Olivia Brocato, 129 TCCS
Health is a combination of physical and mental well-being. In a world where the emphasis on physical appearance is often overwhelming, it’s easy to forget about the latter – mental well-being. In Thailand, there are constant reminders of the culture’s set of very rigid and very unrealistic standards of beauty. Whether walking down the aisle at 7-11 unable to find beauty products without whitening or walking into school to hear a colleague bluntly comment on the weight you have gained, it’s difficult not to wallow in your insecurities.
When you thrust yourself into a foreign world, life as you know it is flipped upside down. Your routine is rattled and you suddenly lack control in everything including diet and exercise. It takes lots of mental strength to be unaffected by the changes and lack of control that are reflected in outward appearance and not unnoticed by peers as well as yourself.
While aiming to be completely unaffected may seem like a lofty goal, it is critical to remember that you are not defined by the blemishes that appear from washing your face with unfiltered water or the extra inches around your waist resulting from months of rice consumption. Rather, you are defined by the beauty that emanates from within and is conveyed through selflessness and an unwavering, wholly good moral compass.
But physical and mental well-being are not unrelated. Physical fitness plays a vital role in mental strength; it is as important to care for our bodies as it is to care for our minds. When the stress of daily life is overbearing, it is easy to turn to food for comfort. Curbing those comfort cravings with delicious alternatives is possible, however. Especially in a country like Thailand where delicious fruits are abundant. When craving additional sugar, try a fruit smoothie instead of a snack with tons of added sugar. Depending on your choice of fruits, your smoothie will be rich in nutrients, give you energy, and fill you up.
Here’s the recipe for one of my favorite smoothie combos:
Pineapple Mango Smoothie
- Cup of ice
- Three mangos (peeled and chopped)
- A quarter to a half of a pineapple (peeled and chopped)
- 2 thin slices of carrot
- Tablespoon of honey
- Splash of water
- Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.
Of course, you can replace the mango and pineapple with your favorite in-season fruits. If you use water-based fruits like watermelon, you don’t need to add water and you can use significantly less ice. You can also replace two thin slices of carrot with two thin slices of tomatoes for added health benefits. Carrots are full of antioxidants, good for vision and skin, and help prevent infection. Tomatoes have similar health benefits to carrots, but also help maintain strong bones as they have both calcium and Vitamin K. Honey is a natural sweetener and helps boost immunity.
Exercise plays another key role in both physical and mental well-being. While exercise gives you obvious physical benefits like endurance and strength, it also provides mental benefits such as releasing endorphins. Exercise helps you sleep, improves your mood, and is a natural way to boost energy. With the added energy, you can rely less on caffeine which is known to increase blood pressure as well as the risk of heart attacks at a young age.
Cardio is a great way to get moving. If you don’t have ample space to run or bike (or if stray dogs pose a threat as they so often do in Thailand), jumping rope is an awesome alternative. A jump rope is a lightweight equipment you can take anywhere. If cardio isn’t your thing, resistance training gets you moving and strengthens your muscles. Try a routine that includes parallel planks, side planks, squats, wall sits, stationary lunges, jumping lunges, or pushups. I typically choose four forms of exercise and do five sets of 12 to 20 reps per exercise. Yoga is another activity that exercises the body as well as the mind.
Finally, don’t forget to let your body rest. Listen to your body. Invest in your body. Invest in your mind. Invest in your health. And give both your body and your mind a well-deserved a break every once in a while, too.