The morning of my last business trip, I stepped on the scale and was presented with an awesome number: 169.8.
Having started at 220 pounds 19 months earlier, I crossed the 50-pounds-lost threshold for the first time. I was overjoyed, and slightly apprehensive, because I was about to spend five days in Nashville eating in restaurants, banquets, and receptions.
I was determined to continue on the path to weight loss and not creep back up into the 170s. Here’s how I did it:
1. Plan for Airplane Meals
It’s next to impossible to make healthy choices once you’re actually on an airplane. But before you go to the airport, or even once you’re there, you can set yourself up for success.
For my outbound flight, I stopped at a convenience store and bought foods that would keep me nourished and more likely to turn down in-flight peanuts. I got two hard boiled eggs, a bag of sweet cherries, and an apple.
This mix of protein and fruit got me through until my chance to eat lunch, when I could make a healthy choice at an airport restaurant. On my return flight, I didn’t bring food with me to the airport, but I scoured the restaurants until I found an option that was protein-packed and reasonable: a 400 calorie salad and a cup of grapes.
2. Pack & Plan for Activity
This was a very work-intensive trip, but I brought my running shoes and workout clothes with the hopes of getting a few workouts in. The conference offered a group Zumba class the first morning we were there, and I convinced some co-workers to join me (we were all first-timers).
I found myself with some extra time on my hands when woke up at 4:45 a.m. for no reason, so I went downstairs to the 24-hour gym and ran a 5K. These were my only workouts during the trip, but they occurred early on and helped me feel like I started out on the right foot.
3. Share Your Goals with Others
I was traveling with two trusted coworkers, and I told them in the airport security line that I was determined to eat sensibly (and that I would be writing this blog post when I returned)! I noticed them trying to make healthy choices throughout the trip as well. It was a lot easier to make these choices knowing I wasn’t alone.
4. At Events, Focus On People, Not Food
This particular trip included two evening receptions with a variety of buffet and bar options. Prior to embarking on my weight loss journey, I would have tried everything and had a drink or two. This time, I focused on finding people I wanted to talk to and stayed away from the food.
Out of the 10+ food options between the two evenings, I tried one. When I was given a free drink ticket, I gave it to a friend and chose to drink water or diet soda instead. I had just as much fun as I had at prior reception, and I probably avoided thousands of extra calories.
5. Choose Restaurants with Healthy Options
I work with a group of men that really like to eat at sports bars. After our first meal together when I made the best choice I could (salmon, veggies, corn chowder), I took over restaurant choices. I was able to find locations that offered burgers and fries for the guys, and fresh, creative salads or broiled fish for me.
At breakfast, instead of eating the decadent dishes on the menu, I my own meal from sides (poached eggs, fruit, ham)—and came back two more times to order exactly the same thing. I’m very proud of the fact that I didn’t eat any fried food on this trip.
6. At Conferences, Choose the Veggie Option
When given the chance to indicate my meal preference at professional conferences, I always choose vegetarian. Nine times out of ten, it will be a lower-calorie entrée than the meat version. Every once in a while you’ll be given a plate of cheese-covered pasta.
That’s when you need to exercise portion control and seek out a healthy snack after the meal.
7. Indulge in Local Specialties That Are Worth It
I found some grits with bacon that were delicious, but they were at a self-serve buffet and I could take a sensible portion. I took one small bite of the pie offered at one lunch and determined it wasn’t worth it. The cheesecake the next day? That was worth it.
The over-cooked grits that preceded the cheesecake? Nope. Over the course of five days I had three desserts and they were all worth it. I never felt deprived, and was able to say no to other local, sugar-covered specialties.
8. Stay Out Of Taxis
Most cities I’ve traveled to on business are walkable, yet I see my colleagues take cabs if it’s hot or we’re running late. I tried to walk everywhere possible, just to get in the extra activity.
9. Continue To Track Your Food
If you track food as part of your weight loss plan, continue to do so when traveling. It can help to snap a picture of your meal and track it later when you have a chance. Even if you go over your daily calorie or PointsPlus goal, you have a record to consult if the scale doesn’t say what you expect when you get home. That will allow you to learn from mistakes and do better next time.
10. Don’t Make Judgments Based On Your Weight When You Land
Flying does some weird things to our bodies. We retain water and get bloated. The morning after I got back from my trip, I weighed 170.2. The next morning I still weighed 170.2, and on the third day I weighed 168.9. That means over the course of seven days I lost .9 pounds, even though I was traveling for five of them. I’d consider that a success any week.