With Memorial Day coming up this weekend, it’s the start of the summer travel season. When else than during summer travel season do you want to look and feel your best? To be lean, bikini ready, and have glowing skin?
Yet traveling means a new environment, different food, sometimes long hours in transit, poor air quality (e.g. on an airplane), strange sleeping schedules, and basically all normal healthy routines being thrown off-track. With all of this, daily efforts to eat healthy and stay lean can go straight out the window, right as you need them most.
I would know–I do a lot of traveling. And I’ve failed many times at sticking to my normal healthy habits while jet-setting. But each time I go traveling, I look at it as an opportunity to do better, to refine, and to simplify. Overtime, I’ve figured out the absolute essentials necessary to feel good, look good, and stay healthy while traveling.
So, with that, here are my five keys to staying lean and healthy while traveling, and super easy ways to ensure success.
Enjoy the food but don’t compromise on your diet
This title may seem like an oxymoron. But, I think sampling local cuisine is one of the highlights of any trip–new restaurants, unique combinations, eccentric ingredients and flavors–how can you not enjoy the specialties of your destination?
But if you know you have sensitivities to wheat or dairy, or your have blood sugar issues, or whatever, be more choosy which local foods to sample. Choose ones that won’t trigger your allergies, cause digestive upset, or send your family running for insulin. And when you do indulge in the new food, take small bites, really taste it and see if you even like it.
If there is no quality food around, or no unique and interesting food worth indulging in, fasting for a few hours is OK too. In fact, it might be good for your system, and help maintain your weight on the trip. (Research suggests fasting for up to 72 hours won’t slow metabolism.)
The same rules of moderation, mindfulness, and self-awareness around food that apply at home, are in a lot of ways even more critical while on the road. Be judicious when making choices and there’s no reason you can’t connect to a new culture or locale by sampling the cuisine.
Bring tea (and drink it)
Of course, I’m biased, but given that tea is anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, antioxidant-rich, that pu-erh tea can help settle digestion, and that tea is thought to support metabolism and weight control, it’s the perfect antidote to whatever traveling (and indulging in local cuisine) may throw at your system.
I wouldn’t call tea a cure-all, but it certainly helps a lot at maintaining good health (warding off colds, minimizing allergic reactions, improving metabolism and digestion), and has been used for millenia in China for just that. So pack some tea and essential tea travel tools, then have tea as often as you need or would like. Plus tea is super light, small, and easy to carry. The same can’t be said of (most) supplements or exercise equipment.
Bonus tip: Oftentimes it is inflammation, resulting from excess consumption of omega-6 fats or over-heated oils, or by trigger foods, or lack of sleep, or numerous other sources, that causes the body to retain water, to look puffy, and feel lethargic. While Camellia sinensis tea has many anti-inflammatory properties, turmeric is even more potent at reducing inflammation–you can get it as a supplement, in tea bags, or as a powdered spice (to sprinkle on food or steep in boiling water).
Traveling means a lot more walking than I get in my at-home life. I was to observe and absorb the local culture, I walk to get my bearings and learn to navigate a new place, I walk to get to restaurants, sites, etc, I walk because I enjoy it. And when I’m traveling, I always take the stairs–airports, cruise ships, low-floor hotels. I won’t take elevators and rarely escalators.
Arguably, this is one of the single more important tenets of this plan to keeping me in shape and preventing weight gain while traveling. Learn to love walking and love taking the stairs. Plus, the more you walk, the less time needs to be spent on the next one.
Do body weight exercises
I’m not hunting for a gym while traveling–I’m there to accomplish something if on a business trip, or to see, explore, enjoy, and connect with people and a place. That, along with potentially long days out and about, means my exercise routine falls by the wayside.
But there are ways to compensate, besides walking, that require no equipment, no special shoes, no expertise, and no planning: simple body weight exercises I do in a hotel room and you can too, or in a park, or wherever. Aim to do this series twice a day, but don’t spend more than 10 minutes each time, instead, go out and walk the area.
- Planks 3 x 1 minute holds (forearm or straight arms)
- Tricep dips (using a chair, edge of the bed, or park bench)
- Squats (the more stairs you do, the less of these are necessary to keep your lower body in shape)
If you’re like me and somewhat wary of putting yourself face-down on skanky, old hotel carpet, grab an extra towel and put it under your arms and face. Or, do planks and push-ups on the bed, really getting a core workout for the extra stabilization needed.
This series will cover your upper back, arms, core, thighs, and butt; brisk walking (at the airport, your destination, wherever) will maintain your cardiovascular fitness. Assuming you’re not traveling for a very long period of time, or totally derailing your diet, this combo should ensure your base level of fitness is intact when you do get back to your regular workouts–and, keep you looking lean for the duration of the trip.
Bonus tip: Exercise reduces inflammation. If you’re sweating while exercising, you can do double whammy at reducing any puffiness caused by water retention and inflammation.
Relax, sleep, meditate
Traveling is one of the most amazing ways to clear your mind, to get a different perspective, to have new ideas, or get clarity. Spend some quiet time so you can enjoy these benefits. Go ahead and let yourself relax, you don’t have to clean, cook dinner, or do dishes. If you’re traveling for pleasure, there’s no job or meeting to rush off to. When stress level decline, the body can heal and do what it knows how to do, including shedding excess weight, if that’s an issue. (Stress causes the body to hold onto fat in preparation for a perceived long famine). When stress and cortisol levels go down, the body won’t be trying so hard to store and hang on to belly fat, so a clean diet in a relaxed environment may actually mean a slimmer waistline. Besides, when you’re out of your normal routine, you don’t need to eat according to the clock, you can eat according to your true hunger cues, which oftentimes means eating less.
If you’re traveling for a leisurely holiday (and even if you’re not), this is a great time to get 8-9 hours of quality sleep each night. Adequate sleep is often correlated with lower body weights, reduced hunger signals, increased satiety, less stress, more mindfulness and awareness. So, go ahead and sleep.
Finally, one of my absolute musts while traveling is maintain my meditation practice–the quieting of the mind, the stilling of the body, and the slowing of the breath are essentials to keeping a loving heart, an open mind, and a balanced body. Therefore, if you have an meditation practice, or a gratitude journal, or some other habit that keeps you centered and grounded in your home life, continue that while you’re on the road. It’ll make the experience of new places, new cultures, new food, wonderful people and diverse experiences all the more magical. Plus, meditation has been shown to increase mindfulness (around food), compassion, and patience all of which can be very helpful while jaunting around the world.
There you have it, my 5 musts for staying healthy, lean, and fit while traveling. Don’t get hung up or stressed out if you don’t have the perfect diet while traveling or you miss a day or 2 of body weight exercises, just enjoy the journey and make a better choice at the next opportunity–perhaps an extra cup of tea or a little more rest.
What are your good habits, must-brings, or healthy routines that keep you in good shape while traveling? Leave a comment below.