Recipes to Meet Your Macros

You can easily modify recipes to meet your macros. All you need is your meal plan, a bit of math, and the ingredients for a nutritious meal.

When I go over healthy meal plans and recipe ideas with people, I like to give them some guidelines to follow versus only specific foods or recipes. I like to promote a variety of nutritious foods that can be chosen by the individual so he or she will be more interested in staying on track. Additionally, creating a meal plan with specific recipes is not only tedious for me (because every recipe has to be created and tracked in order to ensure nutrition balances out over the week), but the reality is, most people are not going to want to spend the time it takes to make exact recipes. Additionally, if we don’t like certain ingredients, we are likely going to omit them from our meals.

Recipes that meet macros.
I’m still a fan of low carb, moderate fat, and high protein dishes. (Tuna, veg, avocado).

What does a sample guideline look like then? Calories and numbers are based on clients’ needs, but an example looks like this:

6 ounces of lean protein
1 cup of complex carbohydrates
1-2 cups of green vegetables
1/2 of a small avocado or another source of healthy fat like olive oil

My meal plans are quite “biased.” I do recommend specific foods I enjoy like the avocado you see here to give ideas, but I always take into consideration client likes and dislikes. Avocado is one of my favorite foods and when I’m dieting, there are times I’ll eat up to two a day. My calories come from fat instead of carbohydrates, but both can play a role in a healthful diet, that’s why I include adequate proportions of all three macronutrients at mealtime for the average person concerned about their health and/or looking to lose weight. Because so many people are always on the go, I do recommend some convenience foods and supplements. One hundred calorie packs of almonds or mixed nuts travel easily and and keep portion sizes in check. Greek yogurt is a quick and tasty go-to with both protein and carbohydrates, good for either before or after a workout. I’m a fan of protein supplements as well for a variety of reasons, again, they are convenient. If you have a sweet tooth, like I do, they can quench it a bit without all the fat and calories. I know it’s not the same as a chocolate chip cookie or something like that, but having a daily protein shake won’t break the calorie bank! They are a quick source of portable protein beneficial not only post workout, but any time of day. You’ve read it before, but I’ll write it again, it’s important to get protein in over the course of the day, not just at one or two meals, and supplements are a good way to do that, especially in between.

What about recipes? Here is where you can have some poetic license in the kitchen using guidelines provided. It’s important to read labels and keep in mind what condiments and sauces are high in fat, salt, and sugars, but you can create plenty of tasty dishes with fresh herbs, spices, and low calorie vegetables. Onions, garlic, turmeric, lemon grass, chilies, and so much more add flavor and nutrient benefits without adding extra calories to your meal. Yes, there will be a few extra calories, but a few calories from some onion and garlic is much better than hundreds of calories from high sodium sauces and marinades.

If you want to create a recipe that yields 4 meals, multiply the above numbers by four. What main protein source do you want? How about carbohydrates? What flavor combinations? A simple, “one pot” meal like a stew or even a chili is always good. How about a sweet potato chili? You can use both beans and diced sweet potato. Here’s a brief breakdown for 4 servings:

2 tbsp oil
1 cup onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound lean ground turkey
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp pepper
1 can low sodium diced tomatoes
1 cup canned beans, rinsed
1 cup low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
2 cups diced sweet potatoes, boiled

Serve with a lime wedge and 1/4 of an avocado. Add a dash of salt for additional flavor.

To make the meal, heat olive oil in a heavy bottom skillet. Add garlic and onions and sauté until translucent, about 3 or 4 minutes. Add ground turkey and break it up with a spatula. Add seasonings and cook until lightly browned. Add diced tomatoes, beans, broth and stir. Add in diced sweet potatoes last and heat until hot. If you add raw sweet potatoes, the chili will take longer to cook, sample as you go. A simplifying alternative is to used pre diced butternut squash that is sometimes available in the frozen foods section at your grocery store or you can buy it fresh. Sometimes Costco sells diced and peeled butternut squash. You can freeze what you don’t need. The same goes for chilis and stews. They are easily frozen and can be used later. If you’re feeling ambitious, whip up a double batch and save some for later.

Recipes that meet macros.
Bulk meal prep was underway with all these vegetables ready.

The more you follow basic guidelines and experiment with different recipes in the kitchen, the easier eating healthy becomes. You don’t have to eat bland meals and boring meals to be successful with weight loss.

El Nido and the Palawan Basic To Do

My feelings on the Philippines.
So many yet so few and more importantly, I made it out unscathed! 😅 The Philippines are one of the places you often hear warnings about, but as always, you have to be alert and keep your head on a swivel. I didn’t feel unsafe, but I also didn’t feel super safe. Either way, as a solo female traveler, it’s important to stay vigilant, no matter where you are. Now, my typical “slow” travel style has taken a quicker pace. I have less than three months left of this crazy Asian Adventure and I have places to go and things to do. I only spent nine days in the Philippines not including the two travel days (on each end) and it seemed like I was mostly traveling anyway. Like anywhere in Asia, getting from point A to point B takes time and I took some bus, boat, van, and plane rides on the regular.
With such a short visit, I don’t have a great summary of this varied country, but I can say the nature I did see was stunning. Here are my main thoughts overall:

Port Barton, Palawan, Philippines
Amazing islands, amazing beaches.

1. Filipinos listen to an inordinate amount of “soft rock” from the 70s and 80s. It plays on the radio everywhere you may go. From Cebu to Palawan to public busses and local restaurants, you could often hear Boston, Chicago, Air Supply, even Led Zepplin, and many others. I actually didn’t mind it. It reminded me of home, my mom, and some of the tunes I remember her listening to when I was a kid, Total Eclipse of the Heart being one of them. When I asked some locals about it, they really couldn’t explain this phenomena of the popularity of soft rock, it just is!

