So you know when you go on holiday for a week and spend the entire time lazing around like a fat seal by the pool sipping sugary cocktails, moving only to devour a delicious meal that definitely involves a bread basket? Well imagine doing that for 16 months straight. I did. So yeah, I went traveling and I got fat.
It was a heady combination of inconsistent exercise, lack of easy healthy food options and an all-out YOLO diet that did it. It wasn’t so bad at the start of the trip when we were camping around western USA, hiking and cooking all our own food. But then came the South, where we stopped camping, started staying at party hostels and gobbling up all the soul food we could stomach.
After that came South America where the prospect of a dull 16-hour bus trip was brightened only by purchasing a Mars Bar to eat along the way and where fried cheap street food was abundant. It seems absurd but a packet of chips can provide a bizarre level of comfort when you’re somewhere strange and slightly scary and can’t stomach the prospect of eating in a restaurant when all the meals seem to have hair in them (Hello Bolivia). Towards the end of our trip in Greece, Italy and Albania there was nary a dining moment that didn’t involve dunking bread into oil. I am not exaggerating when I say we ate pizza every single day from Naples to Rome.
I haven’t even mentioned the drinking.
I’m not going to pretend the weight gain didn’t bother me at the time. Oh it did. Never had I eaten with such abandon, spent so much time in a bikini and had so many photos taken of me at the same time. A truly harrowing combination. I have no idea how much weight I really put on because I didn’t dare step on scales. What’s laughable is I even drafted a ‘how to keep fit on the road’ blog post, before quickly realising I was vastly under qualified to speak on such a topic.
I got very good, if I do say so myself, at posing in flattering angles (notice the casual placement of my purse in the pizza photo!) and it turns out underwater photos taken on a GoPro are surprisingly slimming.
So why am I writing about this?
A few reasons; firstly I got really sick of seeing viral travel photos on Instagram featuring a perfectly tanned girl looking back over a skinny shoulder and laughing into the camera while perching precariously over the edge of a cliff. Notice how the most liked and shared travel pics always include tiny women?! Why? Normal sized people travel too. So do those who may or may not have ordered a family sized Texan BBQ meal for two because they saw it that time on Man vs Food. It’s just not possible to travel long term and maintain the exact same diet/exercise routine that you do at home, whether that results in weight gain or loss. Fact. Let’s be realistic.
Secondly, I feel a tad foolish about the amount of time I spend worrying about how I looked, analysing photos and agonising over whether to post them on social media. I was travelling the goddamn world! What a privilege. Who cares how I looked?! When I look back at photos now I think about the moment, not the dress size. I’m lucky I have such a patient boyfriend who was prepared to re-take photos of me… What a diva. Sorry babe! Believe me for every photo on this blog there were many that didn’t make it… But thankfully my negative feelings towards how I looked never stopped me from doing anything; I was swimming every day, pulling on leggings to hike up a volcano and silently praying the ‘one size fits all’ safety gear was adequate so I could mountain bike down the reassuringly named ‘death road.
Thirdly, food is such an important part of the travel experience for me. I’m not someone who can travel somewhere and cook chicken and salad at the hostel every night. Would New Orleans have been the same without eating jerk chicken and rice while sitting in a gutter having danced my heart out to a jazz band on Frenchman Street? Would Italy have been the same without my dedication to sampling as many flavours of gelato as humanly possible? Could I really say I’d been to a Scottish wedding without trying the haggis and three kinds of potatoes served up?! Food and culture are so intensely intwined and I wouldn’t feel I’d properly experienced a place without trying the local cuisine. Sure sometimes I probably took that to the extreme but I don’t regret anything I ate.
With that in mind, now that I’m back and settled in a job and home it feels good to have a consistently healthy diet. I joined a gym and am back doing the Spin classes I love. I’ve also got an awesome new housemate and we’ve started doing circuit workouts at home. It feels good.
I’m not looking for sympathy or for comments like “you look fine!”, self image is deeply personal and entirely internal; no amount of you-look-fines from people will help if you’re feeling low. Feeling uncomfortable in your own skin is horrible.
I’m aware that what I’m talking about is often seen as largely a first world problem, but crippling low self esteem should not be underestimated. I experienced a very small dose of what a lot of people experience every day for years without end and the results can be devastating. It never got quite that bad for me.
I just wanted to be honest about my experience and to encourage people to fully experience the world, regardless of how they think they look, and to leave no burger untasted. Because you really do only live once. #noregrets