Here’s something I learned a long time ago: No one likes to hear you talk about your own weight. People who are larger than you will assume you are judging them for being even bigger than the fat cow you claim to be, and people who are skinnier than you will feel awkward and uncomfortable. That’s why I have a personal policy (with varying degrees of success usually corresponding to how many cocktails I’ve had) not to talk about my weight. This post, in which I confess some of my deepest vulnerabilities to the entire world wide web, is obviously a violation of that policy. Forgive me, readers.
There have been many shocks and surprises at coming home for the first time in nine months. One has stood out among all others: While I was away, I got fat.
Maybe it’s because Koh Tao is a bizarre la-la land, maybe it’s because there are NO full length mirrors on the entire island, maybe it’s because I spend my time there generally happy and contented and not seeking out things to hate about myself- but it all added up to me being blissfully unaware of my own substantial weight gain.
When I arrived home and had a good look at myself in the mirror for the first time in a long time- it was a wake up call. I had realized a few months before that I was putting on a few pounds. A few weeks before I left for home I started working out almost every day and cutting back on my favorite treats, but I still didn’t really realize how out of control I was. I can’t even image what would be looking back at me from the mirror had I not taken those steps.
I know what you’re thinking, because I’ve heard it- “You’re not fat! Just last week I saw a fairly flattering photo you posted of yourself in a bikini!” Well. Are we at the keeping-it-real stage in our relationship, readers? Cause I have a confession. I delete about 90% of the photos I see with
myself my body in them. And even then, a fair amount make it through photoshop. Whether its something as simple as a more flattering crop or something as sneaky as clone-stamping out some cellulite, it happens. I’m willing to bet there are oodles of people who do this, just very few crazy enough to admit it.
At roughly my ideal weight back in August…
I may be vain, but I’m not delusional. I know that walking down the street in my jeans and a sweater most people would still classify me as “thin.” Unfortunately I don’t spend much time in jeans- my life in Thailand means I’m in a bikini everyday. And the bikini is not looking so hot these days. So yes- the title of this post is a bit of a misnomer- I’m not enormous. But I am bigger than I have ever been before, and also larger than pretty much any person in any of my social circles. I’m not fat fat, I’m just fat for me.
Let me put this into perspective- I’m barely 5’2”, with a petite frame. I’ve always been “thin” but I’ve never been “SKINNY,” the way I would classify supermodels, my little sister, and approximately every person who attended my college in NYC. I think my “happy weight” is 120lb, though I usually rest a few pounds above that. Even in my heavier times I have never broken the 130lb barrier- until now. That may not seem like a big difference but on a frame my size every pound shows. Since I returned I have worn the same black jeans every day-they are the only ones out of the dozen pairs I own that I can get to button up.
If you still believe perhaps I’m exaggerating a bit, I have a little anecdote to share. You know how I mentioned I started working out and dieting a few weeks before I left for home? That’s because my boyfriend hit me with a fairly harsh reality slap: he told me I had put on serious weight and suggested it was time to start loosing it. I know what you’re thinking: A) You’re boyfriend is a brave man. B) That change must have been really drastic. It’s a bit of both. Sounds crazy but I can now say I’m grateful for his intervention and his help. He paid for my gym membership, supported my dieting efforts and comforted me when I had a sobbing breakdown after seeing a shocking photo of myself (did I mention the no mirrors thing?)
Alright already, you believe me now. So how did this happen?
Once upon a time, long term travel made me skinny. Sadly, those days are over. Back then, I was phobic of trying new foods and also a major cheapo thanks to my traveler’s budget. Basically, I was too afraid to try local cuisine and too broke to afford pricey Western food and so I ended up with a nice post-vacation emaciation. It was THE BEST. These days I have not only begrudgingly grown to love Thai food, I also make enough money to afford my favorite fatty western food every time my greedy stomach desires it. It’s a dangerous combination.
The problem with the expat lifestyle- or shall I say my expat lifestyle since I’m seeing tons of skinny bitches* running around this island- is that I’ve adopted the worst of both the traveling and at-home worlds. In terms of physical activity I might as well be at home in a cubicle- except for the days in which I’m doing video work, I sit my lazy ass in front of my computer all day. In terms of eating, I live like I’m perma-traveling- I eat out every single meal, and I delight in eating wherever and whatever I would like. Even conscious dieting becomes extremely difficult without being able to control portion intake and without access to diet foods from home. Another dangerous combination: the sedentary lifestyle of home combined with the over-indulgence of travel.
And then there’s that other thing- I’m getting older. People tried to warn me- someday, my relatively cooperative metabolism would slow down. Someday is here, I suppose. I guess I can’t expect to behave the way I did when I was 16 and still be able to fit into those same jeans (what? You don’t still have clothes from high school? You should watch more Hoarders.)
Now, what am I going to do about it?
In high school and college I was occasionally unhappy with my physical appearance, though that was more a reflection on society’s ridiculous standards than my own appearance. These days my displeasure is all-consuming… and it is a product of my actual reflection. I want to get back to where I was… maybe better… maybe healthier. Maybe this time I can appreciate it.
Since I’m home for the month I’ve taken up running for the first time (if you can call jog/walking one mile before collapsing out of breath on the ground “running”), though there’s no way I’ll be able to keep that up back in the heat and hilly terrain of Koh Tao. I plan to get straight back into the Muay Thai boxing though, as soon as I return. But food tends to be my greatest weakness. A good friend recently pointed out to me that I am so incredibly disciplined in almost every area of my life- work, budget, etc- food is the one area where I allow myself whatever I want. I’m not sure how to change my attitude towards food. Worse, I’m not sure that I want to (though I obviously want to lose weight, so something’s got to give).
I’m not sure what my plan is. I’m not sure what my goal is. But I do know something’s got to change. I’ve got big plans for this life ahead of me- and being out of shape and self-loathing isn’t going to help me get there.
