This past weekend on the ME Lifestylers‘ community page, a member was lamenting having to travel for work and was worried about how to stay “on plan” while traveling. I love this problem! Why? Because I believe this about healthy eating and exercise: If you can make the right choices while traveling, you can make them anywhere.
Honestly, how pointless is it to only be capable of following a tight nutrition plan when we are home, with our own kitchen and our own food and have all circumstance be perfect? That’s easy street. The real test is being on the road traveling and understanding and being so practiced in the Fat Loss Lifestyle that we are able to make the right choices wherever we end up.
The key to being able to navigate food choices on the road is sticking to a few hard & fast rules. You might not be losing fat while away, but you can certainly prevent fat gain by implementing a few key strategies:
1) You can order a mixed greens salad with grilled chicken anywhere.
Sorry, but saying “there’s nothing on the menu” you can order is a copout. You can get a salad with plain grilled chicken at McDonalds. And even if this is not on the menu, 99% of restaurants can make this for you. Ask for it with extra chicken if you are particularly hungry and add balsamic vinaigrette dressing on the side. Many of our JillFit competition clients dine out weeks out from their shows using this method.
2) Protein + 2 sides of veggies.
Most restaurants will offer protein (steak, seafood, chicken, pork, etc) with 2 sides, usually a mixed vegetable and a starch. Ask to sub the starch for an additional veggie option, even a small side salad to start. Can’t go wrong.
3) Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.
Asking for the sauce on the side or no butter on your veggies is fine, but honestly, these requests are small rocks. And for me personally, having these small touches improves the satisfaction factor of the meal so that I don’t need dessert or crave worse stuff later. If you are competing, then you’ll need to make these requests but for most people who are simply trying not to GAIN weight, these small additions help us feel more satisfied. And they are not a huge deal in the grand scheme. I don’t know anyone who’s gotten fat off fibrous veggies with butter on them :)
4) My 3 hard-and-fast no-no’s:
No bread, no dessert, no booze. I usually drink red wine 1-2 times per week as my small cheat, but I never do bread and I never do dessert. And I am so practiced at saying no that these things are simply not an option anymore. Bread: before the server even brings bread, say, “I don’t know if you guys bring bread, but we don’t want it.” Having it at the table and forcing yourself to resist takes waaaaay more mental effort than simply not having it there in the first place. Guarantee you won’t miss it if it’s not in front of you. Dessert: if someone you’re with orders it, have a single bite. I love this rule because it develops the skill of MODERATION–that inconvenient approach THAT ACTUALLY WORKS :) This is a practice. Try it. Booze: 1-2x per week max and do red wine or vodka-soda. No heavy mixers or frozen boo-boo drinks!
5) Navigating the breakfast buffet.
Most conferences and hotels have a breakfast buffet option. Use it and then use restraint. Just because you are “out of your element” or “it’s a treat to be at a hotel” doesn’t mean you need to go hog wild and eat huge pile of french toast. And just because they have that incredible waffle maker where you get to make them yourself DOESN’T mean you have to use it (I know it’s so cool!). Instead heap on scrambled eggs (protein + fat), some fruit and then use bacon or sausage as your “preemptive cheat” for the day–something that keeps you satisfied so you don’t go for the really bad stuff, but doesn’t hinder your result too much. Oats are fine if you need starch at breakfast, I would just count 10 bites and no sugary-add ons.
6) Focus on the big rocks.
A sprinkle of cheese on your salad? Not a big rock. Some bacon wrapped around your filet? Not a big rock. A few nuts throw into your meal? Not a big rock. A little sauce or butter? Not a big rock. You don’t have to make yourself miserable :) Dining out should be enjoyable, but just don’t go overboard. Instead, focus on the BIG ROCKS: skip starchy sides (like potatoes, rice, fries, buns on burgers and sandwiches, etc), alcohol, dessert, disgusting apps like potato skins and ultimate nachos and carb-centric dishes like pasta, pizza and quesadillas. Protein and veggies are your friend for the most part.
7) Bring your snacks with you.
I always bring a fat loss friendly snacks with me when I travel to have throughout the day: protein powder, protein bars, nuts, jerky, fruit and usually I will make some clean baked good (I know Jamie Eason swears by her Carrot Cake protein bars on the road). I usually only eat a single bigger meal each day while traveling, and then the rest of time graze on snacks, fruit when available and drink tons of water. You don’t need to be eating 6-7 times per day when traveling. Focus on monitoring hunger, energy and cravings and making the right decisions when dining out. In the meantime, it’s ok to feel a little hungry every now and then :) Just stay mindful not to go overboard once food resurfaces.
8) Have perspective & don’t make it about needing to lose fat.
Admittedly, it is hard to lose fat while traveling. The stress, plus small additions to food while dining out make it challenging, so don’t EXPECT that you will lose while traveling. Instead, for me, my goal for travel nutrition is 2-fold:
- Just don’t gain. Which I accomplish my following the above guidelines.
- Use the opportunity to PRACTICE the lifestyle and learn to make the best choices wherever you end up. Just because you are traveling doesn’t mean you take a vacation from doing what you know. In fact, the better you do when circumstances are uncertain, the better you get at this lifestyle. Anyone can keep it tight when they have complete control over their food and surroundings. But life happens, so learning to adjust is invaluable.
In the video below, I discuss my hard & fast rules for dining out and how I navigate the menu at a typical American food restaurant/pub. Hopefully this helps :) Let me know what you think!
Related: Do-Anywhere Body Weight Workout