Without a doubt, eating is the most widely enjoyed pastime in Thailand. But happily munching away, the steadily inflating tyre around your belly can go unnoticed.
Obesity is becoming a major problem in the Kingdom. Deputy Public Health Minister Morakot Kornkasem reports that the number of Thai men whose waists over-spill the 35.4-inch mark - considered significant because it's an indicator for a cluster of health risks grouped under the name "metabolic syndrome" - is 23 per cent. For women, the danger-mark is 31.5 inches - 34 per cent in Thailand are that size or larger.
But those statistics alone probably aren't enough to hammer home the message of healthy eating.
Sherry Torkos, a holistic pharmacist, author and lecturer from Canada, says this is a serious problem that needs to be dealt with as quickly as possible. Torkos introduced her new healthy eating regime last week at the Bangkok launch for her book "Winning at Weight Loss", which focuses on natural diet and exercise.
"Carrying excess weight around the mid section is very dangerous for health because belly fat produces chemicals that reduce insulin sensitivity, something that can lead to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes," she warns. It is also an indicator for high cholesterol, which brings an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
Torkos points out that the many Asian dishes rich in fish and vegetables are good for the body - it's Western imports like burgers and processed foods that cause problems.
Fast food is one no-no - Torkos warns that it offers very little in the way of nutritional value. The other main concern is overloading the body with too much sugar. The author brings up the Glycaemic Index (GI), which measures how quickly carbohydrates are broken down into sugar.
"Eating too many high-GI foods brings the quick release of carbohydrates in the body. It causes blood-sugar fluctuations that can make us prone to mood swings and cravings for more sugar."
And, of course, a diet with too many high-GI foods carries the risk of obesity with the associated health problems. Such foods include white bread, pasta, and white rice.
One way to decrease the effects of high-GI food, says Torkos, is by taking a carbohydrate blocker like "Phase Two", an extract of the white kidney bean that comes in tablet or capsule form. Taken just before a meal high in carbohydrate, these are designed to keep blood-sugar levels low. Alternatively, swap white rice and white bread for brown.
Over the past few decades, fad diets have proven popular among those looking for a quick fix for their expanding waistlines. Torkos identifies the 1970s as the era of vegetarianism, which gave way to the low-fat diets of the '80s, the low-carb diets of the '90s and finally the focus on "carb control" that we have today.
"Fad diets aren't practical and they're not something you can live with," says Torkos. Rapid weight loss can also reduce metabolism and lead to health risks and yo-yo dieting increases the risk of heart disease.
Taking the pills she prescribes is the thing that many of Torkos' overweight patients dread most. The adverse side effects are the main reason, she says, but once they've lost five to 10 per cent of their excess weight - or at least three kilos - the need for diet pills is reduced.
But it's best to start thinking about diet before health problems arrive, she warns. "Too often, what motivates people is not that their pants are getting tighter," she says. "It's when the doctor says your blood-sugars are rising, you have high blood pressure and your cholesterol's up."