Barbara: Getting back on track

Here is my confession: I have not been very healthy the past week.  I’ve been guzzling alcohol, consuming the things I never let myself have like berry pies and nachos and eggs. If I slept six hours a night, it was a good night. There wasn’t a hint of exercise, although I have friends who got up and walked or worked out before the day started.

Uh, yeah. Never gonna happen.

I’ve just returned from the RWA conference, where I happily got to meet some of you (and you said you were eating more vegetables! And walking sometimes!).  I let most of my good habits go while I was there, because my focus is on the fun to be had with my friends, on the business information I might be picking up, and the roar that is the national confrence.  I love it. This year, I had dresses I loved, and good friends I felt comfortable with, and lots of good news, so it was an especially great time.

Now I’m home again, getting back on the wagon, and thinking about what makes us healthy.  Is it bad for me to eat all that fat and drink all that booze?  Yeah, kinda.  But I have rules even when I travel.  Here are some of those modifications.

#1  Sleep. I don’t have breakfast meetings unless I just cannot possibly avoid it, and I never schedule anything before 9, period.  I am a big sleeper and at the conference, I don’t go to bed early. At all. So if I want to function without all the crashing sobbing depression that comes from too much emotional overload combined with a lack of sleep, I have to give myself the morning hours to re-enter. I have to be able to sleep in, like a college student.

#2 Drinking. I love wine on a normal basis, bphotout it goes to my head pretty fast, and I don’t know if it’s the sugar or some additive, but it can give me headaches.  So I stick to beer.  It takes longer to drink beer.  I like the refreshing nature of it, and these days, there’s great craft beer everywhere you go.  Yes, it would be healthier to leave the alcohol alone, but that’s not going to happen anytime soon.  I LIKE beer.

#3 I bring healthy snacks with me and keep them in my room.  I asked a friend to take me to the grocery store when I arrived and brought pistachios, hummus, bananas and pita bread. Nothing brilliant, but it was better than eating eggs every morning.

#4 If there were vegetables in any form on a dinner or lunch menu, I ordered some of them.  Sometimes, as this was Atlanta, this was sometimes only a salad or some lightly prepared potatoes. It still counts.

#5 I skipped desserts.  Mostly. (There was that one dinner at bacchanalia with the peach empanada….but seriously, would you expect me to skip all of them?) I also don’t keep sweets in my room.  It’s easy to gobble down sugar under stressful circumstances and then crash, eat sugar, then crash, eat sugar, then crash.

#6 Whenever possible, I checked out the menus ahead of time to see what I could eat. I got into the habit of this when I became a vegetarian, but it works on all levels—it’s easy to get overwhelmed by a menu and then end up ordering some impossible rich thing you don’t even really want

It’s also possible, if one so desires, to check the calorie count of things ahead of time.  I do this for Starbucks, which is omnipresent in the US, and where a glazed doughnut is 450 bloody calories.  Not worth it when I can get a normal pastry for a couple hundred.

#7 Walk if possible to every outside event. Swim if I can. Don’t sweat it too much—just walking around such big hotels all day long every day is a lot of exercise.

#8 Give myself a pass if I have an indulgent day and get back on the healthy train when I get home.  Now that I’m back, I’m eating fresh fruits and veggies and my lentils and beans. Even though it was really difficult, I went to see Tabor the Trainer on Monday, partly to get more red blood cells back into my body after being at low altitude, but partly to honor the habit of trying to be healthy.  The reward was a deep sleep and a sense of confidence.

How about you? How do you handle vacations—and what are your biggest challenges? Food prepared by people you love? Habits that are hard to keep on the road?  What is your best trick? 


38 thoughts on “Barbara: Getting back on track

  1. Sleep is more of a problem for me than food on vacation. In fact, I’m going to San Diego in December and I expect food to be a breeze there. Everyone is health conscious and it is much easier there. (I lived there 5 years so mine is the voice of experience.)
    Funny about the wine thing. I just faced that fact about myself tonight. My mom is out of town and I’m off work for a few days so I decided to get some writing in. My current heroine likes cherry wine, as do I, so I decided to indulge with her. One generous glass and my skin flushed and I felt hot. My body likes beer better. Guess I will have to live the life of a cherry wine drinker vicariously through my heroine. Back to beer for me.
    Glad you had such a good time at the conference and are now back to taking care of yourself. Those sound like good guidelines for letting go a little but not too much.

