The Curse of Moving to a Foreign Country

Something mysterious happens when one moves to a foreign country. One day you are still in the body you brought along with you, and the next you are in a body that poses as yours, yet, cannot be, as it is now much more ample than before. What happened? Well, what happened, if you live in the UAE, is the dreaded “Abu Dhabi 10”. Other names for this unwanted curse include the “Heathrow Injection” and “Bangkok Bulge”, and I am sure there are many other similar names being whispered in guilt and shame. It happens to most expats, and everyone feels a bit confused as to how and why it happens. Worst part is that there is nothing gradual about it: the weight gain happens almost overnight. There are the usual scapegoats that have to shoulder the blame: a more sedentary lifestyle, less or no exercise, new eating habits, foods that are richer than what you are used to, or even stress-induced weight gain. Although all of the above will most certainly play a role, I am not sure that it is all there is to it. Many people who live in a foreign country for about a year, report immediate weight loss on the return to their home country without putting any or much effort into it.

I tried to find scientific studies that could explain the link between moving to a foreign country and weight gain, but came up empty-handed. Either there are no such studies, or I simply could not find them.

I wish I could say that it didn’t happen to me. Sadly it did, and although I didn’t put on 10kg, I did gain a full 10% of my body weight. One day I still recognised my body, felt comfortable in it, and the next my jeans were too tight. My saving grace is that I have been a bit skinny when I arrived (weighing in below my “ideal” weight), so I shouldn’t complain too much. Problem is just that I would like to understand why it happened. I didn’t change my basic eating habits or exercise regime, and not knowing what caused this weight gain implies that I don’t have the amount of control over my weight as I’d like to think I have.

In my search for scientific studies, I stumbled upon a book called The Smarter Science of Slim: What the Actual Experts Have Proven About Weight Loss, Health, and Fitness. As I have yet to start reading it, I cannot draw any conclusions, but once I’ve gobbled up what the experts have to say, I’m sure I’ll have plenty to report back on. Especially as I would like to lose just a kilo or two.

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