I hate to even say that Cambodia helped me lose weight because of all the things that have happened in and to Cambodia. Weight loss sounds so unimportant compared to that.
But my trip to Siem Reap in Cambodia did help me get my ass back in gear and my weight heading back down. I was off the track…so far off the weight loss and exercise track that I didn’t even know where the tracks were. What did they even look like?
My story, if you don’t already know, is that I lost 82 pounds in 2003-2004. I started eating healthier and exercising, and later began teaching Spinning and became a personal trainer. I love Spinning so much. I’m like an unofficial Spinning ambassador. Spinning helped me lose weight and get stronger emotionally. Weird, but true. It’s like a whole other person had been hiding inside me and was released out into the big world as I got better on the bike and started teaching. But that’s a story for another day.
I kept all the weight off for about five years. Since then, I have gained between 5 and 20 pounds of it back, depending on the year. Up-down. Up-down. But at least I’ve kept over 60 pounds off. Whew.
Over the years I just got tired.
I got lazy.
I stopped doing many of the things that I wrote about in my weight loss book… the easy things we can do to lose weight. But I just wasn’t feeling it. You feel me?
I had started overeating again in the evenings because I was tired, fed up with my workload, broke, trying to raise kids, and everything else in between. I had lots of excuses. It also didn’t help that I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Disease, which is autoimmune hypothyroidism. Having your thyroid slowly being ‘eaten away’ doesn’t spur on weight loss, either. But that’s no excuse. I just have to work harder than people without the disease. I didn’t make the extra effort.
In August of 2017, after my daughter graduated high school, the kids and I sold a lot of our stuff, put the rest in storage, and then decided to travel and see the world. I am lucky that my ‘day job’ is graphic design and I can pretty much work anywhere. Yes, I had to stop training clients in person (and start training them virtually online) and I had to stop teaching my beloved Spinning classes (what?), but I needed to just get away. Reboot. See something new. Do new things. I was slowly going crazy. Everyday was fucking Groundhog Day.
We’ve been traveling for nine months now. It’s hard. I’m tired. I’m sick of living out of a suitcase. Sometimes I’m lonely. But then it’s also totally awesome.
The problem is/was that I have had absolutely no consistency in my schedule, little access to gyms, and really no desire to do anything to keep myself healthy and in shape. I have had taxis, public transport, Uber, tuk tuks or a scooter at my disposal. Why walk? I brought exercise tubing with me, but used it maybe once or twice a month until Cambodia.
I’ll be honest. I have been eating way too much ice cream, gelato, chocolate, and other desserts. Pringles, too (available in every country, strangely). Pizza, deep fried spring rolls, you name it. I started back to my old bad habits (I’ll start tomorrow – WTF is that all about? My God, I wrote a book about NOT waiting for tomorrow).
I was no longer living the way I knew I should live if I wanted to stay healthy. I was being lazy and not taking my health seriously. Again. Hell’s bells, Helen. What were you thinking?
We arrived in Cambodia in February of 2018. It’s a beautiful country and Siem Reap has some of the best ‘western’ food I’ve had. Yes, you really can find good Mexican food in Siem Reap (Tuk Tuk Tacos and Maybe Later. Hello there, friends). Who knew, right?
Our first AirBNB was a little on the outskirts, with no way to get anywhere except by tuk tuk. At night, there were no tuk tuks around, so I really couldn’t just run out to a mini mart. I also pretty much temporarily ran out of money, and ended up eating only 1-2 meals a day.
There were nights I felt so hungry I wanted to cry. (I’m a sissy. I hate to be hungry). We usually ate dinner early, and I didn’t have access to junkie snacks, and didn’t have extra money, anyway.
‘Junk snacks’ are expensive overseas. I almost flipped my lid a few times because I felt like I was starving to death. Well, I wasn’t. No one starves to death by eating one or two meals a day for a couple of weeks, but I like to be dramatic. Being hungry upsets me emotionally.
The AirBNB we stayed had a beautiful pool, and I swam almost every day for the week we were there. We also walked around Siem Reap a lot, because I can see more on foot and explore. Never mind that it was a million degrees. I’m from Southern California. I’ve got this heat thing handled.
By limiting how much food I was eating, and moving more, I started to lose weight again. I really didn’t think about it or notice it. I was too busy feeling sorry for myself for being hungry. But I also started to make healthier choices. I could have gelato, or for the same price I could have a real meal. Hmmm.
As the weeks went by, I felt less and less hungry, so even when money started coming in again, I was no longer able to eat big meals. I bought healthy snacks. I swam. And I slowly started to get back in touch with my healthier self. (Hello, healthier self. Where have you been?)
We moved to a small boutique hotel with an even better pool (picture at the top of the post. Beautiful, right? Baby Elephant Boutique Hotel). The managing partner, Ilana, had talked about wanting to join a gym so I snagged her and made her my workout partner. Committing to another person forces you to exercise. I needed to be forced back into it, 50 shades of working out style. I wasn’t going to do it by myself. Plus I really missed training, so we were training/working out together. It was awesome. She was awesome and positive. Swimming, better food choices, working out with Ilana…these things all helped me get back to ME and my health.
I completely stopped the binge eating at night. I had gained probably 7-8 pounds during our trip, and I slowly started to lose those pounds, so by the time I got back to Thailand, my sister noticed I wasn’t quite as chunky as when I’d left. That was encouraging. I also tried on the shorts that had fit when I departed dearly beloved California, that did not fit during the middle of my trip (argh) and then they fit again. So I am going in the right direction. Again. Finally. Yay!
The two weeks I was back in Thailand after Cambodia I worked out three days a week with my sister in the pool, exercised in the hotel’s tiny gym when I could, and did some workouts in my room (hello, fitness bands). I tried to really pay attention to what I was eating.
OK, let me rephrase. I paid attention to not eat too much of anything. I ate pizza, but just maybe two slices, not four, and then no dessert. Or I ate protein and veggies, then shared a dessert with my son.
I am back to making better choices. I am back to me. Sometimes our hand just has to be forced in order for us to make a change. I knew what to do to lose the weight – I just didn’t want to. I wasn’t ready. I was feeling unmotivated.
In Cambodia I was not given a choice. I had money for one meal a day for awhile, which helped me break away from the bad habits that had slowly crept back. Because they do. Those bad habits you’ve had your whole life try to return. Like the undead. They are sneaky bastards. And I let them WIN!
You might not have the same ‘forced hand’ that I did to get myself back to losing the weight I gained, but you can pretend you do. Everyone needs to save money, right? So share meals when you go out. Eat dessert once a week, instead of three. Pay attention to how many calories are in the coffee shop coffees you drink. Let yourself go to bed hungry now and again.
And take your health seriously, for cryin’ out loud. You’ve only got one life. Live it to your fullest. Live it with balance. Do the work and then enjoy a little something now and again. Most of all…just be healthy.