- Prioritize exercise amenities (and use them!) – What do you look for when you research hotels? Free wi-fi, a lovely view? Add whether or not your hotel has an exercise room to your top list of priorities. They are becoming more common, but you can easily review the hotel amenities on your travel or hotel website to confirm. This of course means you also have to prioritize packing your workout clothes. They take up a lot of room, but the results (more energy and less jet lag in addition to weight maintenance) were worth it. Try to get your workout out of the way in the morning so you can have the rest of the day for fun. When that doesn’t work, head for a walk or to the gym when travel companions are napping to get your energy boost. Working out on vacation is a must when you are gone longer than a week (I learned that the hard way). It helps you maintain your muscle mass, keep your weight in check and restart your workout routine when you get back home since you won’t be starting from scratch.
- Hoof it – One of the best ways to explore a new city is on foot. You stumble upon the best finds and it helps you get oriented with your new surroundings. You’re going to burn extra calories while getting a first-hand view of your vacation destination. You can look up walking tours of your destination before you go for a little guidance. Be sure and pack comfortable walking shoes. I cannot say enough about my Teva Kayenta Walking Sandals. I have them in Walnut and find I can wear them with shorts, skirts and dresses. They are comfortable for a long day of hitting the pavement and look stylish as well.
- Eat local – This is always a great idea whether you are at home or on vacation. We visited one of the local markets in Istanbul and found a dazzling array of fresh fruits and vegetables. Figs were in season so I snacked on those between meals. We ate local specialities (even when they looked strange) which were made with fresh local ingredients. Eating local on vacation means that you are going to taste the best your destination has to offer and typically enjoy a high nutrient content meal since your food hasn’t had to travel a long way to your table. Every location has its specialities, but for those who tend to gravitate to tropical destinations (like me!) you are mostly likely going to get your fill of juicy fruits and vegetables and the freshest seafood.
- Go meatless – I didn’t follow this 100% of the trip, but when I had the option, I opted out of meat at most meals. This was easy to do given our destinations of India and Istabul, but it’s still a choice you make. The vegetarian dishes were so flavorful, I didn’t feel like I was missing out. When I did have “meat”, I opted for the fresh seafood that was plentiful and better prepared since they were local specialities.
- Indulge in moderation – One of the reasons I’m a little surprised we didn’t gain weight is that we didn’t really deprive ourselves of indulgences. I had my champagne cocktails and ate my baklava, but I was careful to do it in moderation. Dessert was still a special treat, the ice cream was portioned to one scoop and the baklava was bite-size. Drinks were alternated with water and were limited to prevent hangovers and ruin the following day’s workout and sightseeing.
- Give yourself a break and enjoy your vacation – It’s about enjoying your vacation not deprivation. So if you go a little crazy one day (like I did on my food tour – more to come on that!) don’t beat yourself up over it. Reset your intentions for the next day to get a little more exercise and listen to your hunger/fullness cues. If the scale moves a little higher than it was before you left, that is OK too. Look back on your wonderful memories and then make a plan to double-down on your workouts and get back on track with healthful eating.
When you are in the throws of studying nutrition and surrounding yourself with others who are nutritionally minded, it’s possible to forget who really needs our message – and how complicated those messages can be. I was in the chair of my favorite stylist last week who is a working mom with two lovely children and is just trying to make the right food choices for her family. Her previous client was telling her she needed to buy organic foods for her family (most likely with the implied “if you want to be a good mother”). Health messages are confusing and with limited time (and money), it made me really think about what are the key nutrition messages I want to be sharing to help focus the conversation and eliminate the noise. In the business world, we call it the elevator pitch. If you only have a few minutes riding up the elevator (or chatting at a party) with a person, what would your message be? The other business mantra that kept swirling in my head was “Keep it Simple, Stupid” or KISS which speaks to the clarity and focus of the message. I want to have clear, succinct, actionable messages that my friends, family and soon-to-be clients can understand and act on to make healthy changes in their lives.
It made me ponder what my elevator pitch should be. I do buy many organic/grass-fed/cage-free/farmer’s market items, but I that isn’t where I would start given what I know of my friends, family and the public in general.
So this is what is important to me:
Cook at home
I don’t think we are cooking at home as much as we should. Don’t get me wrong, in my family, we go out to eat and even order take-out a few times a week, but it is still a special occasion. A recent study shows children are eating more and those calories are being eaten away from home. Cooking at home let’s you control what you put in your meals. You are bound to use less salt and sugar as a result. It’s reconnects you with your food. It helps you take pride in serving your family something you made with love. It is the first step in sitting down and having a meal with your family which is a critical component of family communications and keeping childhood obesity at bay. I usually look up Cooking Light recipes from MyRecipes.com if I need to shake things up a little. Strive to try one new recipe, order takeout one less day a week or sit down as a family one more night than you usually do.
Build a balanced plate
The conversion of MyPyramid to MyPlate provides us with a valuable visual tool to help spread the message of “eat more fruits, vegetables and whole-grains.” The MyPlate approach is perfect KISS message. When you meal plan, it helps you think about how to balance your plate across all categories. It makes you think twice about steaming some veggies or tossing a salad to add to that turkey burger or chicken and pasta your were going to serve alone. It helps with portion control as well. We are talking about a 9-inch plate, so there is only some much that can be piled on there. Also if 3/4 of the plate is filled with fruits, vegetables and whole-grains then there is only so much room for protein. Hopefully, it also reminds us to swap out soda for serving of low-fat dairy. If you start with a balanced plate, it really does crowd out the other stuff that is less nutritious.
Get moving and step it up
And by that I mean exercise. I don’t think it is possible to live a healthy life without exercise. You need to “step up” what ever you are doing now by getting off the couch, taking the stairs, adding 10 minutes to your walk/run or going to the gym one more day a week. You can’t do it by diet alone. There are so many wonderful benefits to exercise, I argue you wouldn’t want to do it by diet alone. It’s going to boost your metabolism, help you sleep, give you more energy and yes, you might even lose some weight while you are at it. You don’t have to join a gym – though not a bad option if you can afford it. Walking or running is a great way to start. Buy a video if you need to build your confidence at the beginning. The important thing is that you keep moving.
Finally, take charge and make a change
You need to be an active participant in living a healthy lifestyle. No one else can do it for you! Don’t be passive and let the fast food marketers and food package designers tell you want to buy. You will need to work to make it happen. This can be something small such as visiting your local farmer’s market, trying Meatless Mondays, packing your lunch or reading the nutrition label on the snack bar you have every day. It can be more more involved like looking up nutritional information on restaurant websites before you go, tracking your calories or packing snacks when you travel. Before you know it you’ll be wanting more. You might educate yourself by reading Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food or watching Food Inc. Maybe you’ll wanted to plant herbs or a small garden. Everyone has their own evolution, but it starts with you making one small change and then another.
It makes me think of the Mahatma Gandhi quote:
“Be the change you want to see in the world.” …and I would add “in yourself”
I’m sure every dietitian (or to-be dietitian) has their own elevator pitch depending on their experiences, but here is mine –
Cook at home, balance your plate, getting moving and be the change.
Hopefully that is KISS enough for you 🙂
Keep It Simple Clipart from: http://www.flickr.com/photos/92501682@N00/5067471752/