Most people put on weight while travelling.  Or if not while actually on the road (or air) then within  couple of weeks of getting home.

If you have one holiday every year or less often, this may be of little concern to you.  However, for many of us, it becomes a big concern as we rapidly undo the self discipline of many many months and have to spend another 3 – 4 months getting back to where we were before we went away.

In this article I share what I’ve learned to maintain weight when traveling.

Most of us have a friend who declares it’s alright to relax and let your hair down once in awhile.  But are they putting on a kilo each year, year after year?  That’s what I was doing when I had that attitude.   A day off here and there may make little difference, but several weeks off plan several times a year may be hard to crawl back from.  I don’t want to put in more time on maintenance upon returning home than I was putting in before I went away.  I don’t have time for that – but don’t what to gain the extra kilos long term.  The sad fact is – calories are the same – if at home or on holidays.

The facts remain – most people put on 2 – 3 kg over the Christmas holidaysand most people do not lose it all before the following Christmas.  That’s why so many are overweight.  A kilo a year is all most of us gain long term, but by the 40s and beyond, it is all adding up!

Traveling often with my husband over many years, I have had myriad opportunities to work out how to travel, and not gain weight.  Most I’ve learned through the school of hard knocks – if you know what I mean.

Gaining weight AFTER the holiday

Some people experience not gaining weight while away – but gaining weight upon returning.  I believe this is because all the travelling and sight seeing and holidaying means we are actually quite active, and so the extra exercise and less lying in front of the TV or sitting at the desk balances out eating more.   Upon returning – the stomach has stretched due to larger meals while holidaying – but we continue to eat more (as on holiday) but cease all extra activity.  Result – weight gain.

The mistakes we make:

"Once in a while" is the key here!

“Once in a while” is the key here!

  • When traveling in new places, it is so easy to think “I won’t be back here again, so I’d better eat all of food-X that I can”.  Mistake!  These days you can order practically anything online, if the local grocery store can’t get it in for you.  Take a photo and look it up on your phone while in the store so you know where to source it from home – if it is really so important to you.
  • Eating too many treats and meals “to celebrate being here”.  I ‘get’ this thought.  When in Copenhagen earlier in the year, I wanted a Copenhagen ice-cream on the most famous wharf in the city.  So I had one scoop – and refused to have the extra encouraged on me.  Mistake: thinking you have to have a large serve of the special food.  An appetiser or child-size treat is just as enjoyable as a meal if you relish every mouthful.  In Sweden I shared half a special pastry with my daughter – no need to eat the whole thing; half tastes just as good.
  • Mistaking jet lag for hunger.  Jet lag messes your metabolism up – in several ways.  Eating fires the metabolism, so keeps you awake when you’d rather sleep but can’t because you have to board a plane at an unearthly hour.  If you are actually  tired but think you want to eat (for example, on a plane when you have jet lag, or after arriving but it’s the middle of the day), only drink water and try to get a short (alarmed) nap in.  I ask myself these questions:
    1. Am I tired or hungry? If tired primarily – drink water – lots of it.  And try to get in a short nap if you’re brain dead – it will feel better than eating.
    2. Am I hungry, but its not the local mealtime? (or close to it)?  Drink a glass of water. If still hungry, have a piece of fresh fruit (keep a piece with you at all times for such emergencies).  Never eat or snack – unless it is the local meal time.  Water and fruit will always suffice.
"Not too much" is a key! Don't get overfull.

“Not too much” is a key! Don’t get overfull.

  • Eating too much overall due to such choice. When people eat in a group, they eat more food than they usually would.  Be aware of this.  Regardless of what is served, pace yourself.  Put the brakes on before starting to eat.   Practice only eating enough to feel comfortable and not eating enough to feel overly full.  If we are honest, eating one plate of food is usually enough for any normal person who has not just run a marathon.  So put the food on the plate – once – mostly low calorie vegetables, beans, fresh fruit, whole grains (and less of anything else) and don’t go back for seconds.
  • Not carrying enough healthy snacks – both on flights, as well as when out and about.  Even flying from Australia, I carry lots of healthy snacks like fruit – as long as it is eaten before disembarking, it’s all good.  And stock up on healthy snacks in your holiday destination too.

Returning Home

I don’t weigh myself for several days after returning from a holiday.  Sitting in a car all day or travelling across multiple time zones causes you to retain fluid or dehydrate. Any scales measurements will be unreliable.  If I’ve stuck to my two rules:

  • eating meals only when hungry, stopping before full
  • allowing only fruit or water between meals

I am unlikely to have gained weight, and will more probably have lost weight due to all the holiday activity.

I recognise I will be suffering jet lag or weariness upon my return and not to mistake that as hunger.  I immediately jump into local time meal times – and follow the same 2 rules as above –

  • eat meals only when hungry, stop before full
  • eat only fruit or water between meals

These are my two rules both at home and when away – and they work like a dream.

I hope they may be helpful for you.

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