Lose Weight and Be Healthy Even While Traveling
As a Weight Liberator, I am often asked, Dr. Umfer, “how do I stay fit and eat healthy while traveling?” Great question, because it is hard. You aren’t sleeping in your comfy bed, or you might have jet lag. Your routine is basically thrown off. If you want to continue losing weight you will have to plan ahead and put forth some effort and energy. You will also need to be prepared just to maintain. Whenever we travel our bodies are out of whack, and hormones follow suit. Guess what happens next, our metabolism gets jacked up. It is worse for people who have problems sleeping. There has been much talk about sleep increasing the stress hormone cortisol. When cortisol is elevated people tend to over eat. It is the overeating that causes weight gain, not the cortisol itself. So here are some tips to travel healthily.
Speaking of sleep, get enough. There are herbs such as Valerian, Kava Kava, Chamomile and Melatonin that help people sleep. There are medications as well. You and your physician have to determine what is best for you. It is always best to sleep naturally, but it is better to sleep with some help than to not get enough sleep at all. Natural tips for sleep include the following, but are general, as some people can drink caffeine all day long and sleep through the night, so do what works for YOU. Generalized tips include: Don’t drink caffeine past noon if you plan to be asleep by 10 or 11 at night. Get exercise. Don’t eat a heavy meal too close to bed time. Don’t drink alcohol. Again everyone is different. Some people are perfectly healthy and sleep great after a glass of wine, others not so much. Don’t watch TV before bed. Or if you have anticipatory anxiety (where you worry excessively about not being able to fall asleep that you actually keep yourself awake) then watch TV until you fall asleep. You likely have anticipatory sleep anxiety if you notoriously fall asleep right before the ending of a show. If this is you, tell yourself often that you have gone without sleep before and will survive and vow to make adjustments, and actually do it. Don’t do excessive exercise two to three hours before bed, as it tends to wake people up. Some calming exercise like qigong may help you sleep. Again these tips will vary for each individual. If you experience mind racing while trying to sleep, “what do I have to do, oh crap I forgot this and I have to do this and remember when…” You have to stop these thoughts asap before your adrenaline kicks in and you’re up for 2-3 hours. Tell yourself whatever you have to in order to stop thinking, and redirect your brain when it wanders off. This is actually a mindfulness technique that is used in meditation. I tell myself to shut up and sleep, and eventually I get on my own nerves and drift off. So these are some of the basics in terms of sleep hygiene. Now what about exercise?
If there is a GYM in your hotel use it. Set your wake up call and get in the GYM. If you are somewhere where you will be walking a lot, wear a pedometer to track how much you are walking. You might not need much more than that. If it is more than three to four days, I would recommend adding some strength training, but it depends on your health and fitness goals. You can get resistance bands that take up little space in your suit case. For ladies that want to pack shoes instead, fear not; simply use two water bottles or even glasses to do some light resistance training. If you have a laptop, netbook or tablet, put exercise videos on it and exercise to that. This is especially important for business travelers who might not have a GYM or might be keeping odd hours. What I have done is put every exercise DVD into iTunes via cucosoft software, the best 40-50 bucks I have ever spent (it also allows you to recover iTunes if you haven’t backed up iTunes, but have your information on your iPod, I know oops). I’m sure people will have other solutions for this as well. While traveling I am able to do cardio, strength training, qigong etc. Another tip is to take the stairs instead of the elevator if you are able to. Move as much as you can. Now what about food?
The reality is that unless you prepare your own food and calculate the calories, carbs, protein and fat you can’t know with enough certainty what you are consuming. Even measuring with a scale we will be off a bit, but it is what we must do. Before you arrive at your destination, be sure to have done an internet search of nearby restaurants, including what is served in your hotel. If you will be eating at places at random, use your smart phone to look up calories in dishes served. Don’t be afraid to ask for modifications. Most chefs put all kinds of fat, oils and toxins like MSG in our food to keep costs low and make the food taste good. I’m not impressed by that. A good chef makes food taste awesome while making it healthy=low fat and low calorie. Not low carb. Get over that already. Just eat Earthy and you never have to worry about carbs. So tell the server what you want. One dish that is always safe is what I have called the Umfer salad. It is a chicken ceaser salad with tomatoes, no dressing and olive oil on the side as the dressing. It is a healthy well balanced low calorie and good low fat meal. Olive oil is the best oil for your health, skin, hair etc. I could blog just about that. So substitute away. The most important thing is that you make the calories count. Make sure you are getting good nutrition, and that the food tastes good. One of the most aggravating things for me is to eat somewhere, maybe a friend or colleague chose the place, and you load up on calories, and the food sucked. Make the calories worth it. If I’m in a restaurant that is too foreign to me, I get my tried and true item that most chefs can pull off, a bacon cheese burger. I know, so not diet food. However; if you just eat the meat or half of the bun and substitute fries for vegetables, as long as it isn’t a huge burger, it’s not too bad. Just keep the mayo off. If you do have that burger, have lighter meals the rest of the day or the next day if you think it was too much.
Another option is to use portion control and not focus on calories. Again, this is going to be an individual thing. Some people are bad at portions and some bad at counting calories. Many restaurants serve huge portions of pasta, yet they skim on the lettuce. I actually told a chef once, “look lettuce is a free food, almost no calories, so load me up with that, not the other stuff.” He came out with more lettuce and tomatoes J but the reality is that pasta can be bought cheap and in bulk, and produce, not so much, but who cares. Your health is more important. Pay an extra dollar or two if you must to substitute. Another thing to watch is alcohol. The calories can add up quick. Look up the calorie content before ordering. Beer has wheat, which causes inflammation, is usually high in bad carbs and causes bloating. You also have to drink more of it if you are looking for a mood altering reaction. Light beers have fewer calories, but also less alcohol content. Lighter hard liquors are generally lower in calories. Margaritas and pina coladas are as many calories as lunch, 400+. If you want it that bad, be sure it is the best drink ever, cut calories elsewhere and exercise. Alcohol also lowers inhibitions, and we are more likely to eat impulsively and give in to that voice of irrational reasons to go ahead and eat whatever we want. Wait until you have some of your actual meal before drinking alcohol. Don’t touch the bread, unless you budgeted calories for it. Bread is cheap and aside from carbs, which we need, it doesn’t have enough nutrients to justify it, so make the restaurant give you real food. Or do what the Italians do, and use a piece to soak up the olive oil or sauce in your meal. Sauces and creams tend to be high in calories and high in fat, and to be loaded with MSG, so be careful. So when your serve says would you like more bread or chips, say no thank you. If your company says yes, tell yourself that they can do what they want and remind yourself of your health goal for the trip. Ideally you would say not to bring any bread, but social norms might overrule you.
You might be thinking, great tips, I got this, or shit I’m never eating out again. It is manageable, and you can enjoy your food, but try to enjoy the company of the people you are with more, because that is what really matters. You can also bring organic protein bars and snacks with you to balance your calories. If you can, you can also hit a grocery store or quick stop for some healthy snacks and water, which will allows you to not only eat better, but save money as well. When I went to New Orleans a few months ago, I took my Berkey travel water bottle which has a charcoal filter inside. Everywhere I went they filled it up for me, so I did not have to spend 200 bucks on bottled water that is not even controlled and could have whatever in it. And, yes I took it as a carry on while flying. You must stay hydrated always, especially while traveling.
I could go on and on, but basically you have to think ahead, prepare, be flexible and put in effort to stay healthy while traveling. With so many options and knowledge available, there is really no excuse to not maintain your health goals while traveling, except for the excuses, rationalizations and other cognitive distortions you might use to allow yourself to get off track. Happy Travels.