I almost closed the comments on this post for the first time ever out of shyness but curiosity got the best of me. I’d love to hear about your thoughts, your struggles, and your advice in the comments. Sharing is caring.
* I use the term skinny bitches endearingly. As I’ve mentioned in this post, pretty much all my nearest and dearest qualify as skinny bitches.
** You really thought I’d post a fat photo of myself? Well, I thought about it. I decided to hold off and share them when I get back to my normal size.
*** An update on this post is here.
I struggle with this too. I actually was doing fine while living in Colombia because I didn’t really care for the food there and had semi-regular attendance at the gym, but once I started traveling again, and especially once I got to Peru where I loved the food, I put on weight quick.
And Argentina’s food is even better, especially the ice cream.
I weigh more now at 35 than at any point since about 22 when I made it a point to lose all that weight I’d gained in college from drinking and eating poorly.
Kudos for being honest, and good luck getting back into shape!
Hey Dave… thanks for chiming in! Yeah, as I said, my weight gain has definitely coincided with my greater appreciation for Thai food. It’s so much easier when you don’t really care for the cuisine! And yeah, of course a regular gym routine doesn’t hurt either… maybe we should start a Biggest Loser: Travel Blogger Edition 🙂
This happened to me when I studied abroad in New Zealand. I had no heat in my room and was there in winter so I started eating a lot more and shivering off all the calories (at least, that’s my theory). Then it got warm and… I ate the same amount. I stopped being able to fit in my pants – for basically the first time ever. It was awful! I was also told by a doctor recently that I have high cholesterol. Probably all the cheese I eat. Anyway, major reality check. I’m back to my ideal weight (or thereabouts) now, though I still don’t eat healthy enough, unless daily intake of kimchi counts (here in Korea people think so anyway). But I’m sure you can do it! Good luck.
Thanks for the kind words, Rachel! Sorry to hear about the cholesterol… I’m dreading that conversation someday as I love love love eating cheese and eggs. You bring up a good point about the health aspect as well. I don’t want any health problems slowing me down!
I can totally understand your frustrations! I studied abroad in Spain my junior year at BU and gained 10-15 pounds over the course of 4 months – naturally my family was horrified to see me when I returned home!
My family and friends managed to keep pretty straight faces when they saw me but when I got home and saw my best friend since childhood she kept it pretty honest 🙂 You can always depend on certain people in your life to help you realize the things you maybe aren’t ready to see!
Off topic, because who am I to comment on your weight, but when I tear my eyes away from you in the bikini, which I admit is difficult, is that a Great White in the water behind you?
Well your comment made me smile! 🙂 No… that is just a rock jutting out from the water. I’ve been asked that before when people have seen this photo! I should start telling people I was swimming in shark infested waters.
This is an interesting post to me, because I inevitably lose weight out of the US (has been true for the last 16 years, and I’m now 32). I call it my travel diet.
I don’t think it’s my diet: I eat dessert every day, have frappucinos all the time, and live in Singapore, where the food is totally incredible (and cheap, if you eat at the right places). Plus I love everything fried.
I think it’s a combination of higher activity level and smaller portions. For activity level, I am really bad about exercising but I do walk a lot, since we don’t have a car (they cost like $200,000 here). In most places in the US, it’s really hard NOT to drive everywhere. Also, portions in the US are disgustingly huge (this always shocks me when I return). Food/drinks just come in smaller amounts here.
I don’t really believe in dieting, because that implies you are just temporarily depriving yourself, so of course once you stop you will get fat again. Maybe a “travel diet” would work for you too?: order small portions (or split large portions: like get just one dish for you and Mark?) and walk everywhere possible (I don’t know if you have a scooter there?).
Also, alcohol is super caloric (plus, when I drink my willpower is low and I tend to binge-eat). Maybe a cutback in drinking will help?
Good luck and don’t feel sad. You are still really beautiful, at any weight (plus I love dugongs: OMG the cuteness!!!).
Thanks for your encouragement, Grace! Yeah, as I said… I always used to lose weight when I traveled! it was great! I was thinking about your comment for a while and I think I realized something else that I left out of my actual post. Living in NYC I was SO busy that food was literally something I stuffed in my face to keep me going from one appointment/class/job/thing to another. Living the good life in Thailand, meals are all about savoring the food, the company, and the surroundings. So even with the whole portion thing I think I eat more here because I eat actual MEALS as opposed to a frozen dinner or like… a banana.
Sadly Mark would never go for splitting as he eats like crazy, but I think I need to be more forthcoming and ask for half portions of rice (I think they give you a lot in Koh Tao). I’m in the process of selling my scooter… hopefully the walking will do me some good. And yes… cutting back on drinking is always a bonus for both the waistline and the wallet! I like your suggestions!
I feel your pain darling girl! Koh Tao destroyed me. I’m going to put it down to a flat combination of hours on end lying under the sun, sugary buckets of liquor, mandatory mojitos, amazing 20 baht chocolate milks, oreos and massaman curry.
Oh Sam, you make me giggle. You’re right… the liquor does not help and I do quite a heavy bit of drinking in Koh Tao compared to my “real life.”
Oh Sam, thanks for making me giggle 🙂 You know how it is!
Just saw this amazing movie that might be exactly what you need right now. It is available for free online until March 31st. It’s called Hunger for Change. Just go here: https://clicks.aweber.com/y/ct/?l=G4rYw&m=3anLdyqm6VALsif&b=q1IjZcLPoQpO6pX_XomMtw
Thanks for the tip, Sophie! I will try to give it a watch while I’m still in the US! (Streaming movies in Thailand is an adventure…. not of the fun kind.)
When I came back from my first extended travel I was absolutely emaciated, much like you described. 135lbs on a 5’11” frame…gross. But now I lead a much different traveling lifestyle which is quite the opposite. Instead of walking 10 miles everyday and only eating whatever $6 can buy me in a day, I spend all day in front of a computer and try to make the most of the way-too-generous per diem my company hands out. It is a dangerous combination and can lead down a dangerous road.
