A few months abroad could wreak havoc amongst even the most dedicated of gym rats. So what about the rest of us who just want to avoid a bursting pasta baby as much as possible? How can we prevent gaining the cousin of the Freshman 15, the Study-Abroad 15?
My first time in Italy I gained 10 pounds in a month and a half...being 5'3" that is a pretty substantial amount of weight. Granted not all of it was fat, some of it was just my butt getting bigger from the insane amount of stairs Italy has to offer. Nonetheless, 10 pounds is too much! Luckily for me my return to the states included returning to the gym.
Moving here round two I'm doing a lot better. I wouldn't say it's the best shape I've ever been in, but I'm definitely not gaining an exponential 10 pounds a month, and I mentally feel the best about my health I ever have.
Staying fit, and primarily staying healthy is something everyone should focus on, especially when you're living in a foreign country. Here are my tips on keeping the weight off during your time abroad!
Skip the Beer
This is easily the biggest factor in most study abroaders cause of weight gain. Last year while living in Italy I decided to drink beer instead of cocktails. For me this is FATAL.
The amount of calories you consume in a night of drinking is shocking. A normal lager (I chose Harp, because that's typically my beer of choice), has 153 calories in it. This means 5 beers during is a whopping 765 calories. Multiply by 3 or 4 times a week and that is bad news bears for your body.
Consider the effect of drinking 2 beers with your lunch. If you have a salad- that's fine. But if you're having anything fried or heavy in calories, it's like adding a mini meal to your actual meal.
I'm not saying cut alcohol out. Europeans tend to drink more socially than Americans, whereas we (Americans- and especially college age ones) drink to get drunk. There is a HUGE difference between drinking wine at dinner then going out for a cocktail, than pregaming with wine at dinner, then going out and getting trashed. Just make sure you know the cultural difference, and can consciously make the decision.
So how to avoid the fat, and still enjoy a night out? Personally I've made the switch to Vodka or Prosecco. I stick 1 or 2 vodka tonics a night (maybe 3 if I'm feeling saucy). Not only am I consuming less calories, I feel less bloated, and I'm spending less money!
So skip the beer at lunch, and make the switch to a lighter choice in the evening!
Eat at Home
Experiencing the culture and eat out whenever you can is important in any live-abroad situation. But don't underestimate the power of being able to cook at home. Not only will you pay more attention to what you're putting in your belly, but you'll also save some money.
I eat breakfast and usually lunch at home, and if I'm going to work I try and pack a lunch, or just eat something small, like a bagel or caesar salad. Dinner out is always up in the air, I probably eat out 3 or 4 nights a week, but that is usually more work related than anything.
Join a Gym
This one is pretty obvious. If you're a study abroad student your school may offer you discounts on particular gyms, or they may even have a gym for you to use included with tuition. There are several options around Florence, one of the best being Swan Gym, which students get a discount on their membership with.
Attend Fitness Classes
If you're not motivated to go to the gym *raises hand slowly*, then attend workout classes. Even if you don't have a gym membership there are places everyday outdoors in Florence that offer free (or cheap) yoga classes. Schedules are often posted on websites like www.theFlorentine.com, or just a quick google search will give you the options, as they change frequently.
Enjoy the Natural Beauty Around You
Go on a hike, or a run, or just a walk even! There are tons of ways to get active when you're living abroad. Florence is a beautiful city to run in, and in the evenings it's not too painfully hot to run. Just outside of the town you can take a hike up on Fiesole or Monteciceri. In town make the trek to Piazzale Michelangelo, walk around the many gardens. Or for a longer adventure take a day trip to Cinque Terre. There are unlimited amounts of options around Florence, and staying active and being productive in this sense will make you feel a whole lot better about eating so much pasta!
As always the most important thing is just to be conscious of what you are doing to your body. Just because you are living abroad for a while doesn't mean to disregard your personal health and fitness!