The process for medical clearance was probably one of the most annoying things about applying for the Peace Corps. I am happy to say though, that after nearly a month of calling doctors, setting up appointments, and calling doctors again to fix mistakes when making those appointments, I have officially completed medical clearance for service.
For those in the middle of applying, some tips for completing this aspect of the application:
Do not wait too close to the deadline to get started on the process.
I’m not kidding that the process is annoying. If you think it will take a week to have an appointment and take vaccines and do blood work, you’re wrong. Check if your doctor and dentist have ever had to complete documentation for Peace Corps. Apparently, I was supposed to request for a “travel physical” even though I said it was for the Peace Corps, which messed up with a lot of the process and they even scared me into thinking my insurance would not cover anything I had already done (thankfully, it did). I didn’t even know a travel physical was a thing…
Simplify the tasks for your medical providers by making your own simple checklist.
Assume they know nothing and make a checklist of tasks for them. It sounds rude, but there is a lot for them to do and it probably would have helped me. They have to order tests and vaccinations and if something is not fulfilled correctly, it just means more waiting. I think I went to my office at least eight times in one month to do tests, get vaccines, and pick up the necessary paperwork needed to submit. Again, don’t start this late
Label all files and double-check that it is the correct file.
A little embarrassing when I tried to correct the nurse that I already sent a document which ended up actually being a social studies presentation…
Do not stress out if they require more information.
“Did you say you almost cut off your finger? We’re going to need more documentation on that.” “Why is there still a fragment of tooth after wisdom teeth surgery?” “Your BMI and cholesterol are too high and we need you to sign a statement.” These things required extra paperwork and at first freaked me out that they were major considerations that would keep me out (Once again, don’t do this too late. Get the picture?). Just because you think you’re fine, doesn’t mean the Peace Corps know that. I think it’s just because they’re responsible for your health and they want to have the proper resources to care for you. If anything, it has kept me motivated to make healthier choices. I wrote in a past post that I was going to try to lose weight, but it was not until they sent me the message about my weight that I really made an effort and dropped about twelve pounds in three weeks. I had been neglecting my finger exercises because it is “fine” even though the strength is not 100%, but now I got back into doing them. With how busy I am going to be, I do not want my health to be a liability, and I am sure they feel the same. I’m sure if it is actually going to be an issue, your doctor would have already done things to help you and you would know about it.
My diet plan
By no means am I a diet and fitness expert, but I do know some general information on weight loss (If you’re reading this and have any advice, please let me know!). I will not go into all the unhealthy choices I’ve decided to make over the years, but a lot had to change for me. Eating smaller portions, but more throughout the day was one change that has had a positive impact on my health in general. A low-carb, high-protein diet is the best way to encourage this kind of eating routine. I think it is just common to use some type of high-carbohydrate food like pasta or rice as a “filler” in meals. The key for me now is to make that filler a vegetable. I have been taking one day off per week to relax and have a cheat meal or two on the weekend. Not necessarily demolishing entire cakes or anything, just having a slice of bread for once or something. I am looking for results fast, so I am cutting out a lot of things in my life for now to encourage weight loss and lower my cholesterol:
No red meat, no bacon
No bread, pasta, rice, potatoes
No added sugars
Limit cheese and dairy
Drink a lot of water (I drink at least 72oz or more per day now)
No soda, no coffee (I’ll have green tea if not water)
Decrease alcohol consumption (If I do, drink red wine once or twice a week because it’s good for cholesterol apparently. I’ll take that excuse.)
Eat organic if possible
Breakfast generally consists of a spinach, kale, and fruit shake, yogurt, or eggs with vegetables and a fruit. I try to limit fruit to the morning so I have time to burn it off.
Between breakfast and lunch, I have a snack of vegetables (carrots, cucumbers, red peppers, celery, etc.) either alone or with peanut butter, guacamole, or hummus (Limiting hummus is really the worst part of this).
Lunch is usually a salad with chicken, egg, or another protein. Dress the salad with apple cider vinegar.
After the gym, I will eat a protein bar which usually holds me over until dinner, unless I want a small lettuce-wrapped sandwich or something else small to add on top of that.
Dinner is really the only meal I have that varies, but it is the same general concept of something high in protein with little carbohydrates and vegetables as a filler.
My exercise routine is based on a 4 day schedule of Upper, Abs, Lower, and Extra Cardio. I do 40 minutes of cardio (normally full incline walk on the treadmill) and then do some weightlifting. I am typically at the gym for 1.5-2 hours a day. I go right after work to prevent myself from going home and feeling lazy. It seems impossible at first to go after school, but I actually have a lot more energy now than I did before. Hopefully this helps if you are in a similar situation as myself! Between this diet, taking a second job at Mystic Seaport, and pre-service classes starting in March, I am going to be busy leading up to departure!