Archive for May, 2009

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Guest Post: Yoga for Life

May 29, 2009

Hi Living Healthy readers!  My name is Maggie and I’m so glad Sagan let me do a guest post.  I blog about lots of random things (yoga, health, fitness, food, recipes) over at Say Yes to Salad but today I’m going to talk more about yoga.

Yoga has been a big part of my life for about a year now.  I took my first yoga class about 8 years ago, but I didn’t become addicted to it until last year when I found Vinyasa yoga. Vinyasa is sometimes called flow yoga or power yoga.  Vinyasa is great because you can get a nice sweaty workout (if you want) or you can use it to relax.  Vinyasa literally means, “moving with the breath”, so there’s a big emphasis on breathing and staying in the present moment.

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Yoga can be a great complement to a healthy lifestyle.  I try to do yoga every day, even if it’s only for 10 minutes.  Sometimes this means that I’ll do yoga to stretch after a long walk (my absolute favourite exercise in the world – Sagan would probably agree! Sagan’s note: oh you know me so well!), or a jog, or some fun workout video (my favourite is probably Jillian Michaels’ 30-Day Shred).  I like to use yoga for stretching because it’s a wonderful way to balance out the repetitive forward motion of walking/running.

Sometimes I do longer yoga classes – 60 or 90 minutes.  Most of the classes I take at a studio are 90 minutes, but I don’t get to do that often – they are expensive!  I’ve found many online free yoga podcasts (see my Yoga page for some links) that are just as good as a live class but can be done in your own living room.

Recently I haven’t been able to have the focus to get through the longer classes, so I’ve been doing short sessions.  But that’s okay! Part of being a yogi is listening to your body.  If my body doesn’t want to do 90 minutes of yoga, I shouldn’t make it.  I made a short (5 minutes) yoga video a few months ago that’s great for the morning or for settling down at night.  Check it out HERE.

There are so many benefits to doing yoga – here are just a few…
–Relaxation
–Improved blood flow (inversions are wonderful – and I heard they can prevent wrinkles)
–Better connection to your body’s needs and wants
–Patience (long holds are annoying, but they help you learn to be patient in other parts of your life as well)
–Flexibility (this decreases the chance of injury from other forms of exercise)
–Strength (you use your own body weight as resistance – think plank position!)
–More friendships!  (I’ve formed so many relationships because of my love of yoga – it’s a wonderful way to connect with people)

I hope you get a chance to try yoga.  I look forward to my yoga practice every day, even if it’s just 10 minutes.  It keeps me happy and healthy 🙂  Thanks again for letting me post, Sagan!

Thanks to all guest posters (Maggie, Liz, and my dad) for your contributions here at Living Healthy in the Real World! Regular posting will resume next week when I’m home from traveling.

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Poll: What’s your position on medication and supplements?

May 27, 2009

Last month’s poll

The question that 31 of us answered a month ago was about how adventurous we are when it comes to eating exotic food when we’re traveling in a foreign country. I’m happy to report that 0% of people polled head straight for McDonald’s! Always nice to hear. 42% like trying anything new, 52% will try some of the new stuff but avoid really unusual foods, and 6% prefer to stick to their regular healthy fare.

My experiences in Cambodia with the food have been really exciting. I was lucky enough to go to a cooking class and learn how to cook some Khmer food, and there are all kinds of cuisines available so I went all-out trying different kinds of dishes. I was really looking forward to buying food from the street vendors- particularly the snails- but after I got sick twice and have been feeling rather queasy on and off ever since, I’ve decided that this sensitive stomach of mine would really appreciate it if I avoided those things. Sometimes our bodies and our minds just don’t agree! Which brings me to…

This month’s poll

Drugs, medications, and supplements really aren’t my “thing”. But sometimes, as I discovered during my travels when I fell ill a few times, medication is the only way to help our immune systems recover and build up again. Some people also swear by supplementation and vitamins, saying that they are essential to maintaining a good health, but I’m wary of those too. It’s a controversial subject and one which I have never been satisfied with the various conclusions obtained from research that is floating around out there. But perhaps in instances when we are too sick for healthy eating and bed rest alone to do the job, a little bit of medication or supplementation can go a long way.

