Gaining weight while traveling does NOT have to happen. Packing on the pounds is not a souvenir I am interested in taking home with me after a trip! Over the years, I have gotten a bit smarter, in general about how I eat. But, I must admit, it is a constant practice! There was a time when keeping up with my wellness practice did not apply to my vacation time or work trips.
Presently, gaining weight after a trip is now a thing of the past for me. After much trial and error, I have figured out some tools to help travelers keep their eating habits in tact and exercise plans in motion, even when on the road. But, I thought I would share my story about the trip that brought these lessons ALL into perspective for me.
Paris…the happiest 15 lbs I ever gained
I had heard of people eating their way through cities, similar to author Elizabeth Gilbert in her book Eat, Pray, Love. Gilbert ate freely for several months, while living in Italy. She stopped worrying about her weight (and exercising) while in Italy and instead, she chose to enjoy an Epicurean banquet of Rome’s most famous foods–fresh pasta, pizza, cheese and gelato. Of course, wine was a key component to her Italian experience with some of the most famous vineyards in the world just a few hours outside the city.
So, when I had an opportunity to go back to France, I was ready to GO WILD and eat my way around Paris! I knew my pallet had changed since my last visit. I was no longer a vegetarian and this time around I decided to be more open in my food choices. However, this trip was going to be a bit more complicated for several reasons.
First, I was staying in Paris a lot longer than a week or two. Second, I was also visiting Paris during the winter time in the weeks leading up to Christmas. I wanted to indulge in many of the things that makes Paris, well, Paris…(the food, the wine, the pastries and desserts, the cremes, the champagne, the cheeses), so I was definitely putting myself in the cross hairs of potential weight gain.
I do not know WHAT I was thinking, in fact, I was not thinking. I went into this “Winter Wonderland Euro Excursion” travel mode, completely disregarding any thoughts of exercising, portion control or balance when it came to my fitness, nutrition and self care. I had no idea what was waiting for me when I returned home and I didn’t care!
Christmas in Paris
I had experienced “A Summer in Paris”, but I was NOT prepared for “Christmas in Paris.” The beautiful winter wonderlands and festivals were up and down the Champs Elysse and played host to many gourmet food booths. People could stand around sipping vin chaud (hot wine). I remember ordering a piping hot steak and onions sandwich made with fresh French bread, so delicious! It was such a celebratory atmosphere, everyone had holiday cheer and food was a huge part of it. Everything from cheese and chocolate fondue to sweet macaroons were in constant rotation. I decided to just enjoy the moment and worry about the weight gain aftermath later. I was fully aware that I was being irresponsible when it came to my diet, but I channeled my inner Elizabeth Gilbert and enjoyed myself.
Even fashion was on my side! I believe that year the fashion forward Parisians were obsessed with their chunky cable knit scarves; over-sized sweaters, long military coats; thick and fury Ushankas (the Russian military style hats) and relaxed winter trousers (no pressure to fit into tight, clingy pants). It was SO easy to hide my body, cover up, eat freely and be fashionable all at the same time! I could not imagine how hard it would be to live in Paris and keep my weight down, Lady Jennie shares stories of the pressures and highlights as an American living in Paris. Even though I love the city, I was happy when the trip was over and I could go home and begin the weight loss damage control.
The Party Is Over…15 pounds later!
When I finally returned home to the U.S., I could not even be too shocked (nor mad at the scale) when I saw I had gained at least 15 pounds! I knew I had gained SOME weight. But, I think my all black wardrobe had done me a disservice, especially since black is such a slimming color and apparently had hid my weight gain quite well! I even believe I gained an additional 5 pounds once back in the states. I remember the first week I was back in the U.S. how I tried to “recreate the Parisian life”. I was experimenting all these new French recipes I had learned; eating cheese assortments and sipping wine like I had been the months before in France.
The Evidence – My Food Porn Photos
When I look back at my photos, all the evidence was there because so many of my photos were centered around food! Even though the extra pounds did not reveal themselves immediately during that trip, I knew they were on the way. I had so many food porn photos– fresh croissants, hot chocolate with whip creme, steak and fries, champagne, baguettes, wine, cheese assortments, macaroons and chocolate covered, liquor infused cherries.
