Need To Lose Weight? Leave The Country

diet scaleAmericans are bombarded with advertisements for weight loss products. There are pills, special diets, motivational books and videos (think skinny thoughts!), exercise equipment, slimming belts and a host of other hokey products and services. But I’ve never heard anyone suggest that taking a trip is the best way to lose some weight.

Perhaps my experience isn’t typical, but I always seem to shed weight when I take a long trip without a car. I just recently returned from a three-month trip spent mostly in Italy and Greece without a car, and I managed to lose 10 pounds, despite the fact that I ate to my heart’s content. How did I do that?

In Italy, I ate pasta or pizza plus at least one double scoop cone of gelato every day – seriously. And in Greece, I ate a combination of the following each day: gyros, souvlaki, octopus, calamari, pizza and baklava. Oh, and there was a fair amount of beer and wine too. And here’s the really surprising thing: at home, I jog at a good clip for a half hour four times per week, but while traveling I didn’t formally exercise at all because I had a limited wardrobe and didn’t want to do any more laundry than necessary.But here’s the two big differences between my home and travel routines: at home, I’m mostly sitting at a desk working but also ducking back and forth from the kitchen to get snacks, and I drive to most of the places I need to get to. While traveling without a car, I probably walked several miles every day without even really thinking about it. And I was only spending 3-4 hours per day behind the computer instead of 8-10 at home.

Most of us don’t have an opportunity to travel for months at a time and if we tried to run all of our errands on foot, nothing would get done. It doesn’t help that most of us live in places that are designed for cars, not pedestrians and cyclists. Still, if you’re planning a trip, particularly outside the U.S., consider it an opportunity to lose a few pounds. Here are a few tips:

1. If you can avoid renting a car, do so.
2. If you have small children, push them around town in the stroller. It’s great exercise.
3. Take long walks after meals.
4. Don’t buy snacks to keep in your hotel room and don’t use the minibar.
5. Don’t drink too much beer.
6. Plan to visit places that are pedestrian friendly.
7. Leave the country. America is not a good place to be on a diet.

[Photo by Alan Cleaver on Flickr]

White Collar Travel: Five step to healthier road warrior diets

Sometimes, it seems like the road warrior‘s diet is relegated to the extremes. When a company executive is in town for a meeting – you’re taking your clients out – it’s hefty steaks, heavy cabernets and always more appetizers than a third-world country could consume in a lifetime. When there’s no occasion to shape the meal, on the other hand, you’re looking at suburban Chinese food illuminated by the glow of your dashboard.

It’s tough to strike a balance while you’re traveling … a problem that’s multiplied when you do it all the time. Fast food factors into at least one meal a day, and often, it will be your only meal. Caffeine (and, in my case, nicotine) replaced countless breakfasts, lunches and dinners back in my consulting days. Weight fluctuations were obvious. I’d usually drop 20 pounds in a month and a half when switching from a travel-intensive project to a local one.

Though the pressures of the job and the claims on time can impede proper nutrition, it isn’t impossible to eat well when you live the life of a wandering white collar warrior. You just have to be smart, plan ahead and commit to keeping yourself healthy.

Here are five ways you can avoid the fast food pits and fattening side-effects of client dinners when living the life of a road warrior:1. Choose an extended-stay hotel when possible
Now, what does this have to do with nutrition? Everything! These hotels have small kitchens, and you can stock the fridge with fruits, vegetables and other healthy snacks. When you get back to your room after 14 hours of meetings and deadlines, reach for an apple instead of a snickers bar (or a mini-bottle of bourbon).

2. Don’t always go for the steak
I know this sounds insane, but steakhouses carry other dead animals … not just cows. Would it kill you to opt for the salmon every now and then? While you’re at it, a salad can be savored; it isn’t something you have to endure.

3. Watch what you drink
Hey, I still enjoy a glass of wine or two with a nice dinner. But, you don’t have to kick off the evening with two martinis and close it with a cognac. At some point, switch to club soda or water. You can drink socially without going overboard.

4. Give up fast food
Or, at least cut back on it. When you have to dine and dash, your options do become limited, and not every city has an array of healthy quick-service dining options. When possible, find an alternative to fast food fare. It may take some work, but you should be able to come up with something.

5. Multitask for an extra meal
Breakfast is the first casualty of life on the road. Whether you’re up early to work or you’re trying to squeeze in a few extra minutes of sleep, the morning meal soon becomes a fantasy. Make time for breakfast. Bring some work down with you, and turn it into productive time. Hell, take your laptop to the table – it’s not like anyone’s eating with you.

Click here for more White Collar Travel

[photo by Steve Zak]

Ask Gadling: Travel weight gain

Vacation eating
Traveling into unknown territory can bring up a lot of questions. We’re here to help. This week’s question comes from Andrew in Long Island, who has a problem that many — if not most — of us have.

“I’m trying to lose weight. I’ve lost 15 pounds since February, but I keep wrecking my progress when I go out of town. I travel once per month for business and also went on a vacation, and every time it’s the same thing. I don’t feel like I’m eating that much.”

Gadling: First of all, congratulations on losing 15 pounds. I’m sorry to hear that travel has been getting in your way, though. Provided that you are not on a special diet and under the close supervision of a doctor, here are some tips that might help:

Don’t eat on the plane.

Airplane food can have a lot of hidden calories, not to mention preservatives. Is it really that great, even in first class? Not great enough to justify eating it. We tend to not even count airplane food as a real “meal.” You’re still going to want to try some local cuisine when you get off the plane, so save your appetite. If the flight is really long (I’m already assuming it’s decently long if they’re serving food at all), try packing sandwiches and fruit so that you have control over what you’re eating. At the very least, grab yourself a small square of dark chocolate or an apple and forgo whatever sugary cake they put on your tray table.

