The tips I wish I had before going traveling
I want to start off by saying the travel nutrition lessons below did not come to be overnight and they aren’t covered in the textbooks but they are possible for all to achieve. That’s right, even you! Traveling, it’s a wonderful adventure that a lot of us are drawn to, myself included. Before I even finished university, I’d signed up to work in research abroad and before that I’d traveler a lot with my family. I was lucky to gain travel experience at such a young age. If you love to travel as well, I hope this post speaks to you as you’re traveling through your health and nutrition journey concurrently. I’ve wanted to write about this for a while and I finally feel the inspiration after spending a week enjoying and relaxing in Mexico.
Weight gain experience #1
When I think about food and eating while on vacation nutrition and balance comes to mind but that wasn’t always the case. As a college student, I traveled to Italy the full intension to maximize how many pizzas and gelatos I could fit into a day (and my budget). I thought about health and my weight but I figured I was walking a lot and it would balance itself out. Not the case. I was probably one of my heaviest when I came back from this trip and it prevented me from sharing the pictures I took where I was in them. I rarely weigh myself so I can’t give you the exact number but in looking back at the pictures I can see that my body is swollen all over and the clothes I’m wearing are skin tight. When I got back I carried on with summer break, I joined a gym and I tried my hardest to live off of rice crackers and cucumbers(… a “nutrition” tip I’d picked up at the gym) but this just didn’t work for me. I had fun at the gym and I socialized while I was there, in my small town there isn’t much else to do. Summer ended and I went back to school none the wiser.
Weight gain experience #2
After graduating I got a gig supporting a research project where most of my expenses would be covered, working internationally was something I’d always wanted to do and now I was getting to do it in the field of international nutrition. I worked my butt off all summer at 2 different jobs, sometimes working 16 hours per day with only time for “naps” between my shifts. Fall came and I was off to work in Sierra Leone for 8 weeks with enough money to afford myself another 4 months of travel after my assignment was complete. It was the experience of a lifetime; the work, the culture, the people and all of it while being on the other side of the world knowing it was not likely I would be back. The living conditions weren’t great and we had to adapt, there are rolling black outs in Freetown, the capital city of Sierra Leone where we spent most of our time, resulting in many levels of Candy Crush, at least while my phone still had battery and the occasional hotel room workout. I had to adjust to the food, they cooked “American” food for us which was often eggs, a food I really hated before this trip. I knew I had to eat because after breakfast we worked until dinner and the white toast and jam wouldn’t hold me over like eggs would. Hard-boiled eggs were the hardest to overcome but with time, we overcome, aversions dissipate and our taste buds change. I experienced heartburn for the first time, likely due to the different diet and overeating before bed, my body was sending me signals but I wasn’t really listening.
From there I traveled through Australia as a budget conscious backpacker, living off tuna from a can and veggie sticks all the while trying to eat healthy. After almost 2 months in Australia I left for South East Asia, first stop, Thailand and let me just tell you the food is worth the trip alone. I loved it, every day of it but it took a toll on my body. As much as we tried to be conscious of our choices by eating fruit and yogurt and then only snacking until dinner time, something was missing and the weight pilled on. I was growing more and more self-conscious but benefiting from the fact that I was now traveling alone so no one really knew what I looked like before.
You might be wondering at this point, why I’m sharing all of this with you and what’s the point?
Traveling and enjoying local delicacies doesn’t have to result in weight gain.
Delicious foreign foods don’t have to be scary or threatening.
You can truly enjoy food while traveling and maintain your healthy goals.
It took me a few experiences of “learning the hard way” to figure this out so go ahead and take my word for it.
It’s not fancy but I believe the true secret to feeling empowered and in-control while on vacation is these 3 tips:
Portion sizes. Eating tacos? Try ordering by the individual taco. Comes with fries? Not this time, I’ll just have the entrée. Eating at a buffet? Choose a smaller plate or start your plate half full of veggies.
Beverages. Booze, hooch, pop, soda, juice. Take your pick! All these beverages are going to rack up your caloric intake and should be consumed in moderation.
Mentality. Eating more of something doesn’t make it more delicious. Let me repeat that, eating more of something does NOT make it more delicious. You want to try a delicacy or a few? Go for it, share with someone else or have the appetizer size.
Looking for more? Download my free travel nutrition guide.
I want to know how your next trip goes! If you’re sharing on Instagram please tag @slimnutritioncoach so I can celebrate with you. Every little positive change is a success, don’t forget that you’re doing amazing work.