Yes, Ubud is our bubble. Our safe and happy and healthy bubble. It was necessary to come back to Bali, Indonesia, with a goal of getting healthy in Ubud. I recognize it is not the real world, but perhaps that is what we needed to get healthy. I assumed leaving the US that we would naturally lose weight – more fresh food, less preservatives, walking everywhere, being more active, sweating, traveler’s diarrhea…but, it did not work as I had hoped. During our first RTW in 2009, I lost almost 20 pounds without an ounce of effort.
A RTW Life of Excess
When we left Myanmar in March, we were in some sad shape. Eating great food, and drinking every day, sometimes twice a day. The 10 months leading up to Myanmar were equally as bad – liter beers in Eastern Europe, vodka shots in Poland, happy hour tequila shots in Guatemala. I mean, $.25 for a shot of tequila, how could you say no? My mother in law always says, “if it’s on sale . . .”
I found myself telling someone while we were on the beach in Guatemala that we were cutting back on drinking by not drinking during the day. She liked it. I realized how bad it sounded. It is tough. When you are on a beach for vacation, it is tempting to do a little daytime drinking, a refreshing margarita by the pool, a beer with lunch. But, when this is your life, it becomes harder to draw the line.
That is why on the beach in Myanmar (where I did not partake of any daytime drinking), I was huge. I was busting out of my yellow Lands End t-shirt, filling up every corner of it. My face was round, my belly big. I was tired and lazy. I had not gained weight in the form of pounds, I had just redistributed. The muscle I built doing yoga before leaving the US was turning back to fat. I knew I needed a change. After all, I was supposed to be getting in shape for a yoga teacher training in just a few months.
Ubud as My Rehab
Ubud is just an easy place to get healthy. Getting healthy in Bali is possible, but getting healthy in Ubud is almost easy. First, and most importantly, because Indonesia is a Muslim country, alcohol is taxed heavily, making it a lot more expensive to drink than in countries like Vietnam and Myanmar. A glass of wine can go for $5-6, a beer is about $3, a cocktail can be $7-8. The prices are pushing western pricing, and don’t fit into our budget.
More than that, though, is the readily available fruit – papayas the size of my head, watermelons, mangos, bananas. My routine became a banana smoothie each morning before teacher training, with an anti-oxidant additive called Bali Boost, sold at Down to Earth. Have I mentioned the hippie vibe in Ubud? Other mornings, Eric cut up a plate full of papaya. That was breakfast.
When out to eat, I ordered a juice or smoothie instead of a beer. Fruit juices are everywhere, and not just the requisite watermelon or mango smoothies found in most tourist spots in Southeast Asia, but unique combinations, like carrots and beet juice, or Taco Casa’s famous Orange, Mint, Lime, and Ginger. They often came with some sort of hippie addition, like spirulina or maca, two things I had no idea even existed until a few months ago. My favorite was the super anti-oxidant smoothie at the Yoga Barn cafe, with banana and maca. Often, I would grab a wheatgrass shot for an extra boost of veg. Even Eric was getting into the habit, ordering a wheatgrass shot on the side of his Popeye green juice. I was drinking turmeric tea like it was going out of style, to help cleanse my liver.
Getting Healthy in Ubud With Yoga
More than anything though, it was the yoga that got us slim. Every class at the Yoga Barn is 90 minutes, and sometimes I would do two classes a day, working into a good sweat in most of them. That’s a good 3 hours of yoga a day. And, it was easy and comfortable. We knew the studio, the staff, the teachers, the schedule, and classes are less than $6 a class. I told Eric that as much as I can be cheap about a lot of things, he could spend as much as he wanted on yoga at the Yoga Barn. We averaged 7-10 classes a week.
The weight fell off. We each lost about 10% of our body weight in the five months we were in Ubud, even with our weeks of drinking in Vietnam and Thailand smashed into the middle. My muscles were strong, my body slim. I had reversed the redistribution and was turning fat into muscle once again.
I no longer have that yellow t-shirt from the beach in Myanmar. But, I have the same style and the same brand in orange. When we were packing up to leave Ubud, I was swimming in it. I felt great, I looked great, I was not entirely embarrassed being seen in my bathing suit. My confidence had the boost it needed.
And then we left.
Coming Out of Rehab
I’ve been listening to Amy Winehouse recently. “They tried to make me go to rehab and I said ‘no, no, no.’” I’m the complete opposite. They are trying to make me leave rehab, and I want to say “no, no, no.”
Ubud has been my rehab. It is not reality, and I recognize that, but it is the reality that I needed. In the final weeks of our stay, I did not want to leave. I have said before that I felt like an addict afraid to leave rehab and head out into the real world. A world filled with alcohol, amazing food, large portions, fattening food, and expensive yoga that is out of our routine.
My goal is not to attempt to lose more weight while we are gone, but just to try to maintain my weight. I am trying to limit alcohol intake, which should not be too difficult as we will predominantly be visiting Muslim countries over the 8 weeks. I will try to be disciplined about my yoga self-practice, aside from when I am scheduled to stay in a dorm room in Dublin with seven other girls. I will try to eat smaller portions, but spending a few weeks in foodie meccas like Kuala Lumpur and Singapore will make it totally challenging. I will leave rehab, but chances are I will be happy to return to healthy Ubud.
Amber is a recovering attorney, yoga teacher, writer, social media consultant, and eater, traveling With Husband In Tow