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health culture in Spain & Morocco

health culture in Spain & Morocco

4/23/12

When visiting Spain and Morocco, I not only marveled at the beautiful architecture and design of the buildings, palaces, markets and streets, but I also took careful observation of the health and fitness culture considering that this is such a huge part of my life.  Needless to say, I was shocked at how different it was compared to that of the United States.  In many ways, I wish the United States adopted some of the ways of life in Spain and Morocco, but in other ways, I very much appreciated my lifestyle in the United States.

1) Health & Fitness Clubs

I was shocked only to see ONE gym in all of my stay in Madrid and that was a tiny Curves for Women gym that seemed very run down and old.  Here in the United States, I am so used to seeing gyms everywhere.  At home, I absolutely love the convenience of having gyms located where ever I am so that I can grab a workout on my own time.  Granted, I was only in one town; Madrid so perhaps there were other gyms that I was not aware of.  In Madrid, those that live in the city use walking as one of their main methods of commuting to get to their job or run errands, which I really like.  Living in Madrid is very much like living in Washington, D.C. or Georgetown as far as walking everywhere.  One the first day that I arrived, I probably walked about 6 miles touring the city of Madrid and I really enjoyed every bit of the walking, breathing in fresh air and even better, not feeling guilty for missing my normal workout.  Where I live, walking to the grocery store or to train my clients is not an option since none of locations are close to each other.  If I had it my way, I'd much rather walk everywhere if things were close by than spend many hours sitting and driving by car to get everywhere.  When we walked closer to the beautiful parks, I saw a lot of runners and bikers, which made me smile because like them, I tend to gravitate towards exercising outside like running on trails, hiking/running the Billy Goat Trail in Great Falls, Maryland or hitting the bleachers at a nearby track and field.  Exercising outside gives me a sense of freedom releasing all emotions and pouring out my heart and soul to strengthen my body.  I strongly believe that one of the reasons why Spaniards are so laid back is because they enjoy the simple things that every day brings, one of which includes the ability to walk everywhere and enjoy it.  

Similarly, in Morocco, many people emphasize being healthy by walking around and also eating clean which I will get into in the next paragraph.  I did not see any gyms, but my friend Meriem, whom lives in Morocco and whom I came to visit said that their gyms are very modern, nice and equipped with everything you need.  Because I didn't have access to gyms, I prepared and brought along some of my Insanity DVDs to workout at Meriem's house and I also ran on the treadmill there. :)  

2) Figures & Physiques

Because the Spaniards in Madrid walk everywhere, it was no surprise that literally everyone was thin or maybe many were "skinny fat."  I honestly did not see ONE Spaniard that appeared to be obese or overweight for that matter.  If I did see someone that was overweight, they looked and spoke like Americans, sadly.  The men are thin and do not appear to be even slightly muscular or built.  In fact, I only saw one bodybuilder in Madrid, carrying a musculature frame, broad shoulders, wide lats and thick, muscular quads, which is of the norm where I live.  Similarly to men in Madrid, the women were also very thin, but I could not tell if they were soft or lean because the days were chillier and most were covered up.  Here in the United States, everyone seems to have a different preference.  Men usually want to be somewhat muscular and lean while many women either want to be skinny and lean or "toned" (I hate this word) and fit, but yet two-thirds of the United States is obese or overweight!  America's obesity epidemic is clearly caused by the choice of lifestyle; lack of physical activity, escalated stress levels and too much fast food  or food in general, which brings me to my next topic of food in Spain and Morroco. 

3) Food
 
In Spain and in Morocco, fast food is definitely not as popular and instead clean-eating is.  This is the lifestyle that prefer and for once, I felt like I fit right in! I will admit that I packed plain oats, protein powder and my natural almond butter for my trips to Spain and Morocco.  But when I got there, I was amazed at how easy it was to continue my normal routine of eating clean.  Thank goodness otherwise I would have drove myself insane.  People often tell me, "Oh Lindsay, just slip up for a week and then get right back into it when you come back home." Absolutely NOT! My stomach will not agree with unhealthy foods and will reject it, so it's so not worth it at all to me.  That's not to say that I didn't try some dishes or desserts when I was in Spain and Morocco.  I literally took a one bite or sliver and I was done and satisfied.  The one thing I thoroughly enjoyed was the fact that the ALL of the food was free of preservatives, antibiotics, steroids, artificial sweeteners and completely organic.  Nothing I ate was heavy and instead everything was very light and refreshing.  Not only was I eating clean food, but I literally felt clean inside and out. I felt like my skin and complexion radiated more and I know that it was more than likely because of the clean foods I was eating.  In Morocco, breakfast consists of Moroccan tea (which I love), toast (I replaced with my oatmeal) and fresh fruit.  It is common to eat a ton of tapas of vegetables as the appetizer prior to eating the lunch meal. The lunch consists of more vegetables and a poultry entree such as chicken.  Dinner is usually a little smaller in size and then dessert consists of fresh fruit.  Instead of sauces and marinades, herbs and spices are always used and makes the meal delicious and filled with flavor.  Although the United States does offer organic and all natural foods, I wish it was more of the norm to eat these type of foods rather than conventional produce where preservatives and other artificial ingredients are used.  In Spain and Morocco, healthy food is far more cheaper than it is in the United States and get this, the few fast food restaurants that you find in Spain and Morocco are far MORE expensive there than in the United States.  If we could raise the cost of fast food and lower the price of organic food, I believe that obesity wouldn't be as prevalent.  The bottom line is that we are ultimately responsible for our lifestyle choices and surely the Spaniards and Moroccans are on the right track in following a healthier lifestyle.

All in all, visiting Madrid and Morocco was such a cultural shock for me yet I had such a wonderful time!  I will say that I was anxious to return home and get back into my routine of training clients, cooking and preparing my own meals and working out at my gyms.  I missed my own lifestyle and my home.  After all, there is no place like home. <3