Sunday, May 17, 2009

Five weeks of intense travel: how bad could it be?

It might be the case that my natural state is to worry that life's little challenges will conspire to  cruelly wreck my state of weight maintenance.  I think every lifetime member has the reasonable concern to think that the euphoria of achieving Lifetime Membership will result in a slackening of resolve and a melting of will power and discipline.  This may be true despite the fact that 50% of our lifetime members succeed in keeping their weight off, which is a fantastic success rate.  Yet, what if I'm in the other 50%?  Fear of failure comes stalking!  Only the paranoid survive?  

I feel that I was absolutely put to the test over the past five weeks.  I had three week long international trips encompassing France, Spain, China and the UK.  They presented me with all manner of challenges including:  sleep deprivation, airplane cocooning, private dining (read:  room service and airplane service), workout challenges, and every meal out.  Surely this was a train wreck in waiting.  

So here's the tally of what worked and what didn't...

On the plus side:
  • I kept the exercise pace up throughout.  I worked out in China and even a little bit in France.  I picked up extra workout sessions on weekends to compensate for missed workouts while on the road.  My biggest stumbling block was my trip last week to the UK where sleep deprivation finally defeated my resolve.  For three consecutive days, I did not exercise.  In the scheme of five weeks, this was hardly a massive failure (though it seemed that way during the three days).  
  • I rock at breakfast.  All false modesty aside, old me would have fallen to pieces when presented the option of full English breakfast (I love breakfast).  Yet, I happily made good choices EVERY single breakfast on the road.  As much as the word "porridge" sounds fairly gross and unappealing, I happen to like the stuff.  Not once did I feel like I was sacrificing.  
  • I pretty much rocked lunch too.  
  • Dinner could have been worse.  
  • Further, when I was back in the US, I made it a point to get back to my new healthier habits (mostly).  
What didn't work:
  • I still stink at airlines.  I really cannot control myself, which I will attribute to re-filtered air, high altitude, and mostly boredom.  I used to think of overseas flights as somehow adventurous and special.  Now I think of them as being strapped to a chair for 8 to 14 hours.  Not fun and not interesting.  Try doing it in your living room for a point of comparison.  Books, work and TV will not cure this.  Food seems to help.  So, this is one for me to work on.  
  • Other pre-existing weaknesses that have nothing to do with travel were still present.  I am still prone to post-dinner grazing habits.  I am not really hungry when I graze, yet I still do.  On the plus side, I try to graze on foods that are not completely horrible for me.  
  • Eating out creates challenges regardless of how hard I try to stay focused.  There is only so much one can do to accurately monitor calorie counts in a foodservice environment.  The best I can hope for is to try to minimize the damage.  I stick to fish and avoid dishes with the words/phrases "sauteed", "butter sauce", or "slathered and fried in high density lard."  
As you can see from my previous posts, I was clearly a little bit worried about all this travel.  So, what was the final damage count when I got weighed on Friday?  Up 2 pounds.  Nothing that would justify calling for an intervention.  

So here is an interesting question:  is this validation that obsessing about the program is unnecessary given an only 2 lb gain or was a certain amount of obsessing necessary to keep the gain down to 2 lbs?  I really don't know the answer to this one.  There is a fine line between vigilance/focus and obsession, and I will not claim to have mastered it.  

What I do know is that I am starting to feel that certain healthy behaviors (e.g., breakfast, lunch, exercise) are becoming second nature.  That means I do not need to worry about them anymore and I can focus my attention on other habits.  Maybe even some that have nothing to do with my weight.  Such is the promise of Weight Watchers.  


  1. Sorry David - but this sounds all too much like navel gazing to me. I would rather develop habits that mean I can relax and enjoy myself than constantly worrying about every mouthful. I lost 5 stone 4 years ago, I eat a healthy diet, travel a lot and cope without all this worry. 2lbs on when the situation is stressful is fine, just cut back a bit when you are in a routine. Weight Watchers has a problem if after so long and having lost weight you still have to worry to this extent. Not exactly long term weight loss is it! No doubt you HAVE to be a role model - but I suggest you are nmot a good one for 'normal' people right now.

  2. David - I so understand the challenges you have encountered. While I've never traveled internationally, many of us face similar "choices" along the way. Being a Weight Watcher member has taught me how to handle those times when "hunger is not the problem" and continues to offer me the support I need. As a four-time veteran of WW, being Lifetime now for 2 1/2 years (and a Leader) has given me my life back!

  3. David- Love this account of your travels. I think that the natural mindfulness that you are describing is a perfect balance of accountability and awareness while on the road, while still finding time to enjoy yourself and listening to your body (i.e. it was a good thing to take a few days off from exercise when you are sleep deprived). I disagree with the earlier poster who think that you are "worrying too much"- that's such a personal call, (who's to say who is worrying too much besides ourselves-?!?!) and honestly you sound like a "normal" person to me- a normal person at your goal weight at that! In any case, kudos to you for a successful 5 weeks (gulp!) of travel and thank you for sharing your perspective with us.

    (LT member for 7+ years, and WW Leader)

  4. Promote those 2 WW leaders David! They sound like good supporters for you - and we all need good supporters!

  5. Just remember, I'm sure DAve doesn't think about it ALL the time, he needs to wrangle his thoughts together for the purpose of HOW he maintains his weight during stressful times, and that my friends, is a simple exercise called mindfulness.

  6. Love this post about international travel! I understand being away from what you know and comfortably counting. A friend told me about UK and Ireland supermarket brand that now has WW points on their 'Count on Us' meals - works if you have a microwave in your hotel. A savior for my next trip! For meals out I become much more conscious about portion control so I can still enjoy dinner with colleagues and I try to research local restaurants to find something that will fit with my points allocation. I still find myself slipping with the temptation of the full Irish breakfast (Irish sausages are a big soft spot), and the creamy irish butter never leaves the table. I make a concerted effort to pick a hotel that is a little further from a business meeting.
    For me the mantras from my favorite meetings of 'nothing tastes as good as thin feels' and 'lust is transitory' definitely helps!