Fish Filet and Pumpkin Curry
Pumpkin and potatoes have some healthy nutrients!

2. Food. Ugh. Meat and fat and rice. Sounds like a good keto diet minus the rice but all so unhealthy. I had some vegetables on a few occasions, and that was restricted to mostly eggplant and pumpkin. So much of the meat is full of fat and the Filipinos like their pork! (But, the boat tour BBQs were awesome). As an RD it’s a little concerning as heart disease and diabetes rates must be pretty high (although I never looked). And while in the West we think of Asians as typically being slender, that’s not the case in many places and that goes for the Philippines as well. Sorry, but I see a lot of unhealthy people and lifestyle practices here.

Filipino Beach BBQ
Part of the bbq we had while on Tour A in El Nido.

3. Transportation. I’ve seen so many styles of transportation with a motorbike of some sort as the main base and in the Philippines, they use “tricycles,” a sort of covered motorbike car with an attached seat. Honestly, I thought they were quite ugly yet many of them are well kept, painted with various designs, and some even have real car ornaments on the front. They are a cheap way to get around the cities and towns on the islands and I felt most drivers were pretty honest with pricing (I always asked locals average fare before I headed out).

Filipino Tricycle
A funny looking tricycle.

4. Christianity. Having spent the majority of the last 16 months in predominantly Buddhist nations and a few Islamic ones, it was different seeing churches. I don’t know how religious the Filipinos are, but I saw a lot of churches and make shift churches everywhere I went.

5. Interesting conversations with locals about my physique: While pointing at me, one man asked, “Oh wow, do you play… Do you play dumbbells?” And another, our “Tour A” guide: “I like your muscles. Do you play KFC?” There was a chuckle about the crowd, then the guide laughed, “Not KFC, UFC!” So, I’m a non-fighting UFC and dumbbell player in the Philippines!

Kayaking In El Nido
Not playing dumbbells, but getting a back and shoulder workout nevertheless!

6. After 11 days, I still want to spell Philippines with two Ls and one P.

Those random things are my take home thoughts as well as the beauty I saw at my main destination: Palawan, one of the more northwestern of the 1,700 Filipino Islands. Puerto Princessa is the capital of Palawan, and after spending a full day there, I can tell you, skip it. It’s best as a transit point and is just a busy city without any real beaches. And don’t go to “Pristine Beach.” It’s far from pristine, take my word for it. I’ll spare you the pictures.

Mantinloc Island, Palawan
Keep it clean and pristine!

El Nido is magical but a growing area, so that in and of itself brings up issues my brain cannot ignore. How do you preserve such a pristine place while people want to visit it? I’d actually read some posts telling people NOT to go because development and tourism is ruining the ecosystem there. But I had to… In my defense I skipped swimming with the whale sharks on Cebu as that also affects ecosystems, but I won’t lie, a part of me regrets skipping it. Feeding animals alters migratory patterns and teaching them it’s ok to approach boats could eventually get them injured. But who doesn’t want to swim with the biggest fish in the world?!
One of the things I liked about El Nido, aside from the obvious beauty of visiting tropical islands, was that the boat tour guides actually tell you not to touch things, not to touch coral, not to touch animals, and not to take anything. They also don’t feed the fish and have support from the World Wildlife Fund (who also recently declared 1 million hectares of marine protected area in Palawan) to promote ecotourism to draw visitors to the area instead of exploiting the land and sea. In developing countries this happens no matter what, but hopefully with the right partnerships and focus, this can be minimized. There’s a huge benefit. El Nido and Port Barton, the two places I visited, were truly stunning. The coral reefs are lush and vibrant and have very little to no trash in them. In this day and age with all the trash in the world, that’s nearly unheard of. Plus, coral reefs are the birthplace of so much of the life in our seas and oceans. That’s a huge part of the food chain.

Fun in the sun.
Fun in the sun.

I really enjoyed all of the activities on the boat tours I went on. It’s the thing to do, especially when limited on time. Hop on a tour and take a closer look. In El Nido I went on Tour A and Tour C, all in all, simply island hopping. Despite the rainy season, I was lucky enough to get some sunny days and see the sea and islands in all their rays of sunshiny glory!
While my time in the Philippines was short, I did enjoy it and hold dear the experiences I had. Seeing islands like Palawan is just a dream come true, even for me, someone who has been traveling for nearly a year and a half now. If you ever make the trek that way, please do some advance planning (unlike me). There was more I could have done but just didn’t have the time. Check out the Underground River, Port Barton, and Coron. Maybe vary it up and fly into Puerto Princessa and out of El Nido or Coron to somewhere else. It’s more expensive, but a time saver. In El Nido, check out Spin Designer Hostel, It was the most expensive hostel I’ve been to in Asia (about $17/night), but it’s new, clean, spacious, and all rooms only have four beds and air conditioning.

Spin Designers Hostel
The common area at Spin.

There is a daily breakfast buffet complete with an egg station and they provide free coffee in the afternoon as well, which is nice after a day out on the boat! It’s a great place to mix, mingle, and meet other travelers, even when you’re the 39 year old granny of the group. 😆 I also enjoyed having a burrito at the “Burrito Bar” in the small downtown area. It’s not really Mexican, but close enough. There is a gym as well, “Peak Gym,” which was great for my rainy down day. Swimming and kayaking on the sea and weights in between. Oh, and just beware WiFi is limited at best, so don’t plan on being too connected while in town.

