Because added weight isn’t the souvenir you had in mind, right?
Quick backstory: I was a chunky monkey from infancy into my adult years. And family members – who were rail-thin – never let me forget it.
One Christmas, a relative spotted me in my – I thought – beautiful, new scarlet robe and told me that I looked like Santa Claus.
Let’s unpack: Eating Well on the Road Part 1:
Happily, life today is a little better for our curvy friends. The modern world has given us Christina Aguilera singing Beautiful and Lady Gaga rocking Born this Way.
But I digress, let’s talk keeping weight off while traveling starting with one caveat: this is not a how-to for extinguishing food-lust. I know well the grip food can have on our lives. If that’s what you’re grappling with search online: “Brooke Castillo” and “urges” for her amazing podcast on overcoming overeating.
Once I figured out how to stop stuffing myself like it was Thanksgiving every day of the year I lost the weight. (I didn’t merely stop stuffing myself — I used several systems simultaneously — but learning that I didn’t need to eat myself into a stomach ache was huge for me.)
As I was losing, my main focus was on training myself to eat well and in reasonable portions. Eventually my brain began to see food as fuel. I gave my brain new thoughts to think like:
- Books are my dessert.
- I call eating well “my hobby.”
- Beautiful clothes and inexpensive jewelry are my motivation.
- Plateaus are merely a body adjusting to it’s new weight.
- Food is fuel. Period.
- My “forever normal” is eating clean.
So today’s post isn’t about how I took off the pounds in the first place, but is about how I keep the pounds off when I’m involved in a somewhat out-of-control activity like travel.
Because losing weight and keeping weight off are two separate skill sets.
This post won’t address the emotional reasons that we overeat — trauma, depression, rage and so forth — but will go into how I control my eating-environment when I’m on the road. (Which is where I find myself often as a family travel writer. I had to get smart about eating while traveling or I’d gain back every ounce.)
Upgrade Your New Life
Watching Big Hero Six with my son one day, he tells his pals, “We have to upgrade ourselves” (to be super heroes). I knew then and there that — if I’m going to realize my healthy body dream — I had to upgrade me. I had to become stronger, more highly-skilled, a newer version of me.
Every word that follows is how I worked — and work to this day — to upgrade myself when traveling life’s highway.
I Am Beautiful!
Ignore me at your own peril, but the more you say, “I’m such a slob!” the super computer sitting behind your eyes says, “Really? Okay, boss you’re a slob!”
See my point? You need to identify as a thin person who makes smart choices around food. Instead say to yourself, “I’m becoming a person who eats for fuel, not for emotional reasons. I’m a new version of me and this new version is slowly but surely putting food in it’s place.”
- Then, you know those scraggly fingernails? Upgrade them and keep them upgraded.
- You know how you stop shaving in the winter? Shave!
- You know how you wear old undies with holes? Trash them and buy beautiful lingerie.
Think this strategy belongs to me? Nope, read more about it in Atomic Habits by James Clear. Clear brings awesome clarity to how upgrading one part of our lives ripples into other areas. (However, it can go both ways, so be sure your ripples are going in a positive direction.)
My Three Danger Zones
To upgrade any area of my life I start by identifying the most challenging zones: boredom, mean people, and being famished.
Figuring out your danger zones is an important part of the weight loss puzzle. Writing, writing, and more writing will deliver the answers you’re looking for. Ask your brain: when am I the best at eating well on the road? How can I eat for fuel and not for emotions while traveling? What are the most challenging times for me with food?
Bored. . .zzzzzzz
I don’t care what the travel world says, travel is layered in boring moments. If I’m taking a road trip, I’m looking at three to nine hours of car-boredom.
Flying? Hours of airport- and plane-boredom.
Sitting all day on a beach? Gorgeous-boredom, for sure, but beach-boredom all the same. I still want to inhale millions of crunchy, salty carbs while watching the waves roll in.
To slay the boredom-eating dragon, I whip up a detailed plan for surviving the road trip without eating everything on the road.
First I found an adorable lunch tote that I ♥♥♥. Before heading out, I fill my little friend with everything I plan to eat that day in the car. I pack baby carrots, apples with peanut butter and so forth.
My goal – over the road trip — is to eat only out of my pretty tote. Once my tote is empty, I’m done eating in the car. Having a plan – and keeping relatively full – helps me avoid the bazillion junk food danger zones along the way.
Tea goes into my travel mug with its lovely saying — that I earned — and that visually reminds me to stay on track.
Next I pack an anti-boredom bag for myself that includes my iPod (loaded with podcasts), a book or two, and magazines. (Have you read Pachinko or Free Food for Millionaires? Both are by Min Jin Lee and are five-star, out of this world awesome. )
For plane-, train- and beach-boredom, I do the same.
Once at the destination, I tend to experience a bit of “new space” anxiety. So, I’ve developed a habit of how to manage hotel-eating when we first arrive. I tidy the room, make coffee, maybe even grab a bath. (And my back loves it when I ride a bike in the fitness room.)
Through the years I’ve heard people say, “That’s silly. Her plan is too much work!!”
Here’s the deal: Keeping weight off – for decades — is work. People who lose a lot of weight and later say, “I never even think about food anymore” are lying. 🙂
But I’m Starving!!
Solutions for trip-eating along the way that I use are:
I keep healthy food in my purse and never allow myself to get super hungry. Turn me upside down and shake hard and a Cliff bar, a banana or an apple will fall out.
The Magic of Writing
I’ll say it again: plan your danger zones in advance and write them down in a special journal or make notes like I do in a laptop, but write about your challenges and how you plan to side step them daily.
Do not say to yourself: Oh, I’ll noodle through the danger zones and come up with a work-around in my mind.
For some reason, the magic only happens when you write down — in detail – your plan for steering around poor eating. Write about how you’ll deal with boredom, how you’ll avoid becoming overly hungry, how you’ll wear headphones when the kids are driving you nuts in the car and so forth.
When Life Hurts
This last event doesn’t ruin my eating goals as often as it once did, but when someone I love is super angry and throwing their anger at me (cough, cough teenagers) or someone is in danger (our dog had a bleeding ulcer once while we were away, I tend to head for the rocky road ice cream.
Over the years, I’ve learned to talk myself through these difficult moments.
- I tell myself that plowing through food and gaining weight won’t help my poor dog (who turned out beautifully), but will give me a terrible stomach ache.
- I then suggest to myself idea for a relatively healthy food-fix like a bowl of my favorite cereal with almond milk, nuts chopped up in yogurt, or carrots dipped in hummus.
- Or I suggest binging a fun show while with a bowl of grapes and my favorite tea.
And that takes us to the end of Eating Well on the Road Part 1.
The real magic wand that you’re searching for is in upgrading yourself. You’ll still be you, but you’ll have an entirely new relationship with food.
Stay tuned for Eating Well on the Road Part 2!