Cruising and Weight Management

I just got back from a cruise, a first time endeavor for me and my husband. We did ten days in the Mediterranean, starting in Athens and ending in Barcelona, with a couple of days at each end in those cities, and arrived home late Sunday night.

Here’s what I learned:

-There are healthy options on a cruise, but they are sometimes very hard to find, and some of the menu descriptions can be deceiving, so ask. For example, I learned the hard way that “crisp” can mean deep fried. Ugh. You’re welcome.

-You’re better off doing the seated dining where it’s an option, because a buffet is an invitation to overindulgence. (buffets are my natural enemy in the wild, and I avoid them at all costs whenever possible).

-Food is available 24/7. That doesn’t mean you need to eat it 24/7.

-The quickest way to eat regrettably, and inflate your cruise tab, is alcohol. As always. This is the same on land or sea.

-Air France has the worst airplane food I’ve ever encountered on an international flight, hands down. I wasn’t expecting that!

Anyway, as I mentioned before I left, I didn’t want to gain a pound a day like my pal Rick Steves says can be common on a cruise (aieee!). Nightmare scenario for me!

Here were the strategies I employed:

  1. Don’t snack between meals. This had an unintended consequence for me, unfortunately, because when you eat lunch at noon or 1 and your dinner seating isn’t until 8:15, that’s a very long gap between meals. I normally try to eat every 2-3 hours, and this caused me some headaches I probably didn’t need to have. Due to the complete upending of my usual routine inherent in any travel, sometimes the first sign I’d have that I was hungry was a splitting headache. NO BUENO. Were I to do it again, I would plan in some healthy snacks every few hours, by stockpiling fruit from the breakfast buffet (which I started doing eventually but not at first).
  2. Load up on lean meats and veggies for dinner. Most meal options come with veggies, but also you can order sides of extra veggies. One night lobster was a menu option – YES PLEASE!
  3. Dessert was always a fruit plate. And a fruit plate was always an option on the dessert menu. I took the view of, which of these options would leave me feeling the best? Almost every time it was fruit plate.
  4. SO MUCH WALKING. I definitely got more walking on the days we didn’t book excursions from the boat, because we ended up walking off the boat and exploring the port city all on foot. But, even some (not all, but some!) excursions netted us up to 8 miles of walking, which was a surprise!. (Personal high was about 12 miles the day we explored Athens, all on foot!)
  5. Eat the local delicacy when on shore. Life can’t be all boiled chicken and broccoli, my friends! Pizza in Naples, tapas in Spain, daube provencal in Arles. The walking will take care of it!

I’ve lately been focusing my mindset on fueling my body in the way it wants to be fueled, and that means avoiding sugar. Protein, fat, and complex carbohydrates work best for me, but things like desserts that are pure sugar will leave me feeling sluggish and bloated for sure, so when it came time to choose dessert, it was usually pretty easy for me to pick the thing that would help me feel my best. Somebody in our dinner group commented one evening that I was “being so good” with my dessert selections, and I could honestly say that I just liked fruit better than the other options. I wasn’t trying consciously to be on a diet, I just want to not feel crappy while I’m on vacation!

So…you may be wondering…how did this all work out for me?

Well, last night I went to my class and weighed in up 3.2 pounds, so that doesn’t sound very great, does it?

Unless you know, like I do, that my body always freaks out when I take an inter-continental flight, and that it would take a day or two to settle down.

This morning I weighed in down 3.5 pounds from yesterday. So that means I had a net change of just about nothing. That was my goal. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.

Weight Management Today

First: I just got back from a basic maintenance run. This is what the bulk of my running workouts can be classified as – basic bodily maintenance. Unlike a lot of other runners, I’m not trying to improve my time, distance, or, really anything. I’m just running because it needs to be done and checked off on my list. I think it’s important to know that exercise doesn’t have to be an all-out balls-to-the-wall intense-focus session all the time. Or even most of the time. Sometimes it just needs to be done so you can move on to the next item on your agenda for the day. I got out, I ran ~3ish miles, and now I’m gonna shower and get on with my day.