What’s your position on the great drug/medication/supplement debate?

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Fit Travels

May 25, 2009

Health isn’t something that we should ever neglect, even when life starts to get really chaotic. If it’s really important to us, then there are no real excuses why we shouldn’t be able to maintain a good health even when life turns into an obstacle course on us. So for the past five weeks while I’ve been living in a country very unlike my own, with quite a fair amount of traveling around, I’ve been trying to keep up a decent enough fitness regime. There are all kinds of ways that we can beat the difficulties and continue to stay in shape! My travels will sadly be over in just a few days but here’s a few of the ways I’ve been keeping fit while away from my Canadian home:

My pedometer is indispensable. I still wear it every day, and even though I haven’t been logging as many steps as I would like, I’m still staying above 10,000 steps each day (except a couple days when I was bedridden will illness), so that’s satisfactory for me. Steps are usually easy to get in while we’re traveling because you can explore new places on foot. In cities that aren’t so pedestrian-friendly (such as Phnom Penh!), there’s the usual sneaky ways to get in extra steps by taking the stairs, finding some walking areas (like long stretches of boulevard), or even just pacing around your bedroom while you’re reading.

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The NURU cards that I reviewed have also proved to be invaluable. They were great for at the airport when I had hours to kill between catching planes. All I had to do was find a quiet area with not a lot of people and some solid chairs around for tricep dips and such, and I was good to go.

Doing the Burpee Challenge has been a great way to keep the arms and whole body toned. I’m on Day 43 at this point- even on days when I didn’t get much other exercise in, it was nice to know that at least I’ve completed a fair number of burpees. Fitness challenges are always enjoyable.

I’ve been lucky to have plenty of access to the gym while I’ve been here. The apartment building I’m living in has a gym just two floors below, and it’s always empty. I only ever saw someone else in there once the whole time I’ve been here! So it’s been nice to have my pick of machines. There’s not a huge amount of choice, but the machines are in excellent condition:

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When we took a trip down to Sihanoukville and stayed at a beach resort, there was a beautiful fancy fitness centre with an outdoor interval training area.

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I spent time at the gym every day while we were there (NURU cards to the rescue while my gym buddy wasn’t around to sort out the strength training routine)…

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 …between the obligatory long walks on the beach…

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…and the occasional swim (or paddle) in the pool:

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And, of course, when you’re visiting the sites and seeing the temples, it’s absolutely essential to drop and do a few push ups!

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How do you like to keep fit when you’re on the road (or just living in a new place)?

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A (Recurring) Brief and Torrid Love Affair with Running

May 22, 2009

We all have them. An exercise we just love to hate (or hate to love). The one that makes us feel like we’re going to die, to use Jillian Michaels’ expression. But we do it anyway because it’s good for us, or because every so often we really do kind of like it. Mine, as I have both griped about and glorified many times before, is running.

It’s been nearly a year since I was training to run the half marathon. I stopped training when I realized that I didn’t enjoy running, had only been using it as a way to deal with depression, and I had ultimately lost interest. Once every couple months I’ll feel the urge to run (no longer linked to depression, no worries there!), so I’ll get out there and let out my energy, and that’s that for another couple months. It holds me over until I decide again that I do enjoy running, which lasts a few days before the dreading of it begins once more. And the cycle continues.

For some people it’s walking. Or lifting weights. Or burpees, or core work. Our bodies never respond in the same way, as evidenced upon my arrival in Cambodia. My father dear, for example, can’t stand the heat of this place, and I bask in it. We would have done much better this past winter had our positions been reversed- he in the freezing cold of Winnipeg, and I in the steaming heat of Phnom Penh. I don’t think we’ll ever quite understand how the other can survive in our respective preferred climates.