The difference for me is that emaciation is what’s in style for ladies 🙂 Sounds like we share a similar lifestyle these days with too much money and appetite for food and not enough exercise! Here’s to both of us staying/getting healthy…
Oh yes, I’ll be the first to admit that you ladies have it much worse when it comes to the societal pressure towards emaciation.
And I realize the irony in me posting this with a ‘John recently posted…’ link to a post about all the rich fatty food I’m eating in Louisiana right now…hahaha
Ha, well good thing I’m not in Louisiana right now!!
You hit a chord with this one. You brave writer girl! I totally get it–on perception, self-perception, being 5’2″ and how a few pounds on that frame is very different than a few pounds when you are 5’8″.
This is an excellent post which I hope gets shared far and wide..a great addition to the cultural conversation about women and bodies and self.
Thank you so much Diane! It was definitely the hardest piece I’ve ever hit “publish” on… here’s to many more!
yeah thank you for sharing. your perspective made me feel so much better right now.
I am also small, and have recently gained some pounds living in the mountains in India, falling out of my yoga practice, and eating whatever I want/am fed… usually with hella rice, and/or a pat of butter on top,,, likely followed by a chai, ugh. life.
I literally googled, in a depressed self loathing frenzy, “I gained weight traveling I’m 26 am I going to be like this forever” (thats how I found you) because I’ve never actually gained weight in some of these places and I hope this is not the moment I just become this big forever.
hopefully if 5-10 lbs shows up easier on my body, it will come off in the same way. quick! and I’m ready. moving into a place in desert climate (where my body feels healthiest) with a kitchen tomorrow.
health is the best investment — I just forget sometimes when there is a ball of sugar and ghee and butter being handed to me…there has to be a balance !!! because I’m getting rid of this jiggle, but I can’t live here and fully give up katchori… chai… or ladu 🙂
haha, much love
I’ve been there with the late-night self-loathing google searches! I think it’s true that your body does just change as you get older, for many women anyway, but there also is a cause and effect and when I’m taking care of myself I DO see the results, even when they aren’t as dramatic or as immediate as I’d like them to be. Best of luck, Jackie!
You are not alone! I put on 15 lbs (20 lbs since my Doc had last seen me) while living at sea on a boat. It was hard work and who would have thought that little cardio and dessert every day would make such a difference? I exceeded my high weight by 10 lbs and still wore a bikini every day, joking about the bun in the oven. My doctor sat me down and said I gained two decades of “safe weight gain” in 3 years and that, with the history of diabetes in my family, I was setting myself up for an early death. I had been so consumed with not freaking out because society says “heroin chic” is hot that I had ignored very serious health risks despite my discomfort.
In my experience, dieting does not work because it is not sustainable. Changing your activity level works. I have a great personal trainer who specializes in women’s needs who has put together multiple work outs for me depending on my location in the world and available resources. I’d be glad to pass along her information to you if you like.
The good part is that our lifestyle is conducive to radical change and we can easily make adjustments. I was shocked at how quickly I lost it all and put myself back in shape. With a different lifestyle, it could have easily taken 4 times as long. I look forward to your before and after post when this is all resolved and I am certain it will come faster than you think.
Hey Nadia, thank you for this comment! Seriously, I think I did the same thing as you in the beginning. I was all, “Who cares if I put on a little weight? I’m getting older and it’s normal!” I think that was the denial stage. And I’m happy to hear that you took the weight off easily… I’m encouraged by your confidence it will be the same story for me. Oh and please send me the details of your trainer when you get a chance!
Hey – super brave of you to write this post… weight is a sticky topic always. I’m with you on this one though – I gain weight EVERY TIME I go away. Sometimes to the tune of a couple pounds a week!!! It’s something I’ve had to be wary about, and now I try to exercise a bit (swim in the ocean! go for a walk!) and scale back on the eating…
Doesn’t mean it always works right away, but working towards a better self will make you feel better as well.. Best of luck gorgeous!
Hey Dana, thanks for commenting. It’s actually very comforting to hear I’m not the only one who’s gone through this! I like your suggestion of swimming in the ocean… Mark and I used to go for swims often when we lived in the Cayman Islands. I’d love to get back into that routine.
I gave up the weight problem several years ago. Realized I was the only person interested in it. That’s what age does for you. Good luck – you look great to me. Gram E
Thanks Gram… but you are family, you’ve got to say it 🙂 If what you say is true than I will look forward to old age as the time when I can eat as many cupcakes as I want!
Great post, Alex. I usually feel like I am the only one who struggles with weight gain while traveling because everybody else seems to always happily announce how many lbs they lost during their travels. I, however, love food, and particularly sweets, and just cannot say NO! So when we get to a new place exploring the food is a big part of the experience for me and Jess (but she has the discipline to work out) and I gained weight in several places we visited – Italy of course (almost a month of gelato, pizza & pasta) but also the U.S. – when we left the States for Thailand last year I could barely fit in my jeans. Luckily, the ‘Asia diet’ (rice & veggies) worked and I lost the pounds I had gained in the U.S. within the first few weeks in Thailand. Then we got an apartment in Chiang Mai for a month and I got comfortable – too comfortable… with too many delicious ‘Western’ food options and a bakery next door that had the most amazing chocolate croissants, I put on weight again…
So I know how you feel and even though I cannot say that you look fat in any of the pictures that you put up here, I know what it’s like when you can’t fit in your favorite jeans anymore 😀 Muay Thai Boxing is a great idea – you’ll loose weight quickly & it’s fun at the same time! Whenever I needed to drop a few pounds fast I did Tae Bo workouts which always brought me back in shape in no time. I am not sure how you feel about work out DVDs but if you want to give it a try (Jess is a big fan of P90X for example) we can recommend some 🙂
Dani… this was such a great comment for so many reasons 🙂 First… I have the world’s WORST sweet tooth and sometimes I feel like everyone else outgrew theirs. I was saying to someone the other day that I just feel like I have absolutely no self control when it comes to sweet things and they looked at me like I was crazy. Honestly, if I deny myself something as simple as a banana pancake at the end of the night it puts me in a horrible mood and I go to bed frustrated.
