Well there goes my diet....As I prepared to leave Korea after teaching English at Chungdahm for over a year, I became motivated to hit the gym and watch what I eat so that I return to the United States looking fit and trim. At the beginning of this year, I made up my mind to walk to the gym/sauna every morning, work out for an hour or two, and then walk to school to teach. I devised a healthy diet consisting of three solid, healthy meals that I would prepare at home each day. It was the perfect plan....
As per usual with so many of my perfect plans, it did not take long for things to go awry. It all started with the breakdown of my breakfast plan. Getting up has never been an easy thing for me, and after a stressful evening of keeping 10 year-old Korean children engaged in an English lesson, it can be especially difficult to get up the following morning. After oversleeping, I found that there wouldn't be a whole lot of time to prepare the breakfast I had so carefully planned for, so I would make up time by grabbing a healthy breakfast to go during my walk to the gym.
Well, this is where things would get worse. For those of you who are not familiar with Korean food establishments, there are three types of stores that are absolutely everywhere in Korea:
1) Coffee shops/Cafes
2) Convenience stores
Not exactly the best places to find healthy breakfast options. (It does not help that a lot of Koreans do not seem to place much emphasis on eating breakfast and the meal is considered an afterthought in general.) On my 15 minute walk to the gym, not only did I pass all of these establishments, I specifically had to walk pass four donut shops! One Krispy Kreme, two Dunkin Donuts, and one local Korean donut shop. I still cannot get over how popular donuts are in Korea. And yet, in general, Koreans still seem to be so much skinnier than Americans. Hmm?
Anyway, the pull of Krispy Kreme, and especially Dunkin Donuts, just seemed to be too much for me. I could not help but running in to grab a donut (or two) on the way to the gym. The funny thing is I rarely ate donuts in the United States and would never stop and eat at a Dunkin Donuts. But something about these places drew me in....maybe it somehow reminded me of America and was one of the handful of places in Korea that did not seem foreign to me.
Dunkin Donuts seemed especially devious in the way they would try to lure me in. First, they had so many different donut concoctions that were always tempting to try. Just look at all of the options.
Not to mention a kimchi donut....who wouldn't want to try that?
In addition to the crazy variety, some of my friends told me about a Dunkin Donuts app that you can download for your smart phone that makes visiting a location into a game. The app works by acting as an alarm clock. Once the alarm goes off, a Dunkin Donuts menu pops up on your phone and you can pick out what you would like for breakfast. Once you have made your selection, a countdown begins on your phone. If you can make it to the store to pick up your ordered item before the countdown reaches zero, you get a pretty sweet discount. Plus, you collect points by making it within the alloted time. By obatining enough points, you can get even better discounts.
I found out that Dunkin Donuts is even more diabolical about getting people in the door than I originally thought when I found out what they do on local buses. It turns out that another ploy they have is pumping the aroma of donuts and coffee on buses whose routes pass by certain Dunkin Donut stores near bus stops. The store claims that the ploy is working....sales at those stores have seen a sharp increase!
All this means for me is that Dunkin Donuts has me completely under their control and I might have to rethink my plan about returning to the States fit and ripped. Oh well, I am getting hungry and I better get to my local Dunkin Donuts before it closes. Did I mention that I am eating donuts before I go to bed now?
Adam Montgomery is a 25-year old teacher at the Chungdahm Branch on Jeju. He has been teaching in Korea for over a year. When he is not teaching, he enjoys exploring the wonders of Jeju and Korea.