Body Image

  Something that has been on my mind for a while that I haven't written about at all is the issue of body image here (or at least my experiences with body image here). First of all, like many young women, I have had my own struggles off and on regarding body image throughout my life, growing up and as a young adult. I also spent time in the U.S working at a residential treatment center with teenage girls, some of whom were struggling with eating disorders and many of whom certainly struggled with issues around body image. Eating disorders and body image struggles were so common to hear about at home. Being a Peace Corps Volunteer anywhere is something that can certainly impact one's body image in one way or another. It is not uncommon for PCVs to gain or lose weight throughout our service due to changes in diet, stress, increase/ decrease of exercise or a number of other factors. Personally, my weight has fluctuated up and down over the past year. I lost weight when I first got here because of being sick and then gained weight probably due to stress and eating a lot of meat pies at the end of training (Breaded, greasy goodness haha). Then I sort of evened out when I got to site and lost a bit of weight over time just from walking a lot , the summer, and eating healthier for the most part so that I now weigh a little less than when I first arrived in Botswana. In the past, all of this fluctuation is something that would have bothered me, but I've actually become more comfortable in my own skin being here in Botswana. I think one reason for that is that I've learned to care more about my health and taking care of myself and appreciate my own health more. Even though not everyone I see is starving here or looks like what you see on commercials , I do know children  in my village who don't have enough to eat and see them going through trash, and I have seen people who are dying not only because of HIV but because of not having enough to eat on top of being sick. I can't see that and then obsess over numbers on the scale; it makes me feel selfish for ever doing that. Yes, I still have my moments of eating meat pies or ice cream or pizza when I'm in larger villages that have those things or times when I may be down to only rice at the end of  the month before we get our allowances, but for the most part I try to cook healthy foods for myself and have variety in my diet now because I want to stay healthy, and it is fun to learn to cook new meals. I care more about that. Also, from what I've been told ,eating disorders are basically nonexistent in Botswana. ( I'm not saying that everyone here has a perfect body image or self-esteem because that is certainly not true anywhere). However, people do tend to appreciate curves and will say "You are getting fat" as a compliment when you return from a weekend away or a vacation. What they mean by this is "you are well-fed and happy". At first it used to bother me a little when people said this to me, but now I sort of have come to appreciate it. I hope this is an attitude I can maintain after this experience. 

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