Asia Gym
Another basic gym in Asia, but at least I could play dumbbells. 😆

So, all in all a good time and mainly, I saw some of the beauty on Palawan, met new people, and made some new friends. I got in more workouts than expected, stayed in some really nice places, and got some work done as well so no complaints from me!

There’s no place like home. Or is there?

“Home, the spot on Earth supremely blest, a dearer sweeter spot than all the rest.”

What is home? What is home to you? It’s an interesting concept and one that can change depending on who and where you are, I’ve found.
Since my recent trip to the United States via Dubai, Prague, and Barcelona, I find myself rethinking the notion of “home.”
I mean, I was just “home,” but my home has always been more than one place in my mind. New Hampshire is where I’m from, always has been. When people ask me, that’s my answer. But I have to add I lived in Texas for 13 years. That’s where I owned a house, earned my master’s degree, worked, and have roots. But lately, home seems to be and feel wherever I end up in this world.

Home sweet home!
My old house in San Antonio, Texas.

When I went back to my friend’s apartment in Bangkok, it kind of felt like “home.” I even had some stuff there, my backpack, and for a nomad, that’s my house, kind of anyway. All my stuff goes in it and I take it places, the same way a turtle takes his shell wherever he goes. Same same, but different, I know. I can navigate through that bag fairly well. I have a system to make packing a convenient breeze. My bright blue packing cubes double as pillows or leg props when necessary, and each houses certain items. The side pockets allow me to separate and organize my toiletries and a few other things I use on a daily basis. And while I sometimes pull everything out with the resulting mess looking like an explosion, it’s quite easy to tidy up and put back together, especially when I compare it to cleaning the 1,721 square foot abode in which I once lived.
When I have more than a few days in a place, I set my things up in a neat, orderly, accessible fashion. My shorts carefully folded next to a pile of shirts and tank tops, and along side, a small bag full of matching socks. The less you have, the easier it is and the more you learn to live without, the less you realize you need.

Just a pile of clothes.
Pretty much all of my clothes for 6 months.

I’ve been traveling for so long, anywhere has begun to feel like home. Cheap hotels (because I’m on a budget), friends’ flats, an unexpected week in an apartment, crashing on someone’s couch… Even hostels feel like home. When I arrived in Siem Reap, I checked into my $9/night accommodations. I pulled out my packing cubes and placed them on my bed for easy access. I grew accustomed to having them with me at night after I had surgery because I needed to elevate my leg somehow and they did the trick. It’s also handy having all of your clothes in bed, but unlike before, they all fit into a small area. They are not left in an unwanted pile of laundry waiting to be put away! So, sleeping in a room full of strangers with my few belongings by my side has somehow become “home” to me. When did that happen?! HOW did that happen?

Rooftop pool in Bangkok.
At “home” in Bangkok. I could have easily gotten used to that place!

They say “Home is where the heart is.” I guess my heart is in travel and so that has become my “home.” I still think about my decision to finish up this adventure come next January and I still feel ok with it. But I wonder, once I settle back into the familiar, will I be bored? Will I need my packing cubes by my side? Will I dream of far off places? Will the rat race be enough?

Tonight’s sunset definitely made this spot sweeter than all the rest.


What unconventional places have served as your home?

Brunei, Bhutan, Burma: What Will It Be?

It’s been a year of life on the road, on the go, a homeless nomad. I leave Asia for Dubai, 2 weeks in Europe, and then a month long trip back to the states. I’ll arrive just a bit short of having spent one full year in Asia and now I’m going to try to answer the big question: “What’s your favorite place?”
As you may know from previous posts, I like it everywhere, so I’ll make this a round up of sorts, a list of the best, most interesting, and unique moments, and perhaps a few of the bad… Let’s briefly recap: China, Mongolia, Nepal, Bhutan, Thailand, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Malaysia (on Borneo), Brunei, Indonesia, United States, Thailand, Myanmar, Thailand. Well, I’ve definitely spent the most time in Thailand, that’s for sure. I didn’t plan on it, but that’s how the cookie crumbled. Actually, my meniscus crumbled but we can save that bit for later. So here goes, in list form, and in no particular order.

World’s best sunset: Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia

Most beautiful spots: many of the islands in Thailand.
Most breathtaking views: Himalayas of Nepal
Best Flight: Kathmandu to Bhutan and seeing Mt. Everest along the way.
Biggest accomplishment: Crossing the Thorung-La Pass along the Annapurna Circuit. 5,416 meters high! 200 km trekked and 17 days on the trail.

Made it through the Thorung-La Pass!

Most rewarding moments: Living and working with the Gautam family and Mountain Heart Nepal.
Best group of friends: All the people I met and worked with in Lake Khovsgal, Mongolia, and my sister, Yadam!

Friends at Nature’s Door on Lake Khovsgal.

Best travel buddy (and person I miss the most): Elena Duerst. We met on Day One of the Annapurna Circuit and spent 24 days together. We never got tired of each other and had endless jokes and laughs.

Elena and I up early for our Poon Hill sunrise hike.

