Traveling for work may sound sexy at first with corporate dinners, frequent flyer miles, happy hours and the excitement of client visits or urban full service hotels. But it’s often fraught with long travel delays, grueling hours, too much dining out, and most of all havoc to managing your weight, your sleep, and your gut health. Yes, travel affects all these aspects and can eventually lead to faster aging, less mobility, and a host of health related challenges – heartburn, chronic inflammation, IBS, eczema, insomnia, hormonal imbalances and more.
Are you sure you want to travel for work? Well sometimes we don’t have a choice. Here’s 8 tips to combat the effects of Road Warrior eating challenges. Although there’s so much to tackle in regards to sleep and exercise, this blog will just focus on the dietary aspect. Need help in the other areas – contact me.
- Run offensive with Clean Eating: This means eating “clean”, freshly made foods, in their original form with little to no additives – whenever possible. Clean foods don’t require a box, plastic container or some snazzy transportable package. Of course there are exceptions – i.e. yogurt, bag of plain almonds etc. A way to weed through the exceptions are by following the 5 ingredient rule. If the item contains more than roughly 5 ingredients OR you can’t pronounce or recognize the ingredients, then reconsider eating. Clean eating isn’t as much as an issue with fine dining, but keep in mind to choose items that have the least amount of sauces as who knows the restaurant’s ingredients and whether using canned or processed sauces.
- BE PREPARED Part 1 Bring supplies: So one of my clients has a bag of bars. We discussed which were best for him – high protein, low sugar, few ingredients/all natural. I love KIND and 88 Acres as they are either nut protein based or provide a low sugar snack within reason for cost. I love some others, but honestly, they do get pricey. If you can, there are GoMacro Bars that are vegan and GMO free. Other than bars, there’s a list of things to bring such as hard boiled eggs, veggies (carrots, peppers, jicama) and hummus, almond butter or even coconut butter packets, unsalted mixed nuts, nitrate free beef or bison jerky, raw milk and/or full fat cheese, roasted chickpeas, and even cans of water packed salmon. Some of these may seem a stretch, but try for at least the first day of travel to kick-start your trip.
- BE PREPARED Part 2 Research: The night before you leave or on a brain break at work or maybe while waiting for your flight at the airport, conduct a quick search of your destination’s foodscape including restaurants and hotel dining options. See if a Wholefoods is accessible or find the location of the nearest grocery store. For corporate dinners, review the menu in advance and select a meal that meets your wellness needs versus choosing when under social duress or low blood sugar. Good food is hard to find with temptation everywhere. Combat temptation with thoughtful preparation either through your own food or making decisions before the critical moment when temptations override. This will keep you convicted to stay on track.
- Time management: Some people manage their time better when on the road with less home life distractions. However, there are also a lot more distracting temptations – happy hours, long work dinners, hot cookies at check in, poor workout conditions, long stretches of sitting and family time check-ins that can impact sleep and poor nutritional intake. Set a realistic intention and stick with it such as exercise for 30 minutes one morning and sleep in the next. Don’t set yourself up for failure with overly ambitious goals.
- Wise Choices: Think before you eat. Literally. Before choosing off the menu, think to yourself what does my body need today? What will energize, nourish and replenish it. Did you have a vegetable rich salad? Did you refuel with enough protein? Having some basic knowledge about what foods fuel you up without weighing you down will keep your weight in check, your energy levels high, and your cravings at bay. Forget the latest fad diet or what the cover of the checkout magazine says – learn your body. Wise choices will inhibit poor caloric intake, skipping meals and thus binge eating later. Need help deciphering your body – contact me!
- Convicted and Committed: What motivates you? What keeps you committed? Find out and stick with it. Is it putting on tight clothing for dinner? Is it laying your workout clothes on the bed to encourage an early rise versus that additional glass of wine? Remember your goal and that sustainable goals are reached with long term commitment and consistency. Show up to your wellness plan every day and you will have success. What tips ensure you stay committed – post it notes on bathroom mirrors? A drawer stocked with low sugar, high protein bars? Tighter clothes? A good bar of dark chocolate in your room versus that oversized restaurant dessert? Networking and socializing are the strongest deterrents from our diets. Leave time for indulging so you won’t feel denied with checks in place to ensure you survive.
- Routine amidst the chaos: The downside to work travel is that it interferes with the home life routine. So plan for the unexpected. Create a routine at home that you can easily jump back into. Have workout clothes and an extra pair of shoes specifically for travel. Have a list of travel snack staples that you restock upon your return. If regularly traveling to the same location, spend the first trip acclimating to the area. Find the nearest grocery stores, get to know the staff so they can meet your needs and practice steps two and three from above. Have rules of conduct meaning when at home eat as clean as possible with home cooked meals and aim for 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night.
- Food Deserts: Is good food inaccessible? Sometimes it’s about making do with what you have. Do you like sushi but fear it won’t fill you up within your per diem? Remember quality over quantity and that you can supplement with other items – miso soup, protein bar, yogurt as a snack. Rural areas pose the most difficult in food accessibility. If that’s the case, try to bring your kitchen sink salad from home for the first day on the road. Focus on high quality snacks – nuts, high fiber fruits, and even protein bars to get you through the days. Keep your blood sugar level to ensure you don’t crash and binge later.
Need more help implementing long term solutions or maybe you know what choices to make, but you aren’t making them. The latter is sometimes more important than the former. Contact me about coaching sessions that will help you manage working on the road without sabotaging your wellness goals.