Before you go abroad, there are about a thousand million thoughts going through your mind. Will I like ___(insert city name here)___ ? Will I get along with my host family? Will my roommate be a dud? How will my classes be? How am I ever going to plan all of these trips? Will I make friends or be a loner? How should I go about not getting taken? How on earth will I make my money last for four months? HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO PACK ALL OF THIS!?!?
While all of those questions were certainly circulating through my mind this January, there were a few that kept rearing their ugly heads. What will I eat? Will my host mom be a healthy cook? Will she shove bread and rice down my throat? Where is the nearest gym? If I can’t find a gym, will I have to run everyday? AM I GOING TO GET FAT?
I am someone who needs to be in control. All the time. I’ve always been this way and a get super anxious when I’m out of control, which was one of the reasons why this happened last year. As you may imagine, I’m not exactly the type of person who comes to mind when you think of abroad, entirely new life, and spontaneity! I love order and schedules. If you take a look inside my agenda, you’ll see that I often write down what I’m doing for every hour of every day. I even schedule in ‘chill’ time.
While these are often good traits to have, they don’t always work to my advantage. This is particularly true when it comes to my diet. For the first time last year, I had a kitchen in my dorm. I loved cooking my own food and knowing exactly what I was putting into my body. Studying abroad brings a completely new approach to food; I have cooked here once, a few times if you consider the occasional salad that I mix up. I often have no idea what my host mom is going to serve me for lunch and dinner. It could be a carb-laden rice dish or a plate of veggies with a side of soup; I never know.
At first, this caused me quite a bit of anxiety, as you might imagine. I had a breakdown about a month in to my dad about how I didn’t think that I was eating enough vegetables and I never had energy and I consumed no protein and blah blah blah…
Exactly 3 months after flying to Spain, my relationship with food has done a 180. Six months ago, I wouldn’t have eaten rice if you told me it was the best in the world. I now inhale it like it’s my job. I encircle other foods with it because why not? Rice is really, really good. Yes, it’s a carb. Yes, too many carbs make you fat. But you know what? RICE TASTES DAMN GOOD, especially when your host mom makes it with curry, seafood, or chicken.
I have days when I literally eat carbohydrates all day; oatmeal for breakfast, rice for lunch, and pasta for dinner. Sure, I have a moment when I realize that and feel a little guilty, but soon enough I’m out of my slump and back to shoveling rice into my mouth. I admit that I am lucky in that my host mom cooks very healthfully; she’s huge on veggies and not so into fried foods. One might say that we’re a match made in heaven. When we have carb days, I eat up because I know that the next day will be heavier on the veggies. I’ll work a little harder in the gym post-carbs to put them to work.
Abroad has made me embrace ice cream. This is a small step for mankind, but it’s a huge step for me. The best ice creamery in Sevilla is only about a 20 minute walk away, so obviously I’m going to go once a week. The walking burns it off, right? They serve flavors that I have never, ever seen in America. And the ones that we do have at home? Rayas does them much, much better. Ice cream isn’t the best for the old bod, no, but it tastes great, especially on a hot day. I’m not going to be in Sevilla forever, so I’m going to eat up while I can (in moderation, of course).
My experience abroad has helped me to realize that food is really, really amazing. I knew that before coming abroad but wouldn’t have touched some of the best foods that our world has to offer because they would make made me ‘fat.’ You know what? I eat carbs o’plenty and ice cream on the regular and I’m fine. I work out for about 50 minutes a day and that seems to be doing the trick. Luckily and unluckily, we have a scale in my house. After being here for 3 months and jumping on that dreaded machine a number of times, I realize that nothing is really changing. I am eating ice cream and rice and (healthy?) fats and I am essentially the same person that I was when I arrived here.
I hope that when I get home, I pack my new, healthy food philosophy in my carryon. I like to like food; it’s much better than fearing it. Food is here to be eaten, not scoffed at and thrown away. When I reflect on the juice cleanse that I did last summer, I only get angry with myself. At their core, juice cleanses are so selfish. Because we haven’t worked hard enough at the gym or eaten nutritiously enough in the past few months, we need juice cleanses to flush us out and make us feel good again. While I was starving and drinking $10 juices 6 times a day, there was a starving child in the world who would have given anything to eat what I consume on a daily basis. Essentially, I voluntarily starved myself while there are millions of people in the world who wake up day after day hoping for a sad excuse for a meal. I am lucky enough to live in a society where I can afford delicious, nutritious food. Why should I deprive myself of that because I want to have a decent beach body this summer? Abroad has taught me that food is to be savored and appreciated, and I’m quite enjoying it.