It’s that time of year again. Even if you travel year round like I do, it’s that time of year again. How do I know? There’s some kind of airport strike in France. This year it’s the air traffic controllers. School’s out or nearly out and you can’t find a transatlantic ticket for under $1,000, and that’s for the last row of economy, next to the loo. And there’s one more thing: the weight gain that accompanies the opening of the floodgates of permissions that can have you stuffing your face with every fatty, sugary, calorific morsel you spy.
While many of my clients and I deal with this on a year round basis, I’d like to revisit travel weight gain on this summer solstice so you have a little primer to stave off the dreaded excess baggage that might creep around your middle or derriere if you don’t keep it in check. (That was supposed to be a gentle pun about checking baggage – I’m easily amused).
Here they are – my Top 10 Tips To Avoid Travel Weight Gain:
1. Plan Ahead
Planning ahead will keep you in control and take the guessing out of meal decisions while you’re away. Start by checking out the eateries in the airport from which you’re flying in case you expect to eat before you fly. Call your hotel and make sure you have a refrigerator in your room so you can pick up breakfast supplies and healthy snacks once you reach your destination. If you’re flying long haul, order a special meal such as Hindu vegetarian (Yes, really. I do this every time). You’ll have a more nutritious meal with more vegetables, less fat and sugar.
2. Eat Veggies at Every Meal
Crowd out your plate with extra orders of veggies and eat them before you touch whatever else is on your plate. Start your meal with a salad too. That way, you’ll curb your appetite with the low-calorie, nutritious foods and be less likely to overeat on starches and animal proteins. Dress your salad with olive oil and lemon juice or a little vinegar.
3. Look For Ways to Exercise
Traveling is not the time to wimp out on your regular exercise routine. Although if you are committed to exercising daily, chances are you will continue your routine at the hotel or at a nearby gym. That said, if extra morsels are making their way onto your plate, you’ll have to move more to counter the effects. So, regular exerciser or not, take the stairs, walk a few more blocks or go for a swim. Or, let your hair down and boogie a bit more than usual. It doesn’t matter what you do, just keep moving.
4. Avoid Zoning Out With Menus
Do your eyes glaze over when you look at a menu? Does your brain turn to spaghetti and you forget everything you know about healthy eating as soon as steak au poivre jumps off the page at you? Does the fact that you’re traveling mean that all of the yummy concoctions listed in front of you are just fine to order? Time to get a grip. If you wouldn’t eat a double chocolate cheesecake at home, what makes you think it has fewer calories while you’re on vacation? The same healthy eating rules apply as at home. Look for simple dishes, maybe two appetizers instead of an entrée and appetizer, and always a green salad.
5. Take Food With You
This is probably the single smartest thing you can do. Having healthy food with you at all times eradicates excuses and keeps you in charge of your health. I travel with almonds, seaweed snacks, lentil chips, hummus and guacamole. If you’re flying, hummus etc are considered creams/lotions and should be in 3-ounce or less containers. That said, I’ve taken bigger tubs through in hand luggage and not had any problems. It depends on the TSA of the day!
If you’re driving, take a cooler. Use freezable foods or drinks as ice blocks. For example, use frozen high-protein muffins and you’ll have the next day’s breakfast ready in advance. I’ve been known to check a cooler inside a bag pre-flight for the same reason. Those of you who know me well, know that I always check luggage. One of my bags is usually full of healthy food. I have a bag of oatmeal that’s been all over the place with me.
Other good foods to pack are dates, dried mango, crackers (I recommend Nut-Thins by Blue Diamond), cherries, carrot and celery sticks, smoked salmon, homemade popcorn, and bean salad.
6. Share A Plate
If you want to let go and have a to-die-for dish or dessert that’s packed with calories, share it. Don’t deprive yourself – you’ll end up feeling resentful and put yourself at risk for bingeing as a result. Have a few bites, relish it and appreciate it. You’re worth it but respect your self-worth by not polishing off all of it.
7. Drink Wisely
If you’re going to indulge, whether traveling for business or pleasure, beware the perils of overindulgence. I’m not talking about obvious hangovers, but the lack of energy, blotchy skin and weight gain. If you’re trying to lose weight, there’s little room for the empty calories in alcohol, I’m afraid. If that’s not an issue, avoid drinks that have soda as a mixer. The diet stuff is poisonous and the regular is full of sugar. Spirits mixed with soda water are okay. A glass or two of wine enjoyed with dinner are fine.
If you’re on vacation, the pina coladas and daiquiris that seem so appealing when you’re sitting out in the heat of the day might be regretted later for more than their high calorie content. My recommendations are to avoid drinking in the mid-day sun (even though I’m English and married to a mad dog) and – my number one rule – always always have food when you drink to avoid the alcohol entering the blood stream too quickly. You’ll also be less inclined to end up in embarrassing situations.
8. Start the Day Right
Rushing at the start of the day and avoiding breakfast sets you up to fail. That said, I’m not a fan of breakfast for breakfast’s sake because your typical cereal, juice and muffin are full of sugar. After your initial high, you’ll be asleep at the wheel or, on a plane, dozing with your head on the shoulder of the stranger next to you. (I’ve only done that once – it wasn’t pretty).
A blend of fruit, and oatmeal or eggs with sautéed veggies, especially spinach, get my vote. If you have access to a green smoothie, great! If you’re driving, throw the Vitamix, Magic Bullet or NutriBullet in the back of the car and go for it.
If you skip breakfast, you will end up snacking heavily, stuffing yourself at lunch, and you won’t have the energy to function properly. So there!
9. Keep It Simple
Lobster Thermidor might sound delightful but it’s full of hidden fat and sodium. By contrast, grilled lobster with salad will not contribute to junk in your trunk. A piece of grilled fish, chicken or meat with a medley of vegetables is far better for you than a dish comprised of a bunch of ingredients as long as your arm. A simply composed plate will have fewer calories and be easier to digest. The more complicated the recipe, the more room there is for hidden nasties and extra calories.
10. Keep Your Regular Sleep Patterns
A good night’s sleep goes a long way in so many respects, not least in relation to fat burning. If you don’t get enough sleep, you could find yourself reaching for fatty, sugary foods to help you through your energy slumps the next day. Not getting enough sleep also means that your metabolism won’t function properly and weight loss will be impaired. So, avoid caffeine in the afternoon and evening; skip heavy, fatty foods at dinner; and pack your eye patch and ear plugs to drown out strange noises. Bonne nuit!