The year after I graduated from college I organized a homestay with a Venezuelan family. I made my plans, I packed my bags and I set off to have an adventure of a lifetime. Well, what I didn’t realize was that my adventure would challenge me in ways I had never anticipated.
The night I landed in Caracas, a city known for violence, culture shock hit me hard. My host family was running late and I was scared and alone. Of course, they eventually came to pick me up, but as I sat waiting in the airport, I began to question my decision to travel alone to a country where I knew no one and spoke little of the native language. This was only the beginning. As the days and weeks passed I encountered a series of challenges.
Let’s start with language. My trusty college Spanish courses weren’t helping me like I thought they would. The language barrier felt like a brick wall that kept me from connecting with the people around me. I often communicated through a combination of English, Spanish, hand gestures and head nods. I got through.
Additionally, I had to learn a new set of rules on how to behave in many different social situations. Fortunately, I worked in a second grade classroom and those children were wonderful teachers. They were patient, kind and a whole lot of fun. Regardless of the friends I made small and tall, I felt alone and homesick. Living in another country as a twenty-something was (as most learning situations are) just plain hard at times.
Suffice it to say that It can be disorienting, frightening and difficult to live in a different culture. So, I turned to an old friend – food. I held on tight to every morsel and sought the comfort and warmth of the calorie dense and exceedingly delicious local cuisine.
The Venezuelan people I worked with were vibrant and joyful. They were also very blunt. So, when it became outwardly obvious that I was eating my emotions and consequently putting on weight, they were quick to point it out. They would say (in Spanish, of course) “looks like you have gotten a little fatter”, “it must be the wonderful food”.
Wow. Ok. I guess people get used to hearing that level of honesty, but I never did. I accepted these statements as a lesson in culture. What was more impactful, however, was that I could no longer ignore the fact that I was not only suffering from culture shock, I had developed a serious habit of comfort eating.
It took the blunt statements of the Venezuelan people to bring my emotional eating into my awareness. It was hard to accept but such a wonderful lesson to have learned. So, now when I notice that not one, two or three handfuls of chocolate chips seems like enough, I can stop and recognize it for what it is. My experience in Venezuela was the first and last time that someone calling me fat has ever felt like a gift.
How about you? Do you have any experience with emotional eating? What do you do to recognize it and/or stop?
As always, message me here and I will get back to you as soon as I can.
**Hey faithful readers, if you haven’t heard already, I am working to become a Health Coach. I am hoping to get certified in the next few months. If you are interested in hearing more about my dream or want to support me go here.