  2. Lois says:

    I am still at my conference so this is a fitting topic for me today.
    I skip the alcohol.
    There is never enough time to get enough sleep. I did do a little better this year but part of that was cutting out swimming and the workout room. Since I am walking miles in the convention hall, I figure I am getting some exercise and I need every extra minute for sleep.
    Food. That is a different issue for me. Being gluten,corn and soy free means I bring my own food. That means my diet is a bit skewed when I travel. I am usually safe ordering a salad with dressing on the side when we are at a restaurant but the other night they put the dressing on and I did get sick. Most of our meals are provided and I can order GF ahead but they do a really bad job of it. So…… Nuts for protein, fruit leather instead of the fresh I crave and dark chocolate (I try to limit it but that is the only dessert I get).
    Water. Lots of water.
    I’ll be home tomorrow.

  3. I’ll be traveling in a couple of weeks to visit Grandboy, Son, and DIL. I’m doing Nanny duty while DIL is working a show and Son is at school and work. Son’s larder and fridge are a lot like mine, except he has better wine, and that is my downfall there. I love wine, it doesn’t give me any kind of headache–it only warms me, relaxes me, and makes me tingle. But, I’m really reducing my alcohol intake at the lake this summer and we don’t seem to be drinking too much at home either, so it’ll all be okay. I give myself permission to indulge with Son–we have our best talks over a bottle of Dry Creek Zin or Livermore Valley Chardonnay. I wouldn’t give that up for anything.

    My neighbor’s garden is coming on strong and she shares, so the last two nights have been veggies feasts. I could eat fresh veggies every night for supper…I probably will for a while.

  4. stephanie says:

    We just got back from a week in the mountains at a conference center known for their amazing food and wonderful seasonal veggies. However, they also feed campers ages 8-16 so while the food is wonderful it is also meant to keep a teenagers metabolism on track for a week so they don’t go home looking like bean poles. Yeah, not such a great plan for an overweight woman in her 40s.

    When we go up there I, too, have rules for eating and since this is the only place to eat for 45 miles [and it’s served as a buffet] the rules are important.

    #1 Only one plate of food. This is imperative or I’ll eat 3 plates of the mac and cheese!

    #2 Go through the line backwards. This means I start at the salad bar end and fill my plate with salad. Then I get back in line to go through and get the ‘meal’. This helps me make sure that I’m not eating an entire plate of meatloaf or fried chicken or yeast rolls.

    #3 No dessert, unless it’s chocolate or pecan pie. This became really important the summer we lived there for a month. There is dessert twice a day and sometimes it’s fruit, but most of the time it’s a freshly baked, yummy dessertness! After a week of 2 desserts a day I couldn’t button my pants. Even walking over 10,000 steps a day up and down the side of a mountain couldn’t make up for the calories in the desserts. So, I have a limit. I make sure that I enjoy what I eat and of course, no seconds on dessert either.

    #4 Alcohol… well, there’s no alcohol at meals and only some of the cottages have refrigerators. Alcohol is generally enjoyed in the late afternoon by most of the guests. At that hour it was 90 degrees with 95% humidity and I was certain that if I had anything to drink I’d never be able to walk back up the mountain to dinner:) So, mostly I don’t drink much when there.

    #5 Eat as much of the seasonal veggies as possible [because they taste amazing] unless they are floating in mayo! Of course, they’ll still taste amazing but then I’m just eating for the mayo not for the – oh, the broccoli salad. Now I’m drooling.

    I’ve never thought of all of the rules I’ve developed for diet survival while up there, but I’m definitely going to try to extrapolate these rules into my next travel plan.

  5. Micki says:

    I just got back from a mini-vacation in Tokyo, and found I did about three times as much walking as I usually do. Oh, my feet ached! But I discovered that Bufferin is better for my tummy than generic aspirin, so that was a wonderful thing for future foot problems.

    I ate too much rice the first day, which messed things up internally. The second day and third days, though, I found a mixed salad, a chicken wrap, and even a nice bowl of stewed veggies that came with sashimi and tempura (they called it the “sake set” but I asked for mine with tea, not sake). Really wonderful.

    Of course, I had the chocolate cake at Starbucks. I kept myself hydrated mostly with convenience store water, but also indulged in limey, fruity, slushy drinks. It’s a holiday, and to tell the truth, I probably didn’t indulge more than I usually do. I just indulged differently.

    (-: I came back weighing more, but the fancy scale also said I had a lot lower body fat percentage. Yay, muscle! And I dropped a kilo after being home one day.

    The best thing is that I came home with a new mindset, ready to tackle things afresh. Hope your travels were as refreshing!

  6. As some of you know, I missed three days of conference due to food poisoning. Laughed when I gathered up my food receipts yesterday. I should own stock in Gatorade and Carr’s water crackers.

    I’m super careful when I travel because of digestive changes as I’ve grown older. I usually know what agrees with me and what doesn’t, and how to choose wisely when not at home. And yet… .

