One last comparison: Spanish diets

When looking back at my first few blog posts in Spain, I realized that I was constantly comparing Spain to Southern California and the cultural differences within. Here are my first impressions of Spain, but here’s to once last comparison and how my first impressions have transformed as I grew accustom to the culture. 

I discovered I have a few fears: Obesophobia (gaining weight) and Gerascophobia (aging).

I grew up living a pretty healthy lifestyle-at least I think so. Until last year when I had shoulder surgery, I wouldn’t let myself go a day without doing some sort of exercise in fear that I might gain some weight that day. It’s embarrassing how obsessed I was with getting chubby.

I blame my mom (hi, mom!) and her perfect 40-something-old body. Just kidding, but I have some expectations to live up to nonetheless.

But I do blame American media for this obsessive lifestyle. The food, fashion and cosmetics industry trap women throughout their advertisements. Diet food ads appear 63 times more in women’s magazines than men’s magazines. Food ads occur 80 times more often in women’s magazines. And articles surrounding the ideal body size occur 12 times more in women’s magazines.

Whereas Spain banned dangerously thin models despite having the same magazines and advertisements.

My transition into Spain was interrupted when I noticed the amount of carbs, alcohol, and fats entering my body and lack of gyms around (or lack of sun to run outside).

Spanish Diet

  • Fruit: The fruit is so fresh, but doesn’t last long AT ALL. I have to go to the grocery store every day because it will spoil after a day or two.
  • Carbs: There is endless bread and it seems to be served with every meal.
  • Breakfasts: It’s nearly nonexistent. It might consist of a coffee and a croissant.
  • Siestas & el menu del dia:  Spaniards take a late, but long lunch break, called siestas, which is their biggest meal of the day. Siestas are usually two-three hours long. Spanish restaurants are required by law to provide a “menu del dia,” which is a 3-course menu at a fixed price. The meal consists of a starter, a main course and a dessert. The restaurant usually provides options for each course. Bread (usually white bread) and drinks (wine, soda or water) are also included in the price and sometimes a coffee at the end. The starter and the main course are usually equal in size and will fill you up.
  • Tapas/Pintxos: Tapas are known to be a way of eating, rather than a type of food. It seems as if any kind of food can be a tapa as long as it’s at a bar and small in size (and full of oils). Spaniards go to tapas bars before lunch and before dinner to meet friends.
  • Dinner: The last meal starts around 9 or 10 p.m. and is usually at home with family before heading out at night.
  • Social Drinkers: They love, love, love to drink all hours of the day.  Spaniards tend to drink for pleasure and are less inclined to binge out.
  • Abusive:  BUT, Spain is among the worst European countries for the abuse of alcohol.
  • From Dusk till Dawn:  A typical night in Spain begins with barhopping and enjoying tapas. Then night continues at a discoteca, or dance club. Spain is notorious for their nightlife. At 10 p.m., it’s common for bars to be empty. Bars and clubs aren’t filled until after midnight.


According to my first impressions, Spanish culture was unhealthy.  But I was quick to judge the Basque Country because they didn’t focus on the food groups like Americans do.  As I spent more time in Spain, I understood their diet was more about socializing and Spaniards weren’t as uptight about their body image. I soon learned to relax and enjoy the endless bread while I could.

*These are not my photos. Click the photo for the sources.


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