Need To Lose Weight? Leave The Country

Americans 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]