Healthy Traveler Episode 1: Can You Cook?

Just thought I would help people to get to know who I am with a little light reading this Sunday morning. I remember when I arrived in Korea for the first time, the first thing I was asked was, “Can you cook?” Well, yes I can cook and although I’ve had no formal training in cooking, I can say that experience is the best teacher. I am often asked the same question here in Thailand and women seem to be astonished that a man can cook. Now isn’t that a bit of stereotyping for you? These days I know a lot of women who can’t cook and have never cooked a meal for themselves or anyone else in their life. Now being able to cook versus being able to cook something tasty is two different things.

As a child growing up, I used to go into the kitchen and look through my mother’s cook book and tell her what I wanted to cook. We’d go to the store and pick up the ingredients and I would prepare dinner for the family. I often experimented with different things and I just had a feeling of what tastes right together. I spent an awful lot of time watching my grandmother in the kitchen as well and my grandfather used to prepare breakfast and take part in dinner preparations, so it never seemed odd to me. My father also gets in the kitchen and gets busy with the skillet.

I think that living independently for so long also forced me to do for myself. Many men, especially in Asia tend to live at home for a longer period of time and rely on their mom for food, while watching dad hang out and wait. Not that it’s wrong or right, but that’s just how it is. I think that the independence and self reliance that comes about from leaving the nest is what gives many Westerners a different perspective on who should be in the kitchen preparing food.

Having been a personal trainer and involved in health and fitness for over 10 years, I’ve constantly been in the kitchen attempting to find the right balance of taste and health for myself. Moving to Asia provided its hurdles as many of the foods are not readily available and often times the facilities are not available either. For example I have not had an oven for 4 years now, which eliminates baking as a possibility. Living in Thailand, I did not have a refrigerator for a year and a half and I have not had a hot surface for nearly 3 years and I’ve managed to solve this problem with an all purpose steamer.  The lack of a fridge meant more trips to the grocer, but it also meant that everything I prepared was either raw or very fresh.

For the past year however I have had both a steamer and a fridge. My fridge still remains fairly empty as I buy foods fresh just about every day. There are only a few things I keep in my refrigerator long term. The fresher the food is the better for your body as you will receive more of the vital nutrients contained within what you consume. I typically buy lettuce and salad materials on the day I will consume it as the lettuce just seems to go bad once it’s open. I’ve found that eating vegetables the day after cutting them tastes dramatically different as well. I guess I’ve just gotten used to the freshly cut taste, which is more full and complete.

So I do practically everything with my trusty steamer and you can too. As a personal trainer I’ve heard every excuse in the book for why a person cannot seem to eat healthy yet they have every tool at their disposal. Some of us even have maids, nannies or a stay at home spouse. Next time that excuse starts to roll out of your mouth to your personal trainer, take a look back and think about how easy it really is to eat fresh and healthy with a little bit of planning. As I tell my clients, “failure to plan is like planning to fail”. Good luck…

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About Rich Thurman III B.Sc, MA, CSCS, NSCA-CPT
Rich has a Bachelors of Science in Physiological Science from UCLA and a Masters of Sports Management from USF. He is certified by the National Strength & Conditioning Association, (NSCA) as a Personal Trainer (CPT) and Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS). He is primary author of The Fitness Library and writes for various other publications, including the San Francisco Police Officer's Association. Rich is the founder of Xodus Fitness, which offers Fitness Consulting & Personal Training, Urban Body Transformation Bootcamps, Corporate Wellness. Rich also conducts Workshops and an annual lecture at the San Francisco State University Kinesiology Department. Please feel free to contact through any of the links below to inquire about professional services or opportunities.

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