Getting Healthy in Ubud

Yes, Ubud is our bubble.  Our safe and happy and healthy bubble. It was necessary to come back to Bali 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, some times 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 day time 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 day time 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.

Healthy in Ubud

The BEFORE photo

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.

Healthy in Ubud

The AFTER photo

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.


  1. I guess the good thing to know is that you are heading back to rehab/Ubud at the end of your current travel jaunt, so even if you do plummet from the tightrope, you'll have a safety net there to catch you! I can't remember how long it is you'll have been in Ubud by the time you set off, but I really think that certain habits (especially lifestyle overhauls) take a lot longer to really sink in than we give them credit. When you're traveling and don't really have a routine, it's easy for things to go south. Hopefully the knowledge and memory of how great your look and feel right now will be a great incentive for you to stick more to the Ubud side of the spectrum… clearly it works for you! 🙂

  2. Great post! I love the before and after pictures. Good luck with your yoga training!

  3. I have read your whole blog. Keep doing what you are doing and I can assure you everything will fall into place. You are very lucky and brave to do what you are doing and will be rewarded in a non-material way. I did my around the world trip backpacking when I was 32 yrs old. I am now 50 and have been working, saving and planning for a return trip around the world in about 1-2 years for a 3 year timeframe. Of course, I will be doing it on a flashpacker level now (no shared dorms here). Have a feeling being much older and wiser, I will have a whole new perspective than when I was 32 yrs old. I look back on that trip and really can see how I did not fully appreciate and savor the opportunity that was given to me. Now being older and not having to worry about earning money anymore, I am hoping that an indescribable tranquility will engulf me while walking around the world with not a care in the world.
    You mention that you cannot travel like you guys are doing endlessly due to financial constraints. If money was not an issue for you going forward, do you think you would feel the same way? What would you do differently in your travels around the world if you do not need to be concerned about earning money along the way to support your travels?

    It sure sounds like you are on the right path and you are doing good things. (not only for yourself). Treasure every day on your journey as you are a very lucky person.

  4. Schmee, thanks for your support, but first congrats on planning for your second RTW!!! That's awesome and look us up when you make it to SE Asia.

    I think if I had worked another year or two, and we really did not have to worry about money, I probably still would want to settle down, or have a home base. It is pretty exhausting traveling as much as we did in the first 12 months of our trip. And, we are still comfortable financially and could travel more without working, but it takes awhile to start up an online business, and a yoga practice, so I don't want to wait until we've blown through more savings to start. I am pretty conservative fiscally in the end.

    I think the only other thing I would do differently if I did not have to worry about earning money, is I would spend less time online and more time reading. In our first RTW, I read over 75 books in 14 months. This time, it is a pretty pitiful list as I spend a lot of time blogging.

  5. Steph, we only met once, and you seem to know me so well. I can say that we have fallen a bit, and part of it has been knowing we can get back to swing of things in Ubud soon, while enjoying ourselves while traveling. We are certainly not drinking Myanmar-style, but there have been some fun evenings recently…they will be written about shortly.

  6. Hello Amber. Well done. We to live in Bali but in the North, 3000ft up the side of a mountain. I am writing to you on a different note. My husband and I were due to come to Australia in September & October but in april we had a little cat dumped on our doorstep. We had to organise cat sitters for our departure but the one had a mother go to hospital with cancer and the other is now scared about IS and won’t come to Bali. So, my 62 year old husband has been stuck at home on his own and is not coping all that well. Would you like to house/cat sit for us from 29th September – 7th November? You can phone my husband on 0821 46493395

    • Sorry, we will not be in Bali in October. Wish you all the best though.

  7. I LOVE LOVE LOVE the yogabarn. Whenever I meet anyone heading to Ubud I wax lyrical about that place. I spent a week up in Ubud at the end of 2013 and never once minded getting up at 6.30am to head to those 7am classes. Seeing the monkeys invading my villa garden was an added bonus at that time of day!! I will be going back just for the Yogabarn!

    • Ha! We spent sooo much time at the Yoga Barn, all the staff knew us by name. Enjoy your next visit.

  8. Yoga, I really really want to know. good article. very informative. and interesting that yoga is a way to achieve physical health. very interesting, that Ubud Bali is a very appropriate location. in some local spots, there are many locations that contain a very green nature. and is suitable for yoga activities. interesting posts. thanks.

  9. Great post! We’re in Ubud at the moment. The smoothies and fresh fruits here are fantastic! Especially at the Clear Cafe!


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