Tag Archives: Health

A pre-emptive strike: Final verdict

27 Jun

“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There’s no point in being a damn fool about it.”

~ W. C. Fields

A few weeks ago I officially resigned from my efforts to keep fit and eat healthy in Honduras. Declaring myself a lost cause, I relaxed all my standards and started eating whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted.

Using “I’ve put on weight” as an excuse to relax your diet is not the smartest move, but I’ve decided to focus on weight loss when I’m back in the Land of Oz, not while travelling.

In How I Met Your Mother, one of Marshall’s five reasons for wearing a nightshirt is: “no elastic waistband leaving its judgmental pink teeth marks around my Thanksgiving belly.”

Oh, how I emphasize with this! While I’m still able to fit into my pants, by the end of the day I can’t wait to get home so I can take them off and start breathing again.

This week, believe it or not, both my regular taxi drivers made comments about my weight.

M, who I hadn’t seen in more than a month, declared as I entered his cab on Tuesday, “Wow, you can see that you’ve really liked Honduran food!”

And yesterday JC said to me, “You’re going to return home a little fat, aren’t you?” This sounds harsh in English, but said in Spanish it’s not quite as offensive. It still stung a little though.

Not as much as being asked if I was pregnant (who does that?) but it’s never nice to be reminded you’ve porked up.

Despite the weight gain, I wouldn’t class my pre-emptive strike program as a failure.

My main aim, if you recall, was to lose enough weight before I head to Honduras that it will offset the extra padding I expect to acquire while over there.

And I’ve been successful in that respect. Late last year I was about 10 kilos over weight, which I lost before leaving Australia, but then put on again in Honduras.

If I hadn’t conducted my pre-emptive strike on rice and beans I would have arrived in Honduras 10 kilos overweight, put on another 10 kilos and returned home 20 kilos heavier than I should be.

I’m much happier with the prospect of losing 10 kilos once back home than 20. Hugely happier. (Pardon the pun.)

Plus I’m harboring the (slightly delusional?) hope that during my 7 weeks of backpacking through South America, all the walking will miraculously melt away my extra kilos. Never mind all the delicious South American food I’ll be eating.

Stranger things have happened, right? I like to be an optimist. 🙂

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to find some chilenas de leche. Now that I’ve reached my final week in Honduras, I’ve decided to remove my self-imposed ban.

¡Buen provecho!

Related posts:

Stairway to trim, taut and terrific

A pre-emptive strike: Final update

A pre-emptive strike: Update 2

A pre-emptive strike: Update 1

A pre-emptive strike on rice and beans


I need a smaller violin

27 May

“Like everybody else, when I don’t know what else to do, I seem to go in for catching colds.”

~ George Jean Nathan

Today I was hoping to tell entertaining tales of good times had by the campfire this weekend, however Mother Nature (and her germs) had other ideas.

I woke on Friday with a bit of a sore throat and by lunchtime I’d also developed a mild headache. When I overheard two colleagues talking about being sick and how it had all started with a sore throat, all I could think was, “Excellent, this is going to be a great weekend.”

That afternoon I arrived home and told my host-mum I was worried I was cultivating a cold. Sure enough on Saturday morning I woke up horribly congested and feeling absolutely miserable. I spent all day in bed.

Worst of all, I missed out on the camping trip. Something I’d really been looking forward to. And with modern technology, you can now watch a live feed of Facebook status updates and Instagram photos of all the fun you’re not having.

I know it’s probably hard for you to feel too sorry for me, I am overseas having the time of my life after all, but being sick away from home is no fun. It’s the one time I actually feel a little homesick. I start daydreaming about my own bed, my snuggly doona and my comfy blue triangle pillow.

It’s 27 degrees today, so the fact I’m longing for my doona gives you an indication of just how unwell I am!

Sunday passed by in dozy blur, and I’ve had today off work too. I’m starting to feel a little perkier this afternoon, so I think I’ll try and make it into the office tomorrow.

My host-mum is a doctor, so it’s comforting to know that if my little lurgy turned into something more serious, I’ve got help immediately to hand. She’s been very sweet by checking in on me regularly and bringing me home food.

