Help, I can’t stop eating! – Why expats get fat
Are you an expat with an overhanging belly? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Putting on weight seems to be very common in expat communities.
But is it really that surprising? Moving to another country is not only about new languages and cultures but also about new and exciting food. Exotic dishes, bizarre food combinations and traditional drinks are something every cosmopolitan expatriate should experiment. So, let your food adventure begin!
How do we gain weight as expats?
It usually goes like this… The new expat, feeling good and in fairly good shape, arrives in a new country ready for new experiences. The likelihood is they’ll first stick to their regular eating habits, probably even craving familiar foods from home. But soon, all the exciting new delights in shops and restaurants start calling. The expat can’t resist the temptation of the curious packages with funny-sounding names on supermarket shelves or the weird dishes available in traditional restaurants. Without even realizing it, the expat has already said goodbye to mama’s comfort food from home and is plunged into an intoxicating mix of flavours and spices. But this is just the beginning…
The second fatal phase of the fattening journey begins with making new international friends. It’s at this stage that eating evolves into a social event. Invitations to dinners where guests prepare typical food from their countries are so much fun, that the expatriate just can’t resist. Parties with calorific drinks become more frequent. Then inevitably, the phrase “I heard about a great restaurant, we have to go!” becomes commonplace. When the connoisseur finally gets short of cash, cheap junk food starts to work its way into their diet. With a tight budget, and even tighter jeans, their only consolation is that their fellow expats are getting larger as well.
Is culture shock to blame?
Your extra fat may be just a natural consequence of culture shock. This is a state of loss and disorientation that every new expat experiences after changing their environment. Culture shock commonly leads to lethargy, depression and, believe it or not, weight gain! Living in a different country without support can make expats feel anxious and, as a result, they will often seek emotional comfort in food. Being more aware of what, how much, and why you’re eating can help you understand how you’re feeling on an emotional level, and hopefully lead to overcoming your anxiety about living abroad. Expats should take extra care to make sure they stay healthy and informed about expat health news.
What do you think? Is it common for expats to be overweight? How did your moving abroad affect your weight? Share your experiences and tips in the comments section.