As you may have seen in my last post, I have had a lot of free time this year to focus on "me time," for better or for worse. One of the things I've been doing is trying to be healthy and lose weight. I tend to spend more time reading about and researching tips and recipes than actually, you know, moving around, but...knowledge is power, right?
Anyway, a lot of things in my routine have been made possible because of living in Brazil. I'd like to dispel the myth that all Brazilians are slim and healthy -- one of my students is a cardiologist, and he gets as annoyed as I do when people tell him that only Americans are overweight. The most recent studies have shown that 49% of Brazilians are overweight, and 15.8% are obese. (In the US, 69.2% are overweight, and 35.7% are obese, so much more, but Brazilians are catching up - the percentage in Brazil goes up about .5% a year.)
But I do think it's easier to lose weight in Brazil than in the US. Here are some ways that you can lose weight if you're living in Brazil:
*Cars are crazy expensive. Ditch the cost and take the local public transportation, if you can. It'll force you to walk a lot more; plus, you'll save money!
*Processed food is crazy expensive. Why would you buy potato chips at R$7 when you can buy strawberries for R$3? Those parallels are never-ending. It seems that the more processed something is, the more it costs. That factor makes it easier to make healthier decisions. While not all fresh/unprocessed food is healthy (there's always amazing fried street food...mmm...), it tends to have less sugar and salt than the processed/packaged stuff.
*Restaurants are crazy expensive, at least compared to eating at home. More importantly, the interesting/exotic/different Brazilian food is delicious and almost undoubtedly healthier than the McDonald's and Burger King franchises that have cropped up everywhere. Yawn. You can eat McDonald's anytime, anywhere in the world. You didn't come to Brazil to eat something boring, did you? Plus, as you may have guessed, these American fast food imports are much more expensive than the delicious local restaurants that serve basic, healthy food at lunchtime. They mostly have huge salad bars and you pay by weight (the food's weight, not yours!).
*Gyms have "professors" (i.e., trainers that walk around and help you). Every gym I've been to in Brazil has made a workout plan for me, and one fancy gym that I used to go to even gave me health evaluations to measure body fat and lung capacity and stuff. If you are able to go to the gym at less popular times (like we English teachers are), you often get these professors to yourself, so they're kind of like personal trainers.
*Recipes are everywhere. Next to cash registers here in Brazil, you can buy little mini-cookbooks or magazines full of traditional recipes. Also, older women love to tell you recipes, the whole thing, from memory. It's a strange cultural quirk that I've never completely understood, but it can come in handy. If you're talking to an older Brazilian woman and mention some food that you like and say that you don't know how to make it, she will proceed to rattle off every ingredient and step, as if you could memorize it like she did. But if you have some pen and paper available, or if you're willing to accompany said woman while she's cooking, you can learn to make magic in the kitchen!
I don't think I have much more self-control or willpower than my American counterparts living in the US. I think I just have lost access to Taco Bell, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, and all-you-can-eat $9.99 Chinese buffets, as well as to my car. I have found that a combination of American websites about weight loss tips and recipes combined with Brazil's economy has given me a new lease on life!
What about you? Have you gained or lost weight living abroad?