Most unique gym experience: Kathmandu, Nepal
Nicest gym: Virgin Fitness in Bangkok, but only went twice, so Elite on Ko Samui is definitely the runner up. I went there for 7 weeks.
Worst gym: The one on Phi Phi, in Thailand. But, I managed to workout for 2 hours, so it wasn’t that bad!
Best hostel: Hom Hostel and Cooking Club, Bangkok, Thailand.
Worst hostel: Backpacker’s Freak Hostel, Melaka, Malaysia.
Best hotel: The Marriott in Putrajaya, Malaysia. Felt like a castle!
Most worthwhile paid trip: 5 day Gobi desert tour in Mongolia. I kept myself on such a tight budget so I didn’t want to splurge, but it was well worth it!
Most memorable border crossing: By long tail boat from Southern Thailand to Myanmar.
Most memorable meal: Gobi Desert. Bland Tsoiven, a noodle based Mongolian dish. When I finished, I had a pile of goat hair next to my plate.
Most unsavory dish: A bite of a scorpion in China. And stinky tofu. Still makes my skin crawl.
Favorite meal in general: Cashew Chicken and loved all the tempeh and peanut sauce in Indonesia.
Most Frequented Restaurant: Lebanese House in Bangkok for the Fattoush
Longest flight: Hong Kong to Dallas: 14.5 hours.
Shortest flight: Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan in Malaysian Borneo: 45 minutes.
Most dream fulfilling moment: diving with mantas at Manta Point, Nusa Penida, Indonesia.

Mantas from my dive, but not my photo.

Most memorable moment: Injuring my knee and learning I tore my ACL and meniscus.
Scariest moment: coming out of anesthesia after surgery and not knowing where I was while in lots of pain.

After surgery, trying to eat.

My list could go on but I’ll stop there! It has been a memorable year and I often reminisce about all I’ve done and the people I’ve met. I still sometimes cannot believe everything that has happened, from the good times, to getting injured and dealing with recovery, flying home for my grandfather’s funeral, to learning my godfather passed away shortly after.
When I ask myself what “the best” was, the image changes. There’s no one best place, moment, or experience. Every place and situation has provided me with such diverse memories and places are so different. The Himalayas of Bhutan and Nepal are so different from the beaches in Thailand. The people of Myanmar are so kind compared to the people in say, China. Interacting with locals is an enriching component of being in a country, but sharing accomplishments with fellow travelers is rewarding in a different way.

New Friends in Nepal

I really enjoyed visiting Bhutan and spending 24 hours in Brunei was not enough, but I enjoyed it there as well. Perhaps if I would have been able to stay longer (in both places), I could form a more solid opinion of those countries. When it comes down to it, however, if I had to pick my “favorite” place, I’d have to go with Myanmar, for so many reasons. Yeah, the oil laden food isn’t always that good, travel can be long and arduous, infrastructure is lacking, and sometimes it’s difficult to get local currency, but the country has its charm. The people are kind, it’s a fascinating place with a rich history, a convergence of cultures, and beautiful landscapes. And I find there’s something so alluring about taking the road less traveled. Myanmar is a diamond in the rough, it’s raw, largely unedited, and still unaffected by the negative aspects of tourism. All in all, it was such a positive and captivating experience.
If I were to write about all the awesome people I’ve met on this trip, I’d have to write a blog dedicated just to that! Suffice it to say there have been many and I don’t even think I could write about all of them! However, there have been some noteworthy individuals that have made my life in Thailand so much better than what could have been. Surgery alone in a foreign country is no fun, so I’m grateful to Dr. Panya for fixing me, and for my physical therapist, Dion, for helping me heal. I’m thankful to the staff at the Blocks Hostel for their support in the three weeks I spent there post op and to Toon Pavalin and staff at Hom Hostel for their kindness in the five weeks I spent there. I don’t think I would have survived my time in Bangkok had I not found them and in the meantime, I met others. My “bodyguard,” Tyson, helped me out so much, was able to get me into many gyms, and simply became a close friend to me, something that’s hard to find when you’re a nomad. And last but not least, all the travelers and travel buddies I’ve met along the way. It’s been a good trip and I appreciate it all and everyone who has been a part. Let’s see what the next year brings!

Most unusual island tour. Saw an abondoned resort and got a ride back to the pier on a tractor with some locals. All around an interesting day.

Body Shaming and Health

Have you ever been a victim of body shaming? It can affect anybody and take place in various forms. While I typically keep my Facebook page posts related to fitness, food, and travel, I recently posted something that turned out to be quite controversial and ultimately, some took it as body shaming.
Body shaming, by dictionary definition, is “the practice of making critical, potentially humiliating comments about a person’s body size or weight.” In this day and age, there’s a push in the popular media to love oneself no matter how you look, but as an RD, I feel like this notion warrants caution. Loving yourself is great, but health is also great, and necessary. Health, or lack thereof, can come in a variety of packages and typically, people view “skinny” people as healthy and those who are overweight as unhealthy. The reality is, only regular visits to your doctor, complete with blood screenings, can determine your level of health. There are some individuals who appear to have a healthy weight who may have risk factors for disease, and there are plenty of people who are overweight who do not. There are many articles on the internet about “TOFI/SOFI,” Thin or Skinny on the Outside, Fat on the Inside. According to the Huffington Post, such individuals have a low BMI (body mass index), but lack muscle and tend to store what body fat they do have “around the middle.” The MD who wrote the article noted that many of these people have some of the metabolic features of those with pre-diabetes: “low muscle mass, inflammation, high triglycerides, low HDL, high blood sugar, and high blood pressure.” He adds such people also have risk factors for other diseases and notes the best way to assess your level of health and determine any risk factors for disease is through a blood test.
We can go from a seemingly visible healthy weight to extreme ends of the spectrum with anorexia and bulimia at one end and overweight and obesity at the other. While most people would agree the first are definitely unhealthy, (and they are), to some, the overweight and obese categories are muddled.
Regarding anorexia, bulimia, and other eating disorders, here is what we do know. These statistics are taken, as they are, from, the National Association for Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders.
At least 30 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder in the U.S. (I referred to the original article and it seems as the wording, “eating disorder” in this peer reviewed study relates to anorexia, bulimia, and the like, versus the overeating that leads to excessive weight gain).
Every 62 minutes at least one person dies as a direct result from an eating disorder.
Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.
13% of women over 50 engage in eating disorder behaviors.
Eating disorders affect all races and ethnic groups.
Genetics, environmental factors, and personality traits all combine to create risk for an eating disorder.
0.9% of American women suffer from anorexia in their lifetime.
1.5% of American women suffer from bulimia nervosa in their lifetime.

