By Robert McGarvey
Plainly, meeting and event organizers, hoteliers, air carriers, even our employers are letting us down.
A blunt reality: it’s up to us to seize control of our health. We can’t depend upon others to do it for us. They haven’t and likely won’t. And we can do this ourselves. If we start by deciding to take control.
There’s much we need to do. Frequent business travelers weigh too much, have too much stress, don’t exercise and, often, are in rotten physical, mental, and emotional shape.
Note: that dire reality kicks in only for those traveling 14 or more nights a month.
For those traveling 21 or more nights per month, the medical report is much worse. Wrote study author and Columbia Univ. professor Andrew Rundle, “The odds of being obese were 92% higher for those who traveled 21 or more nights per month compared to those who traveled only one to six nights per month, and this ultra-traveling group also had higher diastolic blood pressure and lower high density lipoprotein.”
What can we do about this?
Let me tell you. About eight years ago, in the midst of a heavy travel schedule, I realized I had, uh, gained weight. A lot of weight. The fault of the travel? Maybe. Maybe not. It didn’t matter because I had to keep traveling.
I went on the Atkins Diet and in maybe six months lost around 40 pounds.
Problem solved. Temporarily. I knew I had to make permanent changes in how I travel if I wanted to keep the weight loss.
How did I do? Eight years later the weight is still off.
Here are five rules I developed to travel but do it with greater wellness and health.
Breakfast is a minefield on the road. Have you eaten at the free breakfast buffets at value priced hotels? An explosion of sugary carbs. Saturated fats. Starting the day with a heap of (frozen!) waffles drowned in artificial syrup and imitation butter is a terrible idea.
Breakfast buffets are dangerous. Remember that. Plan ahead. What will you eat?
What I do is straightforward Atkins: eat a few eggs, maybe a strip of bacon and that will fill you up.
That’s not available? When necessity dictates I’ll grab a naked bagel from a breakfast bar (an Einstein everything bagel is 280 calories). No creamcheese, no butter, no jam. Some strawberries if available. Yes, I’m counting calories but I learned that not doing so is a fast track to obesity.
Have a breakfast plan. And eat on the road more in line with what you eat in the morning at home. Do I eat waffles at home? Nope. The same needs to be true on the road.
Pass the carbs at lunch. At a lunch at a recent conference I watched in horror as servers brought a parade of bad carbs to the table. Boring bread. A heap of rice on the entree plate. Sheet pan cake slices.
Sure, it’s easy to tuck in out of boredom or politeness.
I don’t, not anymore.
I eat the protein and any non starchy veg and call lunch done.
Don’t eat airplane food. It doesn’t matter what class you fly. Airplane food on domestic flights can and should be skipped. It is wasted calories.
I understand: often we eat on airplanes out of boredom, it’s something to do. I have done exactly that many hundreds of time. It’s as bad for our health as the food is bad as food.
Buy a salad in the food court before boarding if you know you’ll be hungry.
That will keep you on a healthy path.
Just never eat airline food.
Don’t drink alcohol. This is a tough one for many business travelers who associate being on the road with enjoying that third martini, or maybe it’s the fourth beer.
That was my habit for years.
And then I stopped when I realized I wanted to lose weight and wanted to keep it off.
It’s not hard not to drink on the road once you get into it.
Just say, and it’s often true for me, “I’d love to but I have work I have to get out and I need a clear head. Tomorrow maybe.”
Know how you will exercise. Maintain your regular exercise regimen whether it’s 15 minutes a day or two hours. Don’t allow it to slip.
And make it activity that’s in your control. If you need a gym on the road, belong to one at home that gives you privileges where you travel.
Or take up jogging or walking where all you need is a decent pair of shoes.
That’s it. Five steps to road wellness. It’s really this simple, at least for me. Actually doing it takes daily discipline. True. But the HBR article paints the gloomy picture of what happens when we don’t.
Better health is within our control. When we decide it is.