Posted on April 24, 2013

Foreign 15 Lbs (Weight Gain)

Many of you will be familiar with the dreaded Freshman 15; which most of us experience in our first year away at university. For those of you that don’t know about the western phenomenon Freshman 15 is the (true to life) myth that predicts a roughly 15 pound weight gain in your first year at uni/college.
What you won’t recall is experiencing it yet again, later in life. Let me introduce what is commonly known as the Foreign 15Lbs.  Most expats will vouch that their experiences abroad have lead to increasing scale numbers  and fuller figures. Expat woman in Saudi Arabia
almost undoubtedly suffer from this phenomenon. Why?..

For starters, life in the KSA is extremely sedentary and any forms of exercise are often forgotten very early on arrival. Living in a society that discourages pedestrians and heavily enforces women not be seen performing any form of exercise/sport publically can become very discouraging very fast. Also, with limited all female –gyms that have hefty membership  premiums some expat women don’t see the payoff of enrolling. When I say very limited, I mean it. There are less than a dozen Gym Centre Franchises in the Kingdom and only a couple have Women Centers. Don’t forget that only those that are lucky enough to be working in the three larger cities in the Kingdom will have access to such facilities.

Another contributing factor to the weight gain is clearly the food. Depending on where you live supermarkets are very selective. Yes, you can find fruits and vegetables galore but let’s not be mistaken the variety doesn’t compare to what most of us are use too. In addition, “foreign goods” (western food) are highly over priced and very limited. Depending on how diverse your culinary skills are the basics get very boring very fast.
Let’s not forget that you are living in a society that places a huge value on food. Saudis like to EAT! A LOT! This being said you will notice that coffee breaks at work make up more time than actual work hours.  The average cup of coffee is always accompanied by a handful of sweets. Every meal is taken very seriously and dining out here is the most popular past time.  I can honestly say I have never seen so many restaurants in any given country…. With over an estimated 100, 000 restaurants you bet you will find something to eat.
  • It is so hot in the desert that you will sweat off the pounds … LIE- you will never be without air conditioner, it’s unheard of!
  •  There is nothing to eat in the desert. LIE- food is taken seriously here with a plethora of supermarkets and thousands of restaurants for your every need
  • Too busy to eat… LIE – Most women will hold standard work hours not exceeding 4pm, meaning you have all evening to eat!
  •  Eating out is costly… LIE- compared to dining prices back home, eating out here is very affordable. Some say it’s even cheaper than cooking at home.
  •  If you live in a compound you won’t be bored- …Lie- yes it is true you are more accessible to facilities, but like I said with no other past times other than shopping and eating. Eating out quickly becomes a very common thing to do!
  •  If you eat the local food you won’t get fat- Lie- true that McDonald’s is a lot unhealthier than traditional cuisine. But you will find out very fast that the traditional KABSA – Chicken and rice… doesn’t compare much differently in the long term.
Helpful Suggestions;
I honestly was a victim to the Foreign 15lbs more like 20-lbs in my first year, but thankfully I have been able to control and lose it in this
current second year here. This is how.
  1. 1.  Limit Carbs- You don’t need the energy overload it supplies if you aren’t active (I am not)
  2. 2. Limit Sugar- Sugar is used here without thought.Everything has sugar in it and a lot of it.
  3. 3. Exercise – Try to be active, despite it being hard for some (location). Simple walks, Tae-bo at home doesn’t hurt either
  4. 4  Plan your meals so that you can get the most out of your grocery trips- experiment it helps (healthy recipes)
  5. 5. Drink a lot of water and that’s all – try to limit the flavored drinks (full of sugar)
Take Care xx

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