Next: I haven’t been posting as much lately because I’ve been working on some other projects which may or may not bear fruit in the coming months. I’ll try not to go dark on you for too long – don’t drop me! I’ll still be checking in! Working on managing my health and weight isn’t something I’m ever going to stop doing, even when I’m not writing about it as much I’m still doing it.

Finally: I’m going on a cruise this summer for the first time ever. My pal Rick Steves says some people gain up to a pound a day on cruises. EGAD! Not me (I hope)! But, since I have no idea what to expect – hit me with your best tips on how to avoid the gain and eat healthily on a cruise! Will I have access to fruits and veggies throughout the day, or is it going to be a cream-and-butter drenched fiesta of temptation all day every day? How do you balance vacation with smart choices when you’re a captive audience to a cruise chef?

 

Staying Tough in The Big Easy

I just got back from a week in New Orleans to celebrate Christmas and New Years! New Orleans…the biggest, baddest food city in the country. I mean, that’s a city where good food has been elevated to an art form and a civic duty! And so, so much of it is fried, battered, and alcoholic! Here are the things I did to try to counteract and avoid a big gain:

  1. Seafood! The biggest, best thing to eat in New Orleans is seafood – oysters, shrimp, crab, and crawdads are on every menu, and if you don’t get them fried or smothered in butter it’s a healthy meal! I ate oysters almost every single day. Raw or chargrilled, they are delicious in NOLA.
  2. Walk it off! Avoid getting a car or taking taxis, and ride the streetcars everywhere you want to go. Once you get there, you’ll be walking. A lot. If you’re not getting enough walking, pick up a guide to walking tours and see some sights that aren’t in the French Quarter. The Garden District, Uptown, Audubon Park, the CBD, Carrollton – there’s way more to New Orleans than Bourbon Street.
  3. Dance it off! Head down to Frenchmen Street for some excellent live music and hit the dancefloor for some bonus exercise. Most of the clubs featuring swing and jazz have a space for dancing. Use it.
  4. Speaking of Bourbon Street – avoid it. That scene is played out and sad these days. All you’ll get there are shitty frozen cocktails and drunken crowds. Ugh. Believe me when I say you’re not missing anything by not staggering around with all the other tourists carrying a plastic novelty mug and a weak, sugary mess of a “drink” in your hand.
  5. Make room for some treats, but make them the good ones. You know you’re going to want to get some beignet at Cafe du Monde, but make it an event that only happens once. A treat’s more special for being rare. Go for it and enjoy every bite, but not every day.
  6. Slow down and savor. Don’t skip out on the headline experiences – go to the finest restaurants, like Commander’s Palace, but really take your time. This is some of the best food in the country so let your palate linger over every bite, and be mindful of how full you are. Stop when you feel sated – that’s easier to do when you’re taking your time with every nuance of flavor.

Am I up a pound or two? Probably. But not much more – my measurements say I’m a little bloated but not badly and nothing that won’t come off in the next couple of days. I’m feeling pretty satisfied with my trip and my efforts to navigate the food landscape in the toughest food environment around.

I made the decision that I would enjoy my trip (within reasonable boundaries like those I listed above) and not beat myself up afterwards for enjoying myself. I have a plan, I’m back on target this week, and excited to see what 2016 has in store for me!

Travel and Weight Management, Part 2: Business Travel

Traveling for business can be a much greater challenge to weight management efforts. I frequently travel for business and almost every trip is depressingly similar – I fly somewhere far away to sit in a room at a table where my food choices are very limited. This is a real challenge for weight management because I don’t get any exercise whatsoever during business hours, I don’t get to bring my food along with me to meetings, and often the choices provided are spectacularly unsupportive – pizza, burritos, pasta, fast food – things I would avoid in my real life. This is where things get tricky for weight management. Record keeping, on the other hand, is a breeze on business trips, because often I find myself in meetings, bored to tears, looking for some task to set my mind to – a perfect time to make sure my food journal is up to date!

While I hardly ever seek out a hotel gym while I’m traveling for pleasure, I visit them religiously when I am traveling for business. If I can’t hit it at the end of the day I will set the alarm early and go before heading into work. Exercising not only helps with my weight management, but I find it helps me to clear my head and elevates my mood as well. These things are often desperately needed on a business trip. So always pack your gym clothes and shoes!

