Long-Term Travel Challenges: Losing and Maintaining Weight

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March 20, 2013HealthNo comments

1186279_weight_scale_Going on a trip is a time for splurging and indulging—you are supposed to have a good time so eat that dessert, opt for the taxi and stay in that extra fancy room. But, traveling long-term can be a bit of a different experience and you need to adopt a different mentality. If you are going to be spending months or years on the road, the ‘’I am on vacation’’ excuse is not really valid for constantly eating unhealthy food and skipping on regular exercise.  As I write this, I am about two years into my travels through Southeast Asia and during this time, I have experienced weight fluctuations that I have gotten under control. I would like to share what strategies have personally worked for me to help me shed those extra pounds and keep them at bay. Travel and weight loss do not have to be mutually exclusive; I am now as thin as I have been in years.

Cook at Home

If you are staying in a house or apartment, find one with a kitchen; as a side note, being in this part of the world has taught me not to assume a dwelling will have a kitchen (or windows but that is not a story for this time.)Remember, the’’ I’m on vacation’’ excuse does not hold water when traveling long-term and it is perfectly reasonable to prepare some meals at home, or a hostel with kitchen facilities. Doing this has improved my eating habits tremendously as I generally eat  pretty healthy meals, and when given the opportunity to choose the foods to make, I will choose good ones.

When I go out to restaurants, I will be the first to admit that I tend to go for the ‘’good’’ stuff as in tasty and indulgent and not as in healthy. I have gotten into the habit of usually eating only twice a day and at least one of these meals is almost always prepared at home with cheap, delicious ingredients. When traveling in less expensive areas, it is always tempting to eat the one dollar meals from the street stalls at all times, but many times, these foods are not the healthiest to be eating at all times.

Balance out Your Calories

Going to so many different places, there are so many restaurants I want to try, and that is all well and good; but if you are like me and tend to go for the indulgent items when eating out rather than the salad, it is important to work on balancing out your calories to keep your weight in check. Being in a part of the world where things cost much less than they do at home, I go out to eat much more often than I do there; while many of the restaurants are pure vegetarian with super-healthy food, many are your typical restaurants where you will end up eating more calories and more food than you would have had you eaten at home.

But, even though I have been eating this food much more often than I do at home, I still have managed to keep a healthy weight and one of the biggest reasons is choosing to balance out my calories. By eating healthful diet foods most of the time, I have some wiggle room to eat that delicious ravioli with the super-rich creamy sauce. In Thailand for example, I frequented the local Buddhist vegetarian restaurants almost every day, where I ate meals chock full of healthy vegetables and vegetarian proteins, which were very low in calories. So, if you have a major craving for Western fast food and know you are going to hit up McDonald’s for dinner, grab lunch at that vegetarian place.

Walk When You Can

Not surprisingly, my periods of weight gain during my trip always seemed to coincide with the times when I relied on a motorbike to get me around rather than my own two feet. Some of the places I stayed were not really centrally located or were in areas where things were more spread out and walking was not really feasible. But, for the most part, I have been in areas where most things are in a reasonable walking distance; and as much as I do not feel like it, which is a lot if I am honest, I will walk there. Even if something is not total walking distance, I commit to walking at least part of the way.

For example, in Ubud, Bali I used a motorbike because I was staying in the outskirts of the town ; but, rather than driving right to the restaurant or wherever else I was going in the town, I would park the bike father away and walk to my destination. When we think of exercise for weight loss, we tend to think of formal classes or really vigorous activity, but do not underestimate the power of walking in keeping your weight down while traveling. I have managed to lose weight and keep it off and the only exercise I have engaged in this whole trip is simply walking on a regular basis—never once joined a gym.

Kelli Cooper is a freelance writer who is passionate about health and travel; if you are traveling through OK, she highly recommends the quality accommodations at the Sleep Inn Hotel & Suites in Norman Oklahoma.