Lose Weight and Gain Friends: How to Live Your Healthiest Life Abroad in Thailand
My life now is completely different from the life I led just 5 short months ago. In Thailand, I have a new career, I spend my time with different friends, I communicate in a foreign language, I eat exotic food… I could go on and on outlining the multitudes of changes that I have faced since my transcontinental move. I decided early in my adventure to take advantage of this wave of change that I was riding. I wanted to live a healthier lifestyle, and moving to Thailand seemed to be a perfect kickstart to finally make it happen.
Since moving to Thailand, I have lost about 4.5 kilos (10 lbs), I have considerably more energy than I had before, my acne has cleared up and my skin looks way better. Even with my busy teaching schedule, I was able to make some simple changes that have not only improved my physical and mental health, but help me to perform my job better and lead a happier day to day life. Here is how I did it!
- Join a gym!
I teach in a very small city in Buriram province called Nang Rong. Aside from the stunning Phanom Rung temple complex just 20 km outside of town, Nang Rong isn’t exactly a bustling metropolis. When I moved here, I was shocked to come across the So Fit Gym, a state of the art fitness center just blocks from my apartment. Joining the gym was one of the best decisions I have made since moving to Thailand. So Fit offers an array of fitness classes each day open to all members. There is a team of about 6 coaches who all have degrees in Sport Science from varying universities and are present at the gym for health questions and motivation each and every day. Earlier, I spoke of the changes I have undergone since my move. Some of these changes have been more difficult to face than others. For example, the language barrier can be socially isolating and has led to feelings of homesickness and loneliness on some days. Joining the gym has given me a sense of community that I could not imagine finding anywhere else. Not only has going to the gym every day helped me to shed pounds, it has helped me to make gains socially with new friends from all walks of Thai life.
Halloween Party/Fitness Class at So Fit
- Eat Som Tam
Okay, you don’t have to eat only Som Tam, but you should find a healthy Thai dish that you are confident in ordering and that is offered at most locations. For me, the healthy, flavorful and popular spicy papaya salad dish Som Tam is my savior. Living outside of a tourist zone like Bangkok or Pattaya, it is rare to come across a restaurant that offers an English menu, and you should never expect restaurant owners to speak fluent English. For that reason, it can be challenging to decide on a healthy dish when you cannot read or understand the menu! In this situation, I always order Som Tam. It’s delicious, nutritious, and offered almost anywhere that Thai food is served.
Som Tam from my favorite spot – “ped nit noi,” for “just a little spicy!”
- Snack Hacks
One of my biggest barriers to healthy eating has always been my affinity for snacks. I’ll admit that I have no self-control when it comes to anything salty, and it’s just not realistic for me to completely cut snacking out of my life, especially when that red and green glowing beacon of snacks calls me from every corner…7/11. 7/11 is comforting for any expat living in Thailand because of familiarity and because most of the packaging is in English. In my first few weeks, I ate more Ham & Cheese toasties that I will ever admit to anyone. Now, instead of toasties, I opt for some of the healthier choices I have found at The Sev. Hit up the freezer section to buy a bag of edamame and a bowl of spicy chicken and veggies. The cashiers will warm it up for you and BAM- high protein, low carb dinner! In the snack aisle, skip the chips and head to the nut section, where they offer a plethora of healthy, energy feeding legumes to satiate your salt cravings. I love the Mung Beans, high in protein and in healthy fats!
If you feel like venturing out to try some more authentic Thai snack offerings, I’d recommend the grilled bananas. For only 20 baht, less than $1, you can buy a bag of 6 grilled mini bananas from a number of street vendors all over town. Another recommendation that is unique to the Isan region of Thailand is young, toasted coconuts. Buy one for 20 baht from a local vendor. They’ll crack open the top and stick a straw inside to facilitate you to drink the sweet, delicious juice inside. Then, grab a spoon to scoop out the coconut meat and enjoy. Not only are the offerings from the Thai food stands more authentic and fresh than the choices from 7/11, it also feels good to support the locals. I have befriended the coconut lady that I frequent, along with my favorite banana vendor.
My friend Molly and her delicious toasted young coconuts!
It took me a while to figure out these were bananas.
That’s it! If you follow these simple steps after you make your move, not only will you have plenty of energy to tackle the school week, you’ll also find yourself living a much healthier and fulfilled lifestyle here in Thailand. Good luck, good friends and good health!
Follow Rosie’s travel blog for more information and stories about teaching English in Thailand: www.RambleOnRoseTravels.com