Well, I am officially a resident of NYC! It is some craaaaazy stuff, let me tell you! I can hardly believe I’m actually here! I’ve been in the city a few days now, and I’m still without all my household goods – the big thing for me is that I have basically no cookware except for the frying pan I bought yesterday. They’re currently somewhere in transit between here and Michigan… The first estimate was that I’d see them by June 24th at the latest, but I’m hoping for earlier [fingers crossed].
Anyway, this whole being without a kitchen (and groceries) for the first few days has presented some unique challenges. It means that I have been eating out every single day for each meal. Not that I’m too upset about this… you see, I’m living in Hell’s Kitchen, and there are tons of amazing restaurants and bars in this area that I’m dying to explore. However, it is going to present a challenge when it comes to my fat loss goals and not going completely broke my first week here, lol.
Challenge: If I want to at least maintain my current physique, I’m not going to be able to treat this lack of a kitchen as an excuse to eat anything I want.
Which brings up an interesting topic…
I’ve noticed something about myself– anytime I travel for work or pleasure, or am just out of my normal routine, I feel like all bets are off and I can eat absolutely anything I want AND as much of it as I want.
In thinking through this a bit, I figured out where this attitude came from.
Back in college and during tournaments for my club team, anytime we traveled we were playing a LOT of games in the course of a couple days. For my club team, if we advanced to the finals, we’d easily play five 90 minute games in 2 days. That’s a TON of energy expenditure, so it was important to replenish our fuel stores between games. Processed carbs (grains like pasta, breads, granola bars, etc.) were a staple of the “replenish before the next game” diet because they give a quick burst of energy.
So I learned the habit that anytime I was away from my normal routine, I didn’t have to worry about what I ate.
It’s no one’s fault necessarily that I carried this attitude into adulthood. I’ve just been doing what always worked for me in the past – when I’m away from home, replenish with calorie dense foods that are lower in nutrients. However, that approach no longer works for me. It doesn’t help me attain the physique I want.
Because I want something different, I have to start DOING something different.
Therefore it IS my responsibility to change this behavior now that I’ve recognized it.
In trying to change a behavior, I gotta change how I think about the situation (it’s really all about your mindset). So I look at each meal/stop for a snack as a chance to practice making better choices than I would have before. Instead of thinking just about what will taste good (old habits), I think about what the food will actually do for my body – will it help me get results I want or keep me from results I want?
Sometimes it’s tough to know whether what you’re eating will help you get results or not. So here are some tips that have helped me the past few days and when I’ve been on business trips.
These tips are useful anytime you’re not cooking at home – whether you’re out to dinner with friends, traveling for work, when you’re on vacation, or when you’re trying to get settled into your new place like me!
Remember – do your best in the current situation and cut yourself a little slack.
1. DO drink plenty of water.
Anytime I’m out of my regular routine, I know I’m not drinking enough water. The past few days I’ve been wandering around the city a ton and not carrying a water bottle. Big mistake.
You need water for all sorts of crucial body functions, so don’t let this fall by the wayside. Each time you sit for a meal or stop for a coffee, drink a huge glass of water. This will keep your digestive system on track, help offset any increase in sodium and/or alcohol consumption, and keep pseudo-hunger away (often times when we feel hungry, we’re actually dehydrated). So drink up!
2. DO eat protein and fibrous veggies at each meal.
Make these the foundation of any meal you eat, and eat them first when possible. Save the starchy or processed carbs for last. The idea is that you’ll have started to fill up on the protein/veg and won’t need to eat all the other carbs now.
If you’re getting a wrap or sandwich, be sure to pick a sandwich that comes with plenty of lean meat and veggies. Other meal ideas – salads with lean protein, omelets with veggies, fibrous veggies or fruit for sides over baked potato/fries, eat your hamburger with extra lettuce, onions, and mushrooms on top (and tossing the bun would be even better).
