When I was here the first time (in 2007) I was eighteen and I gained over ten pounds (around 6 kg) in four months. I worked at a summer camp for two months and the food there was even worse than most American food, with lots of sloppy joe’s and sugar. When I got home my mum was shocked, both at my figure and the amount I was eating-I had gotten so used to the portion sizes that I felt cheated when given New Zealand sized meals.
This time I was determined not to put on weight. Hah! I don’t know a single Au Pair who hasn’t put on weight, myself included, and it still baffles me how anyone in America stays thin-particularly in California where these women have such amazing figures.
To be fair, I had worked an office job for eighteen months, so I had put on quite a bit of weight before I even got here. “No problem.” I thought to myself, “I’ll lose it in no time, what with all the running after the kids that I’ll be doing!” Hah!
As you can probably guess, I put on even more weight in the states, especially over the Chicago winter when all I wanted to do was eat and sleep. Anyone who’s planning to come over here, never step foot in The Cheesecake Factory. Seriously. It’s not worth it. Save yourselves! It’s too late for me…I’m addicted.
Not only are the portion sizes over here humongous (seriously, if you don’t have enough to take some food home in a doggy box then you’ve been cheated), but there’s baddies like High Fructose Corn Syrup in everything. Even bread. It took me months before I could find a type of bread I could stomach, since most of them have so much sugar it tastes like I’m eating dessert at 8am in the morning. Luckily my host mum finally found Vogel’s for me so I can have my Vegemite on toast.
I’m still staggered by the sheer amount of fast food places over here. And most of them are open all night. 2am and you have a craving for Jack in the Box? Go ahead. Mmmmm Jack in the Box. And it’s soooo cheap.
After a few months, most Au Pairs are shocked by a how fast they’re putting on weight. Americans tend to have a lot of junk food in their cupboards, and you’ll find yourself snacking constantly with the kids, often on candy. Lets be honest, when you’re working all day what are you going to choose-an apple or a mini-snickers bar? I rest my case. So most of us join a gym and hope that’ll take care of the problem. At around $50 a month for a gym membership it gets expensive, especially if you’re not going every day (you make under $200 a week remember), so running can be a good way to keep on top of it.
Running is really big over here (my host dad frequently runs marathons, and my host mum half-marathons), and on a nice day instead of heading to Starbucks I’d sometimes grab a friend and go for a run by the lake. Last year I ran the Evanston 5km Race Against Hate, which was a really fun day and a great cause to run for. There are tons of different races over here so if you’re feeling unmotivated, sign up for one so you’re forced to train. Believe me when you’re being passed by a 70 year old man you’ll wish you had trained harder.
I won’t go into numbers, because who really wants to know the extent of my lack of self control? But I will tell you that I’ve put on enough weight to feel awkward in a bikini, and that trying to lose some of it in time for summer is a bitch. I’m using Calorie Count at the moment, which is a website that tells you how many calories you should be eating, and how many are in all the food you’re consuming. It has a great community where everyone supports each other, so if you find yourself getting “fluffy” (as my mother calls it), take a look at the website if your willpower is as bad as mine.
I’m still annoyed at myself that I didn’t keep an eye on my weight when I first got here, especially since I’d been here before, and knew what to expect, but hopefully I can take some of it off in time for summer. Now all I need to do is quit eating out….