    I don’t like buffets. I avoid salads. You never know who prepared them. I stick with cooked vegetables, simple meals. I do enjoy wine but limit myself to one glass of Chardonnay because, even though I favor a red can be left with stained teeth and a stained tongue…not pretty when chatting with people I don’t know well. I love beer but usually forget to order it.

    Love your list Barbara. I saw you in the distance when on a run to the little market for more Gatorade. I was keeping my distance from everyone so didn’t say hi. Glad you had a fun time.

  7. RedwoodKim says:

    This is handy, as I’m about to leave for the weekend, and eat dinner with my family at a very fancy restaurant.

    My gallbladder is still in me, and last week it reminded me of that rather forcefully. So avoiding fat is the key for me. I expect I will have seafood, one glass of wine, and a small taste of whatever birthday cake there may be. Or maybe some sorbet. And I’ll be carrying my painkillers.

    Otherwise, salads for meals, almonds and blueberries for snacks, and lots of water.

  8. I don’t generally have rules or guidelines for when I travel. I don’t go to conferences or stay long at hotels, so it usually isn’t a problem. Mostly I have to watch it where I’m staying, because my housemates keep A LOT of sweets in the house. I started eating ice cream every other night, and my pants began getting tighter again, so it’s back to once a week for the ice cream.

    I don’t like beer, so it’s wine or mixed drinks for me, and I don’t drink as much as I used to, so it’s generally just one drink anymore (more than that and I just kind of don’t stop until I can’t stand).

    But when I travel, I do have to watch the sweets and empty carbs that are so easy to buy as snacks for travel. I try to have nuts, fruit, protein bars. And always lots of water. That seems to make a huge difference.

  9. Thea says:

    Worst thing to handle is other people delineating at length their wants and needs to the waiter, their little moment of being center of the world. Consult the menu, folks!

    Sweetie Pie fetches morning newspaper, yogurt, coffee, fruit, maybe an especially fine pastry so we breakfast in our hotel bed. After that, all health bets are off. Why they call it a vacation. In November we’ll be in New Orleans, no doubt acting like rabid foodies. Then we’ll return home to our membership in Rancho Gordo Bean Club and accept delivery every three months of six or seven different bean varieties. So far my favorite is the Cassoulet large white bean, creamy and delicious. For exercise, we’re usually at a conference, and those heritage rose gardens demand a LOT of walking.

  10. Joshilyn Jackson did a great post on her blog recently on how she (unintentionally) lost weight while traveling in France. I don’t recall her exact rules, but they basically amounted to eating like the French do, and walking everywhere.

    I think it’s important to give ourselves a pass (within reason) for special events. It kinda’ makes me crazy when people develop low-calorie recipes for Thanksgiving (or other major foodie holidays), because, really, what’s the point? It’s not the one meal, the one celebration of excess, that makes us fat. It’s not the one meal a year that’s a problem, it’s the eating that same meal for five days in a row (by way of left-overs, because we cook far too much). Or it’s the day-in, day-out bad choices, a couple hundred calories of soda here, a couple hundred calories of chocolate bar there, that add up.

    Anyway, I do think we need to relax a bit and just enjoy our food, including indulgences, on special occasions, and then get back to regular eating, instead of making every single day a special food occasion. I suspect we enjoy the indulgences more that way, too, than when we have them all the time and take them for granted.

  11. Jill says:

    I try to eat less on vacation. limit wine to 2 glasses. Avoid sugar and milk products. This is hard since I love dessert. But the lactose/sucrose intolerance has come along with age. I have been doing the same thing at home. I have lost 4 pounds, put one on (holiday eating). I am not in a hurry to lose the weight but I do want to lose it. There is this donut around my waist that I am not fond of. And I avoid the scale.

  12. When I travel I always walk more and am more active. Food wise I limit my love for the deep fried to one or two indulgences per trip depending on the number of days – no exceptions to this rule. Deep fried food will activate the acid reflux that’s never been diagnosed as acid reflux despite a couple of lower and upper tract exams.

    The only time I really drink is on vacay and then I prefer vodka or whiskey, straight or on the rocks. I hate sweet drinks. My rule of thumb is a minimum of two glasses of water per drink. This means that I generally stop at two because I am drinking four to six glasses of water with the booze.

    I crave vegetables and am always amazed at how there are so few vegetable served in restaurants. My normal salad has four to five servings of vegetables per salad. The lack of veggies on vacation always affects the digestion and makes me out of sorts. I need to figure out ways to get more vegetables while I am out and about.

    I frequently come home from vacation weighing less. I snack less, I don’t eat out of boredom, and move more. I really need to incorporate most of that into my daily life.

  13. I found myself quite dehydrated at the conference a couple of times. It’s not dry air, so my mouth was never dry and I forgot to drink the (copious!) amounts of water I usually do.

