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]

Eating On The Road: What Kind Of Travel Eater Are You?

Like getting there, where to stay and what to see, eating on the road is one of the requirements of traveling. Some travelers like to plan every part of a trip and can’t leave home without those plans solid and confirmed. Others lean to a more nomadic flavor, taking in what they want when they want to.

But everyone has to eat.

How we go about that seems to vary from one person to another, with some commonalities among like-minded travelers.

Here are six different types of travel eaters. There may be more.

Live off the land-
Here are the true adventure travelers who find, or catch, then cook what they eat.

They are most commonly found camping or fishing, but can also be paranoid that America will be collapsing soon and they may have no other choice. is more geared toward the United States being invaded by Communists but offers tips on hunting, fishing, trapping, edible insects and the like.

Local Flavor-
A personal favorite, just walking around any destination usually ends up at a sidewalk cafe or bar, drinking in the surroundings. In Italy recently, we found a nice cafe off a main street that worked quite nicely for this.

These days, local flavor can be as close as the waiting areas of an airport too. “More local restaurants and chefs are opening airport locations to bring regional favorites to travelers,” says Christine Sarkis from SmarterTravel, who enjoys regional cuisine and off-the-beaten-path destinations.Chain Eaters
Cruise ship travelers fall into this category quite a bit. On a cruise ship for a week or longer, gourmet cuisine begins to taste the same and can leave cruise travelers yearning for something else.

Not long ago, I was on a 10-day cruise. On about day eight we called on the island of St Lucia, stopping at a park by the shore, but far from the nearest city. I chose to stay at the park that day but others went into town. They came back rather quickly; because it was a holiday almost everything was closed in town, except the Burger King. Within about 5 minutes, the one cab operating that day had eight of us in it all headed to Burger King.

App Freaks
This bunch needs a bit of help navigating a destination new to them, so they turn to technology for the answer.

As I write this, there are 268 “food apps” available at the Apple store for my iPhone, many of which I have tried. They range from a cluster of tracker apps that count calories and nutrients with names like FoodNazi and IntakeNag to BiteHunter 2.0. Some let users search, browse and purchase dining deals, specials and information directly from their iPhone.

Home Cooking or Bust-
These would be the same people who are into bed and breakfasts or hostels, where food is made with hands – their hands. Some can do restaurant food too; others want only home cooking and, for them, nothing is better than an imperfect biscuit, cake or cookie.

Along these lines, staying and working on a farm is an option, of which Chicago Tribune says, “The best of both worlds comes together in farm stays. You get to live on a working farm for a few days – work on the farm, eat the organic farm food and sleep in a cozy farm cabin.”

This bunch likes to plan everything and has good results in the process that work for them. That focus can end up in one of the healthiest ways to travel.

A recent USAToday report suggests packing our own meal before a flight, which makes a whole lot of sense if we can do it. Drinking plenty of fluids, stocking hotel rooms with healthy snacks and not skipping breakfast are other tricks that planners like to use too.

At the end of our travels though, we got there, stayed there, did what we wanted/had to do, and came back. Along the way we ate.

So, what kind of travel eater are you? Not sure? Italian philosophy student Costanza Saglio from TheTravelEater might have some ideas and inspiration.

[Photo: Chris Owen]