If I can possibly swing it, I like to get out and locate a grocery store to stock up on healthy snacks on the first day of my trip. If I’m attending a conference or convention I can usually pop up to my hotel room during the day when everybody else is having their hotel-provided afternoon snack of cookies, brownies and sodas to eat some of my own healthier snacks. When the meetings I am attending are catered, I am often stuck in the position of having to use my willpower, something I hate to rely on. First I survey the lunch options, and if there is any salad to be had I pile my plate with it. If not, I pick the vegetarian option if there is one (unless it is pasta in cream sauce, then there’s no benefit to having the vegetarian option). It helps to have a ballpark idea of the caloric content of various foods when I am making my selections. I do the best I can, and limit my portion sizes as much as possible.

And, of course, at the end of the day you’ll probably have to find a restaurant for dinner. Here are some guidelines to use when eating in restaurants, because there’s just no avoiding that!

Weight management while traveling does require some planning and foresight, but it is possible. In general, if I can hold my weight steady while traveling I feel like I’ve won the lottery. It’s all about striking the comfortable balance between enjoying my travels and paying some attention to weight management essentials.

Travel & Weight Management, Part 1: For Pleasure

Hi guys! I’m working on setting up a new page with quick access to some of the old articles I posted over the years that cover what I consider to be my main tools and modes of thought for weight management. In the process of doing that, I discovered that one of the posts I really liked writing was a cross-post on a blog that appears to have gone dark. So I’m going to repost it here (of course I kept a copy!) so I can link to it, and hey – it’s the Summer Travel Season right now, so it may still be of use to us all this season! Enjoy!

Travel and Weight Management

Travel is one of the biggest challenges to weight management. There are two main categories of travel which need managing: Travel for Work, and Travel for Pleasure, and I’ll start with pleasure (always start with pleasure!). When I hit the road I remember the key elements that work for me at home: record keeping, environmental control, exercise and making smart food choices.

Travel for Pleasure

Traveling for fun and pleasure is the definitely easier of the two, because I tend to have a little more control over the environments I find myself in. I always carry a notepad so that I can write down the foods I eat. This is definitely harder to do on vacation because of the nature of eating while traveling for pleasure – often I am grabbing a quick bite on the go, I may not even be stopping to sit down! So I try to remember to write it all down but if I don’t keep perfect records on vacation, I don’t beat myself up over it. The nice thing about traveling for pleasure is that I usually get a lot of exercise – I’m walking all day long, up and down and around museums, through attractions, in and out of shops. I hardly ever sit down when I’m visiting a new city! That’s a lot of exercise that I didn’t have to make any extra effort to fit into my schedule. In fact, all the walking I do on vacation usually means that I can be a bit more forgiving if other exercise efforts fall short in all the excitement of having new adventures.

When I am at home I do what I call environmental control – making sure not to surround myself with foods that will derail my weight management effort. This means I don’t keep things like cake, candy, baked goods, etc, in my kitchen at home. This is something that is much harder on vacation because I don’t have much control over my environment, but there are a few things I can do to manage myself, and they mainly involve not putting myself into situations where my willpower will be tested. I know that willpower is NOT a muscle, it doesn’t get stronger the more I use it, it gets depleted, so I don’t want to gratuitously force myself to invoke it. This means I don’t wander idly into candy and chocolate shops and ogle the wares. I don’t sidle up to sidewalk hot dog vendors and smell longingly after their goods. When I need a snack I look for a coffee shop or sandwich shop and I search for things on the menu that will be supportive of my goals. When I travel in Europe I find that almost every place that serves lunch has a menu item that is essentially, “Soup and a roll.” I always get that for lunch. Soup is a fantastic food for weight management, particularly if it is a water- or stock-based soup because it has a low caloric density – it’s made mostly of water, often has high vegetable content, and fills me up.

