Healthy Travel Survival Guide

Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.
— Hippocrates

Let's face it - nobody wants to go on a business trip or a vacation and come home feeling like Moby Dick.  Staying healthy while traveling can be such a challenge!  When I was hired at my current organization, I was actually told (during my first interview), "You're going to gain 20lbs with this job."  I took that as a challenge - to prove them wrong that it IS possible to stay healthy and travel.  It takes a lot of dedication and preparation, but a vacation or a business trip is not an excuse or a reason to change your lifestyle.  Remember - there really is no reason to change your lifestyle just because you are traveling.  It's YOUR lifestyle, so the real trick is not letting other people’s poor choices affect your own healthy habits.  It’s not about being PERFECT – you can still enjoy yourself without a complete binge-fest, I promise!

Fruit, chicken, a little rice and some poisson cru (a Tahitian specialty - raw tuna with coconut milk and lime!) on Huahine, French Polynesia. 

Fruit, chicken, a little rice and some poisson cru (a Tahitian specialty - raw tuna with coconut milk and lime!) on Huahine, French Polynesia. 

Basic tips:

  •      try to avoid empty "fillers" like bread or chips
  •      don’t eat mass quantities of high-starch carbs (i.e. pasta, tortillas on taco day or potatoes)
  •      do not overdo it on alcohol
  •      avoid soda and sweetened beverages

Daily plan:

  1. try to wake up early and get in a walk before you eat breakfast … it can be 15 minutes in circles around the hotel, but taking a walk while you are still “fasting” is good for the metabolism.
  2. drink a shake in your room – avoid the hotel breakfast .. I bring a mini blender and just use ice from the ice machine!  Or, stick to something like an omelet or eggs.
  3. bring healthy snacks to eat during the day so you can avoid unhealthy options like cookies (or worse!).  Ideas : hard boiled eggs from breakfast at the hotel, rice cakes and peanut butter or almond butter (yes, I bring my own), Krave beef jerky, a healthy bar, etc…
  4. lunch – sometimes I have a bar for lunch, plus I will pick at the meat/veggies part of whatever they happen to bring (i.e. if they do fajitas, I just put the meat and guacamole and salsa on a plate with lettuce and eat it as a salad).  You could also bring a shake if you wanted to.  If sandwiches are provided, I will typically just eat the meat off the bread.
  5. Same for your afternoon snack as above – just come prepared.  Remember - cheap cookies might lure you in with your sugar addiction, but they are FLAT DISCS OF PURE EVIL in disguise as delicious morsels.
  6. If possible, get in a workout in the afternoon.  You can use FitnessBlender.Com for some great in-your-room body weight workouts, or check out the fitness part of my blog for some ideas.  When in doubt, walk or hike if possible!! 
  7. Dinner – I will eat meat and veggies for dinner.  If I get a salad, I never get croutons and I get my dressing on the side (you use a TON less this way, and most restaurant dressing is not great quality).  I never eat bread that comes out on the table or chips.  If a meal comes with something like mashed potatoes, I will ask them to substitute for more vegetables like broccoli or carrots or something like that.  But I don’t really limit myself – I will have a big giant steak with no problem at all!  Just keep it to good meat and veggies and it’s pretty simple.  I drink very little alcohol, but that is my personal preference.  Drinking alcohol for multiple nights in a row is pretty catastrophic to most people’s systems. 

While this might seem "regimented", I promise it isn't - after awhile, these will just become the choices you make, without even thinking about them.  I live like this day in and day out - never feeling deprived, always feeling great - once you get the hang of it, it is very intuitive!

"Cheats" - I truly hate the term "cheat" meal, because as I have stated before, I think it assigns food as "good" or "bad", which is an unhealthy way of thinking about things.  Instead, I like to choose foods that serve my health and fitness goals and respect my body.  That being said, if I feel like I am going to miss out on an experience by not trying something, I will absolutely not deprive myself.  Example #1: you are on a once in a lifetime trip to Greece and you want to try baklava... yes, for heaven's sake, eat the baklava.  Example #2: you are at a work party and somebody brings a Safeway sheet cake... really?  You don't need the sheet cake.

