February 06, 2008

Road Trip: Sacrificing For Science

[By Crabby]

So it would be nice to pretend that for the last ten days or so, I've been getting almost no exercise and eating like crap on purpose. Can we make believe it was really a scientific study? Could I impress you with my dedication to the cause of health and fitness research?

We could say I've been undertaking an intense immersive examination of the psychological and physiological impact of behaving like an ordinary American for a week or two. I'm a regular anthropologist, like Jane Goodall--just without the chimps and the cute jungle khakis and the pith helmet. (Actually, I'm more like the guy who ate nothing but McDonalds for months til he almost died, but I loved the Jane Goodall documentaries I watched back in fifth grade. Do they still show those in schools?)

Anyway, the whole "undergoing hardship for the sake of science" thing is obviously bullsh*t. Really, this last ten days was just an unusually extreme and pathetic variation of what I normally do when on the road: I start off pretty good, then as the challenges of maintaining my normal routine start seeming like more of a pain in the ass, I start to slack. I eat stupider stuff and work out less until by the end, I'm a total disgusting slothful junk-food scarfing machine. But then I'm home.

This time, I gave up on my normal healthy routine about two hours in, said WTF, I'm just not in Virtuous Traveler mode this trip. Screw it. Other people are ordering cheeseburgers-- I'm having one too! And a gym day pass for $20? WTF? That's too much money. Oh, there's nothing healthy on this menu but they do offer chocolate cake for dessert? Sure, that sounds good...

Why was I so rebellious this time? I'm not sure, and I'm not worrying about it too much. One nice thing about doing the mostly-healthy-lifestyle thing for decades, is, I have extensive history with it. I know that I will rebel at times and that I will always get back on track.

The nice thing about this self-knowledge is that I can skip right over the "guilt" phase of the cycle and go straight to the "repent and reform" part. Which is not all that hard after a week or two of eating crap--it becomes way less attractive to me if I wallow in it for a while. Greasy cheeseburgers seem less of a treat after you've had them a couple days in a row.

The most interesting thing this time was discovering how much of the research I read about healthy eating and exercise is actually true! I don't think I'd gone off track for long enough before to really notice the difference.

It's one thing to read that you have more energy, sleep better, feel happier, ache less, and are less stressed if you eat right and exercise. But wow--there's nothing like a bunch of white flour and sugar and saturated fats and missed workouts to prove the point.

So today junk food goes back to being an occasional splurge, not a staple. Stretching and cardio and strengthening are back on the agenda. It was fun to walk on the wild side with the other chimps, but... I want my regular routine back now! I want to feel healthy and energetic and normal again. I feel like, oh my goodness... some vegetables and whole grains and non-hamburger based protein!

So does anyone else go a little crazy when they travel? And if so, how do you handle to the return to real life?


  1. I don't need to travel for my life to go a little crazy. Unless "winter" counts as a road trip.

    I really needed to read this today. Really.

  2. Travel=anything goes for me.
    But having said that...often we go hiking or spend lots of time out *doing* things on holidays, so I don't feel too guilty about the splurges. And often I find if I eat crap on holidays I don't feel good after...so I never stray too far off, as I dont' want to miss doing fun things by feeling lousy.
    It's splurging at home that I have problems with :)

  3. I spend most weekend 150 miles north of my house at our camp in VT and my healthy eating definitely suffers. I'm not sure if it is the 3 hours in the vehicle or wanting to feel like a deserve a treat after being "good" all week.

    When I go on a real vacation it is usually the alcohol that I don't normally drink that puts me over the edge (in more ways than one).

  4. Im all in on the TRAVEL MEANS ANYTHING GOES (which is also, FYI, one of my favorite musicals).

    life is too short to be deprived but Im also with you.

    when I return home bloated and sluggish the deprivation I feel is from GOOD CLEAN FOOD.

    kind of sad (read: loserville. population: me) I guess,


  5. The Bag Lady hasn't been on a road trip for so long, she would probably go totally insane (one baby step away from where she is today...)

  6. What goes on on the road stays on the road...

  7. I am AWFUL when I travel. For some reason my subconcious translates travelling into a license to eat whatever I want, in massive quantities.