As for the workout videos, I used to do Jillian Micheal’s 30 Day Shred in NYC on days I couldn’t get to the gym and looooved it. However it relies pretty heavily on hand weights and I’m not carrying those around the world! I’ve heard great things about P90X lately actually… does it involved hand weights or anything I would need to carry? Maybe I need to give it a try! Thanks for the suggestion!
I have recently started reading your blog and love it! This post was especially good and way different from your usual topics. I feel you – as a “petite” (or short haha) girl, every pound counts. You look great, but it’s what you think that really matters – don’t let others make you feel bad about being “skinny”!
Hi Sarah, thank you so much for your kind words! So glad to have you here 🙂 And yup… us shorties have the burden of making every extra ounce squish outward!
I hear ya sista! It is so hard to stay away from those banana pancakes, and Thai food is sooo unbelieveably delicious, it is hard not to polish off every serving!I’m sure you will find your balance. Find some more physical activity that you love and you won’t have to deprive yourself at mealtime. Can I just say though, that you are absolutely stunning and your beauty really does shine from within 🙂
Sarah, thank you so much for this wonderfully sweet comment. It means a lot to me! And yeah, I get you on the banana pancakes… I must have one every other day!
I definitely gain weight when I travel, even though I seem to eat proportionately less and I am walking a lot more. I don’t get it. Even if I (TMI alert) get the runs from bad food or water in some places, I still don’t lose weight. I think it’s a mix of Asian foods using MSG a lot and my diet not use to a lot of fried foods (I tend to try those more often when I’m traveling). I wish I knew how the Japanese, Koreans and other Asians can eat and drink (they drink beer like water) so much and remain so petite.
I think I learned one trick though and that is to go to saunas and cleanse all the water weight out of your system. That helps a lot and also makes me feel lighter.
I’m surprised to read that you’re 5’2. I assumed you were a lot taller.
Well props for this post. It’s your body and if you feel fat, then no one should tell you how to feel. It’s not like you’re talking about dieting down to double digits (although I love using my kg weight versus my lbs weight, lol).
Good luck with the results you’re after. I’m starting my diet too.
Thanks Fidel! I laughed when I read your comment because you have no idea how many times I’ve screamed “Why are Asians so thin when they eat rice all day?!?!?!” at least inside my own head. You have a good point about the MSG though. I notice that I fall asleep directly after eating at some Thai restaurants that I suspect use quite a bit of it. Good tip about the saunas… I’ll have to give it a try! Cheers to lighter and healthier us!
I think this is why I dont’ gain weight in Poland (even though the food is carb heavy). I don’t really like the food (except the sausage and cheese of course) and so I don’t eat as much as I would if I were in say… Thailand where I expect I will love the food.
I like that you blogged about your SO giving you a wake-up call and being frank about your weight loss. When I mention such things, they demonize my husband and say he is a tyrant/dictator/hates me/ etc. None of those things are true, I just happen to be in a relationship with supportive and honest conversation that allows us to offer complimentary and constructive criticism equally.
I also am on a “get skinny for Thailand” diet. Though my chances of getting to sub 125 *ever* are pretty slim (even though we are the same height, haha), I’m going to make the same goal as you. 🙂
I actually thought of you when I wrote that part of the post as I know you’ve written about the same thing. It’s such a taboo subject, and when I’m telling the story in person to close friends they all make a comment along the lines of “brave man!” It’s true that it hurt a lot to hear it from him but yet we talk frankly about his body and when he seems to be losing too much weight… so why should it be any different for me? And my post was getting super long so I didn’t get a chance to mention this but as someone with a history of depression there is nothing more important than working out and getting some endorphins going.
And just a side note…. I had no idea you were such a shorty like me! Munchkins unite!
I relate to everything you wrote, other than continuing to date a guy who cares that much about you gaining a relatively small amount of weight. I can’t imagine a guy saying that to me. I would appreciate my partner supporting my weight loss efforts and gently encouraging me to be healthy. But I can’t imagine a partner outright telling me I need to lose weight, especially when I’d gained a modest amount. A long-term relationship will likely see both partners with a range of body types and sizes. I hope you’re dating someone who will still love you and find you attractive even if you gained 30 or 40 pounds (or whatever).
Hi Margot! Thanks for your comment. I know it may seem crazy to people, but like commenter Jenna (above), Mark and I have a very realistic and honest relationship and I’m glad we can talk about such things. Honestly, I would NOT look attractive if I gained 30-40lbs (nor would it be healthy at all!) Neither would he! So while we would love each other at any weight, attraction is a whole other story. I think our society is terrified to admit that love and attraction aren’t always intertwined.
And in the end, I know he was looking out for my own best interest. He didn’t order me to lose weight so that I would be a more prized girlfriend, he gently suggested it so that I would be a happier and healthier and yes, more attractive person. It stings to hear but hey, I needed it!
I love your blog! It did take a lot of courage to admit to the world that you have put on weight. Putting on weight is something that happens to most women starting around age 25, which I am guessing you are close to.
At age 25 our super fast metabolisms begin to slow down and our lives become more sedentary. This is a lethal combination for a woman who is used to eating and drinking everything she wanted and never gaining weight.
About 3 months after my 25th birthday this happened to me, At first I noticed my favorite jeans getting a little tight. I thought no big deal. I stepped on a scale and discovered I had put on 4 pounds. I thought no big deal it is only 4 pounds. Over the next 8 months I added another 10 pounds. Thinking it is only 2 more pounds. etc.
Until I put on 10 pounds no one realized I had put on any weight. It was between me my scale and my jeans that had gotten too small and were banished to the back of the closet. (15 pairs of them)Jeans can be mean where as a string bikini is a little more comfortable when adding pounds. Although you are showing off your new curves as they happen, LOL.
