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Why You Will Gain 10 lbs in America (and How to Lose it Again)

When you see your old friends who came to the U.S. earlier than you, one big change you can spot immediately will be a change in their body. My college friend who went to the U.S. two years before me was totally changed into another person the next time I saw her – she had gained so much weight in her time there. Luckily, she was way too skinny before, and now she looks perfect, but not everyone has such a happy result.

Woman Stepping onto Scale
Woman Stepping onto Scale
My roommate used to weigh 100 lbs back in China; now she is almost 120 lbs, and complaining to me all day.

I had been always around 98 lbs when in China, but my weight went up to 110 lbs last year, which totally freaked me out. Thank goodness I figured out some quick and easy ways to save my body, and I’ve gone back to the “under 100 lbs group” - I will share how I did it later in this post. :)

It's a common problem. has a heated discussion on the topic of “Why do immigrants to the US gain weight?” The Daily Mail, a British paper, reported that America is the “worst holiday spot for the waistline, with travellers gaining an average of 8lb in two weeks.”

Am I scaring you yet?

Here’s something else sort of scary: This kind of weight gain usually is hard for you to notice as it’s happening, which means you don’t even realize the change in your body until you go back to your home country or someone points it to you. In the day-to-day, you don’t sense it visually.


Firstly, it is hard for a person to realize self-changes day by day; it is an accumulation effect which takes time to become visible.

Secondly, American girls tend to be more athletic-looking than girls in Asian countries. It’s just a genetic difference. Therefore, you, who are getting bigger day by day, see that you still look slim compared to girls around you.

Where does the weight come from?

There are a number of reasons why international students may find their weight creeping up.

The portion size of dishes has never been so big. Thank you, generous American restaurants!

One important reason is the portions. People are amazed by the big portion size of dishes in America when they first come to this country. The regular size of dishes in America is at least 1.5-2 times as big as that in China and other Asian countries. It shows how generous American restaurants are, but it also makes you just eat and eat.

Around three months after you get to America, you will be totally comfortable with the big portions, and amazed at yourself being able to eat it up effortlessly. What is the result? You are gaining weight.

The dessert in my home country has never been so sweet

The desserts in America are much sweeter than I expected before I actually came here and tasted it. Some sweets are like choking on sugar and American chefs are really generous on using sugar.

Looking back, I was amazed by how sweet my shake from Dairy Queen was compared to the same thing that I got in China; same with the regular cookies, donuts, etc. But by now I have totally gotten used to the sweetness and enjoy it.

The fast food has been never so accessible in my home country

It is not hard to understand why we gain weight here. America is the home of the lovely McDonald’s, Burger King, and many other fast food restaurants, and we all know those foods are not good for you. In America, fast food is available at every corner and so affordable. Us students, since we do not cook often, become big consumers of these fatty foods without realizing it.

How to lose the international student fat

Do not feel bad if you found yourself packed up some weight, because you are not alone. A number of international students have the same experience as you do, and even many American students gain weight when they first go to college (it’s known as the “Freshman 15”).

As I mentioned before, there are some easy ways to get rid of this international student fat.

Here are the tricks I used to get back to my original weight. And the before and after picture to prove it.

1. Be aware of your change.

Photos and skinny jeans are good parameters for the change of weight. Do you have a hard time squeezing into your jeans that used to be just a piece of cake? Do your friends back home say you are getting chubby? Lots of other signs could make you aware that there are some changes happening in your body, if you’re just aware of them.

2. Halve the portion.

Ask for a box at the beginning of the meal. Put half of your food in the box before you start to eat, and then only eat what’s left. Or, you may want to remind yourself to put the second half in the box when you are in the middle of the meal, like when you don’t feel hungry anymore. You do not have to finish the entire dish. In this way, you can also save your money, because you have two meals for the price of one.

3. Change your perspective.

You may want to also change your traditional view of beauty. Think of Scarlett Johansson and Kate Winslet - it can actually be very sexy and beautiful to be a little curvy in the right way!