Friday, May 31, 2013

Epic battle: Living Abroad X The Scales

Before I went to the USA many people advised me to be careful and watch my weight. It’s like there was something in the air that made people bloat in record time. Exchange students would put on 15 kilos in 6 months, Au Pairs would gain 20 kilos on their first year. I thought, “Whatever, I’m not getting fat that fast”. At that time, in my early twenties, I could eat whatever I wanted and keep my skinny figure (average of 60kg). I even thought that if I gained a few kilos I would look better.

Even though my eating habits weren’t very healthy – lots of frozen meals, fast food and snacks, I did manage to keep fit for the first year, going on regular walks, doing some yoga and joining the gym later on. 

 June 2009

However, the last few months there were crazy. We went out for drinks more often. We enjoyed every opportunity to hang out (read: diner, Taco Bell, TGIF, Starbucks or Subway) and I started “comfort eating”. I was very nervous about my return and I ate like a glutton. Why can’t we crave a nice bowl of fruit salad or a carrot? Like many women, I craved sugar and the fridge and pantry were fully stocked with ice creams, cookies and treats. Oh, did I mention I cancelled my gym membership?

I started picking up weight and thought, “Ok, once I’m home I’ll eat better and healthier food and I’ll exercise everyday”. Ha, wasn’t I wrong… Coming home I wanted to eat everything I missed and haven’t had in more than a year. My dad would always ask me what I felt like eating and prepare it especially for me. So there was a period of “Oh, dear soul food, I’ve missed you so much!”

I am not sure, but I think I was around 8kg sexier by then. People noticed and people commented. Now, here is something I truly believe in and don’t understand why many people fail to do: if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything. Why do people have to go and state the obvious (of course I know I gained weight, you don’t have to tell me!). Some people were straight up rude and instead of greeting me cheerfully after not seeing me for 18 months, “You’ve gained weight!” was the first thing out of their mouths. That brought me back to my teens, when I suffered with a flat chest and a bad case of acne. My self-esteem faced some challenges! I would smile, mumble something about “American food”, change subject and resent it later. I was so tired of it I thought I could punch the next person who made that remark. Instead, I learned to ignore.

To be fair, not all American families eat the same way. I hate judging by stereotypes and I’m not here to create one. There are different people everywhere in the world. Some like junk food and frozen meals, some eat healthy, some are vegetarian, some are kosher, etc. My eating habits and weight gain are strictly related to my personal experience. Some of the girls I met went back home as slim as when they left.

So, where was I? Ah, after that I came to Belgium and managed to lead a pretty balanced life. Fresh food, lots of vegetables, brown bread and whole grain goods. Frequent walk/jog at a beautiful park. I didn’t lose any weight, though.

Fast forward: back to Brazil, gym, walk to work, watch what I eat, no results.

Brasil, 2012

Again in Belgium, eating healthy, fresh food, exercising in a random frequency (sometimes walking, running, biking, playing tennis, dancing) and still frustrated with the scales and the clothes that don’t fit well anymore (I had a crying fit when a dress I wore for NYE wouldn’t zip when I tried it on in July). Oh, and the pictures. When I see myself in pictures, it really downs on me.

I realize I am fighting my genetic heritage. Women in my family tend to gain weight after their mid-twenties. It will be hard (God, I LOVE FOOD), but I know I can win.

Today I am about 15kg more awesome than when I left home four years ago. That’s not such a bad average. So many changes, learning, adventures and fun memories required more space, teehee! Self-indulgement, pleasant moments with friends and exploring every new kind of flavors had its price. I understand and accept that.

I have been learning to love myself and to believe in my beauty. I have been learning that exercising in order to be healthy and strong is more important than checking my weight every week. Most importantly, I have been learning to respect my body and to honor it with nutritious food.

I don’t want to be the skinny girl who is miserable because of her restrictive diet. I don’t want to be the one saying “Oh my god, do you know how many calories are in this piece of cake?”. I believe in balance. I want to live a healthy, happy life. I want to be active because it’s fun and not because I have to. I want to enjoy life, eat cake and drink wine. If I lose a couple of kilos on the way, great. If not, I’m still me, I’m beautiful and smart and I love myself.


Antonio said...

Excellent post! Keeping in shape when abroad is not an easy task and a lot of discipline is needed!

Ana Elisa Miranda said...

Thanks, Antonio.
It is very hard indeed, it demands a lot of self-control!

Leidiane said...

Reading this article made me feel like I wrote it myself. From the part where you mentioned how you were "greeted" when you went back home to the part where you mentioned its harder to lose the pounds/kilos than we think. The weight just won't come off as easy as it came on.
I guess this is part of life where we are leaving young adulthood to adulthood, period.
I am not accepting the fact that gaining 20 pounds in 1.5 years was merely a fact of hormonal changes but I decided to accept the fact that it will take extremely hard work in order to have back what it use to be a privilege.
I appreciate the fact I have someone real to relate to.
Thanks for sharing Amiga!

Natália Van den Eynde said...

Oi Ana! Adorei seu blog, super me identifiquei. vi sua publicaçao no brasilieiros na belgica. tb vim pra belgica pra ser au pair e acabei ficando, processo de visto, td o que vc ja sabe! hehehe... perder peso, ganhar peso... aff.. vc mora onde? esse é meu blog, fique a vontade pra passar!

Michelle Hastie said...

This is such an incredible post and trust me I understand your frustrations. When I was working out 7x a week eating perfectly and not losing I thought I was going crazy. I am so happy with your closing thoughts about loving yourself and your body and not going down the "restrictive dieting" path. I look forward to hearing more about your journey as you find the real reason for your weight gain and love your body enough for it to easily and effortlessly release the excess pounds.