I’ve lived in two different countries for a significant amount of time. Each time I’ve started to notice a trend: weight gain. Unlike most travelers, who seem to lose weight due to their strict food budget, I seem to have defied the trend.
The first time I noticed my expanding waist line was after my study abroad trip to Italy. But can you really blame me for gaining a few pounds? I was surrounded by pasta, bread and oodles of belly-bulging gelato. This was not the time for me to diet. I cleaned my plate at nearly every meal and had far too many late night dessert binges. I honestly don’t regret a minute of it.
Five months later I returned home 8-10 pounds heavier. Fortunately, I wasn’t too worried about the added pounds. I’d be back at school soon, which meant walking up hills on a daily basis. The weight came off quickly.
The Land of Sweat
The second time around my weight gain defied logic. I was in Costa Rica – the land of non-stop sweating. Although I ran 4-5 days a week, I really didn’t need to do any exercise to work up a sweat. Just stepping outside my bedroom door and I felt a wave of heat. It was like being in a sauna.
So, you’re probably wondering how I could have possibly gained weight during this time? My hypothesis: socializing. I went out with friends much more than I ever did in the U.S. And, often times that meant a drink. Incredible how a drink “here and there” can quickly add up. Plus, I’m a “bored” eater. Meaning that if I was ever twiddling my thumbs, I would simply eat. This didn’t help my situation.
By the time I returned home after a year abroad I had gained nearly 10 pounds. I was would only be back in the U.S. for four short weeks – one month was simply not enough time at home to lose the weight. I tried different exercise videos and watched my eating a bit more. I lost a few pounds, but not the entire amount I had gained.
I finally returned to the United States after a year and a half and was determined to get back to my pre-travel weight. It seemed to come off a lot quicker than I had imagined. Turns out that my sadness about leaving Costa Rica had actually suppressed my appetite and increased my desire to exercise. Those two factors melted away the pounds.
Fortunately, it wasn’t short lived. Even after I got back to my “normal” self, I managed to maintain my weight by running and going to Zumba classes.
But now, I’m back. I’ve returned to the beach in Costa Rica. I somehow managed to get back to my high school weight…it’s been over a decade since I’ve been at that weight. I’d like to maintain it, but there are always temptations of the beach lifestyle – happy hour, social dinners and other gatherings that pack on the pounds.
But this time I’m more conscious of my exercise and eating habits. I’m determined not to let my weight creep up on me again. Sooooo…here are few things I plan on doing:
- Water, water, water – it’s easy to get dehydrated in such a warm environment. I plan to drink much more water to keep me hydrated and, hopefully, feel fuller as well.
- Variety – running is a great workout, but let’s face it, it can become monotonous. This is especially true for someone like me who isn’t an avid runner. I enjoy the adrenaline rush it provides, but I don’t absolutely love running. I plan to mix up my routine by running, walking, biking and doing exercise videos.
- Limit the Liquor – while it’s difficult to refrain from drinking when everyone around you is imbibing, I need to learn to reduce my intake. I’ve come to realize that I can still socialize without drinking an alcoholic beverage.
- Buy it, cook it, eat it – Costa Rica offers a plethora of delicious fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately my cooking skills have always been quite limited. I’m about to change that. I plan to try out different dishes that use local produce to make healthier meals.
These are my intentions. I’ll keep you posted on what actually happens. Once my shorts start getting a bit tight, I know it’s really time to re-think my habits.