Russia has long and cold winters. People tend to eat more in cold climate. Layers of clothes make it easy to hide a few extra pounds. Traditional food includes a lot of potatoes and fatty dishes. Finally – we have a saying – there is never too much of a good person (Good person should be big). Cumulative effect of all this is that many people have a few or quite a few extra pounds, which they want to shave off. After all – magazine stands here are identical to magazine stands in the West and Cosmo, Vogue and Marie Claire have skinny models on their covers.
Exercising is the best way to maintain in shape, but in Moscow or other big cities exercising could be unaffordable or hard to incorporate in an everyday lifestyle because of other chores. Our famous ballerina Maya Plisetskaya once said – if I want to lose wait – I stop eating. That is the best recipe, but it is way too hard to follow. Food is one of the few pleasures in life. And having such a will power to cease eating is a very rare human trait. Our body is not wired for such behavior on a deep level, ancient people never had luxury to forgo food, since it was scarce. Now food is abundant but we, people of the world, still have the same mentality.
But from time to time we notice that skinny jeans do not fit anymore or we need to look extra good for that special event. Or we just do not like what we see in a mirror or on scales. And that is when we start to “sit on a diet” as we say it in Russia. In general, dieting is a worldwide habit; businesses all over the world have extracted zillions of dollars out of that habit. So, in many ways dieting habits of Russians do not differ from dieting habits of people from other countries. But it is still interesting to overview which weight-loss plans are most popular here.
There are many approaches to losing weight, but in essence your body functions exactly like a machine – like a machine – you put inside X amount of fuel (calories) and burn Y number of calories every day. If X=Y, your weight stays the same, if X>Y, you gradually gain weight, if X<Y – you lose weight. But people do not like to acknowledge these simple facts, what they really want is magic. Ideally – it should be a magical tablet – you take it and continue eating, but become slimmer.
And such tablets do exist. In last 2 decades in Moscow there were many rumors that pop stars loose weight because of magical Thai pills. These pills were 100% chemical, they dehydrated bodies and added artificial energy so that people did not want to eat as much, but stayed super active. No wonders that slim victims of those pills often ended in a hospital and had to deal with kidney and heart problems. There were also some pills that had placebo effect. Typically these pills contained bromelain – extract from pineapple. Most people still think that pineapples have significant slimming effects on human bodies.
Another approach was very popular due to sci-fi novels. Astronauts on other planets rarely eat chicken tenders; they usually eat a special protein soufflé. How about consuming pills, cocktails and substitutes of food instead of meals. It sounds especially great since you do not have to worry about nutrition – all this food is always “developed in secret laboratories of NASA” and has all the nutrients needed by human bodies. Herbalife and other concoctions such as vanilla, banana and strawberry protein cocktails, that one had to take instead of meals were super popular in the 90s, until people understood that they do not work and are also potentially harmful.
Finally – the old proven diet. Dieting was super popular in the Soviet Union and it is equally popular in modern Russia. Among the most popular – Atkins diet (protein diet), soup diet (you are supposed to cook a large bowl of soup and eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner), mono diets (you eat only cucumbers or boiled eggs or kefir or apples in unlimited quantity but only one product daily). Some other diets are more balanced – but most of them consist of really boring food – buckwheat without salt or butter, boiled chicken fillets, one apple, one boiled egg and some vegetables a day. Some diets claim that magic happens if you eat half of grapefruit with every meal (another magical fruit) or drink tea with milk or drink water with lemon, pepper and honey.
However in general diets do not work and many young beautiful Russian girls turn into big women by 30-40 and lose their grace.
Why we talk about females only? Most men in Russia could not care less how they look. There is a saying – a man should be just a little bit more handsome than an ape. Staying fit is a social norm for the girls and women, but not for the guys. Society is very mild to them in that sense.
© 2016 Tatiana Golubeva. All rights reserved.