Sadly, there are countless resources on the internet promoting and supporting “Ana and Mia,” anorexia and bulimia.
Let’s take a brief look at the some of the statistics and risk factors of overweight and obesity. These are taken from the CDC.
Over 1/3 of U.S. adults have obesity.
Heart disease, stroke, type two diabetes, and certain types of cancers are conditions related to obesity and they are all causes of preventable death.
$147 billion U.S. dollars is the estimated annual medical cost of obesity, and medical costs for those with obesity are higher than for those of a normal weight, $1,429 higher, in fact.
According to the WHO (World Health Organization), since 1980, obesity, a preventable condition, has doubled. Additionally, most of the world’s population live in countries where overweight and obesity kills more people than underweight. In a land when the majority population is overweight or obese, we need to focus on improving our overall level of health.
We can also teach to love and accept each other, which I agree is super important, but with that, I feel an emphasis should be on health. If you want to love your body, treat it right so you can live a healthy life. If I didn’t care about these issues, I wouldn’t be a good dietitian, I would be in the wrong field. Let me make something clear before I finish up. I do not participate in nor do I promote body shaming. I will say, however, I opt to not be supportive of those that choose not to live a healthy lifestyle. I do not try to push a certain lifestyle on others, but I offer my advice and opinion when asked and promote overall health and wellbeing in general. So, love yourself, yes, but do it in a way that helps you adopt a healthy lifestyle overtime. Buddha said “Health is the greatest gift, contentment the greatest wealth.” Why not work for both?
Did you know body shaming can also be directed at those who live a healthy life? Have you ever been a victim of body shaming? Feel free to comment below!

Orangutans, Palm Oil, and Saturated Fat

Did you know over 80% of the habitats where orangutans once freely roamed have been destroyed? In the last year alone, over 6,000 of them, the world’s largest arboreal animal, have been killed. Their habitat is diminishing and they are still lost to illegal poaching, but why?
Borneo is the third largest island in the world and the largest in Asia. It is home to one of the oldest rainforests, and there are mangroves, peat swamp and swamp forests, ironwood, and other forests on the island. Many endangered animals such as orangutans, elephants, and rhinos call it home but sadly, numbers are dwindling, along with the other biodiverse wonders of this great island.

Just hanging around…

The main export of Malaysia is “crude oil,” and that oil comes from palm oil trees. Palm plantations can be found throughout Southeast Asia, and Indonesia and Malaysia are the biggest growers. Palm and palm kernel oil is like liquid gold. ​Palm fruit trees grow in areas along the equator and include both palm oil and coconut trees. The oil produced from both the palm kernel and coconut are similar. Palm oil trees produce a fruit that is red and orange in color when ripe and has a thick oily flesh, this oil is high in palmitic fatty acid and is about 50 percent saturated fat. Because of it’s red color, this oil is said to have a higher antioxidant capacity than other oils, and it is sometimes used in margarine spreads and other products. Palm kernel oil, however, is derived from the kernel inside of the oily fruit of the palm oil tree. This oil has a different fatty acid profile and is higher in saturated fat, comparable to that of coconut oil.
​Palm kernel oil has become a popular oil and it is quite ubiquitous- it is found in a variety of products from foods, to cosmetics, and it is even being used as a biofuel.
The roads in Malaysia are lined with palm oil trees. They are in neat rows and stretch deep into the darkening forest. I first noticed them in southern Myanmar, and in Malaysia, you can’t miss them, they are everywhere. I did some research and the results left me uneasy.

Crude oil mill in Southern Myanmar. (Taken from the bus, sorry for the blur)!

Over 3.5 million hectares of land have been cleared to make way for palm oil plantations. Indonesia and Malaysia produce 90% of the world’s oil, so many of the species that inhabit these areas are pushed off or killed as a result of deforestation.

Fields with new palm oil trees.

On the island of Borneo, and likely in some other areas as well, there are a few animal rehabilitation centers. I visited one such place called the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center and got to see these animals, along with “pig-tail” macaques in their natural environment.

Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary Entrance

The center was established to rehabilitate the animals rescued from the pet trade, and since its inception, they have admitted 760 orangutans, of which 81% went through rehab, and 66% were successfully released into wild. Due to a diminishing habitat, orangutans are more vulnerable to illegal poaching for the pet trade. The burning of the land also drives them out of the forest in search of safer places. I was told that Sabah, the northern district in Malaysian Borneo would preserve 60% of it’s land, Indonesia, on the flip side, continues to burn forests at an alarming rate. Subsequently, some of the orangutans have “emigrated” from their home country.
I had an interesting, albeit brief, chat with one of the staff members at the sanctuary about the underlying causes of WHY the orangutans are at the center to begin with. Agriculture on the island is a controversial issue. Malaysia and Indonesia are both developing countries and both the palm oil and rubber plantations bring much needed money and a source of income to the people, but that clearly comes at a huge cost. I for one, don’t have a solution to this situation. Avoid products containing palm oils, yes, but some say it would lead to deforestation for other reasons, like logging, for example. From a health standpoint however, it is good practice to limit palm oil consumption as it is high in saturated fats. In fact, the USDA, the WHO, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Academy for Nutrition and Dietetics, the American Heart Association, the British National Health Service, Dietitians of Canada, and likely many more organizations do not recommend regular intake of palm kernel and coconut oils due to their high content of saturated fat.
I enjoyed my visit to the rehabilitation center. The animals truly have a home there that is free of boundaries. They are fed a “bland diet” (mostly bananas and other fruit) twice a day to encourage foraging on their own and while many of them are friendly (as they were often kept as pets), there’s a strict hands off policy. So many places in SE Asia exploit animals, so I’m grateful for organizations like this that promote their welfare.
I’m not a die hard animal rights activist nor am I an expert when it comes to agriculture. I do, however, know a bit about nutrition. When it comes to saturated fat, I encourage you to limit intake, and because deforestation makes me so sad, I also encourage you to read labels and limit your intake of palm oils.