After 10 pounds my weight gain went public with everyone wanting to comment on it. I am 5’4″ by the way.
It was my roomate who made the first comment. It was quite shocking I will admit I just wanted to die. After a night of partying I walk into the kitchen wearing my panties and half-
t-shirt. She says what is that. I say what do you mean. She gets up and pokes my belly. She says that–I do believe skinny Davi is getting a tummy–someone needs to start watching the late night cheeseburgers. My sister commented about my new tummy the next day.
I will admit I still have about 8 of those pounds and it looks like they are here to stay. My current man loves the curves.
Just wanted to share. Let you know you are not alone. How is the get thin again plan going?
Davi, thanks for your comment! It’s true, I think in a lot of ways this is a age-based metabolism thing. I am 22 and I guess I can’t eat the way I did when I was 16 anymore. It’s been a swift change. And you are right, jeans are the worst! I could only fit into one pair out of my dozen while I was home. And my jean shorts, my daily uniform here, don’t fit anymore. They will be my baseline for when I’m back in shape!
Thanks for the encouragement and letting me know its natural! I’ve been working out fairly religiously the past few days and it’s been a great mental boost and energy boost. The eating is my real problem though, and I’m still struggling with that. Maybe I should write an update post!
Just do not be so hard on yourself. You are young and little extra chubb around middle is not the end of the world. Do not be afraid to buy new jean shorts yes up a size.. It just shows that you are enjoying life’s pleasures. When you are 30 you will think why was I so hard on myself.
Also I know it is hard to imagine, but your man will face the same issue one day. His 6 pack will morph into a 1 pack. You will think his little tummy is cute.
It is your honesty that will make your blog a success!
All the best,
I have had BOTH experiences. I moved to Switzerland at 16 and gained 30lbs in 4 months. I got FAT. From a skinny girl to a girl with HUGE fat pockets. The fat didn’t even have TIME to adjust. Then I returned to Canada and my body got accustomed to the weight and it evened out, But I didnt lose it. Then I moved to Thailand and lost 40lbs. That spicy food and sweating really worked wonders on me. Then I moved to Argentina and I skyrocketed in weight and I have not got it off yet. I’m trying, but it is so difficult. I’m hoping heading to hotter climates will encourage weight lose because I don’t care to be seen in a bathing suit right now. I feel similar to that Fat photo you put up – which made me burst into laughter by the way. Thanks for being so frank and sharing!
Hey Chrystal, I’ve definitely learned since I wrote this post that I’m not alone in this! Sounds like hotter climates do wonders for you! For me I think I just need to be away from the temptation of snack food. If someone puts nothing but healthy food in front of me, I’m happy — out of sight, out of mind. But usually I’m left to fend for myself 🙂
I’m stoked to have read your post concerning this issue because I can totally relate. I returned from a trip to South America about 3 months ago. During the trip my friend and I were extremely physically active and I pretty much ate as much and whatever I wanted. Of course, this massive increase in appetite could not be sustained without consquences after I returned.
I had always been considered “skinny” until now – 15 lbs makes a huge difference on a small frame as you say. I am now at school for engineering and spend so much of my time either sitting and studying or drinking and eating that I am certainly not losing weight. It’s very frustrating because it’s my first year of university and yet my confidence level is at an all time low. I’m working at it slowly, but it can be very difficult to get back on track after you’ve solidified such bad eating habits.
I hope you are having more success than I am!
Hey Elena, as you can see from the comments here we are not alone! I wrote a follow up on this post that you can find here . Best of luck with your efforts to get healthy, I’m rooting for ya!
I am struggling with this too. Having decided to move back home from France, I wanted to take advantage of every last second…which roughly translates to eating every pastry and baguette in sight. It is a tough decision whether I want to look good at an ideal wait for my big return home or take advantage of the culinary wonders in Paris. I still haven’t decided but the kilos are increasing and I keep stuffing my face…
Yeah, going back to New York for one month definitely contributed to the problem. I had no idea when I would be back so I went NUTS on my favorite foods like bagels, pizza, etc. These days I try to remind myself I WILL have access to these foods again at some point in my life, and I don’t necessarily need to have them every second, or even this exact second. It helps!
Did you ever follow up with the “fat” photo? :p
Hi Kat… I did in fact write a follow up to this post! https://www.alexinwanderland.com/2012/08/11/getting-back-in-shape-for-travel/ Enjoy 🙂
Hi alex, it was comforting to read your post. I have recently moved to Saudi Arabia and it is Hot! I have been here four weeks and I already feel like the size of a house. I am excercising almost as much as at home and I have been watching my intake – plus I cannot drink alcohol as it is illegal. SO why do I feel so gross?
I think it it partly that when we move for an extended period our body tried to adapt and the stress of leaving and moving does not help.
I am going to try not to stress too much and hopefully if I continue to work out and not indulge my body will finally get back to my normal less swollen self.
Have you ever stayed in a place for say 6 months and noticed that you didn’t gain as much weight because your body got use to climate?
Hey Alice… I totally agree, stress can make weight stubborn and hard to take off. But hot climates can make you feel yucky and bloated, definitely. I think one benefit to the heat though is at least for me it decreases my appetite! Unfortunately then I adapt and I’m eating all the time again 🙂 I think you have a great plan with avoiding alcohol and keeping up the exercise, which has such great mental benefits as well. Best of luck with this and I’m glad you found the post helpful!
Hi Alex! reading your post was really comforting. I am so passing through that too! Actually, I am living in Thailand, but in one month my exchange year is going to be over and I’m going back to my home country. I’m so so stressed and worried about what is people going to think about me when they see me! i can’t help not to worry :S even if I keep thinking like “don’t stress! you are beautiful just like you are (because I don’t consider myself fat)” but you know how thai people can be so rude when it comes to physical beauty sometimes and is so hard! I joined the gym all the year and also studied Muay Thai and I lost 8 kg. but now that this is the last month something happened to me that I just can’t stop eating! hahaha I so love to eat. Anyway, I’m planning to hit the gym hard when I go back, etc. though I’m a little bit worried cause i miss my food so much hahaha
Thank you for posting this, really. And good luck with all your goals! We can all do it 😀
Hey Alicia! Thanks for reading. I say, stick to that Muay Thai and enjoy the last few months you have with delicious Thai food 🙂 Good luck with your journey.
