Monday, September 27, 2010

Road trip! Fear and Loathing in an airplane, hotel room, train, airport, etc.

I’m finally home.  Three weeks on a crazed road (flight) trip to some pretty disparate places:  Sydney, Chicago, Barcelona (for 5 hours), Madrid, and London with a few one-to-two day NY breaks in between.  A few fun metrics from this blitz:

  • 107 hours of commuting time, including airplane seats, train seats, taxi seats, and airport seats
  • 10 nights sleeping in hotels
  • 3 nights sleeping (kind of) on planes
  • 6 time zones (including the layover in LA)

I’m really not looking for sympathy as it was a FANTASTIC trip.  I tremendously enjoyed my time with colleagues from around the world.  I went to Weight Watchers Leader conventions in three different cities, and the energy was undeniable.  I was able to spend time in some of the most beautiful and exciting cities on Earth.  I even got to see Real Madrid play Espanyol Barcelona in Madrid, which was a tremendous opportunity and experience (particularly for a Yank).

However, I’m whipped!  Even for me, this was a crazy trip.  It reminds me of my favorite travel maxims:  I love being places, I just hate getting there.  One of the reasons is that its really hard to keep on the straight and narrow of a healthy life at this kind of topsy turvy pace.  107 hours of commuting is a lot of time surrounded by a lot of bad food choices.

For some reason, all of this reminded me of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.  A road trip mixed with a strange city can lead to a temptation laden environment resulting in not good choices.  At the extreme (understatement here):

"The trunk of the car looked like a mobile police narcotics lab. We had two bags of grass, seventy-five pellets of mescaline, five sheets of high-powered blotter acid, a salt shaker half full of cocaine, and a whole galaxy of multi-colored uppers, downers, screamers, laughers . . . and also a quart of tequila, a quart of rum, a case of Budweiser, a pint of raw ether and two dozen amyls . . . Not that we needed all that for the trip, but once you get locked into a serious drug collection, the tendency is to push it as far as you can. The only thing that really worried me was the ether. There is nothing in the world more helpless and irresponsible and depraved than a man in the depths of an ether binge. And I knew we'd get into that rotten stuff pretty soon."  Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

[BTW, I realize that Fear and Loathing is everyone's cup of tea, so I appreciate the indulgence in allowing me to quote from a book that made me laugh violently during my college years.]

OK, the hotel mini bar is not quite the same thing as the trunk of Hunter S. Thompson’s Chevrolet Impala convertible, but I found the circumstances uncomfortably similar.  If you spend too much time away from normal, it gets harder and harder to keep the bad choices at bay.

On the food side, I found myself slipping a little bit more as the trip progressed.   I started strong and resolved, and I convinced myself that I was a grown man who could make responsible decisions no matter where he was.  Right up until they asked me if I’d like the cheese plate as a desert on my flight to Sydney.  Soon, I was accepting any and all cups of nuts on my flights.  By the end of the trip, I laid siege to the mini-bar twice in London, demolishing two bags of salty rice snacks, two largish bags of cashew nuts, and one bag of Whoppers.  Not exactly illicit drugs, but cashew nuts are certainly one of my drugs of choice.

I finished the trip slightly damaged, but still undaunted.  During times of stress, you learn what you go-to healthy habits are.  As was gratified that I was able to keep the faith in:

  • Sticking to a healthy breakfast
  • Eating a pretty healthy lunch
  • Ordering fairly healthy dinner options
  • Most importantly, I exercised every morning I possibly could regardless of how little sleep

I don’t think I did any permanent damage, and I may not have even really gained any weight.  Yet I came out knowing where my strengths were and where my weaknesses were still evident.  Frankly, I was a little mad at myself about the whole mini-bar fiasco as I usually resist this temptation.  However, I also recognize that I'm not perfect, and it's perfectly alright for me to fall off the program in spectacular fashion from time-to-time.

Most importantly, I am finally back on my home turf where I know how to live healthily.  Therefore, Monday is a new day, and my tracker is out and blazing with POINTS-friendly entries.  I’m looking at the last three weeks as a freakish road trip that was an aberration, not a new reality.  I have a full month until the travel madness begins anew, and I need to get back on track.  Redemption is mine!




