Allow me a brief preamble here. I grew up the only child of a single mother who was obese. I watched as she repeatedly lost 70, 80, and 90 pounds only to put the weight back on plus a few pounds more with each dieting episode, slowly eroding at her health. And so I hold a deep resentment for those entities that market with unrealistic and inflated claims to those people who are desperately fighting obesity. This article is not about that.
So what is it about?
A year ago when we were planning our current nomad-ing journey my head was full of expectations and hopes for what our experience would include. Weight loss was not among them. However, as a mom of 3 in my 40s who spent too much time in my car getting the kids to their activities and too little time moving my own body, I could stand to lose some weight.
To be clear, I am not obese. By standard measurement I am on the high end of what is considered average BMI and am usually told I could lose 15-20 pounds to be at ideal weight. Still, I had put my own weight and fitness on the back burner while I worked on other goals that were more important to me at that time.
When we found our apartment in Brazil I realized we were within walking distance of a couple of gyms and so I went to check them out thinking that maybe I would start to do some regular exercise. However, with the falling dollar our expenses were a bit higher than I had expected and once again I decided that a gym membership was not top priority.
In the meantime, we were enjoying a lot of Brazilian food! The kids and I are fond of finishing our meals off with Brazilian brigaderos (a chocolate truffle type dessert made from condensed milk). Restaurants are full of delicious options. In addition our staple from home, soy milk, is not easily available here so we reverted to whole milk at home. In other words, we haven’t been counting calories!
What a surprise then when I recently got on a pharmacy scale to find I had lost 7 pounds (about 3.2 kilos) in our 5 months here! 7 pounds may not be a huge amount but I was ecstatic to have lost 7 pounds without any effort on my part.
So why am I losing weight? At home in Texas my life is dependent on a car. We have nowhere we can walk from our house except to other houses in the neighbourhood.
Here in Brazil I have no car
On average I estimate I walk 2-3 miles per day just to do daily activities such as going to the grocery store or getting my youngest home from school by city bus. In addition, a significant amount of this walking is done with weights. I don’t think of it that way, though, because the weight is of groceries. I am still not good at remembering this and invariably buy a bit too much, meaning that I’m walking with quite a lot of weight sometimes.
My memory loss helps me lose weight
I am one of those annoying people who can’t remember details from one moment to the next. More times than not I get home from the store only to realize I have forgotten some key ingredient. Another walk to the store! Tack on another mile (1/2 with weight).
We eat when Brazilians eat
In Brazil, like many other world cultures (but not the U.S.) the larger meal is eaten at mid-day. Let me add that it is a much more leisurely meal than a typical American “get it down and get back to work” lunch. In the evening we only eat a smaller snack such as bread and cheese and perhaps some fruit. The kids and I have all come to love this schedule although we had some difficulty getting used to it. It feels good not to go to bed with a full stomach.
Although there are plenty of sweets and fried foods there is also a wide variety of fresh and healthy foods readily available in both restaurants and groceries. Another happy surprise has been that organic foods are not much more expensive than non-organic, making it easier to choose the healthier alternative. And when we do buy sweets they are normally about half the size of their American counterparts. Super-size is not in the vocabulary.
My stress level is down
When I left the U.S. I left many stresses behind. We now know through research that stress hormones can cause weight gain (see Advanced Health and Life Extension). I am convinced that my lower stress levels have made it easier for my body to shed weight. Based on my surprise weight loss in the last 5 months here is what I would say about designing your lifestyle to lose weight without effort. If you are becoming location independent keep lifestyle in mind as you choose your destination and daily activities.
Set up your daily life to be active
At home in Texas I tried to walk a couple of miles a day but it was easy to skip when other things came up. Here in Brazil I don’t have a choice. If we want to eat, I have to walk. If I want to do anything outside of my home, I have to walk. It’s just built in to life. Don’t recreate your unhealthy lifestyle. Design something new. And seriously consider giving up dependency on a car!
Consider flipping your meals
Much of the world eats their larger meal at mid-day. You’ll burn a lot of it off in your daily activity and you won’t go to bed with undigested food in your stomach.
Look at the locals
Are the locals where you are living fat? Probably not. If not, eat what the locals eat and live like they do. They’re doing something right. If the locals are fat, take a look at what’s going on and don’t mimic their lifestyles.
Lower your stress levels
Hormones are such strong factors in how we feel, look, how much energy we have etc. Lowering your stress level will help your body balance these hormones. Choose a lifestyle that doesn’t re-create the stresses you were trying to escape. You may not lose weight fast from this. I didn’t. However, I have been losing weight slowly and steadily without effort and that’s something that never happened to me at home. I can’t wait to see what happens when we go to Oaxaca and begin living in a higher altitude!