And so it is that while some people can run every day and continue to feel motivated and exhilarated by it, my body isn’t quite so keen on it (for the majority of the time). And yet: last week, somehow I was on the treadmill running my little heart out three times. The thought even crossed my mind to start training again for a race, thinking to myself that if I can run on an incline for 30 minutes in a hot gym (I’m skeptical about this so-called air conditioning… once the treadmills going if anything it feels like the heats turned on!), after not having been out running in a couple months, then surely I can build myself up to be able to run an hour and a half no problem. Or 2 hours! Wouldn’t that be my ultimate challenge, because I have such an on-off relationship with the sport?

…the next day, I walked on that inclined treadmill instead of running. The dream dissipated. My triumphant runners high, my brief love affair, abruptly ended, as usual.

But I see now that it’s no good to continue avoiding running. If I don’t find a race to run, this is one form of exercise that is going to continue to pester me. I’ll learn to love it, I’ll accept that I dislike it, or I’ll come out the other side with a total indifference to it, but the only way I’m going to sot out my feelings about running is to step up to the challenge.

Last year I was perhaps a little too ambitious. Running a half marathon comes across as tedious and daunting to this walker-lover. I think that a simple, short 5 or 10 k race would be the perfect wee hurdle to leap over and add to my merry list of challenges. Upon deciding this, yesterday I went for another run. I managed 4.5 km in half an hour on an incline, so I know that if I can do that much in this oppressive heat I can run a 5k race back in Winnipeg no problem.

So I’m on the look-out for a 5 or 10 k race near my home in Winnipeg. I don’t know what will happen after that, but a 5-10 k race will be found and conquered, at least to begin with.

What’s the one exercise that makes you scream blue murder each time you do it? Is there a sport that you both love and hate? Or one which you have some history with that you need to deal with to stop the ghosts from haunting you? Any pointers from the runners out there would be much appreciated (and if you hear of a good short race taking place in Winnipeg any time soon, you’ll let me know, won’t you?).

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Guest Post: Dealing with a Cancer Diagnosis

May 20, 2009

Hi everyone! My name’s Liz, I live near London, and I’d like to thank Sagan for the opportunity to do a guest blog on her website, which I’ve been a fan of for several months now. This is my first ever blog post – not before time I guess. In our lifetimes 1 in 3 of us will get cancer. Some of you might have done so already, and most of you will know someone who has. This blog is about dealing with the diagnosis. I was told I had breast cancer in 2006, when I was 42. It was a 4cm tumor. After chemotherapy, a lumpectomy and radiotherapy, I’ve been in the clear since March 2007, and am keeping my fingers crossed. It’s not exactly a great experience, but there’s a lot you can do to make it easier to cope, and some positive things that come out of it. A lot of people can’t do enough to help, including some who will surprise you! Here’s me with no hair – my photo won’t win any prizes, but it was nothing like as bad as I’d feared:

