When planning my move, my fitness and nutrition regimen was one of my main concerns. While I enjoy the benefits and routine of eating well and working out, I’m not one to just NOT eat delicious new treats whilst traveling – I actually go so far the opposite way. And my workouts fall to the wayside when I’m surrounded by new, interesting sights and sounds. Thanks, ADD. Oh, and working 8+ hours in the heat here, chasing around toddlers and kindergarteners, really encourages daily (accidental) naps.
Nutrition has been rough. It’s hard not to eat street food when meals cost about $2, but you can never be 100% sure about what goes into that meal – but a large amount of oil, sugar and MSG is probable. I started off eating a lot of khao man gai – rice with chicken. Sounds healthy enough, but the rice is cooked in greasy fat and as delicious as it was, it always left me feeling heavy and gross. Lots of carby, starchy meals to be found…vegetarian dishes, salads and “clean eating” are elusive and expensive delicacies I’m still searching for. Luckily, since moving into my own apartment, my eating strategy has changed. I’ve already noticed a positive change in energy levels and my body. Here’s a breakdown of my daily food intake currently, because I KNOW you want to know.
Usually fruit – an apple or some sliced mango I purchase from the fruit guy on the street.
Plain yogurt with a small box of cornflakes. All the Thai teachers think I’m so weird because of this. + Iced espresso (always coffee – but the coffee here is loaded with sugar and sweetened condensed milk…a habit I have yet to break).
More fruit – whatever looks appealing at the market that day (probably mango again).
Food at school is usually rice with a meat/vegetable dish, usually pretty delicious.
OR I’ll bring tuna steak in water (sorry, colleagues), nuts, sliced bell peppers/cucumbers/carrots (bought at night market previously).
Usually centers around either chicken or eggs for protein (cooked in coconut oil), with veggies and maybe a tortilla.
OR chicken skewers or some other chicken street food dish if I feel like getting out of the house or not cooking.
Always nuts. All the fruit. Tortilla with avocado hummus. Lemon or coconut butter cookies (my weakness). Peanut butter. Dried salted pea pod snacks (7-11 find). Almond milk fruit smoothies. Annnnd the assorted Thai sweets like banaffe and chocolate cakes and caramel tarts and sticky date pudding and just weird processed treats that I can’t say no to – that ruins all the discipline I attempt the rest of the day. My Thai teachers are always feeding me strange sugary treats too. I’m not exaggerating when I say since being in Thailand, I have eaten at least one sweet thing every single day.
Street food is definitely worth experimenting with – sometimes you get really lucky. I’ve found my favorite street food meal is anything from one of the Isan places. Isan food originates in the north and is known for their som tam, or spicy papaya salad. I get it without the dried shrimpies…it was an unpleasant surprise when I was soaking up some of the spicy sauce with my sticky rice and saw teeny eyes staring back at me. They also grill up delicious chicken and lemongrass stuffed salted fish. This dinner was one of my first in Thailand, and I continue to search out new Isan street spots.
When it comes to working out, Thailand has a plethora of outdoor gyms – most with equipment that either looks like children’s playground equipment or as if you may need a tetanus shot before using it, but still – they are common and free. Most evenings you’ll see old Thai ladies swinging their legs away on these machines (there’s no way it can be very effective, but it’s better than sitting on your butt in front of the TV) and Thai guys lifting weights. Weights in kilos, that is, not pounds, like I thought the first three times I worked out.
It’s been a slow transition back into running, for a couple reasons. One – the oppressive heat and humidity makes me want to stop at every mile marker. It’s reeeeally difficult to force myself to keep running when I can’t see because of the sweat pouring into my eyes. Also, either I have breathtaking running form or just no one runs on the street here, because everyone just freezes and stares SO HARD. I like to call my runs in Bangkok “urban trail running.” You’re constantly leaping over dips or cracks in the sidewalk, jumping off the curb to avoid food carts, dodging stray animals and slow moving Thais, or slamming the brakes so you don’t get squashed by a motorbike. Or a taxi. I really need to utilize the parks that aren’t too far, but it’s hard to justify getting on the BTS to go get sweaty somewhere else, and then punish everyone in the train on the way home…weekends, maybe?
Of course there are gyms to join or if you’re lucky, a gym at your flat or hotel. I don’t have those luxuries, so on the days I don’t feel like braving the heat or the streets, I do a good HIIT or Tabata workout. So far I really like the workouts from Melissa Bender, Fitness Blender and, of course, Insanity workouts when I’m feeling…you know, insane. I do miss my home gym setup, but I couldn’t really pack dumbbells and kettlebells in my carry-on.
Made apparent by one of my high school classes, who asked me, “teacher! baby??!” while pointing to my stomach on the first day of class, I obviously haven’t been following my own advice too closely these first few months. But my routine is solidifying and I feel great about it. I’m excited to find some new spots in my neighborhood and along the river to start upping my running mileage, and I’m slowly restocking my apartment with delicious and healthy market food.
I also burned that dress I was wearing that first day. Never again.