and catering service Mom’s Waiting. 

A-Team managing director Sim Jae-woo, 44, says that the brand plans to eventually launch a separate shop that will deliver diet meals or pick them up to go. 

5. Slap it on

etude slim patch Korean beauty brand Etude released their Hot Slim Patch, meant to help control cellulite, last year.


Slimming gels and creams have been around for a long time, but slim patches -- Korean brand Etude put out their version last year -- are a more recent fad. 

Adding to a growing line-up of wearable diet products, Italian brand Wildroses also launched a set of diet pants in 2010 that are meant to help keep cellulite at bay. 

“I think it really works because there is this slight burning sensation," says Lee Nayon, 22, who is a celebrity trainee who likes to use cellulite and slimming patches. "And it's great because you're not doing anything but you can feel productive about dieting. The psychology is important." 

Jean Oh is a Seoul-based freelance writer who has been covering food and entertainment for over three years. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from UC Berkeley and a master's degree in Korean Studies from the Graduate School of International Studies at Seoul National University.

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