This month has been a total drag. My mind has been dreamily focused on my April vacation. However, it wasn’t all bad. I have 17.5 months left in PC / 502 days / 76 weeks (total service: 26 months / 114 weeks / 800 days). Time is vanishing!! The month began well. During the second week I attended a regional meeting in Kisumu with other PCVs, at the most Posh-Corps accommodations yet!
Very high-end hotel with a nice pool, great restaurant/bar, very fancy bathrooms (containing both jet tubs and blow dryers), and situated just outside of town. It was a good few days, spending time with PCVs from my group and the Health, Education groups. The only downside to this lovely getaway was how terribly sick I got the day I was suppose to go home. Normal PC ailment, some random stomach problem, but it entailed me spending the rest of the day at the doctor, and then having to overnight again, sadly not at the fancy hotel. I was so exhausted though, it didn’t matter. I decided to head back home in the morning because I really just wanted to be in my own bed with my puppy. This dragged out for most of the week. I did much of my work from home and my house drastically suffered from lack of cleaning. By the end of the week it was all a matter of catch-up. The only positive side to this entire debacle…it was the boost I needed to get back on track with my diet. So although nothing of major significance occurred, projects still the same as last month, it is National Nutrition Month and I would like to take a moment to highlight some of my experience with food and my diet here in Kenya.
With all the vacationing over the month of February, my diet suffered. I decided since my body had been through a week long detox of sorts, I should continue the momentum and re-focus on my goals. Generally speaking, dieting in Africa is an easy thing; a selection of market fruits and veggies, plus alternative grains like amaranth, and a variety of lentils and beans are available. The only drawback is the carb load. I feel like I have eaten so many carbs since being here, not the good kind either, white flour chapatis, chips, and ugali. I do cut out ugali and only stick to the brown, multi-grain kind that I make at home, chips are my go-to when I am having a rough day, so typically about once a month. It is the chapati that is really the bad apple in my entire eating plan. Overall I feel I do well, sticking to brown rice or rice noodles when I am at home, but sometimes I just need chapati, although I should try cutting it out entirely.
I don’t drink soda, except for the occasional Stoney or Coke Zero (if only iced tea was available I wouldn’t drink it at all, but sometimes it is so hot and it is the only cold thing around to help you cool down), my sugar intake is nearly non-existent except for honey, which I use in my oatmeal, and stevia if I decide to make a fancier coffee than my normal black cup in the morning. I hardly eat meat due to the availability and health concerns, and stick to a natural soy protein or eggs, and there are no processed foods or dairy in my daily food consumption. But I have been doing really well this month, settled back into a regular workout routine, and elated to discover when I was at the doctor’s office that I have dropped around 15# since coming to Kenya and plan on dropping a decent 20# more by COS.
Peace Corps is a great time to achieve any diet goals you have failed to achieve back home; in your spare time there is no excuse not to work out, and the amount of food temptations is very limited. Just be aware of portion control and try to avoid the chips, chapati, and ugali. My only wish would be improvement on the variety of fruits and veggies, it is very same ‘ol same ‘ol, and it would be nice to get eggplant or some berries every so often.
Sadly, the food selection here is limited, and local dishes are very predictable with preparation techniques tending to make them less nutritious. Additionally, the availability of food is affected by the dry season; no rain means no crops which means no food or very expensive price increases. Since we are moving back into the long rain season I hope to see increased food variety and decreased prices. I have seen things like zucchini, eggplant, pumpkin, plums, strawberries, and grapes in my market. Now the trick would be teaching locals the value of food variety and healthy food preparation.
The major projects I am working on for the remainder of my service aim to achieve that. Even if only a few families change from sugary chai, bread, and blue band to more nutrient dense meals, they will be able to facilitate community change when I am gone. The remainder of my time here I will continue my personal journey to improved health and fitness that will be maintained once I am back stateside. A healthy diet and exercise routine are the only tools you need to lose weight and feel fabulous! Any quick fix diet that involves shortcuts and misery ( avoiding beer and chocolate does not a happy person make) is not the way to an improved lifestyle. Knowing how to make smarter food choices, understanding portion control, knowing healthy food preparation, including exercise daily, and allowing yourself to eat what you want but having moderation is what determines the success and sustainability of your overall wellness.
Happy National Nutrition Month! Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right!