My face when passing all the oil palms from the bus window.

There are some sustainable plantations out there, but much of them (from what I’ve read) are not properly regulated (because of the ?that palm oil brings in). If you’re so compelled, do your own research. As time goes on and more rainforests are cleared, there will hopefully be more pressure and focus on these issues- before it’s too late. And if you ever get a chance, pay a visit to Sepilok. Your entrance fee of 30 Malaysian Ringgit (about $7 USD) helps keep the sanctuary running.



Travel Is a Lifestyle

When you’re at home, do you have a routine? You likely do and it probably includes going to work, working out (hopefully!), eating proper meals most of the time, and getting to bed at a decent hour. Although I don’t have a home, I have a routine as well and I do my best have it be something like that. While I don’t have an actual job, I make sure to set aside time to work on my freelance writing, my own blog, and interact with clients. As you may have read, I like to workout whenever and wherever possible, eat healthy food, and I’m not going to lie, I like to go to bed early and watch something mindless on Netflix, just like I used to do back in the United States. Sometimes, I don’t even do that, I just scroll through FB and Instagram to stay connected with my virtual world. That may not be the best thing to do before bed, but in the ever varying world of international travel, FB and Facebook messenger serve as the one constant I do have.

The outdoor pool at Gravity (a fitness center) in Singapore.

I’m now at month 9 of my “Asian Adventure” and still have that wanderlust just as I did in month one, but my knee injury has certainly changed my situation. Additionally, there’s been a recent influx of interest of traveling with me in Asia. My plans have therefore realigned with those of the others coming to see some of this world as well. Flying Solo has it’s perks, you can do what you want when you want, so traveling with a companion is an adjustment. Vacations are great! You go have fun for a set period of time, then you go back home to your life, your grind, and your job that pays you X amount of money to allow you to have fun on that vacation. Since I quit my job and sold my home last year, I’m not on vacation, in fact, it’s quite the opposite. I’m on a tight budget and since I recently paid a portion of my credit card bill used to pay for my surgery, it’s even tighter. I fear with over 6 weeks of upcoming travel with others, my budget may be an issue. My boring “routine” may be an issue as well. When I lived in the U.S. I didn’t live an extravagant lifestyle. I bought what I needed and enjoyed life modestly, but I’ve never been much of a spender, so certain activities are not appealing to me. In Singapore, I had no desire to drink $22 cocktails at C’est La Vie, the bar on the 54th floor of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel. While I did want to see the view from the top, a quick elevator ride up quenched my thirst, no $6 water, $7 juice, or $22 cocktail necessary.

The Marina Bay Sands Hotel behind me.

Visiting Singapore was awesome, but what made it great for me was seeing people I already knew, having some semblance of a normal routine, and being able to eat some really healthy and fresh food. I was able to go to the gym daily as my friend works for a large, international company in the industry. We chatted in the evenings in a normal, comfortable apartment complete with refrigerator and a washer and dryer (the things you learn to live without!), and I simply caught up on some work. Furthermore, it was interesting to reconnect with someone from home (Texas in this case), we even had brisket and cabbage slaw one day for lunch! I saw another friend I’d met in Bangkok and although we’re not super close, she’s like my sister from another mister and it was fun to just hang out with a female for a little while and have some girl talk!!

Enjoyed a variety of different Chinese dishes with my friend Amanda.

I’m hoping to find some balance in the next few weeks and through May, in fact, while traveling with others. Having someone to split costs may be helpful, it’s nice having adventure buddies, and who knows, it may influence me to do something I may otherwise choose not to do… Maybe I’ll take a “vacation” for a day and go crazy! ? However it all turns out, I’m super excited to have some of the adventures ahead of me that I do. Borneo, Bali, and Angkor Wat in Cambodia are all bucket list adventures and I’m taking them! I’ll even visit with some old college friends in Jakarta, Indonesia and meet up with my “body guard” from Bangkok in Siem Reap.

Fruity juices on Borneo. At $2.00 a cup, that I can afford!

Travel is a lifestyle, and a varying one at that. Being the regimented person I once was, I still seek some semblance of a normal life, don’t do anything crazy, nor do I do anything I wouldn’t at home. Budgeting is a must, healthy food regularly is necessary, and gym access is a plus. I guess with 9 months in the bag, a major injury sustained, and surgery behind me, I’m doing ok… Here’s to the next leg, or many legs at that! ?
How do you handle long term travel? What is your routine? Must do lifestyle habits? Feel free to leave comments and tips in the box below! Happy travels. ?

From a “Roach Motel” to the Ritz: Flashpackers Saved the Day!