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I made a list of practical tips that I’ve sent a couple of friends who were diagnosed recently, covering everything from keeping a sense of proportion to having some sticky tape by the bed when your hair starts to fall out. If anyone would like a copy, please let me know. But there is also a big emotional impact. I was very lucky in having so much love and support from Mike, my husband, and family and friends were also terrific. If you are unlucky enough to get cancer, or someone you know is diagnosed, you might like to think about the following points:
• At the start, telling people you love is really hard. It’s horrible to keep inflicting pain on family and friends. Offering to tell others on the person’s behalf could really be welcome.
• If you’re unsure whether to mention a friend’s diagnosis to him or her, I’d say do. They can make it plain if they don’t want to talk about it, but if you don’t ask how they are, it can be misunderstood.
• There is no such thing as the wrong thing to say. So don’t worry about it and even if you think you’ve just said something crass, it doesn’t matter! The person will understand you don’t know what to say. There is one exception to this, though, which I talk about below. But in any event, big hugs speak volumes!
• Not everyone will react as you expect. You’ll probably hear from some unexpected people as the news gets round, and even get back in touch with lost friends. But some of those close to you may find it very hard to deal with and react in unexpected ways. For me, the hardest part of the whole experience was the way a close family member reacted, and some very painful things from my childhood got stirred up. It’s hard to accept people are doing their best sometimes – and yet they are.
• If you’ve got cancer, your emotions can bounce around a lot. I never felt ‘it’s not fair’ or ‘why me’ because they aren’t meaningful questions for me, but I felt a lot of anger which would sometimes erupt over the most trivial things. You should have heard me on the subject of having to keep my neck covered for a year after radiotherapy! So if a friend with cancer explodes about something petty, don’t take it personally.
• Trying to keep as healthy as possible during treatment helps, both in terms of doing whatever exercise you’re up for during chemo etc, and dealing with the stress of the illness. This is essential for the longer term future. It could put relationships under strain, and I was always conscious of the need to keep engaged with what was going on in Mike’s life, and not to take his support for granted (I was delighted when I got a chance to repay some of his care this spring when he was laid up after surgery!)
• Keep positive. Cancer is increasingly a treatable disease. While some people will be unlucky, for breast cancer 80% of victims survive at least five years, and 64% for at least 20 years. Even if a friend’s diagnosis is terminal, if they live in the UK, USA or Canada they’ll be getting some of the best treatment in the world, in countries where palliative care is taken seriously. I discussed this once with a friend my age who has since died of cancer, and we both agreed we’d far rather deal with having even terminal cancer than with having something like Alzheimer’s.
I said earlier there’s not much you can say that’s wrong. But there is one kind of comment that filled both me and the friend who later died with white-hot nuclear-button-pushing rage. And that’s when people say things like “I’m sure you can beat it. The most important weapon is the mind.” This can be said well-meaningfully but what it implies is that if your cancer becomes terminal, it’s because you’re a wuss. The most important thing is not the mind! Cancer mortality rates have not improved because people have a more positive attitude – it’s the science, d’uh. Yes, it’s important to do all you can to maximize the chances that your treatment will be effective and to minimize the burdens the illness places on others – but beyond that your attitude has no more impact than it would if you broke a bone or had chicken pox.
Finally a tip for action for people who haven’t had a cancer diagnosis – critical illness insurance policies can be wonderful things! I took one out on our mortgage when we last moved house, and to my astonishment, it paid out when I was diagnosed, paying off the mortgage and leaving a large lump sum over (the amount we’d already repaid, index-linked). This enabled me to leave my very stressful job that I’d been feeling trapped in, and find another that suited me far better and in which I can work 4 days a week. This was a huge hidden benefit, for Mike as well as for me! Get out there and check your insurance cover!
Check out Liz’s twitter profile at @lizwicksteed!

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Guest Post: Health and Fitness (or lack thereof!) in Cambodia

May 18, 2009

This is ‘Sagan’s Dad’ with another Guest Post.

As many of you know, I am living in Cambodia and working with the United Nations for one year. When I left Canada I brought along a few misconceptions with me. In this post I will share them with you and the reality I have experienced here over the past six months that shattered those misconceptions.

#1. The Doctor in Canada who gave me my various shots and inoculations for Hepatitis etc. noted that the U.N. recommended that I get a needle for Japanese Encephalitis, an extremely serious disease. He told me that that the side effects from that type of shot can be as bad as the disease and said that unless I was going to spend a lot of time around pig sty’s; where the disease is usually contracted there was no serious concern. I declined to get the shot.

After I arrived in Cambodia I found out that I would be spending a large percentage of the time in rural villages speaking to the locals and discovered that routinely, the families have pigs that they keep in sty’s behind their stilt houses. So, I am in close proximity to pigs quite often! So far, no Japanese Encephalitis….

#2. Reading about Cambodia while in Canada I came to the general conclusion that eating vegetables here would be quite healthy as they were probably organic, all fresh from the farm etc.

After arriving in Cambodia I found the vegetables fresh and delicious. I also learned that farmers use all sorts of insecticides on their gardens as well. As there are few if any enforced regulations that I know of here about insecticides I often wonder how poisoned the produce is that I am eating. My colleagues and I have had stomach pain from time to time that we attribute to eating raw vegetables that are not properly washed. Consequently I eat little raw vegetables and that is something I really miss about home.

#3. Thinking about what life would be like in Cambodia, I figured that being on my own for a year with a lot of free time on my hands I would be able to get into outstanding physical condition. Before departing Canada I was doing a lot of running and looking forward to continuing that fitness regimen.

