Healthy living abroad
My husband dreams of retiring abroad to a tropical country, like Belize, Panama or Costa Rica.
While I’m not quite as attracted to year-long sun and beaches (we Northwest natives have an aversion to too much sunshine), the idea of a less stressful lifestyle coupled with low-cost healthcare definitely makes me think about it.
He showed me a recent email he received from an expat living in Ecuador, and it made me realize just how much our American lifestyles and our healthcare system work together to keep us unhealthy.
In the email, this man described how much his life and health improved after leaving the States.
Before we moved to Ecuador, I weighed 319 pounds. I was in the weight range colorfully described as “morbidly obese.” I was taking one medication for high blood pressure, and two for Type 2 diabetes. My doctor in the U.S. told me to get used to the idea that in a few years I would have to start insulin injections.
Then we started our new lives in Ecuador, and something unusual started to happen: I started losing weight. After six months, I was down 25 pounds. After the first year, I had lost 50 pounds, and had to reduce the dosages on my medication. Finally, in June of this year, I was able to announce that I have lost over 100 pounds (and still dropping).
So what changed? I had been over 300 pounds for years, why did coming to Ecuador make such a difference? After all, I had dieted in the past, and tried to walk whenever I could. I would drop some pounds once and a while, but I was never able to lose weight and keep it off.
Embrace an un-American lifestyle!
So what was his secret?
Living in Ecuador has allowed me to change my lifestyle completely….we don’t need a car, so I naturally walk more often. The weather is always great on the coast, so I can routinely walk two or three times a day for exercise. With the day/night cycle always 12-hours each year-round, it is easier to get into the daily exercise habit, and easier to sleep regularly.
Most importantly, I can’t say enough about the quality of the fresh produce, grains, and meats that we have here in our local mercados. It seems like in the U.S., all of the healthiest foods are expensive and seasonal. The foods that are worst for you are cheap and easy to find. In Ecuador, it is just the opposite: fresh foods are plentiful and inexpensive, while processed foods are generally imported, and therefore more expensive.
If you move here and want to continue eating burgers, pizza, chips, pasta, and so on, you certainly can—but it will cost you more money, and you will not get any healthier.
It’s so true that in this country healthy foods are more expensive. Again and again I’ve read how families on limited budgets choose fast food over fresh fruits and vegetables, leans meats and fresh seafood.
Obesity due to sedentary lifestyles and poor diets is epidemic in this country. A recent report in the New England Journal of Medicine gives the US the dubious honor of having the fattest population.
Related post: Why sitting is bad for your health
Yet we spend billions of dollars on weight loss through self-help books and DVDs, celebrity diets, expensive supplements and drugs, and even surgery.
Unfortunately, our healthcare system isn’t designed to help us improve our lifestyles. It’s designed to treat us after we get sick. And it’s making a lot of money!
We spend billions on drugs to treat diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.
We spend billions more on drugs to treat insomnia and depression.
Drugs can treat the symptoms, but not the underlying causes.
We don’t have to move to another country to embrace a healthier lifestyle if we seek out ways to eat better, move more, sleep more and stress less.
I love these books by Michael Pollan about healthy eating!