View more Ask Gadling: Travel Advice from an Expert or send your question to ask [at] gadling [dot] com.

Get some exercise.

Exercising can be a great way to see a new city. If you’re on vacation, it’s easy to justify going for long walks; you may not even notice them. Additionally, check out what bike rides, kayak tours, hikes and other active-activities are available. On the other hand, if you’re just in some industrial complex in middle America every other week for meetings, getting out can be a little trickier. Make a commitment to use the hotel gym at least once for every two days you’re out of town, and if the hotel your company uses doesn’t have one, bring it up with your boss and see if they can start using a new one or provide you with a local gym membership while you’re there. Asking for a way to help you stay healthy may seem embarrassing, but it’s not out of the question. Just don’t phrase it like you’re looking for an upgrade.

Don’t “vacation eat.”

We’ve all said it: “I can eat whatever I want, it’s vacation!” or thought: “I might not ever get to eat at this restaurant again, so I’d better have a feast.” Well, if you’re trying to lose weight, it’s not a vacation from that, and whether you’ll ever be at a restaurant again or not, overeating doesn’t make any logical sense. The way to avoid “vacation eating” is to make sure you’ve lined up lots of fun things to do; that way, you don’t find yourself coasting from meal to meal. If there’s nothing planned but breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner, you’ll naturally try and get all you can out of those events, which can include multiple courses and cleaning your plate — neither of which is necessary. Use the same tricks you would at home; ask yourself how hungry you are on a scale of one to ten and order accordingly. Don’t make food the main event of your day or your vacation.

If work for you involves long, multi-course lunches, first of all, congratulations, your job rocks. But really, you don’t have to eat all that much. Keep drinking water, eat more of the salad and less of the potatoes. Don’t clean your plate. These things may seem ineffectual, and on their own, they are; but if you do them as a rule, they can make a big difference.

Keep the drinking under control.

Not that you have a problem or anything. Most of us tend to drink more when we’re away. Whether it’s boredom while alone in a hotel room, work buddies, friends you don’t usually get to see or you’re just plain “vacation drinking,” keep the caloric content of drinks — and the fact that drinking can lead to more eating — in mind. If you’re concerned that someone will give you a hard time if you don’t have a drink in your hand, or that you won’t have as much fun, try just replacing a drink here and there with a plain soda with lime from the bar. It looks like a drink, so you won’t feel (or look) like you’re not participating.

SkyMall Monday: Waistband Stretcher

Here at the SkyMall Monday world headquarters, we eat a lot. Moderation is a four-letter word, as far as I’m concerned. How can anyone expect me to eat responsibly with all these zig-zagging brownies and giant cupcakes laying around? So, as you can imagine, I’m not exactly in bikini shape this summer. Which is fine, since I’m a dude, but it also means that I’m not in old-timey bathing suit shape either. Sadly, I’ll have to avoid the beach and stay fully clothed this summer. But what if my clothes don’t fit anymore? I mean, I’ve eaten a lot of those giant cupcakes. I can’t afford a whole new wardrobe. You may be surprised to learn that writing SkyMall Monday is not exactly the most lucrative endeavor. Basically, I get paid with SkyMall gift cards which I use to purchase more giant cupcake pans. So, how can I make my clothes fit without changing my lifestyle and becoming healthy? Well, I could always force my pants to fit with the Waistband Stretcher!

Now, instead of dieting, exercising, sleeping well and abstaining for alcohol, I can just stretch my pants out until they fit around my robust, girthy torso. I can continue to shovel heaping amounts of homemade donuts into my gullet comforted by the knowledge that my pants are always a quick stretch away from allowing blood flow to my lower extremities. My genitalia have never been more excited!

Don’t believe my excited genitalia? Fine, don’t take their word for it. But you have to trust the product description:

When your waistband feels too snug, reach for the Waistband Stretcher. You don’t have to get rid of your favorite jeans, skirts or slacks thanks to this simple waist-band stretching device that lets you add from 1-5 inches (depending on size of garment) to the waist of cotton pants, skirts, and shorts. Just moisten the garment’s waistband, insert the waistband stretcher, extend the garment to the desired size and let dry – voila, a more comfortable fit!

Of course, once the cupcakes and donuts induce the heart attack that I have scheduled for July, I’m certain to lose a few pounds in the hospital. Comas will do that. I’m sure that there’s a reverse setting on the Waistband Stretcher and I’ll get those 1-5 inches back in no time. Voila, waistband shrunk! No? You can’t unstretch a waistband? Well, back to my diet of choice then.

L.A. Pauses Fast Food Industry

L.A. might be a sprawling and frustrating city, but one thing is for sure: when in the City of Angels, you will always be within walking distance of a fast food joint.

These bastions of greasy cuisine have spread at such an alarming rate that, last year, some people were considering stopping fast food expansion by denying licenses to would-be restaurants. Well, the unthinkable has come to pass. Recently, L.A.’s city council decided to put a stop to the growing fast food restaurant industry in South Los Angeles by not allowing new restaurants to open.

The council cited health concerns as the reason for their decision. They hope that the temporary ban will lead to more healthy eating options. These are currently lacking in many of the South’s poorer neighborhoods. However, the numerous fast food shacks already in operation will remain open. So the law will stop the spread of fast food eateries, but it is not a quick fix.

Some people are quick to criticize the decision, saying that the city should not try to control people’s dining choices. Others say that the moratorium might also stop the expansion of restaurants that are branded fast food even though they don’t even have a deep fat fryer. Apparently, the council’s decision will affect storefront taco stands as well. Don’t expect the debate to stop anytime soon.