For the last 41 years, I have been committed to the gym. Even sickness, a honeymoon and 3 serious accidents couldn't stop me from finding a way to train. But then Portugal came along. Having just wrapped up my first Figure competition and feeling in the best shape of my life, there was a part of me that didn't want to go if it meant I couldn't bring my true love (Gym) along. Being resourceful, I had a plan B (use the hotel facilities) but I didn't stay where that was available. Okay, so plan C (wall squats, push-ups, ab roller circuit) for 15 minutes every morning in the room before leaving. Right...that happened one morning. For the following 2 mornings, I did an even shorter version and then just let the ab roller do what most home gyms do - collect dust! I'm sure there were gyms somewhere along the road though I only saw one yoga studio. Besides, the choice: go sight-seeing or pump some iron. My good intentions took a nose dive.
I planned to eat healthy as well. I was forewarned through online research for the trip that Portugal is not very vegan/vegetarian friendly and sadly, this was the case. I swore I wouldn't eat the bread or pastries that received such glorious praise. One really shouldn't swear; it's unbecoming, and I ended up eating a LOT of crow, along with bread and pastries. While Portugal is also known for spectacular wine, I'm not a wine drinker though I had probably 10 local beers. I've missed beer as it's been over 2 years since I had one. I thought that eating and drinking things I'd eliminated from my diet for so long might send me into relapse - mentally and physically - but it didn't. So, even though I went from:
Above photos taken September 23, 2017
to this (in just 3 weeks):
Above photo taken October 18, 2017
I'm okay, mentally and physically. Except for the extreme soreness Gym is punishing me with for leaving him alone while I was off galavanting and enjoying adventure galore! All that adventure included tons of walking which blew out the brand new pair of sneakers I took along. Must've been a pair of Friday sneakers (as in: made on a Friday by someone worn out from the work week, watching the clock, anxiously anticipating the 5:00 happy-hour whistle to signal the start of a long-awaited week-end, so not in work mode, obvi!). Aside from driving to major cities, I walked EVERYWHERE and this meant up or down as there are very few flat surfaces. Stair climbing is mandatory and here are a few examples:
Moorish Castle remains - Sintra, Portugal. It's even steeper than it looks!
What goes up, must come down, but this was even more painful to do!
That's fog moving in, not smoke. Had to climb a LOT of stairs to get this view.
Convento de Santa Clara-a-Nova, circa 1640's - Coimbra, Portugal
Ooooh! Flat surfaces!
And again, more stairs...I think you get the idea!
Coastal walk along Zambujeira do Mar
I didn't count calories and just decided that if my clothes started to feel snug, I'd resort to plan D: buy a moomoo!
So glad that wasn't necessary! While I totally got the comments from the TSA pat-down on my way out of the country ("Wow, you must be a bodybuilder!"), I was rather surprised by the comments from the pat-down upon leaving the airport in Lisbon ("This woman must be a gymnast!") which led me to think of a brief discussion with a clerk in Portugal duty-free. It started over my asking if the graphic photos and explicit warnings posted on cigarette packs actually deter smoking.
These are just a few examples as there are photos and warnings to cover every possible health risk associated with smoking. The clerk replied that people who smoke don't really care, justify their habit by saying "I'm going to die anyway" but that occasionally they may ask for a pack with a different photo so they are not as bothered by the message (i.e., a woman might ask for the pack that states smoking can cause male impotence). Incidentally, the World Health Organization statistics state that over 600,000 deaths world-wide occur annually from passive (SECOND-HAND) smoke. Please smokers, consider this when you light up and feel bothered that smoking is banned from so many public places. You still have a right to smoke and screw up your health - and all while paying good money for it - by participating in such a vile and disgusting habit, in addition to seriously compromising the health of those who don't want any part of this dangerous environmental toxin. This pisses me off more than I can begin to say. I do have friends that smoke and just pray that they will be able to quit before they fall victim to any of the horrible fates associated with smoking. Of course, the only reason this ridiculously asinine product is allowed on the market is $$$$. Such a shame that money trumps all the facts.
Speaking of Trump, conversations with foreigners during this trip, when queried about their opinion on why Americans are so hated, replied with "Because you voted Trump into office." But I digress. Back to the clerk at duty-free.
When she asked if I had enjoyed the visit to her country, I replied with a heartfelt 'Tremendously!" though perhaps I was a little too quick to mention that I was surprised, and dismayed, by the amount of smokers. Her response of "Well, in America, you have all the food addictions!" gave me pause. I hadn't meant to put her on the defensive. It also made me think about how Americans are viewed in foreign countries: Trump-loving, food-aholics, known for excess and insatiable consumerism. While it hit a nerve with me because of my history with bulimia, I felt saddened for this to be our legacy at this point in time - so much for "Let's make this country great again!" This launched a discussion about cheap food, poverty, lack of concern for health with focus being on profits for big corporations and stockholders, but also how the Portuguese diet didn't seem all that healthy either. This is not based just on perusing menu after menu from city-to-city; I also visited many local grocery stores, scrutinizing the merchandise while searching for healthier fare and found them to be worse than Walmart, who at least is now expanding its offerings of organic and vegan/vegetarian products. Obviously, as a world community, we have a long way to go.
All good things must come to and end and now I'm back home and in the arms of Gym. He is trying to make me pay for my good time. I just square my stance, stare him in the eyes and say "Bring it, mister!"
*Sparkpeople.com ran a story on me while I was out of country. If you aren't familiar with this site, it is ranked in the top 6 online health and medical sites, with over 12 million regular members. Here's the link:
Lots of interesting comments posted to my story and I look forward to responding in the follow-up story due sometime in November/December. In particular, to concerns that I have traded one obsession (bulimia) for another (muscles/figure competing) and that this a contradictory practice designed to gain attention from appearance. Any comments you'd like to share? Post in Comments below!