Note from Liz: My friend Laina blogs about one of the trickiest of hidden health problems–weight management–at Keeping Off 200 Pounds. I’ve asked her to write a couple of guest posts to help people manage their weight on the road.
Without further ado, heeeeere’s Laina:
Travel is one of the biggest challenges to weight management. I’ve successfully lost 200 pounds and maintained that loss for 8 years, all while traveling both domestically and internationally, so I’ve got a few insights on managing weight while traveling.
When I hit the road I bring along the key elements that work for me at home: record keeping, environmental control, exercise and making smart food choices.
Travel for Pleasure
Traveling for fun and pleasure is easier than traveling for work, because I tend to have a little more control over the environments I find myself in. I always carry a notepad so that I can write down the foods I eat. This is definitely harder to do on vacation than at home because of the nature of eating while traveling for pleasure. Often I am grabbing a quick bite on the go, I may not even be stopping to sit down! So I try to remember to write it all down, but if I don’t keep perfect records on vacation I don’t beat myself up over.
The nice thing about traveling for pleasure is that I usually get a lot of exercise – I’m walking all day long, up and down and around museums, through attractions, in and out of shops. I hardly ever sit down when I’m visiting a new city! That’s a lot of exercise that I didn’t have to make any extra effort to fit into my schedule. In fact, all the walking I do on vacation usually means that I can be a more forgiving if my other efforts fall a little short in all the excitement of having new adventures.
When I am at home I do what I call environmental control – making sure not to surround myself with foods that will derail my weight management effort. This means I don’t keep things like cake, candy, baked goods, etc, in my kitchen at home.
This is something that is much harder on vacation because I don’t have much control over my environment, but there are a few things I can do to manage myself, and they mainly involve not putting myself into situations where my willpower will be tested. I know that willpower is NOT a muscle, it doesn’t get stronger the more I use it, it gets weaker, so I don’t want to gratuitously force myself to invoke it. This means I don’t wander idly into candy and chocolate shops and ogle the wares. I don’t sidle up to sidewalk hot dog vendors and smell longingly after their goods. When I need a snack I look for a coffee shop or sandwich shop and I search for things on the menu that will be supportive of my goals.
When I travel in Europe I find that almost every place that serves lunch has a menu item that is essentially, “Soup and a roll.” I always get that for lunch. Soup is a fantastic food for weight management, particularly if it is a water- or stock-based soup because it has a low caloric density – it’s made mostly of water, often has high vegetable content, and fills me up.
Most places I visit have some version of a fruit and veggie stand that is easily findable by tourists. If I am wandering through a new city it won’t be long before I stumble upon the place where fruits and veggies are sold. And, honestly, I seek them out. I know that when I get hungry the best thing I can reach for is a piece of fruit, a bag of sugar snap peas, or similar. These things are always available, no matter where you are in the world.
As an added bonus, often you will find fruit that is not available to you at home. That’s what traveling is all about! I always pick up something new to me if I can, to get a little local flavor. The last time I visited Hawaii I packed a kitchen knife and cutting board (checked luggage only!) so that I could enjoy the local fruits back in my hotel room.
In fact, I usually carry a backpack when on vacation so that I can carry supportive foods such as fruits and veggies with me wherever I go on my touring – I never want to get so hungry that I’ll eat anything because that’s the most dangerous time to make a food selection. Eating a piece of fruit or other supportive snack every hour or so keeps me from getting too hungry, and keeps me going throughout the day.
Another thing I like to do is stay in lodgings where I can cook for myself – hostels, apartments and long-term-stay hotels. All of these lodgings provide full kitchens for the use of their guests. I love to find the local grocery and make myself healthy, supportive meals using local ingredients. Managing my weight is vastly easier when I know exactly what went into my food.
All of this is not to say that I don’t enjoy a fancy meal out or sweet treat occasionally while traveling. I do, and I relish them, I just don’t eat that way every day. I focus on the new experiences and adventures I’m having and let splurging on heavy foods be only an occasional indulgence.