Operación bikini = (oh-per-ah-the-own be-key-knee) The pre-summer custom many people have of exercising, going on a diet, joining a gym, and other activities associated with wanting to look good in a bikini or swimsuit
A couple of months ago I was looking at different colloquial expressions in a Spanish phrasebook when I came across the expression “operación bikini.” Apparently, this is a term used by many Spanish women in the winter and spring as they exercise, diet and prepare their bodies for the summer. Once I saw this term I laughed to myself and thought about how women in the United States do the same thing.
Then, once it started to get warmer outside I started seeing the term “operación bikini” everywhere, on the front page of women’s magazines, on TV shows and newspapers and I even started hearing the term in conversations around me.
I also began to notice that many of my friends and co-workers were starting diets and workout regimes. One of my co-workers was consumed with the idea of losing weight to look good in her bikini for summer. She told me about the spinning classes that she attends regularly at her gym and also talked about how she had to stop eating bread. My roommate also started a strict diet plan; she even went so far as to enroll in a plan at a weight loss clinic, where she buys different foods and supplements to aid in her weight loss journey.
I began to notice many of the teachers trade in their bocadillos for fruit during the snack break at school. I’ve noticed that my aerobics classes have become a lot fuller and that there are also a lot more people walking and running outside than there have ever been before.
None of these things surprise me that much; I’m sure that the cycle is similar in many countries. In winter time people normally eat more fulfilling foods and also tend to workout less, especially since its cold outside. I mean, who wants to exercise when it’s cold outside? When the spring time comes around people are disappointed with the weight that they gained during the winter and try to lose weight so that they can look good in their summer clothing.
Like everyone else I have also been trying to lose weight, although I wouldn’t necessarily say that I’m doing it to look good in my bikini. Living in Spain has been beneficial to me in so many different ways, above all of it has made me a much healthier person.
There are so many things about my life here that has contributed to my physical and mental health. Because I am not surrounded by my family and friends I don’t stress out as much, because I live in a town with a fairly warm climate, my arthritis doesn’t bother me as much, and because I live alone and shop and cook for myself, I have total control over what and when I eat. Above all, the type, quality, and cost of food in Spain have been the most significant contributing factor to my well-being.
The truth is, now that I am no longer living in “the fast food nation”, eating healthy hasn’t really been a challenge at all. Unlike in the U.S. when I ate out or ordered take-out at least 2 times a week, in Spain I prepare almost all of my meals. The only time when I actually eat out is when I’m travelling or when people come to visit me in Jávea (which doesn’t happen too often). Other than that, I prepare my breakfast, lunch and dinner every day.
Now that I know that I have to depend on myself for food, I have also become a pro at preparing my meals beforehand. During these last few weeks I have followed the same routine. On Monday during my lunch break I normally go grocery shopping. When I come home I wash and cut up all of the fruits and vegetables that I purchased, put them in storage containers, and place them in the fridge. This has helped me a lot because, whenever I am hungry throughout the day, I go directly to the fridge and start munching on strawberries, pineapple, melon, etc. This technique prevents me from snacking on unhealthy foods. In addition, I normally clean and cut the meat that I buy (which is almost always chicken), wrap them in plastic wrap and place them in the freezer for later use.
It seems that having OCD has been very beneficial for me lately. Even though it takes time, the routine that I have set up makes it a lot easier for me to eat healthy when I’m hungry. It also makes it especially easier when dinner time comes around because I already have my food prepared and don’t have to bother with cooking dinner at the same time as my roommates, which can become a little disastrous.
Before coming to Spain, I ate about 2 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Now that I’ve been living here, however, I eat at least 5 servings of both fruits and vegetables daily. This hasn’t been difficult to do because there are so many fresh and affordable fruits and vegetables.
