Asia opinion teaching-abroad travel

Gaining Weight While Living Abroad


Weight gain was not something that I was concerned about prior to living overseas. I’ve consistently worked out since high school, and maintain a pretty healthy lifestyle. I had actually lost a ton of weight during my first couple of months in Korea, as I adjusted to living there, and the food. I’d heard other foreigners talk about their own weight gain since coming to Korea, but still didn’t think much of it for myself.

What really caused a lot of my weight gain, was a series of unfortunate events. I’ve mentioned these before, but they bear repeating since it’s related to today’s topic. In July of my first year in Korea, I had fallen down some stairs, broken my talus bone, and seriously injured an ankle tendon. That put me on bed rest for a few weeks, and it took even longer to be healed enough to begin to workout again. Being injured in foreign country depressed me a bit, so I pretty much ate my feelings. That coupled with not being able to move around much, caused me to gain weight rapidly!

I was also often sick, and taking medications off and on, and lastly, I had had surgery on my right thumb. The surgery happened not too long before I left Korea, so I don’t really count that as being much of a problem with weight gain, but it certainly didn’t help. All of these factors added to weight issues.

In autumn of the same year that I’d injured my foot/ankle, I joined a nearby gym, and started to exercise once again. I was able to lose a few pounds, but beyond that my weight would not budge. To be honest, I struggled with food my entire time in Korea. Supermarkets there tend to sell food in bulk, which can be a waste for someone living alone, as many of the fresh produce I’d buy would go bad before I could finish it all. It was actually more cost efficient to eat out, then to buy a bunch of groceries that would go bad.

Gym selfie! I took this after losing a few lbs.

Kitchens in studio style Korean apartments were also different than what I was used to. I had one burner on my stove, and no microwave, or oven. The school was supposed to provide a microwave, but didn’t. I inherited one when one of my friends moved back to Korea after our first year. I also inherited a small convection oven when another friend left Korea. So while I did more cooking, and food prep at home during my last year, I’d spent a year and a half eating out a lot. Part of this was also due to the fact that I lived alone, and would often meet friends for dinner. It can get pretty boring eating by yourself every day in your apartment.

If I had to do it all over again, I would definitely eat out less, and watch my diet more closely. White rice, and pork are staples in Korean cuisine, along with a variety of other foods that just did not suit my waistline well. You can’t completely avoid eating out sometimes, (staff dinners for example), but if I were to go abroad again, I’d definitely pay more attention to my diet. It was one of those things that was on the back burner, as I attempted to navigate life in a completely different culture. I would also be mindful to take vitamins/supplements regularly. I wasn’t consistent in doing that while I lived there either, and I do believe that doing this would have also helped a lot. So, for those of you who are interested in moving abroad, keep in mind to pay attention to what you are eating.

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