You may not realize it, but the average traveler gains 5 pounds for every week they’re away from home — travel is broadening, literally and figuratively. The human body is like a finely balanced machine that doesn’t respond well to change. When you leave home, jet lag, interrupted routines, unfamiliar surrounding and different (or unavailable) resources will all work against maintaining your health and fitness. Whether you’re planning a vacation, or you’re one of the thousands of “road-warriors” who travel constantly for work, here are some easy ideas to take along on your next trip if you’d like to return home approximately as fit as when you left:
First, be realistic about what you can accomplish. It’s going to be hard, if not impossible, to stick perfectly to the same diet and exercise routine you have at home. If you expect perfection you’ll end up discouraged. Instead, make your goal one of awareness and maintenance. You may not be able to exercise at the same intensity or in the same way that you do at home, but you be as active as possible. Enjoy new cuisines, but don’t use the fact that you’re away from home as an excuse to gobble multiple desserts or bowls of salty bar snacks, if that’s not something you’d normally do at home. When it comes to eating, here are some tips to help you make good choices:
• Let your mind, not your eyes or emotions, make choices. Eat the one thing you want most and take HALF a portion of the most fattening foods. Don’t go back for more. Don’t reward yourself with food for a hard day, a job well done, or because you’re lonely or bored.
• Avoid fried foods and those smothered in unidentifiable sauces, especially at buffets. Better choices are meat, chicken or fish simply grilled, poached or baked. Ask for sauce or dressings to be served on the side. Request a fruit plate or sorbet without looking at the menu or dessert cart.
• If you’re sight-seeing, in-transit, or stuck in meetings, tote along granola bars and fruit (apples travel well) and a bottle of water. If you’re hungry, try to avoid places where the foods you love are featured but without sensible alternatives (E.g. fast food, ice-cream parlors, candy stores).
• Watch the alcohol, it’s loaded with calories, especially those fun, sugary drinks. Beware the temptation of salty bar snacks and if possible, eat before you sit down at a bar, or order some crudites or other healthy bar food instead
• If you have access to a fitness center, visit the first day to get used to the layout and what’s available…you’ll be much more likely to pay a return visit. At the very least, find a scale and weigh yourself regularly.
• Exercise is where you make it. Walk up the stairs instead of taking the elevator. Take the hike up the train instead of the booze barge trip. Park a few spots away and walk the extra yards. Dance at the disco instead of sitting in the movie.
• Wear something loose while traveling. Your body will swell if you are sitting for long periods of time. If your waistband is already tight before you get on that plane, buy the end of the tip it will feel like a boa constrictor!
• It’s better to pack your own lunch (and enjoy that last bit of pate from Paris or smoked salmon from Alaska) than the airplane food.
• If you’ve gained a few pounds by the time you return home, don’t fret. Pick yourself up and go back to your regular diet and exercise routine.