  1. I have found that refusing to take the key to the mini bar helps me when I travel. :)

  2. I love it that you're a NORMAL WW member with weaknesses, just like everyone else!!! Thanks for the great example!

  3. haha, love the Fear and Loathing comparison!

    I think you managed very well, I'd be ordering wine and rationalizing that it would help me deal with jet lag! It's amazing how good it feels to get back into a routine, isn't it?

  4. LOVE the reference to F&L!

    It's also important for us to see that even you have some of the same issues we struggle with every day.

    Thank you for posting this!

  5. now I see why my members like to hear my struggles from time to time because as I read yours I thought "WOW our CEO is human and struggles just like me." So they must be thinking "wow my leader can struggle just like me!" I get it now! Thanks for the disclosure. You will be fine. Just shake it off.

  6. The post you have made over here is really nice and I must say that you have struggled very much in your life that is why you have shared so much useful and informative post. I have gone through your whole post and I must say that it is truly nice and inspirative as well.

  7. I love the line about how "it's perfectly alright for me to fall off the program in spectacular fashion from time-to-time." I had a couple of those "spectacular" moments over the summer, and I think it's important to realize that no matter how big the blunder, it can be fixed, and sometimes the damage can be undone quicker than you think.

  8. Well we were really glad to have you in Chicago during your crazed trip. It was a pleasure to meet you. Glad the trip did not do too much damge.

  9. Anyone who can relate Hunter S. Thompson to the weight loss journey is my new best friend.

  10. I agree with Natalee! I believe that is one of the things that makes Weight Watchers successful...the staff are REAL people and our members can connect with us on their level without feeling intimidated. We do have to remember, we are human! This is not about perfection (no matter where you are in the game)it is about PERSISTANCE...staying in the game, for life. Thanks for this great blog!

  11. It's wonderful to see that the staff are real people who struggle just as we do. I can understand the challanges as my son travels 90% of the time for his work, mostly international and usually for 3-4 weeks at a time. He not only has managed to lose 130 lbs on WW but is keeping it off. It wasn't easy and it wasn't fast and he is currently facing the challange of 3 weeks in Milan, italy followed by working in India for 4 weeks. You may not be able to be perfect while traveling like this but you can do your best and just get back on track if you lapse.

  12. Given that cashews activate the same part of the brain as illicit drugs, the Fear and Loathing comparison is particularly apt. Alan Leshner, when he was director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, used to say "Drug addiction is a relapsing-remitting brain disease. It is not a character flaw of a failure of will." Now we know that fat and sugar really are addicting, and for most of us, the same relapse-remit pattern governs our eating. Spectacular falls off the program are pretty much inevitabe. And, maybe, enjoyed - just a little bit for just a little while? : ) .

  13. I agree whole-heartedly with Emily! I guess I should know, but somehow ignore, that the CEO of WW struggles with the very same battles as the homemaker-member of WW. It's so very good to be reminded that we're never in this alone! Thanks, Dave!!

  14. As a meeting member and online user -
    this post rocks - Hunter S who knew it could relate to WW - LOVE IT
    You really keep this program real and realistic.

  15. Long distance (and especially international) travel can pose huge problems to our normal sense of healthy inhibition. So we wouldn't necessarily scarf down a bag of nuts on our home turf, but we might if we're on an airplane or in a strange city. When I'm feeling like I have no willpower, I just ask the front desk to empty out the minibar. Usually they'll be fine with that. Then you can go find a yogurt and some fruit at a convenience store and put it in there!

  16. Really needed to read this as I plan for a week long trip to Arizona for a place with no way of knowing menus etc. Thanks for all the common sense approaches and the knowledge that being human is about progress and not prefection.

  17. Thanks, I needed this today as I recover from my own three day travel experience! I did pretty well on meal choices and had taken my own stash of point-friendly snacks. In the same way, I did better in the beginning, but found that I was indulging in more high point offerings as the time went on. Appreciate your reminder to look at all that did go well, rather than focus on the not-so-good choices. This is a new week and I am grateful for a life-style that makes room for challenging times.