This is a subject that is dear to my heart. Or perhaps I should say my waistline. And my hips. And my butt.
It dates back to when I was 18 and lived in Canada for a year on a Rotary Exchange.
Best. Year. Ever.
Except for the part where I left Australia as a size 10 and came home a size 16.
Even my mother almost didn’t recognise me at the airport. A few weeks later when I went off to uni she gave me a low-fat cookbook with the words “you need this one darling”. Humph I said to that!!
Fortunately a large part of that excess weight fell off once I returned to my Australian way of eating. Lots of veggies, few foods with sugar, virtually no foods with preservatives and almost no snacking. Not to mention that I went from living with families who wanted to spoil me to living in a self-catering college at ANU with little ability to cook for myself.
Since then I have associated travel with gaining weight. This includes conferences and work trips as well as holidays. Not something I’m particularly proud to admit.
That weight was easy to lose when I was in my 20s. And even in my 30s. Now I’m in my 40s it stubbornly won’t really budge in the downward direction.
My weight gain holiday trend all changed on my most recent holiday. I had seven weeks in Europe and the US and I came home weighing less than when I left. Only 400g, but I’ll take that! Especially given my travel weight gain history!
This is what I did:
- I ate less.
- I exercised more.
Pretty basic. And usually hard to do when tempted by all the goodies when you’re on holidays. And an even bigger challenge when you’re a food blogger and want to try everything in sight!
So what I really did…
My tips on how to travel without gaining weight:
- Everywhere I stayed had a kitchen. This was my #1 priority when booking accommodation. It was even a bigger priority than free wifi!! This meant that I could have control over what I ate for at least one meal a day and often two. I had breakfast “at home” almost every day, and this was usually very similar to what I have when not travelling. Even when I travel for work I always try and stay in an apartment, especially for trips longer than one night.
- The first thing I pack are my walking shoes and gym clothes. I should say that I’ve only ever used a hotel gym once and it was a horrible experience (as I find with most gyms), but unless my day is packed from 6am until midnight, I find time to go for a walk. Even if it’s just a walk to a slightly further away train station or coffee shop. This is far easier to do on holiday than when travelling for work. I also always wear a fitbit so I can see how many steps I’ve walked, and I aim for 10,000 a day. On my Europe/US trip I walked between about 18,000 – 27,000 a day, with a couple of days over 30,000. That’s a lot of kilometres! No wonder my jeans were a bit looser when I came home! I’ve also been known to walk laps of an airport to get a bit of extra exercise in at the end of a work trip!
- Make walking your #1 mode of transport (this is where your walking shoes become the favourite item in your suitcase!) . This is really easy to in many cities (hello New York, San Francisco and Paris) and really hard in others (talking about you Los Angeles). In many places it is quicker to walk than to catch the bus or a train/metro/underground, especially if the distances between tourist attractions are short. Plus, you see a lot more when you walk. And get some amazing photo opportunities.
- I always have a snack in my handbag. Usually it’s a nut bar or a little zip lock baggie with nuts. This way when I’m starving I can eat it rather than buy junk food from a vending machine.
- If we are on a driving holiday I always take an esky so we can pack a lunch or some snacks so we don’t have to stop at a fast food place on the highway to eat. A couple of overseas holidays have included a driving component and I’ve even taken a soft esky with me on those holidays! They fold up small and really don’t take up much space or weight.
- I’m a sucker for hot chips so it’s really hard for me to avoid them on the plate when I go out. I also love burgers and pizza and a lot of what I eat when travelling includes those three foods. Especially when I’m in the US! Ordering a salad on the side isn’t really an option for me despite all my best intentions! If I know I’m going to be eating this for dinner then I’ll have a salad or something with loads of veggies for lunch. And if I have a big lunch with these foods, then I’ll eat a heap of veggies for dinner. I’ll also limit myself to only having them a couple of times a week, and choosing more wisely the other meals.
- Try and eat only one big meal a day (if that!). It’s really tempting on holiday to eat everything in sight, and to eat six times a day. Hello Austrian bakeries! Again, this is often easier to do on holidays than on a work trip if you are expected to either entertain or be entertained. This is also easier to do when you stay in a place with a kitchen.
- Choose to eat fresh food over processed food. This should go without saying, but depending on where you travel and the degree of control you have over the food you will be eating, this can be hard.
- Eat lots of veggies, and aim to include them in every meal. I’m not a cereal or toast for breakfast girl and it’s a rare breakfast that doesn’t include sautéed mushrooms or a few little cherry tomatoes.
- Don’t drink too much alcohol – I love a glass of wine with a meal, and weirdly, I always have a beer with lunch when I’m in the US. Weird because beer and my body are not great friends, and I drink about three beers a year at home! It’s a travel habit I should probably break. But then, beer does go well with that burger!!
- If you’re at a conference remind yourself that you really don’t need to eat one of every cake served at morning and afternoon tea.
- Get enough sleep and try and stick to your regular sleeping patterns. There is loads of research that says being sleep deprived can lead to weight gain AND make it harder to lose weight. And then there are all the other health problems that can arise from regular sleep deprivation (heart disease, heart attack, high blood pressure, stroke…). Again, this can be difficult with work travel – early in my career I was a conference organiser and was lucky to average four hours sleep a night when a conference was on.
- And finally, take an item of clothing that fits you perfectly – say a pair of jeans – and at least try them on every few days. If they start to feel tight, you may have a problem!
How do you fare when you travel? Do you find your clothes are all a bit tighter when you get home?
If you want to read about how I managed to have twelve weeks holiday over the last year and STILL run my business, head over to my consulting blog at melkettle.com.
Please note: This post has been submitted to the Virgin Australia competition for the ProBlogger Event, highlighting my Top Travel Tips.
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