Travel can be a lot of fun and add new experiences to our lives. But it can also set us back with our health goals if we're not mindful. • The challenges are especially great when you're traveling at this time of year, when temptations are at their annual peak. • Being more aware with our travel plans doesn't need to take away from any enjoyment, however. The payoff for being more aware is that you will feel better physically. Your body always feels better when you're taking good care of it and when it gets to be active. You'll also feel better psychologically because you'll feel good about yourself and how you've handled the travel. You'll feel relaxed. You'll feel comfortable, not stuffed to the gills. And you'll be so happy to skip the guilt about what you did when you return home.
There's no other time of the year when we are bombarded with as many messages that push us to eat more and exercise less.
However, this is not a time to sit back and depend on willpower. It's a time to be smart and creative. It's the wise and proactive that win at health and fitness during holiday travel. If you've not acquired these holiday traveling skills yet, here are a few tips to help you out:
Pack healthy snacks
Instead of being stuck with the usual salty, greasy chips, make sure you have fresh, crunchy veggies and low-fat dips.
Stay away from fast food restaurants
The holidays are packed with more food than we need or want. So why would you agree to calorie-rich, nutrition-poor fast food? Stop and consider better alternatives.
Take advantage of fitness centers, parks and active entertainment
Why not take in the sights with long walks at your destination? If it's a cold climate, be sure to pack the right gear. Go online to research the local options. Also, when reserving lodging, make sure that there's a fitness center available and set aside time to use it.
Ignore roadside food billboards
Keep yourself from salivating over these sneaky food cues by eating well and avoiding getting too hungry. Listening to podcasts, books or music that's energizing and that you can sing along with also can help distract you.
Read or listen to health-related books and programs
Having the subject at the top of your mind while you're away from home will help you stay focused and not stray away from your fitness goals.
Remember that stress leads to overeating so relaxation is essential while traveling. Avoid being in a rush and don't compete with other drivers. Take a lot of deep breaths and let other people get stressed out while you let the hectic pace roll past you.
Do your own cooking
If you're staying in lodging that provides a kitchen, use it. The most control you can have over what you eat is when you do your own meal preparation.
Don't overdo alcohol and other high-calorie beverages
Beverages go down easy, but especially if you're indulging in eggnog and anything with alcohol, the calories add up fast. All those holiday liquid treats can be your downfall if you don't face reality and use them wisely. Keep them to a minimum, pass them up entirely or substitute water, club soda with lime, or another low-calorie beverage.
Keeping your healthy goals in action during your holiday travels is entirely possible if you plan to stay in charge, take action and stay calm. Don't you feel better already?
Lavinia Rodriguez, Ph.D., is a Tampa psychologist and expert in weight management. She is the author of "Mind Over Fat Matters: Psychological Barriers to Weight Management." Send your questions to her at [email protected]