After arriving in Cambodia I found I was not at all prepared for the stifling heat and even after six months, I have not properly acclimatized myself to it. My work day starts when I wake up about 05:30a.m. and leave for work at 07:00a.m. I usually get home about 06:00 p.m. There are no fitness facilities at work. The sun goes down at about 06:00 p.m. so running outside is not practical in the evenings. Working out is impossible when I am traveling in the rural areas, and I am usually out there at least half the time. I know some people get up and go for a run at 4:30 a.m., when the sun is coming up and the air is relatively cool, but I have not yet had the self discipline to get up at that hour yet!

There is not much I can do about some of my shattered misconceptions, but there are some solutions to the Fitness problem. With a little self-discipline I should be able to do some early morning runs. I have also started the 100 push-up and 100 burpee challenge that Sagan has written about on this blog. That is a start!

Shattered misconceptions are an aspect of travel that cannot be avoided. It is impossible to make judgment calls beforehand to know what to expect when we are not familiar at all with the area we are visiting. It seems to me that one has to consciously make a commitment to be more adaptable and flexible in all points of view and activity. After all, you are no longer ‘at home’; you are at someone else’s home. There are always ways to fit health into our lifestyle; it just means that our lifestyle sometimes needs a little bit of creative tweaking.

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How do you react to a lack of control of your diet?

May 14, 2009

Yesterday there was no blog post because I got sick. Again. I was bedridden the entire day and it felt really awful. I think I’ll be holding off from eating too much unusual food for a while!

While I was lying in bed all sickly and exhausted, I was thinking about how little control we have over the health of our diets when we travel. Particularly in a place where we cannot read any of the labels. The language here uses characters rather than the alphabet we’re all used to, so I’m completely lost when it comes to reading the labels on anything in the grocery store. One thing that I have been eating regularly here is yogurt. It’s plain yogurt and that’s the extent of my knowledge of it. I have no idea what kind of ingredients are in there, but I do know that it has a decent amount of fat in it because it tastes delicious and doesn’t need anything added to it to make it taste really good! I also have noticed the number “130” among the characters, so I’m assuming that that’s how many calories are in the single-serving portion. But the rest is all guess-work. For someone who is as enthusiastic about reading ingredients lists and nutrition labels as I am, it can be a bit frustrating.

Because my dad has a gas-powered stove which he doesn’t much enjoy using, and because there’s just him living here, and because the ants in the kitchen are terrible (if anything is left on the counter, the ants appear within minutes), he tends to eat out every day. I love eating out so I don’t mind that at all! However, this also means that I have even less control over knowing what’s going into my mouth. It’s hard enough to make an educated guess of the food in the grocery store, but it’s even trickier to judge how healthy a food is at a restaurant. Besides that, eating at restaurants means that I don’t know how the food is prepared. My mother dear (she arrived just this past week to join us in Phnom Penh) thinks that the reason I’ve gotten sick was because my food was contaminated from being in contact with raw food at the restaurant. So even that is out of my control.

The difficulty is even more increased when it comes to asking for substitutions. When you don’t speak a word of the language of your server, and they speak only a handful of words of your language, you really can’t start asking for the sauce on the side or to have a side of steamed vegetables in place of French fries etc. I admit, I did try it once: the bread that they serve here is very thin slices of white bread, and I asked for multigrain. I got a similarly confused look when I asked for poached eggs. Needless to say, I settled for white bread and scrambled eggs that morning (which was still very tasty).

Tap water is something else which we have to be really careful about here. Bottled water is the only kind we can drink because our immune systems can’t handle the tap water. I’m really surprised I’ve become sick twice while living here, because I’ve always thought of my immune system as being quite strong. But it’s got nothing on the immune systems of the locals. The fried insects sit out in the sun all day and the raw meat at the market is crawling with flies; kids play in the dirt and garbage alongside the river and even go swimming in the river, but they all appear to be in fine health. I grew up surrounded by animals and playing outside all the time, but being here makes me feel as though I’ve lived in a little safety bubble my whole life.

