Moving back here, I was looking forward to coming back to a place where eating healthy wasn’t so hard. There’s a general lack of processed foods, an abundance of fruits and veggies, fresh bread… it’s pretty easy to stay healthy.
Coming back here, I was barraged with the westernization that has crept its way into Santiago. Chile is, after all, the most advanced and capitalistic country here in South America so it does make sense. I haven’t yet left the city, however, but I doubt this as prevalent outside Santiago. In the city center we’ve got McDonalds, KFC, Burger King… in the more astute areas I’ve seen a Subway and a couple Pizza Huts. The little corner markets have a pretty solid selection of cookies and chips. The drinks of choice seem to be soda and nectar, this packet of fruit flavored sugar that dubs itself as a juice but is, definitely, not juice. So many little kids running around with big soda bottles, ice cream cones, and chip bags. Sugar is in abundance… and everywhere.
I’m not saying you can’t enjoy some of the good stuff! It just needs to be in perspective. To me, like almost every other problem, it seems to be a lack of education here, not that that is anyone’s fault. If you don’t know WHY you should or WHAT is/isn’t healthy… then it’s not so easy, right?! Who wouldn’t want to eat cookies, chips, or soda whenever desired?! I tend to drink water with my meals (as well as all the time) and everyone looks at me like I’m a definite “foreigner.” I see very little water drinking. Maybe it is because when you go out you need to order, and pay, for water. I can definitely understand a mentality of “if I’m going to pay for something… I might as well get something.” And, the benefits of drinking water aren’t common knowledge. That makes it difficult to make a good habit of drinking it.
Now, people here’s aren’t obese like in America. But, there’s a definite fair share of heavy. More so than when I was here last time. And, respectively, there are more fast food chains and fast junk food options than when I was here last time. So, that moves fast and it takes time for people, a government, a country to react.
The good news is I can see that the realization is starting to click. Santiago is definitely NOT bike friendly (imagine: navigating over-crowded streets filled with crazy buses, cars, and taxis and high-density sidewalks packed with people) but I see progress. Events are starting to waive entrance fees, or are giving other deals, for people that bike. I’ve seen some bike lanes. I’ve seen the rent-a-bikes where you can pay to use a bike and then drop it off again at another rent-a-bike in another part of town. You can rent bikes for a long term basis (something I may look into). Another thing I’ve seen all over the city, even in the more rural and poorer areas, are these public workout areas. By the looks of them, this is a new initiative by the city.
These are great because the real gyms are pretty expensive. I’ve actually seen a fair number of people using these, too – at this exact gym I saw a white haired lady do her fair share of lat pulls! I love seeing these gyms around the city because they subtly and subconsciously reinforce the importance of health.
The other good news is that it is still very easy to eat healthy. As I said, most things are unprocessed, fresh, cooked from scratch. So, for me, bringing my western perspective on health, I’m feeling healthier than ever and super refreshed. I walk a lot, do my workouts, and am fully enjoying the quality foods I’m cooking and eating each day.
Confession: I’m not saying I’m perfect… you know those fresh roasted nuts at Summerfest/State Fair – you can get peanuts, almonds, pecans, whatever you want? Well, there are little stands of people fresh roasting peanuts and almonds on pretty much every other corner. You can get a good sized pack of almonds for $500 pesos (about a $1) or peanuts for $300 pesos (about $.75). I effin’ LOVE those things and treat myself to them once a week/week and a half.
Ice cream is the other vice. People here love ice cream like they love their mother. And, so do I :) It’s mostly gelato or soft serve (haven’t seen any real ice cream) and I do indulge in a random bowl. You gotta enjoy life, too, right?!