Slender Students Abroad

The Slender Student guide to eating, drinking, and working out while studying abroad!

So, you’re going abroad next semester. You’re expecting fun friends, a different culture, easy classes, and maybe a romance with a Spanish man.

What you might not be expecting?

The abroad aftermath– pounds gained and self esteem shot. If you’ve been with The Slender Student from the get, then you already know that the blog was born out of my desire to help people avoid the nasty (I mean that multi-definitionally) situation I found myself (and my bod) in after a semester in Barcelona. Since it’s about that time, I thought I should send my internationally-inclined readers down memory lane with my abroad advice series that covers my tips for eating, working out, and drinking far from home. Disfrutad.

Eating advice for students studying abroad | The Slender Student Fitness advice for students studying abroad | The Slender Student Drinking advice for students studying abroad | The Slender Student

I’d love to hear more tips from other past study abroaders!

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Abroad: BUY YOU A DRANK

Studying abroad is all about meeting new people, traveling, finding your independence, experiencing new cultures, and drinking. Lots and lots of drinking. Sure, I could come on here and preach about the evils of alcohol and its surplus of calories, but let’s be realistic. Drinking is fun and a lot of what you’ll do abroad is going to revolve around it. Whether it’s wine tasting, watching a “football” game at a bar, or RaGiNg at the club, you’re likely to have an adult beverage (or more, if you’re really serious about this studying abroad thing) in hand. So, if you’re going to drink, which you are, do it right.

liquor
Different types of liquor (vodka, tequila, whiskey, rum, etc.) of the same proof have the same amount of calories. The kicker when it comes to  mixed drinks, then, is the mixer. Mixed drinks with regular soda and juices can have well over 120 calories per 5 oz. drink. Now, multiply that by how many mixed drinks you have in a night, and bury your head in shame. If you have to have a soft drink as your mixer, go for the diet version to save calories. Yeah, sodas aren’t good for you, but neither is staying up until 5 a.m. pounding vodka crans. Why pick your poison when you can have them all? Other good mixer choices are club soda and diet tonic water. Did you know regular tonic has 50 calories per 5 oz? I didn’t. And the teacher becomes the student, huzzah! Avoid all liqueurs, which have about 100 calories per ounce. Don’t forget, you can always opt to go on the rocks with a squeeze of lemon or lime. Only go this route if you can take a sip without making that hideous face. Yeah, that one…

wine
If you’re going abroad, you’re probably a pretty sophisticated person. This means you’ll be drinking a lot of wine, because that’s what sophisticated people do. When drinking wine, first ensure that there’s a camera around to capture your moment(s) of cultural grandeur, and then, make choices that won’t obliterate your slenderhood. Most wines (and champagne/cava) have about 20 calories per ounce, or 100 calories per 5-oz glass. Sherry, that sickly sweet dessert wine, has 32 calories per ounce. It also rots your teeth upon contact, so you should probably just avoid it. Depending on the recipe, sangria can consist of wine with juice, ginger ale, sugar, liqueurs, and other ingredients that can add tons of calories to your glass. Since you probably won’t know what exactly is in your sangria, don’t go crazy with the stuff. If you have to have it, have a glass and then move on to wine or, of course, water. But where’s the fun in that?

beer
A general rule of thumb for choosing a beer is the lighter the color, the fewer the calories. Remember, fewer calories also means less alcohol. Alcohol is a nutrient in that it provides calories (7 per gram, to be exact), but not much else. Your goals for your night out (casual sipping versus getting shmammered) will determine the beer you choose. If you don’t care about getting drunk but want a beer, go for what has the least calories– Bud Select 55, Beck’s Premier Light, MGD 64, Amstel Light,  Heineken Light, and others. If you’re trying to get drunk, look for what has the lowest calorie to alcohol ratio, Natty Ice, Michelob Ultra, Miller Lite, Keystone Ice (it all makes sense now…), Corona Light, and others. Use the link above to check out what you have available to you.

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Abroad: EAT TO LIVE

I’m pretty sure I’ve made this clear, but who doesn’t love a little bit of self-deprecation? I got fat abroad. If you’re a reader of this blog, I don’t want you to get fat abroad. It doesn’t look good for me, and it really won’t look good for you. Use these tips (and my exercise advice) to stop the cycle before it starts, or at least do some damage control on the pounds you’ve already accumulated while galavanting about the big world.

1. Plan ahead as much as possible. I often found myself reaching the point of starvation before I’d finally sit down to a meal either at home in Barcelona or while traveling. This inevitably led to me eating way, way more than I should have. If you’re in your hometown, avoid this by keeping a healthy, filling snack on you at all times. A single serving bag of nuts or a fiber bar is an easy way to go. If you’re traveling, take charge of part of your trip by planning the restaurants. That way, you’re sure not to be the leech of the group and you’ll be making moves toward slenderhood!

2. Eat at home whenever you can. When you make your own food, you have control of the stuff you put in it. And if you’re the smart and slender girl/boy that I know you are, you’ll put good stuff in your food. Just one tablespoon of olive oil has 120 calories and I promise you, Chef Jacques is not using that weapon of mass destruction with very much discretion. He doesn’t care about your waistline. But, if you do, you’ll eat at home.

So I probably wouldn’t have covered my own salad with fries…

3. The breadbasket is your enemy. The average dinner roll has upwards of 150 calories. Grab a couple of these dipped in a few spoonfuls of olive oil, and you’ve already eaten a meal’s worth of calories. If you’re a bread lover, go ahead and eat a piece, but just have one. Don’t eat the stuff mindlessly. If you don’t need it or appreciate it, don’t even bother getting the basket. Ask the waiter not to bring it out. If you’re in Europe, you’ll save yourself a couple pounds and a couple Euros by forgoing el pan.

4. Eat tapas style. Tapas are small plates that are shared with the entire table. Sharing your food is a great way to try everything without stuffing yourself in the process. Order the tapas in phases so you’ll be forced to eat more slowly. You’ll be shocked by how little food you need volume-wise to feel satisfied.

Una pequeña ensalada con un montadito

5. Make your meals coordinate. Many people complain that everything in Europe is full of carbs, but I think it’s that what we’re drawn to choose is full of carbs. What I mean by making your meals coordinate is that you should alternate what makes up the bulk of your meals. If you have cereal or toast for breakfast, have a salad with a protein for lunch, and a protein with a starchy side (corn, potatoes) for dinner. If you have eggs for breakfast, go ahead and have that sandwich for lunch. This way of thinking doesn’t take much effort but can completely change the way you eat. And the way you bash on the delicious food available to you.

If you still feel like you’re failing miserably and packing on the pounds, don’t let it get you down. When, at the tail end of my trip, I’d finally come to terms with how much weight I had gained, I couldn’t get it out of my head. My self confidence plummeted, I wasn’t as outgoing and I wasn’t having as much fun. I’ve been home for a little over a month now and, after working really hard, I’m back to my normal weight. I think if I’d known how quickly I’d get back to normal, I would’ve been able to focus on the experience instead of my muffin top. So, above all else, enjoy yourself. But, hey, if my tips save you some grief and a couple pounds, why not?

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