    GF is tough, but much easier now than it was. Safe travels!

  14. Oooh, I love good zinfandel! I tend to go for white in the summer, red in the winter, no idea why. Sounds like your ritual with your son is precious and wonderful. Enjoy it!

    I picked carrots this morning. It was a delight.

  15. Alcohol actually helps break down fat, so it can be smart to have a solid glass of wine or sip of vodka when you’re eating fat.

    Hope you find a balance during your fancy restaurant foray.

  16. I know a lot of people with food issues, so I never mind when they question waiters. The food in restaurants is so varied it’s hard to know what you’re getting, so better to ask now over regretting it later.

    I do think of the Portlandia episode about hipsters in a restaurant….

  17. Loved getting to see you last week!

    I don’t do alcohol but must have lots of water. Managed to buy a 6-pack of large bottles when I arrived to keep in my room. They lasted all week. But I do indulge in desserts at conference. In fact, I eat my dessert first. That’s my treat for my one week of true fun a year.

    I’m still recovering (could fall asleep right not on my desk) but will get back to normal soon. No more desserts, and more motion. It’s been a sweltering over for days, but we’re cooling off tomorrow. I cannot wait! And neither can the dog, I’m guessing. She’ll be excited to get a full walk again.

  18. Cindy says:

    My daughter is gluten free and dairy free due to allergies. There are very few restaurants around us with those items spelled out on the menu, so I usually have to specify what her needs are to the waiter. Menus are not a guarantee.

  19. Cindy says:

    While on vacation I allow myself to eat whatever. I’m good the rest of the time, so those indulgences are okay by me. I tend to eat desserts, drink wine, and try local foods. I love to see what is popular in other areas.

  20. Kelly S says:

    I too have food allergies but luckily they won’t kill me just make me miserable. One of them is onion. Even asking the waitress isn’t a guarantee that the food will be onion free. Many near me are college age and don’t seem to understand that chives, scallions, shallots, and green/yellow/red/white onions are all onions. I asked at one restaurant after ordering an item because it didn’t list opinion on the menu and the waitress simply looked at the menu and said, nope, no onion. I could see & taste onion which my dinner companion confirmed. So be careful if you have allergies.

  21. Kelly S says:

    When traveling, I allow Mt. Dew. Otherwise it is only allowed when I must get up before 8 am. I am not a morning person and typically get up between 8:30-9 for work.

    Eating at my folks place is a challenge. Way too much starch and too few veggies. They buy Doritos, which I love, for me to snack on, but I really try not to eat Frito Lay products anymore. No heathy snacks in sight. Mom says she bakes because it soothes her so there will be 5 types of cookies. I don’t want to eat any of them but that hurts her feelings.

    Vacations are either for a short weekend at a B&B or a week at an all inclusive resort in the tropics. I indulge. I however allergic to chocolate so I easily go easy on the deserts. Also I’m a light weight with also hook, so one drink and I’m tipsy and done.

  22. What kind of beer I like depends on what mood I’m in. I like Dos Equis a lot. I like New Castle Brown Ale sometimes.
    If I go to a microbrewery I tend to order pale ale.

  23. Micki says:

    About an hour and a half from home by plane; to a rural girl like me, it’s a pretty big change, and I do like to visit. (Wouldn’t like to live there, though, especially not during the summer!)

    I’d love to visit Atlanta, too . . . .

  24. Micki says:

    I have to say, I couldn’t get through the morning without my egg. My doctor gave me a copy of “The Woman Doctor’s Diet” which recommended an egg and an orange each morning (with melba toast, if you MUST have a carb), and I find that that will almost always take me to noon feeling full. But if I eat carbs for breakfast, I’m hungry at 10:30 and Must Have Something (usually more carbs; boiled eggs are possible at convenience stores here, but I don’t want that). Dairy doesn’t quite do the trick, either. For me.

    I’m so glad that recent findings have taken eggs off the “DANGER” list for most healthy people.

  25. Jill says:

    Hen eggs are used in the pharmaceutical industry. Especially flu vaccines. Is that a problem for you ?
    Just watching out for you . 🙂

  26. Reb says:

    I’m a sucker for buffets. All the bad bits of them. Especially the dessert.

    I’ve discovered a very effective way trick for quartering my sugar intake. I’d drifting into constantly snacking on something sugary and was feeling guilty about it, including guilty about wasting the money when people are starving etc. So a couple of weeks ago, I figured out how much I was spending (gulp!) and now I’m donating that much per day to the City Mission – minus 50c every time I eat sugar.

    Turns out “you’re robbing the Mission” is a much more effective motivational message than “that’s unhealthy”. The Mission’s doing pretty well out of me, and I’m feeling noticeably healthier.

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