I’m not exactly sure where I plan to go with this blog but it’s definitely something that’s on my mind this morning. I’ve spent some time chatting with some of my best friends at home and dieting has come up as part of the conversation with all three of them. I’d say that’s not uncommon. People diet, they want to look thin, they want to be healthy, etc.
I can’t say that I was any different. I had my gym membership that I utilized. I went to yoga every week. I ate wheat bread and wheat pasta and flax seed and wheat grass (I will never ever like wheat grass) and other frou frou ‘I live a healthy urban lifestyle stuff....’
Well, let me be clear. I still ate pizza, and French fries, and consumed way too much beer on a regular basis, but when I was in the mood, I would make healthy decisions. And I would feel guilty if I went overboard with my food choices**
I dieted before vacations, tried to eat balanced meals, exercised hard at the thought of being in a bathing suit and weighed myself before going to bed and as soon as I woke up in the mornings.
Oh how things have changed.
While talking to my friends, I realize I barely know what a diet is anymore.
My lifestyle here has drastically changed. I don’t own a scale. I don’t own a full length mirror. I rarely wear makeup. I brush my hair if I think about it. (I went about 4 weeks without a brush because I thought I lost it... It was under my bed)
I could be 30 lbs heavier, 10 lbs lighter, exactly the same weight; I really have no clue, and frankly don’t really care. Okay, I care but not nearly as much as I used to.
If I eat McDonalds 2-3 times in one weekend, I’m not plagued with guilt. If I spend all day lying in my bed doing nothing, who cares? If I spend an entire day drinking with friends and family here, that is perfectly okay. I eat whatever I want to eat. I don’t ever exercise. I eat pizza every chance I get.
And you know what? I don’t have a single PCV friend that would make me feel guilty about this. I don’t know if that’s a bad thing or not. We miss food and we like to eat. Period. In fact, I woke up this morning and immediately texted a volunteer that I thought it was a frozen yogurt kind of afternoon.
And obviously, she agreed.
I figured if I get really fat, Filipinos are going to be the first to let me know. If you gain a significant (or not so significant) amount of weight or lose, you will know.
You. Will. Know.
‘Celia, you look sexy today, not chubby like when you first arrived’
‘I think you are getting fatter, you must really enjoy the Philippines’
‘If you don’t eat more rice you will become too thin’
‘You are big like (can’t think of word but stores air in their cheeks as if imitating a hamster)’
Thank you people of the Philippines! Without you, I would have no idea if I was gaining weight or losing weight. No really, thank you. I have thick skin now.
Oh man, I’m making it sounds like its awful here. So, let me mention that I am told I am beautiful at least once a day (assuming I make it out of my house). And remember I told you that my standards of being ‘put together’ have dropped drastically....
Mahusay. That’s the word for beautiful. I am not exaggerating when I say I hear it every day. I love it, who wouldn’t? So people who read this back at home, for the first three months after my Peace Corps service, I would really appreciate it if you could tell me how beautiful I am everyday and then start weaning me from the compliments slowly. Thanks, I’d appreciate that!
So yeah, diets. I don’t think diets really exist here. You’re either fat or your thin or somewhere inbetween and that’s just how it is. Some people live healthier than others... that means they might exercise once a week, but trust me, everybody eats cheese lumpia and lechon and rice. Sugar is still added to everyone’s spaghetti. They still mix their tuba and/or beer with Coke.
So, what does this mean for the Philippines? Is it less of a beauty obsessed country than the U.S.? Personally, I don’t think so. Like I said, they notice if you are fat or thin, and they notice when they think you are beautiful (if you are foreign and you have light skin, you are beautiful)*** It’s just different. Some people might argue that media has a stronger influence in America maybe? I also disagree. In fact, idols here have an incredibly strong presence as well as ‘western’ style. Don’t even get me started on Justin Bieber... Maybe we are just more vein in America? Nope, try finding space to look in the mirror at the mall.
It’s just different. Economics maybe.
Okay- that’s my mini tangent on diets and lack of diets in the Philippines.
**I did not feel guilty any time there was a food challenge (e.g. 4 Krystal burgers, fries, and a coke challenge, a hamburger on a cruise ship challenge)
*** I feel like I need to make a quick mention about skin bleaching. Filipinos are obsessed with light skin. It’s actually difficult to find lotion, deodorant, or even soap that doesn’t have a ‘lightening element’ in it. Bleach. No different than tanning beds at home, just opposite.