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Hold your hats, because we’re about to get personal about weight loss as an expat and losing weight while traveling.
For the vast majority of my teenage years and my early college years, I was probably overweight.
I think I bordered on the “normal” and “overweight” BMI line, but was probably more often closer to the latter.
What can I say, I like to eat and my favorite food groups are carbs.
It’s a dangerous combination.
Also check out those bangs.
Today, I’m about 20-25 pounds less than the last time I lived in America permanently and I’m more firmly in the “normal” range.
Except I never tried to lose the pounds.
I didn’t even realize I was losing weight.
I came home one year and my whole family was in shock like I had just come back from fat camp.
Looking back now, it’s all very obvious, but at the time I was just like, “YES! Miracle weight loss! Maybe I had a growth spurt at the age of 21?”
In reality, moving to London as an American and living the Londoner lifestyle was good for me in more ways than one.
Firstly, I walked EVERYWHERE.
Sometimes across the whole city in a day.
If I wanted to go get food, I had to walk there.
Work? Walk. School? Walk? Go to the park for a walk? HAD TO WALK THERE. Walking is such an important part of getting around in London.
This is a huge generalization because it’s easy to be overweight in England and it’s equally as easy to lose weight in America if you’re actually trying.
But I have found that English eating habits are healthier than American ones.
Fast food is existent, of course, but less of a ‘staple’ meal and more of a treat for many families (the Brits particularly love themselves some beans on toast!)
Portion sizes at restaurants are smaller.
Many products lack the chemicals that you can find in their American counterparts, which is evidenced by comparing the food found in a British grocery store vs an American grocery store.
Also, sidenote, grapes are usually considered an ‘after-dinner’ dessert food.
In my mind, grapes are the things I had to eat as a kid to then get to the good stuff, AKA cake.
I love American junk food and will never miss an opportunity to either ask my friends and family to send me some or buy some at an extortionate price in the American aisle of the local grocery store, but I’m doing a lot better without having it around all of the time (and haven’t really fallen in love with too many English ‘junk’ treats except for Cadburys which I could eat from morning until night).
So, in short, if you’re looking to lose weight: diet and exercise or…move to England!
How to Lose Weight when Moving Abroad
For me, losing weight when moving abroad was something that happened naturally due to my change in habits, but it’s very likely that you could be moving abroad to somewhere that requires less healthy habits than you were used to before.
For instance, if you moved from a big town where you walked everywhere to a rural area where you had to drive, your health make take a hit.
To try and keep on top of your weight when moving abroad if you are not moving naturally into a healthier lifestyle, here are some tips to consider.
Use Exercise Classes as a Way to Meet People
It can always be hard to make friends as an expat, and exercise classes are a great way to get involved in the local community and slowly meet people.
It could be as easy as joining a local gym and seeing what they offer, or you could be on the lookout for things like Zumba classes that may take place across the city.
It’s easier to make friends when you have a shared interest, and doing something healthy like exercise while making new friends is a win-win when you move abroad.
Be Aware of Your Eating Habits when Trying New Foods
If I move to Italy, you can be sure I’m about to eat pizza and pasta all day.
But what might be good for my expat fun may not be so good for my diet.
Be aware of the changes in food that take place when you move to a new country, including ingredients that you might not be used to, patterns of eating that you may not have done before (for instance, my British husband always points out that Americans LOVE snacking moreso than he was used to do in the UK).
Enjoy the new foods in your new home, but you don’t need to be taste testing them every moment of every single day.
Don’t eat all of the gelato in one go – space it out and be aware of what you’re putting into your body.
Don’t Use Food as a Comfort
Being an expat can be hard.
If you’re aware of this before you move, you can better fight the tendancy to gain weight as an expat but eating all of the delicious things and instead find a different coping strategy when life gets hard.
In fact, make that coping strategy something like exercising at the gym, as mentioned above, and you’ll get double bonus points for putting your mental and physical health first.
Get Out and Explore On Foot
Where possible, get out and explore your new surroundings on foot.
Even if you don’t live in a walkable city like Oxford, make it a point to take weekend trips to countryside getaways where you can walk through fields, forests, or along coastlines.
Find ways to use your feet instead of relying on cars or escalators or elevators.
Take the stairs, join a walking club, or even take up biking to get moving along bike trails or other areas to explore.
What if I’ve Gained Weight when Moving Abroad?
Plenty of people gain weight when moving abroad due to stress, homesickness, and other negative feelings that lead to less than healthy lifestyle choices.
Firstly, I want you to know that that is completely normal, and that reaction has also happened to me.
If you do find yourself having gained weight when moving abroad, you of course know the physical things you should be doing to help yourself, but I would really encourage you to check on the mental side of your self first.
Often, gaining weight as an expat has more to do with how we feel inside than our surroundings.
We may be lonely, we may be sad, we may be homesick, we may feel disconnected.
All of that can make it very easy to turn to food, but it’s very difficult to get the physical things going the way we want them to when mentally we’re not feeling great.
Reach out to a friend, a therapist, or someone else you trust to share your feelings with and establish why you think you gained the weight when you moved abroad and how you can change internally first before you attempt to lose weight again.