Traveling is a great thing, but it does have its consequences, weight gain being first and most obvious. I’m like that person who is stuck on an all-you-can-eat inclusive cruise line, except there’s nary a boat or ocean in sight. The world is my culinary oyster and I want the all-in, shooter version. No messing around with me and my food.
Straight up, I’ll confess my desire to maintain my weight while traveling is all rooted in vanity and money. First, I want to wear what I’ve brought on the trip, which is hard to do if my thighs increase like Christmas sausage being stuffed in casings. Second, I want to spend my hard earned (or saved) money on frivolous things, like purses that are meant to bulge, unlike my bathing suit. So, from my shameless-yet-helpful self to you, here’s how I keep my weight within 5 pounds of my starting point.
How I eat tiramisu…with two spoons…don’t come near me or I will spoon you!
Eat breakfast, every day, without fail
I’ll confess. After high school, I stopped eating breakfast. It wasn’t until the weight started to pile on did I look back in wonder at those glory-days and connected the dots. Mom would rise early, make oatmeal, eggs or some variation thereof. I’d be stuffed until lunch, and even then, not that hungry. In my late twenties, I worked out in the same Oakland Gym as a Mr. Olympian runner-up, who trained folks from all walks of life. I couldn’t afford him, so I did what any smart girl does, I chatted him up. He put it this way:
“I’d be out of business if everyone did one thing without fail: eat breakfast. Eggs and oatmeal.” The other thing he said is: “Eat every two hours to keep your metabolism cranking.”
2 eggs (anyway you like), whole, not just whites (“Only hard core body builders who don’t want a lick of skin skip the yolks,” continued Mr. Runner Up. “It’s just not healthy.”
1 cup steel cut oatmeal. I add a dollop of butter and either honey or natural (grainy) brown sugar and a little milk (or whipping cream. Real women use cream).
On the egg
The yellow is the fatty part, which actually keeps you full. My doctor repeatedly says: “God, or nature, whichever you prefer, created the perfect food in the egg. Why would anyone want to strip away one part?” I never knew bodybuilders and doctors had so much in common, but I digress.
As for the oatmeal, the steel cut oats are coarser and I’m a texture girl, so this works for me. Also, I completely fail at any food plan when I strip away the good stuff in life such as milk, butter etc. So I use the age-old “moderation-in-all-things” approach to life. I am full, satisfied and don’t have a bit of craving.
I was actually pleased to read that Patrick Vellner, the “second fittest person on Earth,” has eggs and oatmeal as well for breakfast. Read more about his diet here. It’s not just us lowly Authors and Olympians!
Steel cut oats in the U.S. but variations of this exist everywhere overeas
No fail lunch routine
Is lunch the biggest meal of the day, or a pitstop on the way to the finish-line called dinner? I’ve vacillated back and forth on this philosophical quandary until my brain hurts. The reality for my family and traveling is this: we are seriously starved between 12-2 p.m., and invariably end up eating a really late, robust lunch. Then we have the afternoon activities.
The golden rule: Salad with protein, eating off the plates of others
I love starting a fuss, so let’s get right into it, shall we? Mom raised me right: “Do not lower yourself to eating off the plates of others.” Yeah, I abided by that until I had kids. My two girls are eating demons, because they devour everything in site and look for more, usually going for what’s left on my plate (because every well-mannered female eats and chews, to slow down the actual consumption size, thereby eating less, and losing weight, right? I think that’s right out of a 1960’s Miss Manners. Oops. I’ve digressed again.
The consequence of spawning two voracious rats is that they always order off the adult menu. That means three adult meals, giving me the opportunity to have my salad of choice and take a couple of bits of three other dishes (hence eating off plates). The financial hawk in me loves the $20 I’ve just saved as well, and the others barely notice my fork dipping into their food as their culinary fever takes hold.
This is sort of the forgotten meal when we travel because my body chemistry is unlike my husband or girls. Whereas they sleep better on a full stomach, I’m the inverse. I sleep terribly after a heavy dinner. Sugar throws me to the ceiling, bread just makes me bloaty (so attractive the next day) and water…well, let’s just say I like to sleep through the night.
What do I do? If we go out for dinner or make something, I stick to whole foods, but I’m not militant about raw or cooked. A raw food, for those who have no clue what that means, is simply defined as a food product in its essence, without being changed around by the cooking process. All fruits and vegetables, streamed, broiled, baked cooked or raw, all count. My husband will look at me and say “I feel so bad for you,” to which I retort “why? I have an entire world of food to choose from and be happy.”
The details…what to eat and avoid
My doctor has always said this: “Red is worst, white is better, fish is best and pure vegetarian is perfection.” Well, clearly, God knew that I wasn’t gonna reach perfection in any form, so I tend to bop between the three. Still, here are few things I’ve learned.