On our recent 11 day trip to French Polynesia, we ate a healthy breakfast at the hotel everyday (usually eggs and fruit)... we packed our own snacks and nutrient dense protein bars for lunches, and we ate out every night for dinner.  We never drank more than 1 or 2 drinks, and we stayed active - swimming and hiking throughout the entire trip.  We both left the vacation feeling amazing and energized!

On Motu Tapu - a little island off the coast of Bora Bora.  I ate the salad, skipped the bread on the sandwich (ate the meat), ate the (amazing) deserts and drank the wine.  When are you going to get to drink wine and nibble on gluten free macaroons on a picturesque tropical island ever again?  Just do it... just don't overdo it!

On Motu Tapu - a little island off the coast of Bora Bora.  I ate the salad, skipped the bread on the sandwich (ate the meat), ate the (amazing) deserts and drank the wine.  When are you going to get to drink wine and nibble on gluten free macaroons on a picturesque tropical island ever again?  Just do it... just don't overdo it!

MINDSET - let's talk a little about mindset, which is absolutely critical.  It is so easy to unknowingly have a very weak mindset about your lifestyle, which does not serve you.  For instance - if you end up at that work party with the vanilla sheet cake, and somebody offers you a piece, you might be tempted to say, "Oh, I can't eat cake right now... I'm on a diet."  Which really means, "I'm depriving myself.  Soon enough, when I can't take this B.S. anymore, I'm going to quit and go back to eating cake whenever I want."  Imagine, instead, if you said, "Nah, sorry, I don't eat cake."  Do you see the difference?  You're not saying that you will never eat cake again by saying the 2nd comment - you're saying that it doesn't serve your personal goals and that it's just not something that interests you.  There is such a HUGE difference between these two attitudes.  When you make this shift, a few things will start to happen:  A) first, people will "test" you by making fun of you to see if it is going to stick... do NOT take this personally, B) secondly, people will start taking you seriously and respect your lifestyle , C) ultimately, you will inspire people and they will want to join you or they will just leave you alone.  It's not a matter of "resisting temptation" - you are infinitely stronger than a piece of cake.  It's a matter of training your mind to truly believe that.

We stayed in this beautiful treehouse called "Burl".  I packed salads and dinner in a cooler and we used the facility's microwave to heat it up so we didn't have to leave the treehouse (when you pay $275 to stay in a treehouse, you actually want to be there). 

We stayed in this beautiful treehouse called "Burl".  I packed salads and dinner in a cooler and we used the facility's microwave to heat it up so we didn't have to leave the treehouse (when you pay $275 to stay in a treehouse, you actually want to be there). 

The other day I was thinking about my idea for this blog post, because I really wanted to offer advice to people who struggle on vacations or while traveling - and I know that I used to be that way.  I am at the point now where my healthy lifestyle is so intertwined into the fiber of my being, that I cannot (and don't want to!) change my habits.  I used to be the absolute worst of the bunch - engorging on mass quantities of pasta, stuffing my face with loaves of bread and pastries.  When I went to Italy in college, I spent every Lira (this was before the Euro!!) of my souvenir money buying gelato.  I still love gelato, and if I go back to Italy, I will indeed have some - but the desire to drown myself in a tub of it has faded away... only to be replaced by a desire to combine the things that I truly love - traveling, exploring, adventuring, health, fitness and inspiring others.

On a road trip to Death Valley ...we packed rotisserie chicken + salad fixings in our cooler and cooked eggs and sausage on the camp stove! 

On a road trip to Death Valley ...we packed rotisserie chicken + salad fixings in our cooler and cooked eggs and sausage on the camp stove! 

Traveling for work or leisure can be a wonderful experience!  Don't be intimidated - look at it as an amazing opportunity to enhance and solidify your healthy lifestyle.  A lifestyle is the exact opposite of a "quick fix", because it is simply just how you live.  A quick fix is something that is easily discarded.  Be prepared, be devoted to your lifestyle and goals, have a strong mindset ... and you will go home from your trip feeling BETTER than when you started.  Trust me, you are worth it!

When in doubt, just climb a mountain on your vacation if doing jump squats in the back parking lot of the hotel isn't your thing. 

When in doubt, just climb a mountain on your vacation if doing jump squats in the back parking lot of the hotel isn't your thing.