When Candido Arreche, Jr. started traveling in his business, he gained 25 pounds in that first year. He’s not alone. Stories of weight gain with business travel abound. I get it – I had a similar issue when I first started traveling 20 years ago as a health and wellness speaker. In preparation for the third edition of my book, How to Stay Healthy & Fit on the Road, I interviewed dozens of business travelers. Here are just some of the ways that they manage business travel without weight gain.
Repeat After Me: Business Travel is Not Vacation
Do some of your friends envy your travel? Perhaps to them, it sounds a lot like a vacation. We get to travel to some fun places, eat all our meals in restaurants, and possibly imbibe in some adult beverages – often an expense account. But, let’s not get caught up in the vacation mentality ourselves. According to this recent study, a one- to three-week vacation can result in an extra pound even six weeks later.
When I asked Arreche (Collaborator/ Speaker/ Author/ focusing on Partner Relationships, Alliances, and Social Selling Innovations, Xerox) how he lost the weight and kept it off he told me, “I now eat the same way as I do at home.” Janet Bonham, Senior Territory Manager, Lifescan Canada Ltd agrees, “The key for me is to eat the same way I eat at home – whether I’m on vacation, at a work meeting, or conference.”
“Free isn’t really free!,” Heidi Grant, Deputy Under Secretary (International Affairs) at United States Air Force told me. “I used to enjoy all the complimentary food and drinks that were readily available at the airport lounges, hotels, and business receptions. But free food isn’t free in terms of its damage.”
Restaurants: Bigger Portions = More Eaten
Research suggests that people consistently consume more food and drink when offered larger-sized portions than when offered smaller-sized versions. So, how can you get through business travel without weight gain when restaurants serve such huge portions? Karen Jones, CMO at Ryder Systems, Inc. told me that she often orders an appetizer portion rather than the full meal deal. Here are some other ideas:
- Change your mindset. David Baudendistel, MS (Helping Leaders and Learners Thrive with Disruption! at Deloitte), said that “100% travel required a shift in my mindset. I used to think that the tapas-sized airline lunch was small, but it’s really all we need.”
- Plan ahead. Lori (King) Chruney, Promotional Strategy Analyst at Ahold, shares, “If I’m not with clients, I search online restaurant menus and decide what I’m going to order in advance. Once I get there I don’t look at the menu. I just order what I planned – otherwise I’m so uncomfortable afterwards.” Before landing, Laura Williams, VP, Global Regulatory Affairs uses an app to find out which resturants are in the terminal. “I make better decisions when I plan ahead, instead of waiting until I’m starving.”
- Be mindful. It’s easy to overeat when we’re fully engaged at a business dinner. Jaime Schwartz Cohen MS,RD; SVP, Director of Nutrition at Ketchum Public Relations, practices mindfulness. “Before eating, whether it’s a shared appetizer or my entree, I take a moment to decide what I’m going to eat and how much. Being intentional in my choices allows me to relax and enjoy the conversation.”
- Ask them to take it away. Douglas Jones, Principal at DJ & Associates, said, “When I have had my fill, I ask the staff to remove my plate so I don’t continue to pick at the food and overeat.”
- Take leftovers back to the hotel. Hate wasting food? So does Marty Yadrick, Director of Nutrition Informatics at Computrition, Inc. “So, I put the leftovers in the refrigerator in the room, and then either eat them for breakfast or for dinner the next night.”
- Opt out of restaurants. “I often stay at a hotel with a full kitchen (like Residence Inn) or at least one with a refrigerator and microwave so I can go to the grocery store and make my meals and snacks,” said Carrie SiuButt, Vice President. Live Well Programs at Medcan.
Take Your Pick
I don’t know about you, but my dinners at home don’t usually include an appetizer, full meal with bread on the side, dessert, AND alcohol. So it’s no wonder that when people eat all those courses in restaurants gain weight. When I was interviewing business travelers, many shared how came up with strategies to keep their meals more appropriately sized – without feeling deprived. Here’s what they had to say:
- Follow the “OR” rule. Matthew Schoenthaler, Vice President Sales & Business Development at Retrofit, told me that when he’s traveling for business he has the “OR” rule. “I can have bread OR dessert. A beer OR an appetizer. BUT not both.”
- Be choosy. “I never eat dessert. It’s not difficult to turn them down because it’s counterproductive to my goals. There are some things I splurge on, like an extra cocktail. I don’t deprive myself – I’m just very choosy,” said Crystal A. Fitch, MBA, Sales Training and Development Manager, Lundbeck
- Skip the alcohol. I was surprised to hear this from so many travelers – along with their reasons why. Sherry Ulsh, Indirect Sourcing at The Hershey Company told me, “It’s just not worth the calories.” “I don’t like the way it makes me feel. It really pulls the energy out of you,” said Rob Doughty, American Airlines. Michael O’Rourke, Co-Founder at Core Solutions Group told me, “I might have one glass of wine with clients but I just sip on it. I’ve found that I learn more when the other person’s drinking.”
Clothes packed. Check. Laptop packed. Check. Wait…don’t stop there. To help you eat healthy options on the road, why not pack some food, too? Here’s what other business travelers pack:
- Snacks. “I always carry healthy snacks to ensure I don’t get really hungry. Hunger drives bad behavior so I don’t go more than 3 hours without food. I usually opt for a Kind bar, protein bar, or a snack-sized bag of almonds,” said David Payne, Vice President Drilling & Completions at Chevron. Ira Akers, VP Sales @ Hurdl has a “Lara bars in my bag at all times.”
- Protein bars and lean meat sticks.David John, Chief Operating Officer at Entertainment Technology Partners at Entertainment Technology Partners told me he packs snacks for every day. “Instant oatmeal, protein bars, lean meat sticks, individually-packaged peanut butter and powdered protein mixes all help me get through the day until I can find healthier options.”
- Instant oatmeal and instant peanut butter. Heidi Grant, Deputy Under Secretary (International Affairs) at United States Air ForceI always pack “zip locks, plus healthy snacks (Kind bars, OS Trim sticks, instant oatmeal, powder peanut butter and milk powder) – because I’m on everyone else’s schedule and I never know when I’ll be eating. I might grab an apple from the gym, cut it up, and put it in one of the zip locks that I’ve packed. I mix the powder peanut butter with bottled water – it makes a great dip for the apple slices.”
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