Fit for Spanish (The Bogotá Post)

As I mentioned in the last post, I’m still happily writing a Spanish language column for The Bogotá Post, which is published about every three weeks. Over the next few weeks, I’ll share the posts that have come out since I put down my keyboard back in January and let the blog take a breath, interspersing them with new posts.

This column came out in January, I think, when we were still ringing in the new year and initiating our resolutions with vim and vigor. If you too set goals to eat healthier and get in better shape, this column will help you with the related vocabulary in Spanish. Feel free to share your progress in the comments. I’ve been working on toning my arms, and I’m also trying to make a Colombian equivalent of “an apple a day…” and eat a mango a day, or at least just increase my consumption of all the local delicious fruit in general!


Happy New Year! Did you make any New Year’s resolutions? Maybe to improve your Spanish? Maybe to lose weight? I thought we could kill two birds with one stone by talking about one goal that’s very common (losing weight), and teaching you some related useful Spanish de paso.

First of all, a goal in this context is un propósito. If your goal is to lose weight, you’d say: Mi propósito para este año es bajar de peso. If it’s to get in shape: Mi propósito para este año es ponerme en forma. Another way of saying to lose weight is adelgazar; you can see its connection to the word for thin, delgado. Use the preposition para to express a deadline: Quiero bajar cinco kilos para junio. I want to lose five kilos by June.

Maybe you just want to tone up, either in general or a certain body part. To tone is tonificar. Quiero tonificar mis brazos – I want to tone my arms. Maybe you want to eat healthy: Quiero comer sano/sanamente. To go on a diet is hacer una dieta; to tell someone that you’re on a diet, you say, Estoy a dieta.

diet and exercise

If you want to join a gym, you’ll say, Quiero entrar al gimnasio. To work out is hacer ejercicio. Want the holy grail of gym rats, a six-pack? Locally, you call that a chocolatina because it looks like a chocolate bar with its various squares. Ironic, right?

Have a spare tire around your middle? That’s a michelín; yes, just like the brand of tires. A double chin? That’s called a papada. Rolls of fat in general are called gordos. Spanish even has a word for chubby cheeks! They’re cachetes.

You may have noticed that here in Colombia the words gordo and gorda frequently don’t carry the same stigma and insult that FAT carries in other cultures. There are husbands and wives that affectionately call each other gordo and gorda, as well as women who greet their female friends by calling them gorda. It’s all about the tonito. Gordito makes the label softer, obviously, and means chubby or plump.

What are some other ways of expressing that someone is heavy? Your doctor is most likely to say something tactful and technical like Usted tiene sobrepeso or Usted está pasado de peso. If your friends notice that you’re packing a few extra pounds than usual, or if you come back from vacation with your face a little rounder, they might say that you’re repuesto or repuestico. A little stronger than that would be rellenito. Rechoncho is a harsher way of saying that someone is chunky or hefty. One very local way of saying that someone is gaining weight is se ve que se toma la sopita. You can tell they’re eating all their soup! Soups of all kinds being, of course, a classic Bogotá staple for the traditionally cold weather. People even eat soup at breakfast! Speaking of Bogotá food, once I heard an overweight person jokingly called a buñuelo con patas. A walking buñuelo.

campbell's soup

What about when someone has a killer bod? ¡Qué cuerpazo! What a great body! A macancán is a guy who’s really ripped. Acuerpado also means buff or toned (though it can also just mean large), as does musculoso. Delgado is thin, of course, and esbelta (usually for women) means slender, svelte. Flaco carries more of the connotation of skinny, sometimes being underdeveloped and unattractively thin. Not always, though: ¡Flaca, tírame un hueso! is a famously humorous piropo for women. Hey, skinny Minnie, throw me a bone!

If someone’s skin and bones, you can say that they’re puro hueso or that they parece un palillothey’re as thin as a rail, er, toothpick.

One false cognate you run into when talking about bodies is complexión. As someone once wrote, resist the urge to write “cleared up years ago!” when you see this on a form for you to fill out. No, it’s not referring to your skin complexion. Instead, complexión in Spanish refers to your build or body type.

All that really matters is that you’re happy and healthy, and we all know that thinness is not necessarily a guarantee of either. Whatever your size, hopefully 2015 will be a year of joy, success, and increased Spanish fluency!

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3 responses to “Fit for Spanish (The Bogotá Post)

  1. can you give us some examples of complexiones? flaco y alto seria uno?

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    • Hi Sara,

      I think it tends to run along the lines of delgada, mediana, and gruesa (slight, medium, or heavy build/physique), i.e., your somatotype. Contextura is a synonym of complexión.

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  2. Well, I was thinking of leaving a comment to an old post as a way of saying hi. It is good to know that you are still around.

    You surely hear a lot of old expressions; who do you hang out with in Bogotá? This is not consistently true because sometimes you only get the new versions of things :) For example, the Michelin has to be a relatively recent expression because Michelin only got to Colombia in the 90s. The expression for the spare that I always heard was simply “llanta,” a tire. I would have been Good Year, or Icollantas before Michelin went into production in Colombia. But then, “está repuestico” and “se toma la sopita” are really old. Repuestico is something I only heard my grandma and my old aunts say in a serious way. And the soup thing is because the old ladies used to push the soup, as in “tómese la sopita mijo.” That was, of course, in addition to giving you more homemade food. My mom is already too young for that: she would ask my grandma not to give us so much food, when we were little. So people picked that up and made a joke of it. But I have not heard younger people say it (I am thinking my nieces and nephews, or their friends).

    The “flaca tirame un hueso” is something else. I can’t believe you know about that. I don’t think I ever heard anyone saying that in a real situation. It’s funny, where did you hear that? I am dating myself, but a few decades back there was a radio commercial using that expression, and they were advertising a product to gain weight! (Ese tipo de piropos no es aceptable, or something like that, was the follow-up sentence). That probably means that people were more concerned about being too thin than too heavy… the same time as “tómese la sopita mijo.” That’s a long time ago :)

    It’s always fun to read you columns.

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