When I was packing to head to France, my mom cautioned me against taking clothes that were closer to the tight end of the scale instead of fitting properly. Her reasoning was two-fold: 1.) (Rightly and smartly) that it would take up extra space in my already crowded bag and 2.) She warned me that I would probably gain weight while abroad. Naturally, my reply was to scoff at such worry, toss the clothes anyways and promise myself that I wouldn’t let that happen.
The only claim I make in the whole weight debate is that I’ve, for the most part, always been fit. I’ve never really worried one way or another (except for some teenage angst and those moments when those pants at the second hand store don’t fit but were so perfect.) if only because I’ve always just been too active for it to be an issue. I’ve been playing sports since I could walk and played almost every sport* my school offered all the way through to graduation, so staying that active meant that I never had to actively think about something like gaining and/or losing weight.
Even moving away from home for school didn’t affect too much. I’d learned to cook from my mom, plus I love me my fruits and veggies, so that also helped me navigate any of that ‘Freshman 15’. As did having to climb up eight sets of stairs to get to our dorms, I’m sure.
The difference between all of that and becoming an au pair? You don’t get to choose your diet. The family will already have a certain kind of life and eating style. They’ll have a specific relationship to food that has to do with culture, taste and availability that might be completely different from your own. Thankfully I will eat anything you put in front of me, which means I adapt fairly easily to new places. However, a lot of change means your body has to figure out how to adjust itself, which can end up being a process and even a bit of a problem.
My first family was a fairly good mix of all the food groups. A lot more cheese regularly than what I would eat back home, but when in France, am I right? They weren’t, however, very active. (A thing to note when looking for families: closer to the city can often mean that it’s less time spent outside playing in backyards or parks.) A walk here or there and getting the kids out to the park was a nightmare. In the three months I was there, I think we only went a handful of times, if that.
My second family was very health food orientated. Meals were dominated by vegetables, snacks were always more fruit than cookies and dairy products were kept down to once, maybe twice a day. That meant, even though they were French, the amount of cheese that was around was actually quite minimal compared to a ‘typical’ French home. The dairy restriction helped me quite a bit since, even though I do love it, a lot, too much makes my skin go haywire and my stomach make awkward noises. Plus, living in the mountains meant that I was walking up and down steep slopes four times a day, the kids spent hours at the park after school before we headed home, we’d take day trips to the lake and the kids went skiing twice a week all through the winter. Those things do add up, over time. Between meeting the grandparents over Christmas and seeing them again during one of the school breaks, I had lost some weight. A thing I had actually not really noticed until a backhand French compliment was thrown my way. Oh, France.
This family is as pro-milk as my previous family was not. The kids are not big fruit or vegetable fans and the time spent outside is once again almost nil, which I do partly blame on the fact that we are so close to the city and they’re life style is a lot like the first family I lived with. As well, Spain does a lot of fried food, a lot of tapas and a lot of meat.
Food is not ‘one size fits all’ and it does take some adjusting to get used to it. Now in Spain, after eight months of living on fruits and vegetables and grains and minimal dairy, I’ve had to readjust to the new diet. After a couple of weeks of bad skin and an upset stomach, I had to tone down on the milk. I had to actively make sure I was going for more salad than fried peppers. When we go out, I tend to go with a fish or chicken over red meat or else do a salad dish. Partly because I do actually prefer fish/chicken over red meat most of the time and because yes, I do really like salad, but it’s also knowing that my body is used to and needs these types of food to continue to be the body that I’m familiar with. Also because I bought new pants and it’s not like I have money to be buying pants all the time. That gets expensive.
*Because, let’s be honest: golf isn’t really a sport and I did even do curling for two years, which is also a little ‘meh’ in my mind on the sporting scale
Things I’m Loving:
+ This song – (Has been on repeat all weekend.)
+ She’s an old classmate of mine – (It’s amazing to see what people are doing.)
+ For those doing NaNo – (It starts this weekend!)
+ For any mothers out there – (Share with the ones in your life.)