I’m really tired of the constant diet rambles I hear in America, talking about how much someone might weigh, or how much someone is eating, or how many calories someone burned on their last run.
I’m going to talk about Spain again. If you’re bored of it, I’m sorry. It changed my life in more ways than I can count, but this one relates to my recovery, therefore I deem it relatable and consistent with my blog content. Plus, it’s Spain. And Spain is beautiful.
See? Ahhh how I miss it so.
Every week in Spain, our professor required us to write an essay of reflection. He chose the topic each week, but within those barriers lied freedom. His prompt never narrowed in on one specific field of interest, giving us the ability to take in everything around us and become inspired.
One week, he asked to write on a difference we noticed while in Spain. See how broad that is? I could have talked about a number of differences I observed: meal times, food eaten, work schedules, family structures, and on and on. My mind immediately jumped to how children are raised because that was something I really looked out for. When my friends and I went out to a bar at 1 in the morning, there were still children out with their parents at a restaurant. Coming from a childhood in which my bedtime was 8:30 until high school and it only raised to 9:00 when I was a freshman in high school (not kidding), this was bizarre to me. Additionally, every park we passed always had children running about. It was refreshing to see kids actually living through a childhood.
I sat down to my computer and began to note some of the tidbits I wanted to mention throughout my essay, when a girl on my trip walked by the room. She made a comment about how she felt she’d gained at least ten pounds while on this trip. Statements like this don’t trigger me or anything along those lines. I laughed it off and rolled my eyes at her, because obviously she hadn’t. She was making a fuss over the relatively large lunch we just came from, and we both knew she was joking.
Still, it got me thinking.
This was three weeks into the trip and it was the first time I heard anyone make a comment about their weight. And it came from a United States citizen.
Our program did a great job of fully immersing us into the Spanish culture. We stayed in Valencia, a southern, coastal city that is mainly locals. It’s not a city that attracts as many tourists as Madrid or Barcelona, so I felt more hidden amongst those who actually reside there. I was lucky enough to have conversations with locals each day, lasting for long periods of time. It gave me the chance to understand their lives and what fuels their daily routines.
I recalled all of the conversations I’d had leading up to that moment sitting at my computer, and I realized not once had anyone talked about anything related to the diet culture. No calories, no body shaming, nothing. Absolutely nothing.
Then I thought about every restaurant we visited- not one had the nutritional info listed.
I highlighted all of the words I typed out for my essay and started anew. This was the topic I wanted to write about.
Compared to the United States, the Spanish people had an immensely healthier perspective on body image. This was my perspective. Every beach there is a nude beach if someone wanted it to be. Nudity is not taboo. It’s a part of their culture. They appreciate the human body for what it is, a vessel that carries us through our lives. It’s not an objectified machine that is there to be judged and ridiculed.
Even the advertisements around the city, even by the mall, focused far less on the physique of men and women, and more on the fashion itself. I hardly saw underweight or overweight people. Everyone was in the healthy range, which was so encouraging. I’m beginning to see how our society’s extreme central focus on the diet industry really fuels eating disorders of all different kinds.
We feel this incessant pressure to look a certain way, eat a particular diet, and pretend like we enjoy it all, that our bodies haven’t the slightest idea what to do. It all leads to restriction, binging, excessive exercise- all things that are torturous to our bodies. All things we should never do in the first place.
In Spain, people walk to and from their locations of business and residence. They eat regularly throughout the day. They enjoy their fatty foods such as olive oil and cheese (oh the glorious cheese!), and meats. They don’t get hung up on the caloric intake of every ounce of each bite. They just eat, mindfully slow. Meals last longer in Spain because they set out the time for them. Here in America, I find myself constantly busy throughout the day, especially during the school year, that oftentimes I’m eating lunch in between classes and I don’t even realize what I’m doing. I’m just inhaling my food as quickly as possible. That’s not healthy. Food is mean to be enjoyed and savored, which is something I feel like I actually learned how to do in Spain.
The way the Spanish approach food, I believe, lends itself to the healthy body image they have. I never saw one man or woman of the local population chats someone else, even silently so, for the way they looked or what they wore. Give me five minutes on a busy street back here in Los Angeles, and I’ll see it happen multiple times. Isn’t that so sad?
In America, I feel on guard about my body. Like I have to protect it from always being looked at by others. Like I’m seeking the approval of strangers, though in reality, no on actually cares that much. In Spain, I honestly felt free to put on the outfit I wanted, without mulling over myself in front of the mirror wondering if it’s flattering or not.
I want to keep this up in America.
No One Cares How Much You Weigh
You know what people do care about though?
- Your favorite books, movies, sports
- If you are a night owl or a morning person
- What makes you get up every morning
- What you find your passions in
- Where you see yourself thriving
- How you find satisfaction in this world
- Your personality, quirks, likes, dislikes, interests
It’s hard though, isn’t it? We are plagued by constant advertisements. Drink this shake, eat these vegetables, do this exercise. I just want to tell it all to shut the heck up and let me enjoy a life without these constant billboards screaming at our eyes.
They aren’t worth our time.
It’s a slow change, because it is what we were born into. Millions of people make money off such products. If I could change one thing in this world though, I’d make the diet industry obsolete. It does a great deal more harm than good.
We make it so complicated. Health is simple if we get past all of the rules we, and society, have set up for ourselves. Time to break down those barriers. One step at a time.
Questions of the Day
- Have you ever visited some place else and noticed how different the culture was?
- If you had the power to change one thing in this world, what would you do?
- Favorite kind of cheese?
- Would you ever go nude at a beach? (Confession: I did! One of the best, most transformative days of my life and recovery. But that’s a story for another day… )