Fitness, Nutrition and Travel: Staying Healthy While Traveling is HARD

Photo Credit: Nick Gerber

Content Produced in Partnership with Project Rise Fitness

Confession: One of the biggest negatives about traveling all the time is the lack of consistency in the lifestyle. While I loathe routine, there’s something to be said about having a regimented diet, exercise, and hell, sleep. While your mind may despise monotony, your body seems to crave it, which has always been a huge challenge for me to find any sort of balance between the two. Staying healthy while traveling is HARD.

My tour guide in Taiwan asked me why I didn’t like close-up pictures. I said it was because I’d rather show off the incredible area, but wasn’t entirely true. Really it’s because I haven’t liked how I’ve looked in photos in a while. No, I’m not fat by everyday standards, but I’m big for me and given how important photos are in my world, I knew it was time to do something about it. On the morning of my 33rd birthday, I committed to a program with Project Rise, the fitness experts behind ABC’s Extreme Weight Loss Trainers. If they could help completely inactive participants lose hundreds of pounds, surely they could help me tone up. Of course, I had an ideal number in mind, but really, I just want to look better for myself.

The owner Caleb said it best: it’s you vs. your willpower, and as a highly competitive person, that resonated. It was time to take back control. I explained that meal prep and sticking to a regimented diet isn’t realistic since I never know where I’m going to be when, but he promised that they wouldn’t say no to Chipotle, they’d just offer tips of how to make better choices while there. That I could live with.

This is literally my life, you guys.

And thus began my 16 weeks nutrition and fitness journey.

It probably seemed ironic to start on a week of overindulgences (literally all you can eat Korean BBQ for my birthday, covering a restaurant opening, cooking fatty Southern foods for the Food Network, judging a gelato festival, and heading to Kansas City for BBQ), but that about sums up my life at any given time. Zero consistency. But let’s be real, there’s never a convenient time to be healthy. It’s just a choice you have to make. And carving out the time to make that sacrifice was battle number one. I quickly realized that since I usually don’t even take breaks for lunch, I would have to schedule workouts in my calendar, which would hopefully become “me time” in the ever-frantic world of a full-time freelancer.

Week 1

That first week, I went to the gym twice, which was a mini-miracle given how many balls were being juggled in anticipation of leaving for three weeks. I almost didn’t go to the second session, but I knew it would help me feel less guilty about all the gelato I was about to consume, despite my muscles feeling like mush.

My first nutrition meeting with Lexi was a blur. I was exhausted from working out for the first time in months and she was talking super fast, throwing words around like macros that my brain just couldn’t process. I later looked it up and realized they would become the key to weight loss (simultaneously wondering why we never learned about this in health class). We hopped on a scale and I winced. Almost five pounds heavier than my scale at home (which is well over my scary number) and a 43% BMI.

I tried to explain that as much as I want to be structured with meals, I have about as untraditional of a lifestyle as it gets. I write about food, attend media events and parties regularly, and travel on and off for weeks at a time where I eat out three meals a day. She looked at me a science experiment, amazed that people actually live like this.

Our week one goal was simply to get in the habit of paying attention to what I was eating. I began tracking my food via the app My Fitness Pal to get a baseline for when I’m in town vs. out of town and we made a plan to increase my daily protein intake from 85 to 100 grams. One of the main things I appreciate about their strategy is they track nutrition goals weekly rather than daily so there’s more flexibility when outside forces come into play.

I already noticed that I was thinking about food differently with the monitoring. I started trying different protein powders and bars and realized they weren’t all terrible (Rx Bars, pepperoni, protein dough, and vanilla chai shakes became my go tos). I was gaining cognizance, but worried what would happen once the insane travel restarted and if I would lose motivation.

A bathing suit picture I don’t hate — it’s all about the angles.

Week 2

Finding time to go to the gym is hard with a seemingly endless stream of deadlines. I work out before my nutrition meeting because I’m already there, but going more than once a week isn’t easy. Working out still seems like a chore, but I’m trying to trick my mind into viewing it as a mid-day pick me up (it hasn’t worked yet).

The workouts themselves are also hard. They’re broken into two tracks: Life or Sport (which is more like cross-fit training) so there is a community of people around but no one’s really paying attention or judging you. I have to modify a lot of the exercises, but their motto is “just move.” The class is run in EMOMs (every minute on the minute) and Tabata circuits (high-intensity intervals of twenty seconds on, ten seconds off) so at least the hour goes fast. Still, I usually only work out for 30-45 minutes at a time so an hour is pretty draining.

