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9 Ways to Prevent Vacation Weight Gain

Insider tips from a travel writer on losing weight while you’re on the road.

| June 19th, 2014
9 Ways to Prevent Vacation Weight Gain

When people ask me what I do for a living and I tell them I’m a travel writer, the first thing I hear is, "What a dream job!" And it is; but it’s still work—much of it involving copious amounts of eating and drinking. When I first started packing my bags for this lifestyle, I also began packing on the pounds. Between airport food, a wonky schedule and that inevitable extra glass of wine, the calories add up.

It took some finessing, but I finally learned to manage my weight while traveling, and on occasion, I’ll even drop a few pounds. Here, I—along with a few of my travel writing buddies—share insider tips on how to lose weight while traveling.

1. Skip the gym. I typically skip the gym and do almost anything else activity-wise instead, such as walking, hiking or playing water sports. Walking in particular allows for double-duty while traveling: sightseeing and exercising. My pal Jenny Miller, a New York City travel and food writer, says, “I try to walk as my main form of transportation. One, it's great exercise and burns calories, and two, I feel like I see way more of a place and really get to understand its layout in a way I don't if I take a taxi or a bus.”

2. Eat like a local. An easy word of advice: Back away from the T.G.I. Friday’s. The first time I was able to drop a few unwanted pounds on vacation was when I embraced eating like a local. While traveling in Vietnam, I slurped healthy, herbaceous soups for breakfast; I munched on báhn mi sandwiches sans sides for lunch, or loaded up on fresh vegetables and lean meats for dinner. I’ve since embraced this technique across the world, and it’s served me—and my waistline—well. Bonus: You’ll save money, to boot.

3. Forgo a meal. Vacation and work meals tend to be heavier and multi-coursed. For this reason, I only eat two very delicious meals a day and still get plenty of calories. If I do have a third meal, a Greek yogurt does the trick. It’s full of protein, adding only a few extra calories. Alyssa Schwartz, a travel writer friend of mine from Toronto who’s constantly on the road, says that she’ll often split a main course while traveling. “I also don't overdo any one thing, especially if I'm not over the moon about it,” she says. “I'll take a bite of dessert and if it doesn't blow my mind, I remind myself I don't need to eat the whole thing. If it's super-fabulous, however, all bets are off.”

4. Utilize the hotel’s wellness experts. Many hotels have wellness experts and chefs on site so that you can stay fit and healthy while traveling. At the Belmond Maroma Resort & Spa in Mexico, chef Juan Pablo Loza creates healthful meals and is on-hand to discuss menus before and during the stay. The resort also features designated getaway programs designed exclusively for fitness- and health-minded guests. A signature getaway may include morning runs on the powdery, white sand beaches; a mini-triathlon; and intense volleyball games, peppered with organic Mexican cooking classes and a relaxing spa treatment.

5. In-room workouts. When it comes to traveling light, my buddy and travel writer Kara Cutruzzula says, “Aside from running in whatever city I’m in, I’m a new convert to fitness videos—and as a writer, of course, wherever I go, the laptop follows. A half-hour Jillian Michaels online workout—her 30 Day Shred is available on YouTube—makes me feel like less of a slug, and the rest of the travel day is guilt free.”

6. Bring your bottles. I was once given the amazing advice to carry two empty water bottles in your suitcase. You can fill them with water for DIY hotel hand weights, as well as use them for toting around potable water in countries that might not otherwise have it. I’ve used this countless times for a quick in-room workout (I’m looking at you, Jillian Michaels!) that doesn’t cost a cent. This tip really comes in handy when your hotel doesn’t have a gym or you’re just not feeling the burning desire to hop on a treadmill—which is me, always.

7. Sip tea. I like to stash tea bags in my carry-on so that I have a favorite and familiar flavor for long-haul flights to foreign countries. My go-to tea blend is Runa Guayusa. It’s been cultivated in the Amazon for thousands of years and has only recently been introduced to the U.S. market. I’m obsessed with the brand’s ginger citrus variety that’s chock-full of caffeine and antioxidants. The leaves come from the rich soil of northern Ecuador and has been said to curb the appetite and increase metabolism.

8. Drink wine. I love a well-crafted cocktail or a fancy umbrella drink, but sadly, they’re loaded with sugar and extra calories. I’ve found my happy place to be a glass or two of wine while traveling for work. It’s always around, and I don’t mind saying yes to a heart-healthy red. The key is that I enjoy a single glass with a meal and sip it slowly. If that doesn’t happen, I pay the price on the scale and with a pounding headache. I’ll save the margaritas for those when-I-see-my-college-girlfriends sort of occasions and make it totally worth it.

9. Get uninterrupted sleep. One of the very best things about vacation is missing out on the sound of your blaring alarm clock. Not only does sleep benefit your beauty and well-being, but it benefits the waistline too. A study by researchers at Case Western Reserve University showed that women who sleep five hours or less per night weigh more on average than those who sleep seven hours. I try to get as much shut-eye as possible while traveling and nap if there’s a gap in my schedule. I’ve found that turning off my laptop and other distracting electronics allows me to completely unwind—allowing for maximum rest and ultimate health. 

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