Lying to Myself
I caught myself lying and justifying my poor exercise habits throughout the trip. I think guilt was setting in about all of my gluttonous ways. When it came to excuses as to why I was not exercising, I would say to myself “Well, I AM walking off these calories by trekking around the Paris streets and taking the Metro everywhere.” Don’t get me wrong, walking everywhere DID help, I would have probably gained MORE weight if I had not walked as much as I did, so I WAS grateful for that little bit of exercise!
When I look back at that time, I do not regret my weight gain one bit. It taught me so many valuable lessons. If I was to do it again, I would have a better plan. I hope you can learn from my experience and use these practical tools to help you stay on track with your health and self-care, even when traveling.
10 Tips to Staying Healthy
1. Have a Plan
Once you decide that you will do your best to exercise and make healthy eating choices (as best you can) while traveling, then it is important to have a plan. There are always ways to incorporate exercise and healthy eating into your travel plans. When booking a hotel, get information about their fitness center or inquire if there are areas to walk near the hotel. A walk around some cities is great exercise and an easy way to see a city and its inhabitants in their daily lives.
2. Do Your Research
Use Google to see what restaurants are in the area where you are staying. Then, go to the restaurants’ websites and look at their menus. Plan ahead and see if there are items which fit into your diet. It is better to have this information ahead of time instead of being surprised once sitting at a restaurant and realizing there are limited choices.
3. Embrace the local grocery store or bodega
It is ok to walk into a grocery store while traveling or on vacation. Sometimes being in the relaxed state that travel brings, we do not want any reminders of our mundane lives at home. However, the grocery store is the perfect place to pick up some snacks for those moments when hunger kicks in. Otherwise, you may find yourself eating more food in a restaurant than you normally would. But, if you have an apple, some almonds or a protein bar with you, then you may feel more satisfied between meals.
4. Buy Healthy Snacks
It is important to set yourself up for success and snacks is one of the best ways to do it. Make sure to stick some healthy snacks in your bag, purse or jacket. Healthy snacks can help stomp out hunger and prevent you from making rash decisions in the name of food.
5. Activity or Exercise Class
Sometimes when I travel, I like to take a local yoga class. As a yogi and someone who teacher yoga, it is not only nice for me to get some exercise, but I am also introduced to a new yoga community as well. Or, if dancing, surfing or some other activity is popular where you are visiting, consider trying a new activity.
6. Do Your Research
Before you leave, consider incorporating a quick 30 minute work out regime whether you pack a jump rope or do squats, push ups, sit ups, plank, burpees, lunges, jumping jacks, all these exercises are equipment free and can be done anywhere.
7. Stick to Your Daily Schedule
If there are rituals that are part of your daily schedule that do not interfere with your travel plans, consider keeping them instead of ditching them once on vacay. For instance, if you like to run in the morning or evening, then consider going for a run in a new place. If you meditate every morning, make sure to keep that in your schedule. If you only eat salads at lunch or you have a cheat day, then consider sticking to those plans. This will also help you when returning to your daily life because it will not be as hard to get back into the groove at home.
8. Keep the Healthy Trinity On Your Plate
Protein + 2 Vegetables for lunch and/or dinner.
9. Use Food Apps
Also, with the internet and various mobile apps, you can research the area before you arrive. You can look for restaurants or grocery stores that have food options which will keep you within your diet and offer options for exercise and other activities.
10. Be Kind to Yourself!
You ARE on vacation. People take vacations and are traveling for different reasons. Sometimes the last thing you want to worry about is exercising and what you are eating when on vacation. However, being on vacation and constantly feeling guilty for your choices is not pleasant either. Travel plans change, things happen, so do your best, but do not be too hard on yourself. Live in the moment!
I would love to hear from you. Do you tend to stick with your dietary choices and exercise routines when you travel? What tools or practices do you use, in order to support your healthy living while on the road?