I’m really glad with how I have been handling the situation of control while living here. There have been times in the past when I’ve freaked out about not having enough control over my food back in Winnipeg, but I have not freaked out even once since arriving here! A real accomplishment. But it makes me wonder, is the reason for that just because the control is so far beyond my reach that it has reached the point where it simply doesn’t matter anymore? In Canada, I know the language and I can read the labels so perhaps that understanding then leads me to try to get even more control. Here in Cambodia, I don’t know the language and can’t communicate the specifics of what I want, so perhaps the extreme of my total lack of understanding is what makes me shrug my shoulders and just roll with it.

What do you think? When you have more ability to control the situation, do you become more of a control-freak? Do you start to relax more when you can’t control it quite as much? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments!

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Sleeping Issues and a Cooking Class Recipe

May 11, 2009

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Can you fall asleep?

I have terrible sleeping problems, so when I was contacted about a new online resource, SleepTonight.com, which provides information about insomnia, I was very interested.  I have been lucky since coming to Cambodia: living here must really agree with me because after months and even years of sleeping poorly (nightmares and waking up frequently throughout the night), I am somehow finding myself able to sleep solidly throughout the night and without nightmares haunting me. It is a wonderful relief.

That being said, my newfound ability to sleep is a total fluke, and I’m not counting on it sticking around when I go back to Canada in a few weeks (the call for guest posts is still open, by the way!). When I used to have recurring nightmares, the best way to stop them from recurring was to figure out what exactly they meant. So I’m interested in this website because it looks at the science behind insomnia. It could be that from researching sleep problems and understanding a little bit more about them, we will be able to get better sleep. It’s worth a shot, anyways.  Anyone else out there have difficulties sleeping? What are some of your remedies?

Mango with Sticky Rice and Caramel Sauce

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Ingredients

2 cups sticky rice

4 tbsp palm sugar

2 tbsp shredded coconut

1/2 cup coconut milk

2 ripe mangos, sliced into pieces

1/2 tbsp butter

Sesame seeds

Method

1. Steam the sticky rice until well cooked.

2. Cook the coconut milk in a pan until boiling. Add palm sugar and keep stirring; boil about 5 minutes. Add butter and a little bit of water and mix until smooth.

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3. Arrange the sliced mango on a plate and place some of the sticky rice in the middle of the plate. Pour some of the caramel sauce on the mango slices and sticky rice, and add shredded coconut and sesame seeds on top of the rice if desired.

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Enjoy! Recipe serves four.

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Cultural Differences in Health

May 7, 2009

Hailing from a city nicknamed “Winterpeg” for its frigidly cold weather, it is with great pleasure that I have been soaking up the heat here in Cambodia. My body hasn’t really had time to acclimatize (which I think is partly why I became so ill), but I adore the temperature regardless!

Living in Phnom Penh has allowed me to observe what I believe to be a few crucial elements of lifestyle healthcare that I sorely lack back in Canada. I’m used to a fairly dry climate, and thus I typically need to reapply moisturizer several times a day to prevent my skin from resembling the cracked features of a statue at Angkor Wat. Since arriving in this gorgeous country I think I’ve moisturized maybe twice, and that was out of habit rather than necessity. The humidity is nature’s beauty product.

The Canadian cold also has the result that I take very hot showers. The steamy, skin-turns-red-from-heat type of showers (oh- that could be why I need to have a bottle of moisturizer glued to my hand at all times). I know that those kinds of super hot showers are not healthy and that they are terrible for the skin, but I take them anyway to combat the cold in winter (it snowed just a few weeks ago in Winnipeg, if that helps put it into perspective). With the days so hot in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, I’ve been taking cold showers just to cool off. It’s refreshing, it’s good for the skin, it’s good for the hair, and it saves on hot water. Win-win all around!

As we drove the 4.5 hour commute from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap so that we could tour the temples for a couple days, we got a fantastic view of the countryside along the way. The farmers are tough people! They’re out ploughing rice paddies and strapping life, full-grown pigs on the backs of their motos to take to the market as part of their everyday life. That’s lifestyle activity and productive work. No gyms required.