I was home almost a full week so I experimented with cooking some items on the recommended foods list. I’ve never particularly liked cooking because I don’t like leftovers and having to eat the same thing multiple days in a row, but I’ve grown to enjoy sweet potatoes, and even attempted acorn squash, which didn’t come out terribly (cutting them is another story). I do like getting to be creative in the kitchen, as long as it’s not super time-consuming.

The struggle is real, you guys.

Week 3 I was on the road and weeks 4 and 5 I was in Nepal.

Everywhere I go, I try to eat as local as possible to immerse myself in the culture. In Nepal, this meant I had to be almost 100% vegetarian because of their refrigeration issues so coming back to meat and processed foods was hard on my body. I got super sick and could keep nothing down.

Week 6

Week 6 was all about regaining strength and easing back into a routine. I felt weak and lost 4 pounds, 2 of those muscle mass. It was time to bulk up again, face the winter blahs and refocus since I was back in town for awhile. Finding motivation is especially hard in hibernation season when all I want to do is bunker down and huddle under blankets. I had planned on going to the gym twice and yadda yadda you can fill in your own excuse with what came up. One of those days I did make up my own workout in the park because I desperately needed fresh air. It was great; I did a lap around the lake, step-ups on the benches, and intermittent butt kickers and squats.

Week 7

I really enjoyed my first workout this week, which focused on kettle bells and jump ropes and realized these are both things I can do at home. Meal prep is still annoying and I get sick of eating the same thing more than a few days in a row (as good as my Korean tacos were). As an alternative, Lexi gave me a list of fast-casual restaurants and delivery services that provide macro friendly, protein-heavy meals like Ready Fit Go and Fit Kitchen in Colorado and Eating Primal, Factor 75 and Ice Age Meals online. I tried a few; they were hit or miss (but still better than cooking).

I had every intention of working out since I was feeling better, but every time I planned on going out, a client call came up and that took priority. I know I need to be better about blocking off the time, but I was gearing up for an insane six weeks of back-to-back trips and needed to get shit done.

Anyone else feel like this after the holidays? Just me?

Week 8-13

November/December I fell off the wagon hard. I had trips to all corners of the globe from Asia to the South and then the holidays hit. I didn’t go to the gym once between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, but I was hiking and doing other active things. And you know what? That’s life. Fast forward to 2018, consider this a reset.

Week 14

Lexi sent a really important newsletter about goal setting and that every goal requires a sacrifice. My sacrifice needs to be prioritizing my health. While I don’t believe in resolutions, I believe in evolutions and January was a self-care month for me.

I went to Germany, drank a lot of beer and then detoxed the rest of the month. Everything in moderation, even moderation. Lexi and I talked about how I’m in no routine whatsoever with sleep (flipping between time zones is really hard on your body and I had this nasty spell of waking up at 4 a.m. for a week straight) let alone working out. We set an easy goal to work out four times this week (which is actually a lot for me) – twice in the gym and twice at home with a 7-minute app in the morning.

The hope was to reset and create some healthy habits that I might take with me when I’m traveling like not leaving the house until x amount of calories are burned. We also discussed investing in a heart rate monitor so we can add some accountability to the in-home workouts and a sense of competition (which I love). I like both of these ideas and they seem very doable in the near future.

Week 15

I was in the mountains with friends all week so I didn’t do much given the distractions. Some would call this a setback, I just call it life.

Week 16

Despite not working out at all the week before, we had our final weigh-in and I was down 3% body fat, which basically put me back where I started before the holidays. While I wish I could say I was more successful with this program, mentally I am much more conscientious about what I’m doing and have all the tools to take control of my health.

The main thing I’ve learned is there’s not a linear path to success (and that Photoshop, lighting, and angles are always your friends). While 16 weeks may seem like a long time, it actually flies by. As much as my day-to-day changes, the only consistency is inconsistency and if I care about my health, I simply have to make it a priority. You can’t keep doing the same thing and expecting different results, right? I’m committed to finding a way to make it work. Who’s with me?

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2 Comments

  1. Excellent read. Staying healthy while traveling is definitely no easy task. It’s one thing if you’re traveling for the occasional vacation and then we say, let the health grip slip a little. When you’re traveling regularly for things like business, however, health tips like these can be particularly useful.

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