Meat and headaches
Now, far be it from me to gross you out, but I subscribe to the idea that knowledge is power, and when it comes to my body, and specifically, why I was getting headaches I had to get knowledgeable. I realized that I was getting migraines about 15 minutes after eating. Through the process of elimination, I realized the culprit was meat. Yet the type and severity was inconsistent. Through more trial and error (and lots of journaling) I sorted through meat types (red, white, fish etc) and organic vs farm raised vs fresh for all the above.
Eating boar…as in the pig…in Lichtenstein….no headache issues there!
Guess what? Any meat, regardless of color, with fins or legs, that was inorganic, was triggering migraines. It was then that I learned about the US processing requirements and usage of…get ready for it, chlorine washes for chicken, ammonia for meat processing, carbon monoxide to keep the color of the meat an even red (because really, would you want to eat a steak with uneven coloring?) were all contributing to the issue. Read more in this article from a reporter who covers the food processing industry, and this doesn’t even get into all the nitrates that are used in the US. More on nitrateshere.
U.S. versus Europe
When traveling (and living) in the U.S., I avoid eating meat at any restaurant because I hate to hurt. Contrast with Europe. Due to their wonderfully militant stance on anything mutated or chemically processed, I can pretty much eat any thing I want without so much as a twinkle of pain. It’s divine. But that doesn’t mean I won’t gain weight or spend a crazy amount of money on food. As such, I apply my lunch rules, with a slight modification. I will have protein on my salad, fish or any kind of meat that’s local.
Oh! and the chocolate. Don’t get me started. I can barely eat any chocolate made in the U.S., but I’m in heaven overseas because it lacks all the bad stuff that’s filling up our stores here. Translation: I can literally eat 2 huge chocolate bars of any kind–Swiss, Belgian, Czech- you name it- and a) I don’t get headaches and b) I don’t gain weight!!! I kid you not. It’s unreal.
What to avoid
Soups. Soups usually have a lot of salt. If you want your face and body thin the next day, avoid the soups unless the server can guarantee the chef isn’t using a salt-laden bullion base.
Breads. What’s the point of working out and crunching sit-ups if you look like a four-five month pregnant woman the next day (regardless of your gender)? The note here is the same with chocolate. I can eat breads galor in Europe without headaches or bloating, but not in the U.S.
Note: Breads turn into simple carbs, which means sugar. Often, a woman will get a UTI on a trip and wail “but I haven’t been eating lots of sugar.” When I ask about break, she’d admit that yes, lots of breads, pastries and the like. Think of that as poison to the system, and running to the bathroom in pain is not what anyone wants or needs on a trip.
Tip: If you do get a bladder infection and don’t have access to a natural remedy, prescription or doctor, do two things. Drop the sugar in all forms immediately (breads, alcohol and deserts). Get a couple of lemons and use half, or a whole, in 8 oz of water. Drink as much as you can…16 oz, 32 oz with as much lemon as you have or can stand. It will push the evil out of urinary tract and out of your system. This simple, home remedy has saved my little self on many occasions.
Overload of dairy. Puffy face and bloaty belly. Two things that should not be in the same sentence, or on your body. I read a piece on the actress Eva Longoria a year before she actually was pregnant, the magazine proclaiming her bulging belly was the result of becoming pregnant by her new husband. She laughed and said “No! I just ate a lot of cheese the night before.” You and I may not be globally famous, but that doesn’t mean we want to be bloated in all the wrong places.
Absolute Must do: Flush that body
Drink water. Lots and lots of water. This doesn’t mean you risk your sodium levels collapsing, but you seriously need to have a gallon a day. It will wash out and wash away a lot of culinary evils. Plus, if you are downing lots of sugar, either by sodas, alcohol or desert, it will lower the risk of you getting a bladder infection, which is most often triggered by too much sugar in the system.
The mother-of-all aids: Sleep
How many times do we need to read that 8 hours of sleep is critical for metabolism and weight loss or maintenance? The only thing I will add is that in my experience, it’s not only the length of sleep. When I got to bed is at least as critical is the length of sleep. For example, when I sleep from midnight to 8 a.m. I’m groggy and feel terrible. When I get to bed 10 p.m. or early, I wake up and feel energic, happy and full of life. For most of the week, 6 our of 7 days, that’s what I do. Yeah, I might have a late Saturday night here and there, but I value productivity and joy; without getting to bed at a good time, I’m not either of those, which makes for a less than happy homelife. It’s exacerbated when traveling.
Note on the cover photo: that was shot at a convenience store in Prague, Czech Republic. Entire rows of chocolate….bliss.