Budget travel at it’s finest!!
How do you plan your travels? Are they based on budget? Location? Weather? Starting my travels first in Mongolia then Nepal was a good choice. Logistically speaking, it was good to get those long legs of travel behind me. Mongolia, geographically, is kind of out in the middle of nowhere and because it’s not a popular destination, flights almost always route through China. It took nearly 24 hours to get to Kathmandu from Ulan Bator, even though it’s not actually that far as the crow flies! As far as the weather is concerned, I couldn’t have planned better. Mongolia in the summer is magical and the temps. in September/October are ideal for trekking in the Himalayas (although, I will say, it was way hotter in Nepal than I expected)!
Mongolia and Nepal also offer fewer amenities to the traveler, and that’s quite ok, so long as, for me anyway, I’m “mentally prepared.” After spending the better part of three months without flushing toilets, toilet paper, heck even western toilets, running water, warm water, air con, and so many other “luxuries” we’ve grown to accept as the norm in the west, I was looking forward to getting to Thailand last November.
I’ve stayed in so many different places since I’ve started my travels, from AirBnB apartments, hostels, Mongolian gers, apartment, hotels, even a few nights in luxury accommodations to some straight up cheap crap holes. But the cheap makes having the nice even nicer. And so was the situation in Melaka, Malaysia. I blindly booked the cheapest place in town. After all the plane tickets I recently bought, paying off a portion of my credit card from my surgery, and upcoming travel plans with others, I wanted to save some money. The place I booked was called the Backpacker’s Freak Hostel and even though the name was really off putting, I booked anyway. For about $4.50 a night, I figured I’d manage. It was in a decent location, central to the shopping malls and other conveniences, and also a short walking distance from Jonker Walk and some other noteworthy historical places.
Although I’d booked a room in a 6 bed dorm (sometimes I prefer that to meet people), I was given a room with a cold, metal framed bunk bed for two. There was one dusty particle board table that showed evidence of wear and tear. It had those elevated crusty bumps, likely from sweaty bottles of water, dripping in the heat and aircon-less small room. It didn’t have any windows and the bed, while not as soft as I prefer, smelled of old man. There was a worn old fleece blanket on the end that I opted not to use, and instead dug out my beach cloth to cover the pillow and mask the smell. I was alone in the room. In fact, I was alone at the hostel. Nobody else was there.

My empty, boring room.

With daily temperatures in the 90s with 85% humidity, a shower is a must, especially after my workouts in the Boon Leong Gym “Museum,” yet one day, when I got home, the water barely trickled out. It felt like I was showering under a water bubbler. The next day was worse, there was no water. And that went on for at least three days… Luckily my new American friends were kind enough to let me shower in their hotel room a couple of times, but my mind was made up, it was time to go! I had found a modern looking Hostel on, but I hesitated as it was about $12.50 a night. Now, however, I didn’t care. I wanted air con, a bed that didn’t smell of old man, and water. It didn’t even have to be hot. So, not only does the Flashpackers Hostel have all that, but they have a washer and dryer, clean facilities, comfortable beds, a kitchen area complete with snacks, breakfast, coffee, and tea, and some common areas as well.

    Nice wall artwork.

For $12.50 a night, it felt like the Ritz considering where I’d just spent the last few nights. It was so nice, in fact, I stayed there for hours after I checked in and added an extra night. I was so comfortable there, I did laundry, and even got a fair amount of work done with the help of a hot cup of coffee in the well lit and cool kitchen.

Cozy kitchen area.
Comfortable beds.
Snacks and coffee? I’m in.

I think I learned something that week! Even though I’m rarely bothered by what I come across on the road, it’s definitely nice to have some basic amenities like water! And a comfortable bed, certainly a plus. I may not try too many more low budget accommodations if they are like the “Freak” place, but you never know… We did have nice guest houses along the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal and some were practically free. In any case, Hom is my home in Bangkok and Flashpackers will definitely be my home in Melaka.

Still have my bear!

Weights, Dates, and Protein Shakes in Melaka, Malaysia

Just kidding! No dates. Just weights.

Keeping up with my fitness can sometimes be a challenge on the road. I do well when settled and I know where the gyms are, but when you get to a new place, it’s sometimes hit or miss.
When I got to Kuala Lumpur, I only wanted to stay for a full two days. While there are plenty of gyms in the city, I decided to spend my time being a tourist. I did a lot of walking and didn’t even focus on doing my PT, but the hostel where I stayed wasn’t conducive to physical activity of any sort and what little I did left me sweating bullets.
It’s hot here, over 90 degrees F everyday and over 85% humidity. You sweat pretty much doing nothing and the heat index is typically over 100 F. It doesn’t really make you want to run to the gym, but when I got to Melaka, I found a few. It was difficult to get a feel for what was available on line. I found one that had a picture on their FB page with a one time use fee of 5 Ringgit, so about $1.25, but the Uber to get there was $2.50 (and then back), so it wasn’t the cheapest trip, but doable. “X-Factor Fitness” does have a Facebook page and they open at 3:00 in the afternoon.

Not a huge variety, but you can make do.

It’s not the biggest gym, nor is it air conditioned, but I made do with what was available. It’s ok to be creative as long as you have good form and best of all, there were some stationary bikes. For the first time since my injury, I was able to properly pedal, and not only did it NOT hurt, but it felt good. My quad stretched and responded to the activity. I think it released some tension that was stuck in the muscle. When I finished up my workout, the owner mixed me a chocolate Optimum Nutrition protein shake. For 5 Ringgit, I was pretty satisfied! So, if you need to get in a quick workout, this gym would suffice, but luckily, I found something closer.

My face when I’m riding the stationary bike apparently.

