Healthy Choices in the Lands of Temptation

When I first pitched this post to my editors, I said that I wanted to write about making healthy decisions with constant temptation around … from the perspective of my belly. I was excited to dig into some creative writing and create a new voice, so I started to listen to what my tummy was telling me throughout the day, especially as mealtime approached …

To cut to the chase, I came to find that my belly is a broken record. “Feed me … feed me more … eat through the pain … never mind that you’ll be here for at least two years, eat like you’ll never see Korean BBQ again …” You see the problem: my stomach cares little for portion control or wiser nutrition decisions. The only real advice my stomach has: eat like it is your one and only superpower. While delicious, this is not very good guidance.

So this post took a bit of a turn. In an environment where you are inundated with delicious temptation, what is one to do? Let’s proceed with some logic not from my belly but from my brain.


Take note of your patterns.

When I move to a new locale with cuisine novel to my palate, I consistently lose a good deal of my self-control for making my healthiest food choices for some period of time. I have gained 5-10 pounds each time I’ve touched down in new land with divine aromas and flavors that have made my head spin and stomach growl (in Spain: because gelato; in Ecuador: because, um, have you ever tried the whole avocado-a-day challenge?; in China: because Chinese BBQ). After the first year, the novelty wears off enough for me to eat portions that satiate rather than stuff my stomach.

So my pattern is that “this too shall pass.” In certain circumstances, you afford yourself some grace. And then you get real with your regular routine.


Find your partner in crime … and in health.

Honestly, I find it difficult to dine with people who eat like birds. I just don’t get them. That said, I do also feel my best when I connect with fellow foodies who have similar interests in noshing on the more nutritious foods in town. Who is that friend with whom you can have over to cook a load of zucchini pasta, stir it up with homemade pesto and share some dark chocolate? Further, who supports your fitness goals as you make your way through the list of hole-in-the-wall and fine-dining establishments in your neighborhood? Spending meal time with others striving for a healthy balance helps me to curb my gluttony.


Determine your tipping point.

At some point, enough will need to be enough. Is it about how your clothes fit? Is it about how your digestive system has begun to protest? While the scale matters to me less now than it did even a few years ago, when I stepped onto it to do a litmus test recently, the numbers starting speaking to me; I was convinced it was time to give myself some tough love. The best reset for me is a cleanse that essentially means eliminating grains, dairy, sugar and alcohol. This helps to establish a good gut balance and curb cravings. Getting back on track is also easier with that friend in health. In these past weeks, gym time has again taken precedence over happy hour, and the happy hour we treat ourselves to once a week means savoring just one delicious cocktail.


This coming week will be a good test of my re-established discipline as I head to Malaysia for some sun and sand time. I am flying to this new land of temptation with a plan, though. I will of course allow myself some indulgences, but wearing a new swimsuit is good motivation to savor Nasi lemak, and step away from the coconut-y dish when I am comfortably full.


Now, may the wise food force be with us all.

Eat Nutrition Stories from the Road Travel

About Jamie Bacigalupo

Having first traveled from her hometown of Minneapolis, Minnesota, to live in Quito, Ecuador, she decided to give the East a run and is now a resident of Shenzhen, China. She earned her degree in Communication Arts/Literature and Communication and Secondary Education from Gustavus Adolphus College and is enthusiastically exploring Asia by teaching abroad. She digs hanging out with her students by weekday, and relishes finding new restaurants to eat authentic Chinese food and finding new hiking paths on the weekends. In addition to sticking her nose in a book to recover from an intense workday, Jamie also loves exploring all manner of flavors in the kitchen, especially when she is whipping up some recipes for her friends and family.