Developing Healthy Habits on the Road
No doubt this year has been good for our waistlines and our health (well, except for current our time in Italy that has mainly consisted of eating pizza, pasta, gelato and drinking wine). In fact, I am writing this from a house in Tuscany where we have indulged in so many ways, but we really feel like celebrating after almost a year of living our dream. Everything in moderation, right?
Over the last 11 months, both of us have enjoyed losing a few of the pounds we put on sitting at desk jobs for years.
We feel healthier after living a different lifestyle, although incorporating decent exercise and healthy foods into our everyday life while constantly traveling has not always been easy. We don’t stay in hotels with exercise rooms and in some countries, our food choices are really limited in restaurants and stores.
In Australia we stayed with our friend Robyn who is a holistic health coach (and so much more) who focuses on intuitive eating. She makes the most delicious healthy meals and treats and really got me thinking about how and what we eat. Sitting at her counter eating breakfast one morning, I grabbed my iPhone to check email and see what was happening on the inter webs. She told me to put it down and just focus on eating – no screens, no distractions. It was my first real lesson in mindful eating.
After staying with her, I started reading books and web sites dedicated to the ideas of mindful eating and have to say I am a bit hooked. Some of the things below I learned from books and others intuitively as we continue to travel and feel like healthier versions of our old selves. We have had the luxury of time this year to focus on being healthy and I have picked up a few things I think are worth sharing for those traveling for a year, a month or just a weekend away. They are relatively easy, don’t require doing pushups and sit ups in your hostel dorm room and don’t cost much.
Tips for Living Healthy on the Road
Limit distractions – as Robyn taught me in real-time, eating while distracted is not the way to be focused on what you are taking in. I notice that when I eat in front of my computer, a book or my phone, I often eat more and when finished have a hard time really remembering my meal. Breakfast is the easiest time for me to fall into this trap since Dave and I typically eat different things and at different times. It was uncomfortable at first not doing anything else when eating, but it does keep me focused on when I am full and done eating.
Eat slower – Since it is just the two of us eating most meals, we don’t have long conversations with friends that keep us at the table talking and interacting while we eat. It means we eat faster and basically check off lunch or dinner in order to move on to the next thing. I have been trying to eat slower by consciously putting down my fork or spoon in between bites so that I actually chew and eat my current bite before going for the next one. Again, not always easy when a good meal is in front of you, but I notice it helps.
Share meals, eat a bigger lunch and limit snacking – We really got into sharing meals when we were in expensive countries like Japan, New Zealand and Australia. What we realized is that we rarely needed to order two full meals and got by just fine on sharing one. We also try to eat a bigger lunch to hold us over for most of the day and have a light dinner, if we are even hungry for dinner. Basically, we eat when we are hungry and skip dinner when we don’t really need it. Try it, I promise it is not a big deal and I notice I walk around feeling less full and bloated all night.
Eat locally and seasonally (and cook your own meals) – The big box grocery store is really something unique to the States and some other Western countries. Most of the places we have traveled through have small mini markets in town that have bare essentials and the fresh fruit and vegetables that are in season. By eating things that are in season and having a limited selection of items, we stay away from most processed foods. Our favorite activity also includes visiting local farmer’s markets and we have had fantastic meals from our finds at them.
Get outside and naturally exercise – We get to spend so much more time outside these days and it allows us to incorporate natural exercise like walking, hiking and cycling into our everyday lives. We rarely have a car and rely on our feet to get us where we need to be, hardly ever taking buses or trains if the distance is less than a couple of kilometers. When I am carrying my luggage and walking somewhere (for some reason it is always uphill, up stairs or for long distances), I am carrying around almost 20 kilograms (40 pounds) of extra weight. Do this a few hundred times over the course of the year and you will be stronger. Take the long road somewhere and don’t be afraid to carry a few things along the way.
Sleep – We get up pretty early most days, but we are typically in bed by 10 p.m. Most nights I am getting eight to 10 hours of sleep and I can tell what a difference it has made. No black and blue bags under my eyes, my skin looks better and I have more energy. I know this is much harder with alarm clocks, jobs, kids and other commitments, but it is really worth the effort.
Drink water – I have been carrying around a refillable water bottle since we started this trip. It not only has a message on the bottle that I love to see everyday (Peace, Love, Yoga), but I always try to keep it full. We drink our fair share of local coffee, beer and wine (we also subscribe to the drink locally philosophy), but the only other thing I have drank for a year has been water. Again, I can see a difference in my skin and energy levels and I think water has something to do with it. And you know what else? There are way too many plastic water bottles floating in our oceans or thrown along the world’s hillsides. We have seen it all over the world. Get a refillable water bottle, please!
These are not earth shattering ideas, but I know that when I am focused on them, I feel and look healthier. I am going to continue incorporating them into my life when we get home and eventually fall into a new routine. This year has been a blessing for many, many reasons and being healthier is one of the top things on my list. I am dying for some quality time on a yoga mat though…soon enough…
As I mentioned above, my friend Robyn Patton makes incredible things from raw, natural ingredients along with being a fantastic health coach. I taste tested about 100 things she made in a little over a week and I never wanted to leave her kitchen. She posts recipes regularly to her Facebook page along with great messages worth hearing.