Health on the Road: Committing to a Healthy Lifestyle

Santiago Atitlán Avacados-2

This was our fat camp….

Around this time of year, my blog turns to health; after all, it’s annual checkup time.

Guatemala, it turns out, was a poor man’s fat camp. During three months of stairs and beans and pineapple (and avocados!), Pat lost 15 pounds (at 6 foot 3, he is a lean 185 pounds). I lost 10 pounds myself (You expected my weight here? You’re funny.) We subsisted on the local fruits, vegetables, and beans that were plentiful in our tiny village. All that talk about giving up processed foods–it works!

This month, we switched doctors from Colorado to Virginia. Everything checked out fine. Then the nurse called with our blood test results, “Since both of you have LDLs over 100, you should start a statin.”

Seriously? No discussion of our favorable family history, a ten-point gain in each of our good cholesterol readings, material drops in our triglycerides, or an acknowledgement of our healthy lipid ratios??

Popping pills has become the oh-so-easy cure.


I’m not a doctor. Nothing I say should be perceived as medical advice.


There is no flaming way I am taking a statin. At least, not now.

Since last fall, we have lifted weights every other day faithfully (with the exception of our time in Guatemala where we carried our groceries home every day). We now join a gym as soon as we arrive in a new location as part of our settling in ritual

We have stopped renting cars—not in Charlottesville, not this summer in Ireland. We used the savings in Charlottesville to stay in town. I walk 10,000 steps every day just getting to where I need to go. During a month of walking and lifting and yoga, I’ve carved off another two pounds. (And it goes without saying, I’ve revamped our eating this month as we chase an LDL target of under 100.)

This all got me thinking about my life and my goals. I gravitate towards activities that are highly inactive (shouldn’t we call these activities “inactivities”?). I read. I write. I sit in coffee shops and talk to people… for hours.

Then it struck me.

Rather than chase the illusive Great American Novel (from the comfort of my desk), maybe I should orient our time, and by extension our travel, toward movement–heart pumping stuff.

We had ten days unaccounted for in late July/early August. Perfect! Yesterday, I booked an unguided hike of the Wicklow Way—the 87-mile trail which leads from Clonegal to Dublin. At night we will sleep in B&Bs. By day, our bags (magically) will move to our next stop while we slog over hill and vale.

Maybe I’ll write about it. Maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll drop dead on the trail, in which case my dying words will be, “Pat, take the statin,” but I’m betting that won’t happen.

After Wicklow Way, who knows? The Appalachian Trail, Everest Base Camp, Pictured Rock Shoreline, the villages of Burgundy all await. Or maybe we’ll bike from Salzburg to Bratislava.

I’ll recheck our cholesterol this fall. Perhaps I’ll consider a statin, but not with our current trajectory.

That worry can wait. For now, I’m trying to remember where I stashed our hiking boots.



Categories: How To

18 replies

  1. I laughed out loud at your potential last words! Hilarious!

  2. Oh, Julie, I just love reading your words and sensing your lives through your telling. Keep doing what you are doing! Sending you each a big hug, Marcy

  3. Love this post, Julie! Happy trails!

  4. Hi Julie: As your blog and yes, no to the statin. Congrats on your health successes so far. I too am a big hiker and your trip to Wicklow Way sounds perfect. Hike and sleep well without the baggage and tents. Might you tell me where you got information about this hike and how to arrange. Also wondering if you have used HomeAway to rent dwellings. Not sure I trust transferring money to someone in Brazil…..any thoughts? Thank you,

    • Thank you Ellen!

      This website has a ton of info on Wicklow Way–
      Everything from maps to accommodations to moving your luggage. Since I’m pressed for time, I elected to go thru Tailor-Made tours (which is on the Wicklow Way page). They are setting up accommodations and baggage movement. The up charge seems reasonable and they’ve helped me select locations to spend an extra overnight, etc..

      As for HomeAway, I have used their partner, VRBO. They are both now owned by Expedia. It is scary to send money so far away, but I have done it. Some of my favorite rentals were secured this way. I would suggest you go with your gut. If the person sends responsive emails with complete and professional information, I am generally OK with it.

      Read every review for the tiniest negative comment. Check the photos. If they are cropped oddly, there’s a reason.

      Let me know how it turns out.


      • Thanks so much for all of your insight. I checked out the Wicklow Way website. Looks wonderful and extremely accommodating. Can’t wait to read about that:) I’ll keep looking for rentals with faith and throw caution to the wind. Stay well and moving.

  5. Ah…to statin or not to statin. I was talked into them and they were effective. But then I started to experience side effects. My legs felt wooden and my aIc was elevated. So I stopped them. Now my PCP has given me 6 months to try and get it down by diet and exercise. I’ve been trying your Guatemala food plan and exercising more. Ugh. Let me know if your plan works!

    • First, good luck! Whatever you decide, healthy lifestyle changes are always beneficial.

      If you are inclined to read about this stuff, check out Dean Ornish and also the Pritkin plan. Both emphasize little to no meat, beans and legumes, healthy whole grains, fruits and veges, fish. They encourage exercise and stress management (yoga, meditation).

      My issues have been breakfast (a croissant at a coffee shop!) which I’ve replaced with steel cut oats. And choices when I eat out (steak frites, pizza). For now, we are eating in.

      Fortunately, I love healthy food and our life requires a great deal of walking.

      Again, the very best of luck!!

  6. Hi, Julie. Just wanted to let you know how much I love hearing your life adventures and benefitting from your wisdom as I have for many years now. It has been terrific seeing you continue to refine your writing style, and of course I’ve always loved a regular dose of Julie wit! Thanks for continuing to be a part of my life- from seemingly everywhere! …Ken G. In Raleigh

    • How wonderful to hear from you, Ken! There’s a handful of people I think about often, and you are one of them. Someday, you need to come out and join me! Next month, I’ll be seeing the guys in Budapest. Can’t wait…

  7. The statin will help you find your boots…….lol


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