Healthy Living in the Land of Plenty
Indira Pintak, WEEKENDER | Tue, 01/31/2012 1:24 PM |
At the beginning of each year, I always have trouble getting back on track with healthy living. For me, healthy living is, for the most part, about healthy eating.
However, my inclination to eat without restriction begins around the holiday season, starting with American Thanksgiving in the third week of November. As the primary cook for the family, I wrestle with ways to make meals fresh and interesting in the fall and winter. Unfortunately, sourcing fresh local vegetables where I live (eastern Washington State) becomes increasingly difficult from October to June because of the short growing season in the region. My cooking repertoire, thus, switches from fresh salads and things grilled or barbecued to soups, stews, casseroles and things roasted or baked in the oven with vegetables limited to mostly root vegetables.
The frequency of Indonesian dishes I make increases as well during this time with rendang, various soto and gulai appearing on the table. Though I would love to see a delicious fresh salad of frisée, endive and arugula on Thanksgiving, alas, there are no local vegetables (other than potatoes) available in the winter. Of course, I can buy vegetables that come packaged and trucked in from other parts of the country, but I try to support local growers as much as I can. That’s why if nothing local is available, I try at least to buy from the same state or the nearest state, not only because I just don’t like buying fruit and vegetables imported from faraway places, but also because the farther the source the higher the price.
Tied closely to eating is the matter of body weight. People who live in four-season climates tend to gain weight during the colder months. With the daylight hours getting shorter from October through to March, I know all I want to do is stay under the bed covers or eat warm, comforting food (think hearty stews or oxtail soup!). Add Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year festivities into the picture and the resulting weight gain by January has me ridden with guilt over my lack of willpower to curb my appetite. But coming from a long line of relatives with obesity, I don’t buy into the belief that it’s OK to be overweight as long as one is “healthy”.
Research indicates that the risk of developing certain diseases increases with obesity, such as hypertension, high cholesterol, stroke, heart disease and breast cancer, to name a few. My family medical history and overall shortened lifespan further drives home the importance of managing the amount and the kinds of food I eat. All things goreng (fried) have gone by the wayside for the most part.
Living healthfully, therefore, is not all about food (although my family would like to think so); rather, things good for the body and mind are also important. Exercising, for example, did not become a part of my idea of healthy living until my family physician raised red flags over my cholesterol levels and my blood pressure. After keeping an exercise log for two years now, I see a pattern emerging: summer exercising at peak mileage, then slowing down in the fall, very low activity levels in the winter and then very slowly ramping up again in the spring. The only trouble is that winters can be long and drawn out. I remember last year it was still hailing in May! So this means that my motivation to come out of hibernation and get my body moving really doesn’t kick in until I see and feel a noticeable difference in the weather.
Having lived in eastern Washington State for only two years, I think I’ve finally figured out what exercises do the least amount of physical damage. I tried swimming 5 kilometers four to five times a week for about 10 months, until my skin and hair eventually told me they really didn’t like the chlorine overdose. So then I switched to running 8 kilometers on the treadmill and walking the 12.8-kilometer Pullman, Washington–Moscow, Idaho trail.
It’s been good so far and my injuries haven’t deterred me from plodding along with my goals of building endurance and better pacing. Yes, you’d be surprised the kinds of injuries one can sustain from a simple activity like running: iliotibial band syndrome, snapping hip and swelling of various other kinds of muscles in the legs and feet. That’s why I’ve also incorporated other things to maintain wellness, such as yoga, acupuncture and listening to isochronic recordings.
Unfortunately, there aren’t many yoga studios to choose from in wheat country and the one particular style of hot Vinyasa yoga I like isn’t on offer, so I roll out my yoga mat and turn on my DVD player to do my own yoga session at home – less for the spiritual aspect and more for the poses that can ease my muscle pains. Similarly, my acupuncturist is familiar with my chronic aches and pains and does a fantastic job at inflicting more pain on me with his traditional acupuncture needles, electric-current needles and fire cupping. I often scream and yelp in pain during the sessions and emerge with bruising on my back from the cupping that is reminiscent of my kerokan days, but, miraculously, I feel great afterward.
Winter won’t be over until late April here, so I have to steel myself against the numerous excuses I make to avoid getting back on the treadmill. In the meantime I’ll sip a cup of warm cocoa, listen to my isochronic music and think about making more healthy choices in this land of plenty.