In 2006, I travelled through the full boot of Italy- eleven cities in all- and spent time in Dublin, Paris, Amsterdam, Valencia, Barcelona, and London. I stayed in hostels that ran the gamut from dodgy to dodgier to ‘let’s never tell my mother about this.’ And when I returned to the States after all of that, I had lost sixty pounds.
In the past four years, I’ve moved from Boston to Philadelphia to Connecticut to Seattle.
In this year alone, I’ve made my way through three parts of Mexico, Belize, Costa Rica, and the Dominican Republic.
I travel. And I remain committed to eating in balance all the while.
I think of myself as an adventurer. I believe myself to be spontaneous, curious, and present enough to feel as though I’m actively living while traveling. No part of my day is routine or on autopilot as it so often is at home. I’m out, I’m about, I’m exploring. And once I’ve arrived in a new city or town, I’m committed to experiencing it. I recognize the brevity of the trip, the fact that I might not ever be in this place again, with these people, at this stage in my life, and because of those things, I seize every opportunity.
My senses are heightened. I want to smell everything, to see everything, to taste everything. It’s my way of making a mental scrapbook, of taking in memories like photographs to be filed away. It is this deep and true awareness of my environment and my own senses that keeps me connected to my body. I am living on purpose. It’s the kind of living that satisfies me enough so that I’m not wanting to eat out of boredom, so that I’m not searching for a snack as something to do, so that I’m not wanting to binge eat because I know that feeling bloated, heavy, and sluggish will prevent me from walking more, dancing more, beaching it, more. In this sense, food propels me forward to doing more. And that’s not to say that it is not still wildly pleasurable; it’s just that overeating anything, eating even a salad to the point of mild discomfort, loses its appeal.
What I learned in the beachy cultures of Central America this year was a respect for my body. Being so constantly scantily clad in bathing suits, in shorts and tank tops, in attire that felt both minimally inappropriate and preclusive to excessive sweat stains, I was more aware of my body. Unable to hide any parts that I do not love, I had to accept them. I was putting myself out there, and though the thought of it at first made me anxious, in the end I loved it. I found confidence in knowing that this- this body- is the one that swims and dances and walks several miles a day. This body is the one that I have, and even if its not the one I’d have picked out in a one-day body sale, it’s mine. I can choose to do with it as I please.
Here is my advice on eating healthy while traveling:
- Walk everywhere. Be Active.
And by everywhere, I mean: ev.ery.where (adv): to or in all parts or places. Even if you have no idea where you’re going, find yourself a local map and get outside. When Camille and I lived in Costa Rica for a few months last spring, we had no means of transportation outside of our own tootsies. Our modest beach shack was 4 km from the center of town where grocery stores and banks existed. I cannot count the number of times we took a two hour walk to and fro.
If you can, rent a bike. This will increase the distance of places you can easily visit while also saving you the time you might have spent on foot.
- Pick 1 Meal to Indulge.
For me, the meal that means most is dinner. I look forward to it, usually I’m dressing up, there’s a group of people going with me, and I’m making a big to do about it. And since dinner is my happy end to the day, I keep breakfast and lunch light. In Europe, or at least certainly in Italy, breakfast is not as big a deal as it is here in the USA. Often, it’s an espresso alongside a traditional sweet pastry or biscuit. Italians inhabit a culture that might nibble on a small starch in the morning and be content ‘til lunchtime. You and I, however, can develop a fantastic habit of having a healthy, wholesome breakfast and we certainly won’t be missing out on any grand eating experiences. (Unless gelato becomes an a.m. staple over there, in which case- disregard the entirety of this recommendation). In other areas that you’re traveling, breakfast is usually easy to quarantine as light and healthy. What is worth recognizing as positive about breakfast is that no matter where you are, at least a few of the staples on any morning menu will be good for you. This makes it fairly easy to stay within a reasonable calorie range. There will likely be fruit, yogurt, milk, eggs, and perhaps even oatmeal. Any combination of these choices is wise. All will probably be lighter than a muffin, a pastry, or a serving of pancakes or waffles with butter and syrup. Just make the best choice you can here and know that you have dinner (and perhaps dessert) to look forward to.
- Eat 3 solid meals per day and do not snack (please).
Europeans eat well, and a large part of how they maintain their slim figures is by avoiding snacking. Americans are said to consume somewhere around 25% of their daily calorie intake through snacks. This hyper-snacking isn’t typical to many cultures, at least not in the places I’ve traveled.
If you think about it, snacks are never as satisfying as sitting down to a meal. They’re often forgettable, and only leave you fantasizing about your next lunch or dinner. If you’re eating a balanced, full-of-vegetables meal three times a day, you should be fine in between without grazing. Here is where you’ll get in tune with your hunger. You’ll learn that being hungry is a gentle building, and when you do eventually eat, you appreciate, you taste, your food that much more. You celebrate meal time because it is not something that happens at any hour, in any location.
- Eat 1 Treat per day
This will keep you happy. This will keep you strong and sane. The goal is to stop after one of something, one of anything your heart desires. Know this: Sweets will exist tomorrow, and even the day after that, so no need to stockpile your stomach.
Savor your meals and sweets a whole lot,
but savor your time even more.
I’d love to know: What’s your best advice on eating healthy while traveling?