A common topic of discussion amongst my North American friends and I is weight loss...the weight loss that has occurred since we arrived in Georgia on July 31st. All of us are curious/shocked/surprised about the weight loss. But I must note, none of us are complaining about it. Many of us comment about needing more holes on belts, clothes that just hang on us, jeans or pants that do not need to be unzipped or unbuttoned to put on, etc. I was not expecting anything like this to happen to me.
Personally, I've lost about 20 pounds since I arrived. I look at pictures taken the 3rd day in the country versus now and the difference is readily apparent. But once again I am not complaining. If the weight loss continues at it's present rate (approximately 1-2 pounds per week), I'll make my overall goal weight before I return to the United States in June. That would be cool. My Eddie Bauer jeans best illustrate how much I've lost, not only in Georgia, but in the last 2 years. In July 2008 I found a pair of Eddie Bauer jeans for about 85% off at the Eddie Bauer store in St. George, UT. They fit barely, but would fit better if 5 more pounds were lost. I washed them and they shrink unbelievably. After washing them, I had 5 inches of space between the button and the button hole. I did not immediately take them to DI to donate. I held on to them. Eventually, I could close them. Now I need a belt to keep them up, and because they are so baggy they look like a pair of Mom Jeans. I cannot wait for the after Christmas sales in the US so that I can buy all new clothes, which will likely be too big before I return to the US in June.
But we are all perplexed by the reasons for such dramatic weight loss. The diet seemingly does not lend itself to such an occurrence being high in fats, carbs, meat, and alcohol. Ultimately, my friends and I have several reasons we think are behind the weight loss.
1. The foods here are largely unprocessed in comparison to American foods.
Grocery stores here carry a few items, but most of the items are ingredients that you must actually cook with. Cooking takes up a considerable amount of time for the Georgian housewife. Even with the large amount of carbs involved, the flour isn't the enriched or bleached kind like in the US. It is simply flour sold in 50 kilo sacks. Also, high fructose corn syrup does not seem to exist.
2. We walk a lot.
Marshrut'kas can only get us so far. Consequently, we walk considerably more than the average American does. But for me I probably walk less then I did in Springdale during my 18 months of trying to avoid using the car. I loved it when shuttle drivers in Springdale would comment on me taking a shuttle, not walking. They were honestly surprised. Also, I got to see Springdale in a way I could not from my trusty Saturn.
3. We all have been violently ill at some point.
This is the sucky part of the Georgian Diet. In September I had a couple of bad, bad weekends from the food poisoning. During the second time, I went about 72 hours without eating much at all. For me it is dairy products which make me sick. Unfortunately, when each of us has been sick it seems to be a guessing game as to what causes it. Moreover, it might not be just the food but the food preparation methods. Basic food handling techniques are not always practiced.
4. The foods are largely preservative free.
This makes sense because the foods are largely unprocessed. Because preservatives are lacking shopping for food is done every 2-3 days. Bread at my house is bought daily I would say. I wish my host family would buy the happy, soft bread not the tough, rough bread. If I only knew where the happy bread came from. The tough and rough bread is frequently bought because the bakery is in some one's garage (I am not making that up) next to the 90-unit apartment complex the family is building. In other words it's very convenient.
Ultimately, this is a diet that Michael Pollan could support. He wrote The Omnivore's Dilemma and Food Rules.
My weight loss has been a source of concern to my host family. On my birthday they first confronted me about it, asking me if the weight loss meant I did not like their cooking. No not at all! Then after I got sick and lost some more weight they said that when my mother sees me at the airport she will think that they did not feed me for four months. I wanted to reply that she would be grateful for the weight loss. Most recently my host mother and other assorted host relatives commented about how much my clothes hang on me. Well, that cannot be avoided. One of my friends keeps giving me her clothes that have become too big for her which are fast becoming too big for me.
I'm curious about whether or not the weight loss will continue. I weigh myself every Thursday, but today I just checked in. It looks like I have lost a pound this week. However, I am also curious as to whether or not the weight will return when I move back to the US. Frankly, I will not let that happen.
Finally, I am also curious how this will positively affect my canyoneering abilities. Lots of weight loss + the beloved 5.10 Canyoneer2 (thank you JDZ) + Zion Adventure Company Kokotat Drysuit = SUCCESS! (I must admit I have thought a lot about what size drysuit I will be when I get back. I still have not decided what size I will fit into. I doubt it will be the XL-Short...too big.)