My two absolute favorite pastimes when I travel are eating well and not working out. Historically I’ve been able to indulge in both pastimes, as my metabolism has always been quick and I’ve never traveled with the expectation that I ought to return home in better shape than when I left.
In recent years, however, my metabolism has slowed, which means that if I want to eat my destination’s rich treats and return home in the same shape as when I left, something has to change. And since I don’t want that something to be that I need to hit the gym during or after my trip, I sought out some expert tips for maintaining my weight on the road.
Have a booze strategy.
“The key to drinking alcohol is to make the right choices,” says author and former flight attendant Beth Blair, who serves as the Weight Loss Diary columnist for Shape magazine. She notes that “a light beer with a lime – around 100 calories – is a fraction of the calories of a margarita, normally a minimum of 550 calories,” adding that “drinking a glass of water in between cocktails can also slow down your alcohol consumption.” And, “by drinking water throughout the day rather than soda or other drinks,” says travel writer Megy Karydes, founder of Wandering Tastes, “you can indulge in some great cocktails in the evening without worrying about additional calories consumed.”
Another way to moderate your booze intake is to “stay away from happy hour specials designed to encourage you to go overboard,” says nutritionist and registered dietitian Monika Woolsey, chief design officer at Hip Veggies. “Keep your drinks with dinner when you're less likely to drink too much,” Woolsey says. She also cautions, “remember that overindulging in alcohol encourages overeating.”
Be mindful of when and how much you eat.
Karydes suggests keeping a portion size guide in your wallet to “give you a visual of how much food is considered one portion. For example, your cereal in the morning shouldn't be more than the size of a baseball. One serving of french fries is 10 fries,” but “if you really want to finish a plate of french fries at one meal, know that your next meal should be a bit smaller or the appropriate size so you’re not going overboard with every meal,” she says.
However, Woolsey urges, “don't skimp on early meals to save calories for a big dinner. Eat regular meals, so you're not starving when the rich food shows up.” Not to mention, a high-protein breakfast “will help keep your blood sugar and energy levels stable, and leave you less susceptible to other temptations later on.”
Don’t eat it just because it’s there.
Avoid “eating when you’re not hungry,” observes Blair, as well as “overdoing the hotel buffet. It’s okay not to try everything offered.” Adds Woolsey, “stay away from the habit of eating in flight simply because you're sitting there. If it's not a meal time that you would eat on the ground, don't buy a snack or meal just for something to do.” Also, pack your own healthy snacks, Karydes says, so that “you’re not starving when the food cart comes around” with its often unhealthy choices.
"If you’re walking the city," says Karydes, "walk with a faster gait for some of the blocks in order to increase your heart rate.” Also, Woolsey says, “don't load yourself down with things to carry. Decide if your walk is about shopping or sightseeing. If you see something you'd like to buy, if possible, note where it is and come back later.”