So I guess I can’t feel too sorry for myself. It’s only a cold and I am being well looked after.

But sympathy is always welcome, so feel free to leave a sympathetic, ‘there, there’ comment to help cheer up this impatient patient.

That one cut me deep, bro

8 May

“The weight comes off, you know? If you stop with the bread and the pie, it really does. It really works.”

~ Philip Seymour Hoffman

A male colleague asked me this afternoon if I was pregnant.


I don’t know if he or I was more embarrassed after I blurted out a startled, “Me? NO!”

Gentlemen, let me give you a hot tip: unless a lady is giving birth right in front of you, it is never OK to ask her if she’s pregnant.

My colleague’s faux pas was both incredibly awkward and excruciatingly mortifying, but it also made me realise it’s time to face the truth.

Despite my good intentions, the stairs I use every day, and the gym I go to a couple of times a week, what affects my weight the most is my diet.

And I have been eating far too many chilenas, tortillas and other assorted carbs and far too few vegetables.

I haven’t been weighing myself, but when I arrived here all my pants were loose. My pants still fit me but now they’re starting to get tight. Uncomfortably tight. Apparently, ‘you-look-pregnant’ tight.

So it’s time to get disciplined and follow my basic ‘healthy eating’ principles again. This entails:

  • boosting the amount of vegetables I eat
  • increasing my protein intake
  • drinking a truckload of water
  • controlling the size of my portions, and
  • monitoring and limiting (but not eliminating) less healthy foods, particularly anything that contains sugar.

Saying goodbye to my beloved chilenas was hard, but I successfully met that challenge.

This gives me some hope I’ll be able to get back on the wagon, and start looking like less of a wagon wheel.


Stairway to trim, taut and terrific

19 Mar


They may not look like much to the untrained eye, but these stairs are no ordinary stairs. They are my new secret weapon in the war on rice and beans.

That’s right peoples, I’ve moved beyond the pre-emptive strike stage and am now in full-on battle mode. And these stairs are going to be part of the first line of defence.

I work on the fourth level of the United Nations building. To get from the ground floor (level 1) to my desk I can either take the lift or climb 60 stairs.

Up until today, I’ve been taking the easy option, but that (slightly lazy) decision is causing me to miss out on some great incidental exercise. In the words of fitness guru Michelle Bridges:

“We don’t always think about how incidental exercise can benefit us, but make no mistake – keeping moving can make the difference between maintaining your body weight and having those kilograms sneak their way onto your hips or waistline.”

Despite a drastic and sudden increase of rice, beans, meat and tortillas in my diet, so far, I haven’t gained weight. But, remembering the false sense of security I was lulled into in Brasil . . .

“Hey, it’s been a month and I haven’t put on any weight. How awesome.”

“Hey, it’s been three months and I’ve gained 10 kilos. Well that sucks.”

. . . I’ve decided that I need to up the ante in my quest to not return home looking like the Michelin man.

So, we are gathered here today, in this virtual space, to witness and celebrate Em’s vow to never take the lift, ever again.

I will walk, climb and cherish the stairs, in sickness and in health, for better or worse, forsaking all elevators from this day forward.

If I can lose weight by only taking the stairs while on an ‘all-you-can-eat’ cruise (true story) then surely I can maintain my weight by only taking the stairs at work.

Plan B is signing up to a gym. I’ve been missing my regular workouts so this weekend I went gym shopping with my host-mum.

We’ve found one that’s not too far away from work or home. I’ll use a taxi to get there in the afternoon and then when my host mum finishes work she’ll swing by to drop me home.

If she ends up having to stay back late at work, I’ll have plenty to do as the gym is actually part of a hotel complex. I can swim, read a book by the pool, or hang out at the café or bar. (Just so long as any eating or drinking I do there doesn’t cancel out the exercise I’ve just done upstairs.)

Between the stairs and the gym I’m quietly hopeful that I’ll still be recognisable as I stroll through the arrivals hall at Sydney airport when I return home in August.

Famous last words?