This is the first post I’ve ever read on a travel blog that addresses this. I also miss the days when I was a serious cheapo and so phobic of accidentally eating meat in Thailand, that I just wouldn’t eat it at all! Now things have changed and I’ve learnt what everything is, I have to be careful not to fall into a comfort zone, same as back home or anywhere else. Thanks for bringing up this sort-of taboo topic, especially for expats!
Haha I know how you feel. I used to be terrified to eat anything when I traveled… I was so skinny then 🙂
alex- thank you so much for posting this. i just returned from three months abroad in fiji, and have put on a substantial amount of weight. like you, i didn’t notice so much while i was there, and when i did notice, i wasn’t quite bothered because of the laid back lifestyle, the fact that fijians VALUE an extra couple pounds, and since i was just generally so happy. however, now i’m back home and it’s shocking to see the change in my figure. due to a metabolic disorder i am plagued with, i gain weight just by looking at food, and losing it is more difficult than for the average person. the day i got home i renewed by gym membership, and started eating purely veggies and lean meats, but i am still struggling.. hard. reading this really was genuinely comforting.
I’m so, so happy to hear that reading this gave you a little bit of peace. That’s the best compliment a writer could ask for! Interesting about the difference in Fijian culture and our own! I’m wishing you the best of luck with getting healthy again and in the meantime, try to maintain a bit of that Fijian attitude 🙂
Reading your post, I think I definately understand your fruration….I am experiencing the same problem. I am 5 ft 2, left the U.S in excellent shape now I can’t seem to get my old routines back. Totally healthy eater since college..for 14 years exercised 1.5-2hrs a day, ate only pure-non-processed foods except Saturday, arrived in Indonesia with a totally fit and toned body.. did not imagine I would push all my routines to the wayside moving to Indonesia. It’s harder to get healthy foods here..fried, white bread with cheese or chocolate, sugar sugar and more sugar. Can’t stand the food, so I have end up ordering fast food which I rarely did in the states. I don’t fit into one piece of clothing. I am so so so frustrated because I used to have such a healthy lifestyle and now I feel like I am sipping starbuck’s frappuccinos everyday, sitting on my butt grading papers. Although most in the states are not so healthy, it is easier there.. whole foods, trader joes etc. You know what though, it sounds simple and obviously it hasn’t been for us to get back into a routine… but we will. I think we just need to break a 3 week barrier and then we might get back on track!
It’s funny, I’ve been thinking about JUST this topic for ages, and heard you mention it in an online interview, so had to search for the blog post in question.
Traveling is a double edged sword for weight gain. In my experience, it doesn’t matter how long you’re pounding the pavements, swimming in the pool or doing jungle treks, if you indulge in the “I’ll never get to try this again” mentality, you’re hooped – at least those of us with unwilling metabolisms are.
That said, I tell myself to think of the end game. Am I traveling for just two weeks? If so, screw it. If I’m gone for four months, okay… let’s be honest, who wants to put on 5, 10, 15% of their body weight? Not I. I definitely understand that frustrations you’ve experienced, but the most important thing is that you’ve done something about it. One foot in front of the other. Keep at it Alex.
Thanks, Victoria. Despite the fact that I wrote this post years ago I still deal with these struggles on a regular basis! South America in particular was a challenge, and I found myself longing for the healthy choices in Southeast Asia! I’m staring to accept that this is going to be a lifelong journey for me, and learn to enjoy the ride…
Hi! I know this is an older post, but i’m so glad you touched on this point! As an American expat living in London, I have been really struggling with my weight gain while being abroad, and its nice to hear that you have also experienced this. Everyone assumes that moving abroad will be filled with wonderful adventures, but not necessary gaining lbs along the way. Great post!
Thanks, Ashley. I have found with my life lacking entirely in routine this issue is one that continues to crop up again and again. I’m struggling right now to ditch the weight I put on in South America. Le sigh!
After a while of break from here, now I’m back for a while and confirming this “gaining during the stay in such heat environment.”
The experience I had in my first time in Tao which was for 9 months, I lost weight so naturally according to the weather, choice of food, and daily exercise that were yoga and diving. Even though I was drinking beer way more than I used to on a daily basis back in Tokyo (I’m a Japanese).
On a same time I saw people who are getting bigger and I couldn’t understand why…
I found the primary cause that are:
Motor bike, beers, drinks with sugar (which is pretty much every drinks we can get here..), Western food, and lack of exersice..
I ride mopet but I don’t drink full sugared drinks and I prefer water (4 to 6 litters a day), I rather eat local (may be cuz I’m an Asian), I drink beer but now many now and some time while I’m drinking I’m sweating (I’m a DJ so this happens sometime lol). Probably the another cause is that envruonment like this, the night starts early as morning starts early.
If you have your first beer (or cocktails) at 7 instead of 5 makes difference. Also avoiding AC is powerful supporter.
Some people here aware of the outcome and there 3 gyms even only in Sairee area so this is helping for whom don’t do diving daily.
Becaue body get used to the weather like I was getting cold when the air was 27degrees, so at some point “sweating” may stop. More like “burning without exercising” is stopped. I think wherever people travel, there must be a sign from body to do something extra as the weather cannot give a large effect anymore.
Congratulations for the end of year 3 and thank you for inspiring writings. Like everybody else whom read your blogs or see photo at insta, I admire your passion for travel. It’s really cool.
*I’m always interested in the words from whom were here in Koh Tao.
I’ve known about you via backpacker magazine when I here first time last year. Koh Tao is to me, highly developed (not like SAMUI yet though, that is a floating city over there.), so it’s easy to access and sustain a tropic travel life with parties over booze in lower budget. It seems it was 2 years ago when you were here but I’m sure it’s been developed more since then. When I clean the beach every Monday I face countless cigarette butt and bottles that I assume you didn’t see there at Sairee before.
