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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.

… a bit heavier today**

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 .)

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.

  • Dave
    March 23 2012

    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!
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    • Meihoukai
      March 23 2012

      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 🙂

  • Rachel
    March 23 2012

    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.
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