I was also really fascinated by how skinny the cows are with ribs visibly showing. They don’t look that healthy, but when I think about a lot of the cows I’ve seen in Canada, just how healthy are they? We always have these gigantic barrels of a cow, surviving on a diet of goodness knows what. The beef here might be a little tough and chewy, but it is super lean and I find it really tasty. Moreover, the meat is all locally grown and fresh to the day.

Staying trim and fit is also possible (and essential, with all of the physical labor that needs to be done) in a climate that makes it too hot to eat. Loving food as much as I do, I was eating exorbitant amounts in Winnipeg. I’d actively try to limit how much I ate because my portion sizes were getting completely out of hand, but I was having a lot of difficulty controlling it. I don’t have to tell myself to stop, now, because it really is far too hot to overeat. The comparison would lead me to think that I was eating so much to try to stay warm. Definitely not applicable these days! The only downside to this heat is that because I personally am not making my living through physical labour, it’s also almost too hot to move very much! I’m still logging my minimum 10,000 steps on the pedometer each day but now it’s quite a task to accomplish (still going strong on the Burpee Challenge though ;)).

As far as food goes, even though there’s still some fried food here, it’s a hell of a lot healthier than our version of fried in Western countries because most of the stuff here is natural and real food. Some of the dishes here are a little questionable to Western eyes, but I’ll take unusual dishes any day over the processed stuff and fast food. Speaking of which, I met a young guy about my age last week from one of the villages near Phnom Penh, and he had no idea what McDonald’s is. They’ve only got a couple of fast food restaurants in Cambodia and no McDonald’s at all.

I’m in paradise.

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Life Lessons: Sometimes we need the meds

May 5, 2009

I had a post all lined up for yesterday, but sometimes, an upset tummy and a visit to the hospital just get in the way!

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My dad and I spent the weekend in Siem Reap to visit the temples. It was a gorgeous trip and the temples were spectacular! So much to see and do. But then our stomachs started cramping uncomfortably. This lasted a couple days, on and off, until on Monday it got really really awful. We managed to spend a couple hours at the temples early in the morning but were back at the hotel to lie down in pain by 10am. We had made dinner plans with a friend from my cooking class, so I finally forced myself to get up and call her around 4pm. When she realized just how ill we were, she insisted on taking us to the hospital herself. We weren’t in much of a state, by this point, to argue!

The doctors and nurses were lovely and the service was so efficient. They took blood samples and checked our temperature and gave us injections; the whole shebang. It turns out that we had some kind of bacterial infection. I also had a fever and they said that my blood pressure is very low- unfortunately I don’t know what my blood pressure is like normally, so perhaps for me that is the norm. Something to check out when I get back to Canada, though; its really important to know what the norm is in situations like this.

They gave us medication and strict instructions to drink plenty of water with electrolyte powder, and then they let us go back to the hotel after staying in the hospital for only a couple hours. We managed to sleep soundly throughout the night and felt much better upon waking this morning.

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When I had been making our dinner plans with my friend, Carol, the day earlier, she had offered us some medication that she had with her when we mentioned that we weren’t feeling 100%. But I don’t really like drugs or meds of any kind, so I politely refused. It was funny because on the way to the hospital she told us about how when she had been in a similarly very ill state, her sister had tried to ply her with vitamins because they were natural and she was convinced that they would be enough to help her. Carol shook her head in disbelief. Sometimes, you just need the medication.

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Being that sick felt really terrible, and I’m sure that if we hadn’t gone to the hospital and accepted their injections and meds, we’d still be feeling just as awful. There are times when we just have to give in and accept that sometimes, we can’t heal ourselves naturally- we need a little bit of help.

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It feels good to be back home in Phnom Penh. Even if we don’t feel completely back to normal, it sure is a lot better from how we were feeling! And I’m glad that we got to see a few temples and enjoy the sites before the illness took over (and am very grateful for health insurance. Don’t skimp out on that traveling cost!).

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This one’s for MizFit: they have jerky here! It’s all dried fish rather than beef, though, in this picture:

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