Hey there! Fun to know you found me via Southeast Asia Backpacker magazine, I love them! 🙂 I’m sure Koh Tao has changed a lot in the year+ since I’ve been there. I’m sure it will be a shock when I come back. Thanks for the congratulations on my three year travelversary, and good luck keeping off the Koh Tao kilos!
I love this post. I’ve probably read it three or four times. The first time I studied abroad I gained A LOT of weight. I lost it all, but now that I’m back on the road I’m dealing with this again. I’m trying to be proactive, but my jeans are definitely feeling tight. I try to stay positive about my body image, but it can really be a struggle mentally. Reading through these comments is really comforting and motivating.
It makes me so happy to hear that this has given you some peace, Miquel! I’ve been there (clearly) and am sure it will be a lifelong ebb and flow for me as I figure out how to navigate health and fitness in different parts of the world. What I love is knowing that I’m not alone, and that I have all this wonderful support system here!
After my year of travel in Australia I got fat and I thought I was the only one because other people were losing weight.
I am happy to read I am not the only one. I am back home since February and I still have problems to get the weight off.
Can I ask how you did it? Thanks.
PS: I HATE running, haha.
I hate running too, but I figure that must mean it’s good for me 🙂 I wrote an update to this post, which you can find here. Hope it helps!
I found this after searching study abroad weight gain and it really resonates with me! I’ve been in Prague for about a month and was shocked to find out at the doctor I have gained 10 pounds. I noticed my clothes were fitting tighter, but it didn’t hit me until I saw a number. I’ve kind of been eating and drinking whatever I want, but now that I saw the number I am going to try more whole foods, and cut down on processed “American” comfort foods. There is so much fresh produce here so hopefully I can go home in a month at a more comfortable weight. I am starting to blog and just wanted to say I’m proud of you for writing on a difficult subject.
Thanks Tucker — and I’m glad you found this post! Weight gain is quite common during study abroad programs, from what I’ve heard. Sounds like you caught it just in time 😉 Good luck getting back to feeling comfortable!
Hello im so glad to find this post..what did u do to lost all that weight i get really depressed. Im from colombia … i have been in NZ for 6 months and despite i lost 4 kg the first month i was here, i gained and put 5 more… and now fits on me. I know so much flat whites… and winter.. im not use to winter i came from a tropical country that has no seasons. im doing a masters and this weight issue is interfering with my entire life..
Hey Laura, did you follow the update link to read this post? If not, I recommend you start there. Look through this comments section — you are not alone! Wishing you the best of luck in your journey back to health…
Well, gaining weight abroad has always been my problem. especially in all inclusive hotels. Thanks for sharing your tips, Alex.
Oh yeah, all-inclusives can be dangerous. The good thing is they usually have nice gyms!
I can completely relate to this as I live abroad most of the year (east Africa, India, Thailand) and I had the same shocking revelation when I (a) tried on my jeans and couldn’t do them up and (b) looked in a mirror. I put on 15 this year and I’m usually around 110lbs. It’s a lot for my body and I have been obsessing about it to the point where I can’t sleep. On top of that I have a torn ligament in my foot.. Just trying to stay positive And go to the gym everyday. I can never control my eating while traveling, but at home I’m so disciplined. Ugh.
I know how it feels, Carly. Keep hitting that gym, thinking positive thoughts, and trying to find healthy foods you love! I have a post about doing DIY health retreats coming up soon… stay tuned 🙂 Sending you good vibes!
Nice to know I am not the only one. I recently moved to England from Germany and I have put on 14 Pounds in 6 months! Its absolutely crazy, I am originally from Africa and the hot weather back home helps me keep my weight in check. Cold weather just makes me crave and want to eat more often. I joined the gym and try to go 3 times every week but whenever I get frustrated I find myself going back to my same old habits. I don’t drink alcohol and I don’t smoke but it’s crazy how i’m still blowing up like some kind of balloon.
You’re definitely not alone, Cindy — this comment section is filled with the stories of people who have struggled to lose or maintain weight after a big travel-induced change in their routine. Hold strong!
Thank you for the post. The mental aspects of the whole thing are just shocking. As if the brain is messing around with us, giving false signals when we’re abroad but hitting with the reality the very moment we land home.
Just spend a month/1.5 in Portugal and Spain, absolutely aware that the lifestyle I had was definitely not the one I had previously. Lots of chilling, lots of food and booze. And yet, I just didn’t seem to be doing anything about it. Just doing things everyone else does. So-so wrong.
Once I got home, the person in the mirror cannot be recognized and I don’t even want to know the numbers. Bought a registration for half-marathon in October immediately so that there’s no way back. Very difficult to stay positive at this point. Knowing that others are going through the same shit helps, though.
Also, I hope you got back on the track.
Sounds like you are moving in the right direction — a marathon will be great motivation! I just did a 5K and loved the experience of training and anticipating it. Definitely inspired me to move! Good luck!
I’m the opposite, I lose weight when I travel. I’m definitely scary skinny at this point. I’m 5’11 and 114. Food just isn’t a priority for me.
Not sure thin is the right word at 120 and 5’2. That’s like a 22 bmi. That’s more just average.
Hey Brecklyn, I’ve really been mulling over how to reply to this comment but I can’t seem to get past the fact that I think it’s a little rude to tell someone they are wrong in how they interpret their own weight. Also, to my understanding, BMI is really no longer considered a relevant reading: https://jezebel.com/5626769/doctor-calls-bullshit-on-the-bmi
Hi Alex, thanks for your blog,very helpful.