3. DO decrease portion sizes.
Often time restaurants serve massive portions of food. As much as I WANT to eat that huge burrito all in one sitting, I probably don’t actually need to. I can eat half and take the rest back to my hotel. Or if I can’t take it back with me, order something smaller or order off the ala carte menu. As much as I hate to say it, you can also leave food on the plate. My parents taught me well to not waste food, so I hate doing this. But sometimes it’s the only reasonable option so that I don’t leave stuffed and ready to slip into a food coma.
4. DO be smart with the booze.
Often times my travels mean that opportunities to drink alcohol come up more frequently. I do two things that help me out – 1) for every adult beverage I have, I drink a glass of water before I order more booze, and 2) I try to stick to either red wine or vodka/soda with lime. They’re good options for drinks that are lower in sugar (a huge culprit especially in mixed drinks).
5. DON’T reach for the bread basket.
Let’s be honest, at very few restaurants is the bread at the start of a meal actually worth the calories it contains. And the resulting insulin spike is never worth it. So ask the server when they come for your drink order to NOT bring the bread. If others in your party want it, then tell yourself you can have some after your meal if you still really want it. Don’t eat it mindlessly.
6. DO pack snacks like almonds, jerky, protein bars to hold you over between meals.
To avoid the crazy hunger that almost always drives me to eat the bread from the basket at the restaurant, I like to snack on friendlier things between my meals to keep me from getting ravenously hungry by the time I make it to the restaurant. Stuff like almonds, jerky and protein bars can be picked up at most convenience stores. A lot of times, convenience stores also carry fruit too. An apple is high in fiber and can keep you from going crazy on the appetizers.
7. DO get in a workout, even if it’s a quick one.
This isn’t exactly about the food, but it’s something that helps when my eating patterns are weird. I always feel better when I’m out of my routine if I can at least get in a 15 minute workout. It gives my metabolism a little boost, plus I like the feeling of a good sweat even when my nutrition isn’t exactly on point (it almost feels cleansing to me… weird, I know). I love the workouts in my 6 Week DIY exercise program. All the workouts can be done basically anywhere, and there is no equipment needed. Plus, they get a good sweat going! That makes them perfect for hotel rooms/fitness centers or empty apartments.
8. DO decide what you’ll eat before you get to the restaurant.
I know this isn’t always possible, but if you know where you’re going, check out the menu before you leave or on your way there. Decide on the lean protein/fibrous veggies dish you’ll have before you get there so that you won’t be tempted when someone else in your party orders the fettuccine alfredo.
9. DON’T stress over small stuff (butter on veggies, the sauce on the meat).
Seriously, the whole point of your trip is not related to your fat loss efforts, so don’t get too hung up on small things. Your goal is to maintain where you are now, so a few little things aren’t going to wreck your progress. They put the dressing on your salad instead of on the side? It’s ok! Eat and enjoy! The tacos you ordered came with 2 corn tortillas each instead of one and you ate them anyway? Oh well, it’s really ok! <– I did that 2 nights ago… Make sure you don’t stress over the small stuff. You’ll be back to normal soon.
This was my lunch today – a stuffed chicken breast (breaded) and veggie stew. I didn’t let the breading on the chicken bother me; instead I focused on how much protein I was getting in and that the veggies were delish!
10. DO watch out for “dangerous” food combos.
Whenever you’re eating out, there are a couple food combinations you should try to avoid because they’re a hormonal and therefore fat loss nightmare. Combining fat and starchy/processed carbs is a no-no (sadly fried foods fall in this category). Also, combining booze and carbs is the kiss of death. When you’re metabolizing booze you can’t burn fat, so either have the starch and forget the booze or drink the booze and forget the starch.
There ya have em – my tips for eating when you’re traveling, out to eat, or just generally out of your routine. Any of you have a chance to use these soon? Let me know what your favorite one is! I plan to enforce smaller portion size, protein and veg at each meal, and no starch/fat at the same meal today!
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