Monday, March 04, 2013
Hello SparkPeople world!
This is my first blog entry, my primary form of activity on this site for the next six months, and as you read on you’ll see why. I am a Peace Corps volunteer in West Africa, living in a village in a small country very close to the equator. I have six months left in my service and I have made a lot of changes in my life since living here for the past year and a half. My work is environmental and food security related and I’m very interested in gender equality, food security, women’s rights, and international policy. The village I live in has gotten electricity since I’ve been a volunteer, but I still don’t have running water. I don’t have a fridge nor an oven or a microwave. Really, my kitchen is my gas stove and my water filter! The internet connection I have is slow, unreliable, and spotty, so being able to load all the things I eat every day onto the website is unrealistic. The food of this country leaves much to be desired, but I also won’t be able to find such foods as pounded cassava or boiled corn mush on this website, now will I? So, that’s why I won’t be able to use those features that will be of much use once I get back home.
A little history about me: I never had a real weight struggle until 2009, when I decided to eat my way through my semester abroad in France. Although the food was delicious (and I still daydream of it while eating corn mush), I gained around 15 or so pounds. I continued the gain the summer afterwords, as I was very depressed and eating for reasons other than hunger. I started running with a friend that summer, but quit once I returned to school for my senior year of college. My weight continued to be a huge stressor for me and while I did lose some weight, I would beat myself up for it not being enough. I would work out sporadically and binge eat and look up thinspo on tumblr. After college, I worked 2 jobs and had an internship simultaneously and was very stressed out. I drank a lot, partied at lot, ate a lot. I tried out SparkPeople for a couple weeks and it worked really well for me, being able to see where I was getting my calories/nutrients and how much I should be working out. Unfortunately, I didn’t keep up with it. I don’t really remember why, but I quit after a few weeks and don’t even remember my user name. Negativity plagued my thoughts during those years, it wasn’t the best of times. I joined Peace Corps in September 2011, weighing 142 lbs. During my service, my weight has fluctuated a lot due to different factors: drinking a lot and eating a lot with other volunteers, parasites, malaria, depression, anxiety, “hungry season” (can you believe it? An entire season where everyone goes hungry because they don’t have the food security to have enough food year round), lack of regular exercise, etc. I have had times where I was 3 lbs from my goal weight of 128 lbs and working out a lot (which I really like to do), and times where I gained 8 lbs in a month and didn’t go for a single run.
I have learned a lot about myself and my happiness since being here in Africa. I’ve employed positive thinking, meditation, and forgiveness as useful tools during the difficult times here. I have even learned how to cook, love to run and do yoga, and garden during the rainy season. Recently, I’ve started dabbling in spirituality and have learned a lot from reading about Buddhism and zen. I think that this growth has really helped me open up to my life here and will hopefully supplement my exercise and weight loss journey. Now that I have six months left, I have a goal that I would really like to accomplish: to go home and people be able to tell how much I’ve changed by just looking at me. I want to be hot and fit and have an exercise bug/eating habits that are sustainable when I return to America. I’m very proud of my accomplishments and how I have grown in this experience, and I want to be able to show it physically. It’s not that I worry what people think about me, but rather, this is a goal that I’ve had for a very long time and I want to challenge myself and treat myself to this journey towards another achievement. Also I want to be impressively fast in the Thanksgiving race my family holds every year :) To specify my goal, I want to be toned (as in see muscle lines on my stomach and my legs), able to do at least 10 push ups, and able to compete in a 10k race by October of 2013. I also want to weigh at most 130 lbs, although less would be preferable.
My current challenges really revolve around the fact that it’s hot season here, meaning that if I don’t get up and work out around 5:45 am and finish by 6:45, I’m at risk for heat stroke (kind of but not really an exaggeration), and I spend most of my day laying around under a mango tree or in front of my fan when the electricity is on. I also don’t get enough daily protein, not for lack of trying, and peanut butter is one of my most reliable sources of protein here (seriously, this food insecurity is incredible here). And we’re not even talking about vegetables… they’re also tough to find and pretty expensive, but I have some sources.
So! My plan of action is to log my exercise and eating habits on my computer and post it on this SparkPeople blog once a week. This way, I can review my progress with exercise and how I’m eating and where to cut down (I can already tell you I eat too much peanut butter!). I’m also going to keep a success journal along with this: at least 3 successes per day. I would rather not weigh myself except for maybe once or twice a month, sometimes it drives me crazy and I’ll end up weighing myself multiple times a day.
I’m really looking for support in all of this. I know that life in America is really fast paced and it’s tough to keep up with people, but nothing makes me feel more let down than when I don’t hear back from anyone (it happens a lot...boo). Explaining that I want to lose weight and look fit to my friends in my village is like telling someone in America that you want to be fat and grow a fupa -- they think I’m crazy. So, if you read this, you don’t even need to write down a lengthy response, but just add a little comment like “Way to go!” and I’ll feel the support like you wouldn’t even imagine.
Soon, I will be Stateside with a hot new bod and I will have you all to thank for it!