    I have no idea why. I always think "this is not good for me" or "I was full two bites ago", but I keep eating it.

    And yes, by the end of the trip all I want is veggies and whole grains and greaselessness.

  8. Traveling is always a challenge. I have a four day trip in June to a Womon Gathering - but the good thing is they provide all the meals - all vegetarian and healthy! So as long as I don't pack anything unhealhty, I'll be fine.

    You got to stop over and weighin on my post about the lawmaker who proposed a law to ban people who are overweight from being served in restaurants. I would love to know what you think about it. I was almost at a loss for words about it -- but I'm sure you wouldn't be.

  9. I agree, vacations are completely no holds barred...And I usually do go apeshit for about two days or so, but then I get irritated with the same foods and search for something that will make me feel better and not so heavy...

    Carla: Anything Goes huh?? I was in it in High School, great fun and entertainment...

  10. I only travel for work a couple of times a year, but I'm completely in touch with the rebellion thing. It definitely happened after the Weight-Loss Diary column ended; for a few weeks, I slacked off on going to the gym and ate pretty much what I wanted. Since I'm not weighing myself these days, it wasn't a "pounds creeping up" thing, though I'm sure they did. I really just realized how much better I feel, sleep, work and behave when I'm working out, eating healthfully and drinking water. It feels good to be back on track.

    Rebellion comes and goes, but -- like you -- I'm starting to feel confident that I can get back on track when I want to. To me, that's the very definition of living a healthy life, no?

  11. I'm the same way. i'm usually quite active so, like others, I don't worry too much.

    Plus, working for weight watchers for 1.5 years I noticed a distinct trend. People who were really good on their vacation and who lost weight usuall treat themselves for being so good and bad habits would slowly creep back into their everday lives. People who splurged on vacations came back and got back into regular healthy life quickly and stayed there.

    So perhaps there is something to taking a vacation from health while on vacation. To me you are treating yourself in a way that is harder to become a habit.

  12. That "other people are ordering cheeseburgers" part totally hits home. Why I think that's a good excuse for going off track, I have no clue. While looking at Birthday cards yesterday, I saw one that said "If everyone else jumps off the bridge first, you have a nice soft place to land." That pretty much sums it up.

  13. Travel - that entails going somewhere doesn't it? Nope, not in recent memory. Although I am trying to change my habits to the good, so travel right now would be a bad thing.

  14. Hopefully, a lovely crustacean couple like you two will find someplace nice between California dreamin' and the northeast nightmare!
    Dr. J

  15. Katieo, I think it's actually really similar to what you've been describing on your blog--not so much the travel but the deviation from a "normal" routine. For you it's winter without a gym membership, and if I lived where you did that would drive me nutso too!

    And it's nice to know I have good company in the whole travel/splurge thing. I think if we lived in a healthier culture and weren't surrounded by junky food and people misbehaving and stuffing their faces with it everywhere we went, it would be easier to stick to our healthy routines.

    Lady Rose--I think Merry may be dealing with that very subject tomorrow, among with other matters. I'll have to go check out your take on it over at the Pulpit.

    And thanks everyone, for hanging in there with your awesome comments! I still have a lot of catching up to do but things should get back to something resembling "normal" pretty soon. I can't wait to see what everyone's been up to while I was away.

  16. i don't travel that much but when i do, i try and make the best decisions as i can - depending on where i'm staying... if i have control over the food, then i make better decisions than if i didn't... and if i want to have a drink (or two or three) then i will and just accept that i'll have to workout twice as hard, and for twice as long when i get home... ;o)

  17. Man, after our road trip with my parents last May, all I wanted to eat was grass. I didn't. But, I could have!

  18. The Bag Lady played Reno Sweeney in a production of "Anything Goes" a few years back - love that show! Love it!

  19. I guess I havn't been able to get far enough away from home for long enough to see much difference. Hubby and I usually pack healthy food along for overnighters. The worst road trip/vacation offenders are that we split a soda or two that has real sugar, we always take Cheetos (small snack pack sizes), and generally stop at an In-N-Out once on the way up or back. Since we do a lot of walking and biking it adds up to normal.
    If we're gone for a real vacation, I often will have one ice cream bar a day if available (Hagen Daz or Dove) as a meal replacer! Like say when in Yosemite, Mammoth, Lake Isabella, or San Diego. But we still hike and bike, so it's never a problem, and we prefer to eat normally, which is very healthy. I think the biggest indulgence is we both nap at the drop of a hat on vacation! Pull the car over, put our feet up on the dash, and snooze for 20-30 minutes 2-3 times a day. We're the running joke at family vacations.