Most places I visit have some version of a fruit and veggie stand that is easily findable by tourists. If I am wandering through a new city it won’t be long before I stumble upon the place where fruits and veggies are sold. Truly, I seek them out. I know that when I get hungry the best thing I can reach for is a piece of fruit, a bag of sugar snap peas, or similar. These things are always available, no matter where you are in the world, and as an added bonus, often you will find fruit that is not available to you at home. That’s what traveling is all about! I always pick up something new to me if I can, to get a little local flavor. The last time I visited Hawaii I packed a kitchen knife and cutting board (checked luggage only!) so that I could enjoy the local fruits back in my hotel room. In fact, I usually carry a backpack when on vacation so that I can carry supportive foods such as fruits and veggies with me wherever I go on my touring – I never want to get so hungry that I’ll eat anything because that’s the most dangerous time to make a food selection. Eating a piece of fruit or other supportive snack every hour or so keeps me from getting too hungry, and keeps me going throughout the day.

Another thing I like to do is stay in lodgings where I can cook for myself – hostels, apartments and long-term-stay hotels. All of these lodgings provide full kitchens for the use of their guests. I love to find the local grocery and make myself healthy, supportive meals using local ingredients. Managing my weight is vastly easier when I know exactly what went into my food.

All of this is not to say that I don’t enjoy a fancy meal out or sweet treat occasionally while traveling. I do, and I relish them, I just don’t eat that way every day. I focus on the new experiences and adventures I’m having and let splurging on heavy foods be only an occasional indulgence.

Business Trips, Treadmills, and Kettlebells, Oh My!

Last night I got home from a business trip to Portland, OR. I manged to get in a workout both nights I was there, even though I had to go pretty late for me – after dinner and other work obligations I didn’t get to the gym until 9:30pm or so both nights. I don’t mind though – I feel better when I work out and I like a deserted gym. If I don’t work out my body starts aching and reminding me I’m getting old. Better to just get it done! Anyway, I didn’t feel like making up my own weights or circuit training routine after long days of meetings so I just ran on the treadmill for a half hour each night and called it good.

Food on business trips can be tricky, and this trip was no different, but I managed my morning oatmeal each day, avoided the meeting-room donuts (they used to be cryptonite for me but now I just remind myself how gross I feel physically when I eat that much sugar and it’s easy to pass), did my best to limit my portions at lunch since the catered lunch was always sandwiches and chips and cookies (passed on the last two, obviously), and worked on only eating until I was satisfied – not full – for dinner.

This morning at home again I did the kettlebell workout for the second time and upped my handweight to 10 lbs (I would have gone to 8 but I didn’t have an 8 lb weight on hand). Most of the swings and presses were no problem, but I expect to be sore in both my legs AND my arms tomorrow. I worked more on form today so I am really feeling it in my hips and quads already – they’re a little shaky right now. Sign of a good workout!

Maintenance – just one long journal entry about exercise and diet. I’d like to come up with some kind of useful insight or inspiration occasionally but I think this is it – it’s a long slog, and staying the course can be made easier with variation and shooting for small improvements.

More Travel Weight Management

Hello Dahlings! I’m back! If, uh, you even noticed I was gone! I went to South America for two weeks – my first time! I started with two days in Quito, Ecuador (lovely!), spent 5 days in the Galapagos Islands (breathtaking!), then to Peru for the Cuzco/Sacred Valley/Machu Picchu/Lima circuit (mind-blowing!) for the 2nd week.

The food in Ecuador and Peru would probably be best described as heavy – lots of meat, starches, sauces, and dessert served with just about every meal (or maybe that was just my tour?). Seriously, a dieting nightmare. When I weighed in this morning I was pleased to find that I weighed exactly the same as the day before I left. I can only credit the extremely heavy level of physical activity on our tour (hiking! swimming! snorkeling! hiking! more hiking! walking! more hiking!), watching my portions (esp being relentless about not feeling the need to clean my plate), and the touch of food poisoning I had in Peru for about 2 days. Really knocked me off my feed for a bit there. It all came out even in the wash. Yay!

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A red-footed booby, Galapagos

Man I’m exhausted though – this trip was more like an expedition or trek than a vacation. 10 airplane flights in 2 weeks, and we visited 5 UNESCO World Heritage Sites! I am jet-lagged, tired out, and desperately needing some down time. So today I am taking it. Here are 2 representative pictures for your enjoyment!

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Machu Picchu, just as it began to rain