When I got married to a Swiss guy more than a decade ago, one of his friends in Germany sent him a letter congratulating him for ‘catching a beautiful Asian gazelle’. The Swiss guy told me this while rolling on the floor laughing, where I kicked him hard. Ah, the point is not that I’m a spouse abuser, but that I’m nowhere near being gracefully gazelle-like. Going against the stereotype of the skinny Asian chick, I’ve always been on the round and (I like to think, maybe I’m delusional) cute side rather than sylph like.
This has bothered me of course off and on over the years, but I’ve never been good at sticking to any kind of diet. I just love to eat tasty food too much, and I also love to cook. This is where bento lunches come in.
Earlier this year I decided that I needed to Do Something about the weight issue. Two key parts of that strategy were eating 3 meals a day, and portion control. I’ve always been a no-breakfast, anything-for-lunch, and starving-by-dinner eater, which all of the literature I read on the subject told was not good. So, I decided that I needed to start making bento.
According to my height and activity level, 1800 to 2100 calories is optimal for a slow but steady weight loss. So I aimed for making bento lunches that came in at around 600 calories or under. There’s an occasional 800 calorie or so splurge, and some lower-calorie mini-bento options for the days ‘after’. I based the menus on whole grains, especially brown rice, lots of vegetables, and lean proteins.
But more important than the calorie count is that the bentos focused my attention on variety and portion size. Assembling a meal that will fit tightly and attractively in a small box requires a higher level of attention than laying food out on open plates. It’s also rather fun, once you get used to it.
Making bento for lunch is not the only reason I’ve managed to lose some weight (I hate to say this but exercise really is a key) but it certainly is one of the cornerstones of my success so far, and will continue to be so.
See also: Skinny bento vs. Not-so-skinny bento 
(Update, September 2009: Due to some crazy stress this year I did gain back some weight, but since July I’ve been back to bento-ing, and the weight is dropping slowly but steadily again. Go me!)