  20. I used to travel over 50% in a former job which included travel abroad. It's tougher when yo utravel for owrk because all your food is on someone else's dime so it is MUCH easier to overeat cause your mind is always going, "Well it's not my money. The company says I can eat $100 per day." And let me tell ya, that $100/day for food is HUGE and it can easily make you HUGE if you're not discipline queen. For me the more I traveled the easier it was for me to get straight when I got back home cause I was SO sick of all the road food. Eating an apple in your own kitchen believe it or not is a splendid thing.

  21. If it happens on foreign soil it doesn't count.

    Food included. Foreign is defined as is necessary.

  22. I think you have a very healthy attitude towards food, and that's great. You shouldn't let occasional splurges derail you, and you obviously don't. :)

  23. A quote:
    "Stripped of your ordinary surroundings, your friends, your daily routines, your refrigerator full of food ... with all this taken away, you are forced into direct experience.... That's not always comfortable, but it is always invigorating."
    - Michael Crichton

    I think this is why I go the junk food route when traveling; I want the comfort that bad food brings.

  24. It's a bad idea. In general. On the other hand. How WAS that cheeseburger?

  25. I don't bother with the gym when traveling - it kind of defeats the purpose! I'd rather get my exercise by walking around the city or hiking up a mountain or something. As far as food goes, I'm vegetarian which requires me to do a lot of self catering. I pack lots of veggies and nuts and fruit. I'll usually prepare my own breakfast (cereal or porridge) and lunch (sandwich, salad), then splurge a bit on dinner out. But I don't typically go for "junk food" in the potato chip sense. If I'm going to eat a high calorie dinner, I'll make sure those calories are worth eating (good cheese, good wine, olive oil, that sorta thing).

    My fav holidays, though, are camping holidays, where I can cook for myself and I'm usually doing so much hiking that I need all the calories I can get. =)

  26. Oh dear, most of you sound much healthier in your travel indulgences than I am. But after my cheeseburger and chocolate cake blowout, I am enjoying a return to healthier fare and normal exercise!

    Trouble ahead, though: we're moving out of our California house while we put it on the market, starting tomorrow, and bunking with the Lobster's mom in a retirement community. It will be yet another excuse ("transitions," "stress," etc) to slide out of normal routines but I'm determined not to do that. It means finding a gym and dealing with different grocery stores etc, but I'm hoping the crap-food-o-rama of the last 10 days will serve as sort of an innoculation.

    They sell broccoli and brown rice everywhere, right?

  27. Yup, I definitly go a little crazy...I stop counting WW points and exercise- who needs that?!? But just like you, as soon as I'm back in my natural surroundings all I want to do is eat healthy and get back in my routine : )

  28. Oddly, and perhaps sadly, enough, I actually behave better while traveling than I do at home--especially with exercise. For some reason, when I'm traveling, I'm more aware of the effects of jet lag, stress, lack of sleep, etc on my body, so I try to compensate by being healthier. Then I come home and return to my normal state of exercising whenever I can muster the will to roll off the couch. Strange.

  29. Ah, Travel Fun with Allergies! I haven't been away overnight since my father's health got bad, but when I did travel, I took a lot of my own food (less than when the food allergies were really bad) and my own sheets to protect me from the polyester and/or detergent in the hotel and/or relatives beds. No temptation to splurge on allergy foods when so much else was hitting me. I used to plan on two days mostly in bed just to recover when I got home.

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

  30. I'm currently traveling 4 days/week for work, and it's REALLY tough. My salvation is reminding myself that when I go out to eat now it is NOT a special occasion, so I should NOT indulge just because I can. That helps a lot.


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