Traveling, while mostly supposed to be fun, still seems to bring out a lot of anxiety in people. Especially in people who have a tendency to stress about food or have a history of yo-yo dieting and restricting/binging. So with the Holiday season upon us, which means a heavy travel season as well, I’d like to share some thoughts and tips on the whole “staying on track” (AKA not coming home hating yourself for the way you ate) while traveling thing. First and foremost, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this is something I’m sure EVERYONE struggles with on some level. And if they don’t, they are weird and I’m not worried about them 🙂
For me, I have come to realize that the biggest component to my struggles on the road is the lack of routine and schedules. I am the type of person that likes structure. I like routines and bottom line, I like being in control (yes, this is something I am working on) 😉 It used to bring me crazy amounts of anxiety (and sometimes still does if I’m not careful) when my food options and times for eating are dependent upon other people’s plans. So over the last couple of years, I’ve put together some strategies and tips that help me that I’m going to share with you today.
- Bring healthy snacks with you that you know can hold you over if you’re being somehow forced to wait to eat when you are truly hungry (this mostly happens with work trips) but could also be the product of adjusting to traveling with a group. Some ideas of snacks I usually bring are Kind bars, Quest bars, 100 calorie almond packs, jerky, shelf stable almond milk, baggies of protein powder, oatmeal packets (since there is always hot water for tea available) trail mix and apples. The key here is to be prepared for any deviances in your days and to prevent any binges as a result of being over hungry at meal time.
- Come prepared with workouts (written out or found online) that can be done without equipment in half hour or less. This will allow you to fit SOME sort of physical activity into your day with or without access to a gym or hiking trail or a huge chunk of time to dedicate to it. Another thing to consider – I also pack a set of resistance bands to bring with me to use in my hotel room or in the absence of weights. They are lightweight and easy to fit in a suitcase! I have also been known to find the stairwell and use them for cardio 🙂 The point here is not to stress about working out, but to be prepared with ways you can create some movement into your trip, especially those leisurely trips where you spend 90% of your time sitting around drinking pina coladas 😉 Movement is a great way to relax and to re-align your mind with your body in stressful situations.
- Hold out for something that REALLY, truly looks amazing and will be worth it when it comes to treat foods. For pleasure travel and work travel alike, it seems like an abundant amount of delicious and decadent food seems to always be readily available. This doesn’t have to be a point of stress. You can pick and choose the foods you’d like to eat and still feel good in your body! To illustrate this point, I’ll give an example from my work travel trips. Lack of sleep, which is usually the result of long workdays, early crew calls in the morning and my weird issue of not being able to sleep well in hotels causes the body to crave carbohydrates for fuel and increases sweet cravings. When I’m on the road, this is then made 598x harder to take control of due to the fact that every meal or snack served to “the crew” is accompanied by an entire table filled with cakes, cookies, brownies, pies, etc. One thing I’ve learned is that if I say no to all of those treats at every single meal – I will binge later. Whether it’s in my hotel room by myself, or me then eating 5 cookies on 3rd day in because I had been “depriving” myself the things that looked good to me all week long, it’s going to happen.
This is where this tip comes in. I have learned to hold out for something that REALLY, truly looks amazing and will be worth it to me. I’ve learned to be OK saying no to a cookie if it really doesn’t look that good or if I’m full. It’s knowing and believing that I can and will allow myself to eat all of these different types of treats that are available any time I truly crave them (on this trip or not). And when that power is taken away from the food, I can then decide what that special treat is that IS worth it and when I want to eat it. When that time comes on my trip, I put it on a plate, sit down with it, and MINDFULLY eat it while paying attention for that bite that no longer tastes as good as the first few did. By being in the moment while I eat it (not while running across the ballroom floor, checking emails or talking on the phone) I am giving my body a chance to realize it has eaten it so that it won’t feel deprived 3 minutes after consuming the treat. We mostly struggle here because of our past “food rules” and diet mentality. It’s trying to get us to fall back into the diet cycle of binging and restricting, but ultimately WE have the power and final decision. Once you believe that, the stress you feel surrounding indulgent food will disappear
- Focus on self care even more than you do at home. If it’s a fun trip – then, heck! That’s the whole point isn’t it?? This is a perfect excuse to really tune into yourself and ask what you need to be refreshed and refueled when you return home and then DO IT! Spend an extra hour in bed, carve out a space to read your favorite book, take a long hot bath in the middle of the afternoon, cook your favorite meal, whatever sounds good and relaxing to YOU in that moment. And if it’s a work trip, it’s even more important now than it is at home. With all the craziness that work travel can throw your way, self care is a powerful tool that helps you fight the sugar cravings and general tendency to make poorer food decisions than you normally would that often come along with those grueling travel schedules. Now self care will look different on the road than at home, but a few ideas of ways I look to incorporate it when I travel are: Intentionally setting aside time for journaling in the morning and/or evening, intentional bible time and/or prayer daily, allowing myself to find a quiet place to decompress for a few minutes during the “heat of the work day”, by consciously choosing foods that will nourish my body (not my emotional and mental states of that moment), by taking the time to text a friend or my husband when I need a mental break or some personal connection, by practicing mindful breathing in stressful times.
Basically, traveling poses a variety of challenges when it comes to physical and mental balance. I have had more than a few trips where I have completely lost control and was not able to handle my emotions, stress levels OR feelings and have come home feeling defeated, puffy, gross and depressed. I think that the more you know about your body, the more you try to slow down and the more tools you have in your belt – the better! It’s always good to remind yourself that you are learning. If you overeat or overindulge one day, don’t panic. Make a pact with yourself to ditch guilt and shame self-talk and replace it with encouragement and reminders of the journey you are on and what you are learning about yourself. There is no such thing as perfect when it comes to Intuitive Eating and finding balance. There is only growth and learning experiences. I would LOVE to hear from you guys about this. What is your biggest struggle with travel (work or fun) and what “tools” do you have that work for you?