My favorite thing to do on Thursdays during my lunch break is go to the Mercadillo, a huge outside market that Jávea has every week. There are a variety of things sold here such as clothing, leather goods, nuts, cheese, meats, and above all, fruits and vegetables. I purchase most of my fruits and vegetables from here because they’re super fresh. Whenever I don’t buy my things from the Mercadillo, I go to Mercadona, one of the major supermarkets in Spain. The fruits and vegetables here are just as tasty, but not as fresh as they would be at the Mercadillo. A couple of weeks ago I bought a batch of strawberries from Mercadona and they were the most delicious strawberries that I’ve ever had in my life. I also love to buy my cherries and watermelon from this supermarket.
In addition to eating healthy I have been working out on a daily basis. Although it was a struggle in the winter, now that spring/summer is here I have been regularly attending my aerobics classes two times a week. In fact, I’ve reached a point where I actually get excited about going to class. I can almost always depend on the class to burn a lot of calories and put me in a good mood. I’ve even started going without my roommate. On the days that I don’t have aerobics class, I’ve started running along the sea at night. I normally run (or sometimes walk) from my piso to the port and to the beach. I leave at around 9:00pm and come back an hour later. To me, it’s the perfect time. It’s just beginning to get dark outside and the town is so peaceful. I never see any of the students that I teach (although I have seen a couple of teachers) and I don’t have to worry about being in the sun. Occasionally while I’m running I’ll stop, have a seat on the rocky beach, look at the sea and listen to the waves. It’s such a peaceful and beautiful moment.
On some weekends, when I’m really looking for an adventure or a fun workout I’ll go on a hiking trail. Hiking has been one of my favorite new activities.
Since increasing my intake of fresh fruits and vegetables, drinking at least 2.5 liters of water a day, and exercising regularly, I have noticed many changes. I have more energy and I am much more alert on a daily basis. I don’t have as many migraines nor problems with my autoimmune disease and I have been happier and less stressed out. In addition, I find myself craving things that I have never craved before, like tomatoes, spinach (I’ve never liked spinach), cherries and oranges. Whenever I am travelling and am not eating enough fruits and vegetables, I instantly feel it.
In addition, I believe that I have lost a little weight. I don’t think that I have lost a significant amount, but I can tell that some of my jeans are getting a bit looser and I definitely think that I I’ve lost some inches. My roommate has mentioned that I appear to be more “delgada” (slim) so I guess that’s a good thing. I also feel a lot stronger from all of the working out that I’ve done (especially the hiking).
Although I started out with an “operación bikini” mindset, I’ve quickly learned that I have made such a significant lifestyle change. Being a healthier person means so much to me. It means that I am now fully capable of making better decisions about the things that I put into my body. This includes eating a significant amount of fruits and veggies and not going to McDonalds or Chick-fil-A to satisfy my dietary cravings. It also includes drinking much more water on a daily basis and less sweat tea (Hey, I’m from the South!). And it includes exercising regularly, not because I’m trying to lose weight but because it’s necessary.
Above all, I believe that I am breaking away from a genetic trend. There is a history of heart disease, diabetes and cholesterol in my family and I’ve always worried that my sisters and I would suffer from one of these illnesses. Now that I am healthier, I feel like I have a little bit more control over what happens to me. Perhaps if I continue to eat the right things, take care of my body and encourage others to do the same, we will all be okay.
The fact that I will be returning to America soon is bittersweet. Although I can’t wait to see my family and friends I also know that it will be a lot more difficult to stay healthy. I will now be surrounded by fast food restaurants everywhere I go. I won’t have easy access to so many affordable fresh fruits and vegetables and finding the time and place to exercise will perhaps also be difficult (no more running by the Mediterranean Sea). Despite all of this, I am determined to return to the U.S. with the same “health comes first” mindset that I have recently developed.
Living in Spain has done so much for me. Above all, it has reminded me of the importance of taking care of myself. Although it’s nice to have a great job, to be able to travel, and to have significant relationships with people, one of the most important factors in your life should be your health (and God if you’re religious, like me).
I will be forever grateful to Spain for teaching me this.