A pre-emptive strike: Final update

8 Feb

“Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.”

~ Jim Rohn

It seems like only yesterday I declared my intention of waging a pre-emptive strike against rice and beans however, after 18 weeks of trying to get healthier and happier, I had my final assessment at the gym on Thursday.

And there’s good news! All measurements had decreased and both my trainer and I were chuffed with what I’ve managed to achieve over a relatively short space of time.

During the last four and half months I have:

  • lost a total of 6.2 kilos
  • reduced my waist measurement by 11cm (this has meant dropping a dress size)
  • decreased my average skinfold measurement by 6.25mm (which didn’t sound like a lot to me, but according to my trainer this is a fair effort)
  • increased my bicep measurements (there’s actually a tiny bit of muscle there!)
  • not lost any lower thigh muscle.*

In essence I’ve lost weight where I needed and gained weight where I needed. Less fat, more muscle. Winner, winner, chicken dinner.

*Not losing any lower thigh muscle is particularly important with my dodgy knees. My program at the gym is designed to help me strengthen and maintain muscles that support the knee. I went to the physio this week and she was impressed with my ‘quad bulk’.

My next challenge is to maintain this level of muscle strength throughout my time in Honduras, so that when I visit Machu Picchu I don’t conk out halfway through.

And of course the big questions remain: Have I lost enough weight that it will offset the extra padding I expect to acquire while in Honduras? Will I suffer from Another Fat Student (AFS) syndrome? Can I continue my healthy eating habits while travelling?

Stay tuned to find out the answers to all these important questions and more. 🙂

Related posts:

A pre-emptive strike on rice and beans

A pre-emptive strike: Update 1

A pre-emptive strike: Update 2

A pre-emptive strike: Update 2

4 Jan

“Eating crappy food isn’t a reward—it’s a punishment.”

~ Drew Carey

It’s been six weeks, so time for another update about my ‘pre-emptive strike on rice and beans’.

Today’s assessment at the gym had me quite literally running into the change rooms afterwards and doing a happy dance. Despite the recent Christmas and New Year celebrations, this time I’ve still managed to lose 3 kilos and reduce all my body measurements by 1–2.5cms.

I’m also starting to fit back into clothes I haven’t worn for 12, 18, and even 24 months. Most importantly, I feel healthier, fitter and stronger than I have in ages.

I keep getting asked what diet I’m on, but I’m actually not on one. I’ve just been:

  • seriously boosting the amount of vegetables I eat
  • increasing my protein intake (because of the amount of exercise I’m doing)
  • drinking a truckload of water
  • controlling the size of my portions
  • monitoring and limiting (but not eliminating) less healthy foods, particularly anything that contains sugar.

And that’s it. It’s been a bit of a slapdash, haphazard approach, but it seems to be working for me. My good results to date are actually probably more of an indication of just how bad my eating habits were before, as opposed to any crazy or radical change now.

I’m hoping that my new healthy habits will not only put me in good stead for the change of diet coming my way in Honduras, but that I’ll also be able to continue most of them while travelling. I guess I’ll find out how possible this is once I’m on the road.

40 more sleeps to go!

A pre-emptive strike: Update 1

19 Nov

“It would be far easier to lose weight permanently if replacement parts weren’t so handy in the refrigerator.”

~ Hugh Allen

Those playing along at home may recall my post ‘A pre-emptive strike on rice and beans’ in which I set out my plan to lose weight before my big trip overseas next year.

I intimated that if I got some positive results, you’d hear from me again. But if I didn’t achieve anything, I’d just pretend like I’d never publicly declared I was going to work on my diet and fitness.

Well, the good news is that my revitalised health routine has been working. I had my end-of-program assessment at the gym today and I was very happy with the results: I’m now 2.8 kilos lighter and I’ve lost 2–6cms off all my body measurements. Go me!

I still have a way to go but at least I’m moving in the right direction. Although the biggest benefit I’ve encountered has been how good I feel on a day-to-day basis. I’ve started craving healthy foods as opposed to junk food, and those exercise-related ‘happy’ endorphins are really starting to kick in.

