Without a doubt, air travel presents many challenges to health and fitness. And from now through the end of the year, many people who have been working hard all year on health and weight management will find their commitment to a healthy lifestyle tested as soon as they get to airport.
How you handle the flight may very well determine how the rest of the vacation goes, not to mention how you will start the new year.
What's so challenging about air travel? To begin with, it involves an inordinate amount of sitting. You sit in the airport, then you sit on the plane in an even more confined manner.
Then there's the food. We know we won't get a meal served on the plane, so we're tempted by the wide array of fast-food joints in the airport. The giant pizza slices are oozing cheese and a come-hither aroma directly at you just when you're most vulnerable.
You might even decide you need some comfort food, given all the stress inherent in air travel.
Dealing with long lines at ticket counters and security, flight delays, inconsiderate fellow passengers and cranky children can put the best of us at our threshold of stress. And we all know what stress can do to eating.
Then there's the tedium issue. Having to sit still in tight spaces for hours can take you to the depths of boredom — and eating can seem just the thing to relieve the incessant blahs.
Put all that together, and you're in a situation where you're burning little energy and taking in a lot more calories than you need.
Being mindful of all these factors, as well as following some helpful tips, will help you avoid becoming a victim of plane travel and continue your path to health:
• Take charge: Look at what you have control over when preparing for air travel. Think about the times of your flights and the length of any layovers. Will you be in the air at a time when you usually get hungry and have a meal? Bring some food from home, plan to eat at the airport before your flight, or buy food at the airport to take on the flight. Go online to find out what restaurant options are available at your airport.
• Avoid the hunger monster. Letting your hunger get too intense will only guarantee overeating. A good trick is to rate your hunger on a scale from 0 to 10 (0=satisfied, 10=ravenous). Try to avoid letting your hunger go beyond a "3" before eating a nutritious meal or snack.
• Hunt and gather: If you're a frequent flier, learn the layout of your airports and which establishments provide the most nutritious meals and snacks. If you're not a frequent flier, you might allow yourself some time to peruse the terminal looking for the better choices. Look closely and you may find salads, vegetarian dishes and even sushi.
• Hydrate: Don't forget that your body needs to be well hydrated, especially during travel. Being properly hydrated can prevent mistaking hunger for thirst and also helps you feel fuller at meals. Take an empty water bottle with you through security and then fill it at each stop to guarantee you'll have enough pure liquids in flight.
• Take a hike: Airport terminals are the perfect temperature-controlled walking paths. Travel light or leave your luggage with your travel partner and take turns taking brisk walks before boarding. And on board, be sure to get up and stretch, and make your way to the restroom when you're permitted to do so. Long periods of sitting can lead to stiffness and even blood clots.