As you will know from the recent feast of great guest posts on Body Incredible, I’m currently living it up for 6 weeks in the US and Canada. We’d been planning this trip for a couple of years, and given that I’d never been to this part of the world before I was supremely excited. But also a little nervous. After all, everyone knows that it’s impossible to go to the States without gaining weight. Right? With out of control portion sizes at even the healthier eating places, and breakfast staples such as potatoes for heavens sake, you basically don’t stand a chance. My friends who’d previously visited this part of the world solemnly informed me that I had no choice. After 6 weeks, I would absolutely be coming back fatter. (Thanks for the faith guys – except you Pete :))
Well. You may have heard of a little thing called determination, and – despite the fact that I typically gain about 1kg for every week on holidays – when it comes to my keeping off the baby weight I worked so damn hard to lose, I have buckets of the stuff. I didn’t work my butt off (in more ways than one, obviously) all year only to gain it back again in 6 weeks. And yeah, I know somebody is sure to comment right about now on how I’m “on holidays and should relax”, but here’s the thing. And maybe this is just a peculiarity of my obsessive personality. You see, I feel my most relaxed, my most happiest, and certainly my most confident, when I’m in control. Yup, I’m a control freak. And to me, being in control means looking and feeling a certain way. It’s part of how I define myself, it’s important for my job, and, well, let’s face it, I could come up with a whole string of justifications but I think you get the idea.
Anyway. Back to my pre-US-holiday nerves. My roughly formed plan before leaving had been to live on a diet of fish oil and BCAA supplements, coupled with some quality protein powder, and then eat whatever I want for dinner. I know myself well enough to know that if I start indulging at the breakfast buffet it’s all downhill from there. Fortunately, however, I’ve found that it is a little easier than I thought it would be to eat well. It just takes a little planning, and some basic common sense.
If travel is on your agenda, or if you live somewhere where it’s more common to stuff your body with junk than not, these tips might help you. They’ve definitely saved my butt from bouncing back to its preggie-shaped alter-ego these past few weeks!
staying healthy while traveling – the rules
1. Portion control is out of control in many parts of the world. The US certainly is known for it, but I know many restaurants back home typically go for quantity over quality, and it’s almost what we’ve come to expect. Don’t kid yourself that you’ll resist, simply remove temptation in the first place. Order entree sizes, or split a main and a salad with someone else.
2. Bread is a killer. There’s almost no food I love more than warm fresh bread with butter. While this is harmless once a week or so, if it’s one big-ass piece a day, it really does start to add up. And let’s be honest, If it’s one piece, it’s probably two. Several times a day. Isn’t it? Which is the real problem. So keep things simple, and don’t go there. Choose healthy appetisers such as fresh salad, a bowl of olives, some pickled veg or seafood, or just a big glass of mineral water.
3. The longer you can hold out, the better you’ll be able to mitigate full dietary disaster. This might just be me, but if I start eating crap first thing in the morning (even a few mouthfuls), I basically just keep eating little treats and nibbles all day long. Those little bites of sugary rubbish (usually), or starchy processed grains, sure can add up into an extra lump of lard on your booty after a week or more.
4. Do your research. If staying healthy is truly important to you, you’ll make an effort to find healthy food. I’ve visited some great Wholefoods organic stores here, which were certainly not on the tourist trail but an important time investment nonetheless. There is always a healthy option if you’re only willing to look for it.
5. Be smart about dressings. Chicken salad can sound fairly innocuous, and certainly should be. But if you’re drinking half a cup of oily slop with each of your so-called healthy meals then you know you’re kidding yourself. Dressing on the side, or not at all please!
6. Enjoy a few bevvies – but make it antioxidant-boosting wine. A cocktail here and there is fine, but nightly spirits with soda? Not so good.
7. Save the indulgence for dessert! I don’t mean every night. And this is probably just down to personal preference, but I like to eat very clean throughout the day, steer clear of heavy (or any) grains with dinner, and then enjoy an occasional yummy dessert. That’s something I really do love, whereas grain-based or starchy foods, or sugary treats through the day tend to be something I feel like I want at the time but then right away feel crappy afterwards.
Those are my top tips – otherwise known as ‘what I’ve learned about staying in control on this trip!’ Do you have anything to add?