I’ve had a problem, which is that I was a Tae Kwon Do competitor in the past and I stopped working out 10 years ago, which is exactly the time I’ve been living in London on my own, eating out of home practically always. Another added difficulty is that London is so expensive that cooking in my own tiny studio flat was not an option for me, since I barely had space for a microwave, so my diet is composed of pizza twice a week on average, burger once a week, vegetables twice a week, a cup of milk with 1-2 pastries every day for breakfast. I manage to walk 10000 steps a day as the only exercise, but the result of this lifestyle has been passing from 6’11 1/2 and 176 lbs to 210 lbs with a 30% body fat. My stressful job with nightshifts doesnt’ help either…
Sorry to hear all that, Ernest! I’m not sure if you’re a Pinterest kind of guy, but I would guess that they have some amazing resources for how to put together cheap and healthy meals in a super small space (I turn to Pinterest for just about everything workout or recipe related.) Maybe give them a peek? Best of luck!
I found this article to hit home for me in a big way. Although I haven’t been on the move traveling and dealing with finding healthy food options like you have, I’m also the heaviest I’ve been in years and feel how it mentally takes a toll on your self-esteem and perception of yourself when you look in the mirror.
I’ve had eating habit issues since high school and although I no longer suffer from the bulimic mindset. I still am struggling with getting myself motivated to get back into a regular workout routine, even though I’ve made some progress since moving to Seattle this year. I agree with you that it takes constant mental check-ins with yourself when you’re in the thick of it to realize yes, you are beautiful and everything starts with self-love. I just wanted to say thank you for showing up honestly and vulnerably the way you have, it does mean a lot to know you aren’t alone.
Much love <3
Hey Tonia! I feel ya. I agree that self love is a very important component… it’s taken me years to learn it. I used to think that was a bunch of psychobabble but these days I believe that if your brain is sending out a million messages every day to your body telling it “you’re hideous!”… your cells will absorb that in some way. Saying “you’re gorgeous!” instead seems infinity more productive 🙂
Good luck with your journey!
Thank you so much for this post. I studied abroad in Germany for two months last spring, and lost a good amount of weight the first month by eating mainly salads and walking everywhere. But the second month started with a weekend visiting a friend in Italy, and when I got back to Germany my shorts didn’t fit anymore (though to be fair, they were from way back in my freshman year of college and had gotten a little tight over the past couple of summers)!! I also studied away in the U.S. the year before that and dropped weight on the program, but gained that back and more when I came home.
My main point is that I’ll be spending the coming academic year in Germany again, and am nervous about both possibly losing weight and possibly gaining it. I’ve studied some nutrition, but I think I over- or underestimate everything in my own head. So, I either gravitate toward 100% fresh, healthy options (like salads), or I freak out because I’m afraid I’m losing weight too fast, and I give myself permission to go after the croissants and bags of granola (I think that’s what did it my second month abroad). Any advice for finding balance? I hope to improve my lifestyle overall while I’m there–I do a dance fitness class once a week here at home, because I’m a student and classes have been keeping me very busy, but I should have more freetime while abroad, so I plan to invest at least a little of that in exercise!
Again, thank you for this post, and for the honest follow-up! Any advice would be really appreciated. 🙂
Hope things are well and you are at your ideal weight and feeling amazing!! (The bikini pic looks great! ;D)
Ha okay well I have to admit I have NEVER had to freak out that I am losing weight too fast… that is just not a problem this body of mine has ever had before, ha ha. I think you have a good mindset — seek out fresh healthy options whenever possible, do something active every day, and don’t torture yourself if you want to try a local treat. I am still seeking that perfect balance myself. As much as I love to work out and move and my love of healthy natural foods grows all the time, I find it harder and harder to keep weight off with each passing year. Sorry to end on a low note, but… just keeping it real!
I can relate to this post so much! I am from Saratoga Springs and am currently ending my semester abroad…. I am so frustrated with my weight gain, I cannot fit into my pants… I am so embarrassed to go home!! If you have any tips on how to lose the weight in a fast & healthy way please share!
Hey Jillian! Sadly as far as I have learned fast and healthy don’t really go together when it comes to weight loss. From my experience I would say start doing SOME kind of work out every single day. For me, it is the biggest mentality changer and that is really so important. When I’m working out I feel so positively about what I’m doing for my body I can’t help but be more body positive.
Then, of course, eating well-portioned, protein and veggie healthy meals is what will make the biggest difference in the waistline. Wishing you the best of luck!
Found your blog doing a late night google search here in Turkey after weighing myself for the first time since being abroad. I have been traveling for five months now and have gained almost twenty pounds despite working out daily and eating healthy. I never indulge and only have the occasional glass of wine. I am not sure what I could possibly do different but I am feeling super depressed. I’m scared that I can’t do anything to stop gaining weight at this point ;( I’m also small like you, so it is definitely noticeable & I have had to get rid of most of the clothes I left with. I sold everything I own to backpack the world, but I feel like my size has taken away from soaking up the experience of traveling and I’m wondering if I should just go home at this point.
Oh Nicole, I’m so sorry girl. Sorry that you are feeling this way and it is disrupting your experience — that is a very unsettling feeling to not be comfortable in your own body. Try to give yourself all the compassion you can muster, and sleep! I know when my sleep is out of whack, everything is, and studies show it has such an effect on weight (and sleep can be so disrupted when we travel.) I know it’s been a while since you posted this comment — how are you feeling now?
Hi! (10 years later wow) I stumbled on your blog because of your Dive Master course post and your writing style is just so delightful and down-to-earth that I just went down a rabbit hole. This post was so relatable because I gained major weight during a stressful work period last year(lots of sitting on my ass and scarfing down easy-to-cook quesadillas) and ate way too much bread when I was in Europe this last winter. Now I’m in Mexico trying to work it off so I can actually fit into my pants! It has REALLY helped having a likeminded travel buddy who’s down to work out every day and is vegetarian. Agreed that working out is great for mental health and staying motivated—gotta love endorphins.
Haha oh my gosh — a whole decade?! Have I been blogging that long?! Guess so! I’m glad this post still resonates! I’m sure many of my mindsets have shifted and some have stayed the same. Perhaps an update is in order!