Datuk Wira Gan Boon Leong is a local politician who once possessed the title of ‘Mr. Universe’, ‘Mr. Asia’, and ‘Mr. Malaysia’ in body building. There are statues in Melaka that portray him during his glory days and they are hard to miss! The Gan Boon Leong Gym, named after this prized local, is on the other end of Jonker Walk from the Dutch Square. It was hard to find any details on this gym (except the history), and their Facebook page isn’t well managed. No hours are posted (not even by the door) nor entry/membership fees stated. When I asked about that, I was told the gym is quite popular, so they don’t really promote it so it won’t get too busy. ? Don’t businesses want to be busy? There’s hardly anyone there anyway. In any case, I wanted to share what little bit of info I got in case anybody is ever in Melaka and they want to go to this gym. And for the record, you should go. It’s like a museum for old gym equipment.

I don’t know why this old stuff is so funny to me!

Some of the equipment is so old it looks like medieval torture devices and the dust, well I think some of it arrived via the Portuguese Galleons back in the 1500s. Haha, but you can still lift weights that are old and dusty, prolly look like a badass doing it too! ?

These aren’t that dusty!

The man I spoke with said they are open Monday through Friday 9-9. Saturday is a “half day,” and Sunday they are open for apparently just three hours: 10:00 to 1:00.
The gym is big. It’s on the second floor of the building and the door way is at the other end from Jonker Walk. There are a few noteworthy statues outside that made for some good photo ops, again, worth the visit. It’s also not air conditioned, so bring lots of water. There are a a variety of machines and some free weights, however, many are broken so you may have to forgo some exercises or modify based on what’s available. I can easily spend hours there, especially because I incorporate my physical therapy exercises at the start and throughout my routine. I need to walk without a limp! Almost there….

Good photo ops all around!

So yeah, the gym is interesting and will definitely stand out as one of the more unique fitness experiences I’ve had here in Asia and at 5 Ringgit per visit, I’ll take it!

Food and Physical Fun in Kuala Lumpur

It has been my goal to not only keep up my blog posts, but to also focus on food and fitness while I travel. Today, I’m going to try to do just that while I share my day spent in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur.
Every time I go somewhere new, it takes a bit to adjust. You have get accustomed to a new currency, new language, new customs, and new foods. That last one is always a struggle, the curious foodie in me wants to try everything, but the RD and injured Fitness minded person tries to hold off. I was in Thailand for over four months, so the desire to try everything lessened and I often cooked my own food or had my go-to decent meals and snacks. So far, I’m learning what I like here in Malaysia, as well. Thankfully, there are plenty of options and I can choose meals without rice and noodles. I’ve also seen a variety of juice and smoothie shops, and one even offered a whey protein add in. Cool drinks on hot days are quite refreshing, so happy they are an option.
It rained this morning and I was beyond disappointed. I don’t like rain. It just depresses me and has since I’ve been traveling. I ate breakfast in Chinatown and ordered grilled chicken with a side of sautéed cabbage and a fried egg.

Chinese food for breakfast!

I sat and mulled over how I’d plan my day considering the rain. Everything I wanted to see required me to mostly be outside. I had my iPad and notebook, so off to McDonald’s I went. They always have a reliable bathroom, cheap coffee, and I had to catch up on some work. I spent two hours (over one coffee) there and luckily, when I was ready to go, the rain stopped.
I’d wanted to hit up a gym while here, but the one that gives a free pass is quite far and may have cost me in transportation so I decided to add my own physical activity to the day and paid a visit to Bantu Caves. I saw them on the map and a google search proved they’d be quite an adventure, and a workout, with over 300 steps to reach the top. And as it turned out, there was another cave in the vicinity, so I did quite a bit of stairs.

The stairs go all the way to the top.

Thankfully, I fueled up with a banana smoothie made with plain yogurt and “chocolate powder” before I set off on the 11 km train ride out of the city.

Yep, I did all of that and more!

I felt so accomplished when I finished, not only did I make it up and down all the stairs, but I avoided the Indian sweet snacks and did my best to stay fully hydrated during the day. It’s hot here and humidity is a whopping 85%. I was feeling pretty ripe on that train ride back, but at least the AC was on!

You have no idea how much I love this stuff, but I had to pass! Gulab jamun!

When I got back to the city, the rain hadn’t started back up and I really wanted to go to the Petronas Towers. I scoped out the area and decided to leave the rest for tomorrow. Hopefully I’ll go up to the top and walk through the park.

This is my new pose- it shows I can now stand on one leg again!

By the time I left, my knee was getting sore so I sat and had some grilled chicken for a snack and made my way back to the hostel. It’s time to do some PT, but I’m tired of sweating! I did a lot today, walked over 6 miles, climbed a load of stairs, and managed to get some decent food in me.
I’ve found delicious chicken is available most places and chicken satay is a common meal, complete with a fairly decent sized serving of spicy peanut sauce. Cashew chicken was my go to in Thailand and here, it’s going to be chicken with peanut sauce. ?

Indonesian style dinner: Chicken, veggies, spicy peanut sauce, and a piece of delicious tempeh!

Knowing your healthy options is important. I tell this to my clients in the states as well. If you do not have time to prepare meals, or can’t, like me now because I’m bouncing around Asia and don’t have a kitchen available, it’s good to have some “go-to” meals that won’t break your calorie bank for the day. Although I’m a budget traveler, there are times I’ll spend an extra bit of money for a healthy meal. In Bangkok, I’d spend upwards of $6.00 for a salad at Gourmet Market. Having healthy meals actually makes me happy, so that’s one area where I’ll sometimes spend the money.
So, what about you? Do you want to try everything when you travel? What are your go-to meals and snacks and how do you incorporate physical activity on the road?