Admittedly, my routine is exhausting (dragon boating 2–3 times a week, personal training 3–4 times a week, Krav Maga practice 2–3 times a week) but at least I’m seeing results, so it feels worth it! I’m also sleeping amazingly well at night.

I have just enough time to squeeze in another 12-week program at the gym before leave for Honduras, so hopefully my progress will continue and I’ll be able to give another positive update in a few weeks’ time.

A shot in the glass is better than one in the…

10 Oct

“Make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic check-up at least six to eight weeks before you depart and find out if any vaccinations or additional health checks are required for your destination.”

~ http://www.smartraveller.gov.au

Being extra conscientious, instead of visiting the Travel Doctor six to eight weeks before I depart, I visited them 5 months in advance. Better early than late, right?

While the title of this post is slightly misleading, as there has fortunately been no need for ‘ass’ shots, it’s been a pretty comprehensive program.

Visit one, 12 September

  • yellow fever shot (ouch)
  • measles mumps rubella shot (ouch)
  • rabies shot #1 (ouch)

Visit two, 21 September

  • rabies shot #2 (ouch)

Visit three, 10 October

  • tetanus diphtheria pertussis shot (ouch)
  • typhoid shot (ouch)
  • rabies shot #3 (ouch)

The next step is to have a blood test in three weeks’ time to check that I have developed enough rabies antibodies. I’ve got lifetime cover against hepatitis A and hepatitis B from previous vaccinations so I don’t need to worry about those.

Once I find out where I’m living I’ll then look into anti-malarial options, if necessary. Luckily it looks like Honduras has the ‘good’ strain of malaria, not the ‘bad’ strain, so the risks of severe symptoms (or death!) are lower than in other areas of the world.

I cannot recommend the Travel Doctor more highly. I’ve visited them before all of my overseas trips and I’ve always found them to be knowledgeable, efficient and pleasant to deal with. And they always offer me a jellybean for being brave after giving me injections, even though I’m 30.   🙂

You can find your local Travel Doctor clinic here.

(No, I’m not a paid sponsor; I just think they’re great.)

A pre-emptive strike on rice and beans

2 Oct

The only way to lose weight is to check it as airline baggage.

~Peggy Ryan

Without going all ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’ on you, I have a confession to make:
A combination of factors has led to many items in my wardrobe starting to feel a wee bit too tight. I like to call it the knee-injury-plus-break-up effect.

(My top tip: zero exercise due to a dodgy knee and comfort eating due to a broken heart will not be part of the next fad diet.)

Ordinarily, a few extra kilos (or in my case, eight extra kilos) would not be too much cause for concern. Eating healthier food in smaller portions combined with daily exercise should help me gradually get back to my normal weight.

However the complicating factor I’m now facing is that there are only a few months until I depart for an extended overseas trip. And, as many of you would know, weight loss is to travel, as a snowball’s chance is to hell!

Over at The Healthy Globetrotter Leah has some great tips on how to stay fit and healthy while travelling. I had to laugh when I read her description of travel sometimes resulting in coming home with “a little extra padding”.

As an exchange student, we used to joke that AFS stood for Another Fat Student. Weight gain while living overseas was almost unavoidable for most of us youngsters. On the plane home from Brazil we all compared our mass increase like it was a badge of honour.

“I put on nine kilos.”

“That’s nothing, I put on seventeen!”

From what I can gather, the staples of the Honduran diet are beans, tortillas and rice. I already know from past experience that Em + a high-carb diet = extra kilos.

So the challenge is set! Can I lose enough weight before I head to Honduras that it will offset the extra padding I expect to acquire while over there? I would love to break-even, if a net loss isn’t possible.

And before I start getting lectures, yes, I do know that weighing yourself is not an ideal way to track overall health, and yes, I do know that muscle weighs more than fat. But in terms of a benchmark I’m happy to use kilograms for now.

(Besides, I can guarantee you it’s not eight kilos of muscle that have suddenly caused my jeans not to zip up.)

I’ll post regular updates on my progress, assuming there’s anything to report. In this case, no news is bad news!