Enjoy a Healthy Lifestyle in Cuenca, Ecuador

Often people relocating abroad take the opportunity to make a fresh start. They sell or give away most of their possessions and arrive at their new destination with just their suitcases in hand. Such limited space allows only the most important and cherished items to be brought along.

Here’s a helpful piece of advice: If you’re moving to Cuenca, Ecuador, leave all those diet books behind!

Many expats living here are thrilled when they experience significant weight loss and overall improvement in their health. Two friends of mine, David Akins and his wife Karen, relocated to Cuenca, a lovely colonial city sitting at 8,400 feet altitude in Ecuador’s southern highlands, a year and a half ago.

“Since moving to Ecuador both my wife and I have lost 40 pounds each,” David says. “We attribute our weight loss to a better diet of fresh fruits, yogurt, and steamed fresh vegetables (no more temptations of drive-thru restaurant for burgers and fries!). Additionally, we love to take walks along the river for exercise.”

David’s right. Fresh, inexpensive produce overflows at markets throughout the city. Fast food joints are few and far between. And because Cuenca, even with a population of a half million, is so compact, many expats get around town mainly on foot.

Science supports the benefits of living at higher altitude. Research finds that our bodies must work a little harder because of the thinner oxygen, thus naturally burning more calories. Combine this fact with the pedestrian lifestyle of many expats and it is no wonder the excess pounds melt away.

As a vegetarian, Kathleen Ashbrook particularly enjoys the bounty of locally grown produce in Cuenca. “Moving to a country where walking is the mode of transportation for the majority of the people and fresh fruits and vegetables are abundant is one of the healthiest things we have ever done,” she tells me. “If we had stayed in the States there is no telling how much more weight we would have gained. Instead we have been steadily losing weight and gaining muscle mass. All the fresh foods that are available here have enabled both me and my husband to lose weight and feel healthy again. No dieting required. Just exercise and lots of good, healthy food.”

Many people take advantage of nutritious lunches that are available all over town for as little as $2. These invariably include a big bowl of delicious soup, a glass of fresh squeezed fruit juice, an entrée with a small portion of protein plus rice and veggies, and sometimes a dessert!

Even meat-eating fast food lovers find healthy choices. KFC’s chicken strips platter, instead of the usual instant mashed potatoes, slaw, and a biscuit, comes with side dishes of rice, fried plantains, and lentils!

Life in Cuenca has many benefits—low cost of living, an ideal climate, quality health care, and cultural activities. What an unexpected treat to enjoy a healthier lifestyle as well!

Whether you’re shipping your belongings or arriving with suitcases, ditch the diet books. You won’t need them here.

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