Ever been on holiday and felt fabulous for the whole trip, only to come home and discover your clothes seem to have shrunk? Holiday weight gain is a real thing; in one study, the majority of participants put on a rather hefty 3kg during their holidays – that’s half a stone, for anyone who’s more familiar with imperial measurements.
Now imagine what it’s like if you’re travelling for a longer period – say six months or a year. There’s no diet to go back to, no supermarket where you know you can buy all the store-cupboard items you need to keep you on track. And there’s no store-cupboard to keep them in anyway – unless your backpack has a “pantry” feature! So how can a person avoid colossal weight gain during a long trip?
The trials of a long-term tripper
I’ll tell you right now, I’m no dietician, but I have travelled a lot and, as a keen yoga practitioner, I’m very aware of what I put into my body. Nowhere more so than “on the road,” where it’s more difficult to control my diet.
Over the years, I’ve inadvertently put together a strategy for eating, and although I waiver (who says no to the occasional ice cream or a fancy cocktail?!), I seem to have found a way to avoid gaining weight whilst on the move. In fact, I’ve even found myself losing a bit of weight.
My top 10 tips for managing your weight on the move:
- Start as you mean to go on. The moment you set off, it’s easy to leave all your good intentions behind. Be aware of this as you weave your way to the departure gate. For every burger, pack of sweets, and glass of wine you pass up, you’re saving money – and calories!
- Resist the in-flight temptation. Whether it’s a short domestic flight mid-trip or a long-haul slog at the start of your journey, try to resist the inevitable offerings of alcohol and snacks – they’re rarely any good for your waistline, and it doesn’t need to cost much to bring your own, healthier alternatives.
- Beware of “fatigue food fog!” I’m referring here to the bad food choices we make when we feel tired – a fact proven by a study published in 2013, which concluded that “Daytime sleepiness affects prefrontal regulation of food intake” – or, to put it more simply, our perception of what’s good for us is diminished when we’re feeling sleepy. So, whether it’s jetlag or a few adventures too many that’s depleted your energy levels, keep this in mind.
- Eat as much fresh, local produce as you can. In the warmer parts of the world, there’s so much tropical fruit available, along with coconuts (great for rehydration – and hangovers!), and nutritious vegetables. Fill up on this stuff, snack on it, enjoy it!
- Discover new soups and salads. Particularly in Southeast Asia, there’s a plethora of interesting, healthy concoctions to choose from – my personal favourites are Spicy Papaya Salad, Glass Noodle Salad with Seafood, Tom Yum soup, and Tom Kha Kai, a delicious combination of chicken, coconut milk, and lemongrass. Be open to new tastes – and if you don’t like your food too spicy, ask them to tone it down – they’re very familiar with this request!
- Choose your carbs carefully. We need carbohydrates for energy, but how long that energy lasts and how quickly it’s converted to fat depends on what kind of carbs you eat. Bread and rice are staples across the world, but the refined variety (the white stuff) can leave you in a carb slump, so opt for low GI carbs, like sweet potatoes, red/brown rice, and brown bread. If these options aren’t available, just eat what you need to feel full – remember, rice is cheap, and what doesn’t get eaten by a human will probably end up feeding a hungry stray dog!
- Shake off the sugar! In many places, sugar is hidden in pretty much everything – even salads and bread. The number one suspect, in my opinion, is the smoothie. Yes, they contain fruit, but as I discovered whilst watching my banana smoothie being made whilst on the Thai island of Koh Tao, they also contain several spoonfuls of white sugar and as much as a whole tin of condensed milk! Use your taste buds and if you sense sugar, adjust the rest of your day’s intake accordingly (the maximum recommended intake per day is a meagre six teaspoons!)
- Drink wisely and occasionally. Try having several days a week where you’re not drinking alcohol, for it is this that carries the most potential for weight gain (remember that study I mentioned earlier about holiday weight gain? Well, the majority of it came from alcohol!)
- Look out for superfoods! A lot of the stuff Westerners consume in an attempt to maintain optimum health (think macca, hemp, acai, and chlorella powder) come from exotic locations, which means they’re a lot cheaper to buy there. Online, a 100g packet of moringa powder, for example, can cost more than $17, whereas in Cambodia or India, you can pay just $6 for the same amount.
- Enjoy the local delicacies (even the fatty ones) It does no harm to indulge your senses every now and then – don’t let “fear of fat” stop you from experiencing new tastes, textures, and traditions, for this is the very stuff of traveling!