My client, Caren, just got back from a week-long trip through the Cajun South having gained less than a pound (probably mostly water weight from increased sodium consumption). Overall, she had stuck pretty closely to her healthy eating plan with just a few slipups here and there (those hushpuppies’ll get you every time!).
Caren had planned well for this tour—unlike previous vacations, in which she would “hope” there were healthy foods available and “try” to make good choices. She could’ve just told herself, “Oh, I’ll be fine. I just want to have fun and not obsess about food!” But she knew that putting some mental effort into a healthy eating plan now would result in eating less and enjoying her travels more. So upon her return, when I asked her what she had done to support herself in sticking to her food plan, here’s what she told me:
Caren began laying the groundwork for her success by calling ahead to ask the trip organizers what eats would be on offer. Not surprisingly, the menus featured local, southern fare--mostly bacon, sausage, crab, shrimp, buttery grits, and even the vegetables would be battered and fried or swimming in oil and salt (or topped off with marshmallows). After that phone conversation, she realized she’d need to . . .
Take Your Own Food
Meals were included in this vacation package, but Caren values her health and decided she was worth few extra dollars. Thus, she called the hotel restaurant to inquire about the possibility of purchasing a giant salad-to-go every day. She would take it with her on the tour bus to enjoy while her travel companions dined on fried catfish and mayonnaise-drenched coleslaw.
Caren knew she’d need something more substantive than a raw veggie salad alone, but she wouldn’t have access to a refrigerator (where she would have stored some beans), so she found some roasted, unsalted garbanzos and soybeans to supplement the hotel salad. She also took along some single-serving baggies of raw nuts and seeds so she’d have something to nibble on while her cohorts sampled the local pecan pralines.
It’s one thing to have a good plan, but it’s another to carry it out. Even though Caren had brought much of her own food and occasionally came across nutrient-dense options, temptations abounded. For instance, she would sit down with a healthsome plateful of beans, salad, and water-sauteed veggies, but the steaming fresh-baked potato rolls were barely an arm’s length away. To prevent a fall into bun oblivion, Caren covered the bread basket with a napkin. On another occasion, after a crusty slice had found its way onto her otherwise empty plate, she suddenly came to her senses and quickly put the plate on another table before she had time to change her mind.
When Caren found herself lusting after some deep fried morsel or bowl full of white flour, white sugar, and butter (aka bread pudding), she reminded herself, “That looks delicious but it’s swimming in artery-clogging saturated fat and diabetes-inducing sugar! I’ll be so happy shortly if I don’t eat any.”
Reflection and Revision
Every evening, Caren reflected on her day, savoring her successful food encounters and exploring the ones that went wrong. It’s important to note that she neither castigated herself (“You shouldn’t have eaten that!”) for eating off her plan nor did she let herself off the hook (“It’s ok, I’m on vacation!”). Instead, she learned from her extracurricular eating episodes by identifying the situations in which they occurred and generating alternative possibilities. For instance, one afternoon she found herself waiting around for her compatriots, who were all in line at the candy store. Though she’d had no intention to buy anything, Caren spontaneously ordered a red dye #3 peanut patty (the peanut brittle of the South). In the future, she decided, she would wait outside, no matter how disinterested she thought she was in the food.
If you wait until your next travel adventure to begin employing these techniques, they probably won’t work. Like any new endeavor, they require practice. In fact, it’s the regular implementation of these strategies that, over time, will change your brain—making it easier for you to consistently choose nutrient-dense foods. Bon voyage et bon appetite!
Looking for more tips and tricks to help you on your journey to better health? We’ve have great health coaches who can help make healthy eating easier for you. Schedule a free 30 minute call to ask any questions you have!