Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Tales of travel and eating... testing myself at the extremes

I'm taking a break from flogging my upcoming book release this week, but don't worry!  More flogging to come!

I knew this was going to be a pretty brutal stretch of travel, and it hasn't disappointed.  Since March 25th...

  1. Fly to Shanghai and spend the week there
  2. Fly to London for weekend
  3. Fly from there to Amsterdam on a Sunday night
  4. Fly back to London
  5. Fly back to NY on a Thursday
  6. Good Friday and weekend to recuperate
  7. Take train to Washington, DC on a Tuesday
  8. Return to NY on a Friday
  9. Weekend to recuperate
  10. Fly to St. Louis last night
  11. Fly back to NY (as I type --  love me some GoGo)
  12. Have THREE whole days in the office
  13. Weekend
  14. Monday and Tuesday in NY (dinners in the city both nights)
  15. Fly to California on Wednesday
  16. Take red eye back six days later on a Monday night/Tuesday morning
  17. Then I'm finally back in NY for seven contiguous days.  Yay!  
Will the airplane eat me or will I eat the airplane?
I've always had a goofy travel schedule, but this is much goofier than average.  I'm not at all looking for sympathy.  I've got a great job, and I'm grateful for it.  I love being places, but I hate travelling (flying) and I despise jet lag even more.  I'm incredibly fortunate to have the luxury to spend time with lots of different and incredibly interesting people, but I also miss my family terribly.  It's all part of life's many, many tradeoffs.  

Beyond all of the above, I was fully reacquainted with the way that travel taxes our efforts to stay healthy.  I've written about this many times before, but I wanted to again reprise the topic.  I like the travel topic because the extremes of it show how I get tested and how I (try to) navigate my path toward healthy life.  Over the past month, I've generally done pretty well, but I've also had a few amusing wipeouts.  

On the plus side...
  • Stupid mini bar.  This has historically been a weak point for me, so I re-doubled my efforts to keep this bad habit in check.  For about a week (China to Europe), I made it a point to Tweet each day whether I had managed to avoid raiding the mini bar for snacks.  Result:  it totally worked.  This was not a small feat for me, so I was pretty pleased.

    Learning:  Always have a plan when I am facing a known trouble spot.  Pre-committing to the plan helped tremendously.  Disclosing my results helped even more.  BTW, I could have done exactly the same thing in a WW meeting with the same effect.
  • Work the workouts.  I worked out like a nut, regardless of how little sleep I had each night.  My strategy here was my old standby to stay in hotels that either had great gyms (Shanghai) or hotels that were close to free-standing gyms (London, Amsterdam and Washington DC).  One perk to waking up every morning at 3 AM in China was that I had all my work done by 6 AM so I could jam a 90 minute workout each of those days.  Seems like a sad thing to be happy about, but it worked for me!  I think this is the first time that I had this many days traveling overseas without missing a single day in the gym.

    Learning:  Have access to decent facilities and make room for the gym on my schedule (in this case by not sleeping -- not by choice mind you)
  • (Most) meals:  I stuck to standard breakfasts and lunches.  For dinners, I worked pretty hard to make a conscious decision not to polish my plate and try to leave about 1/3 of it.

    Learning:  For predictable meals (breakfast and lunch), stick to the routine.  For dinners, try to mentally rehearse a plan for how I would handle each meal.  
On the not-so-plus side...
  • Room service = Satan's imp.  After not really sleeping at all for two straight nights in Amsterdam (for no fun reason whatsoever), I arrived in London a bit of a wreck.  I made the decision to have room service, and I promptly ate half the hotel.  Nero would have been proud.

    Learning:  Avoid room service always.  Period.  I simply cannot be trusted in my own room.  Frankly room service depresses me anyway.  I'm getting much more into the habit of going to a local restaurant at night and eating by myself at the bar, iPad in hand.  It's more social, and I'm much more restrained.
  • Airplane food:  I did what I wanted.  I've pretty much given up trying to be a saint on flights over 8 hours.  On balance, I will go for dishes that seem less bad, but I simply cannot (and do not) say no to cheese and crackers when I'm strapped to a seat.

    Learning:  These events aren't that big of a deal for me, so I'm not losing sleep over this.
One side story that I found amusing.  I arrived in Amsterdam on a Sunday night, and the local team wanted to give me a nice little welcome.  They arranged for a big tray of food to be in my room when I arrived along with a map to the local gym.  The try was mostly fruit (good), but also had a bunch of seemingly healthy nut bars and a big bowl of mixed nuts (bad -- for me, anyway).  I stared at the nuts on and off for about two hours on Sunday night until finally I broke down and started grabbing some.  It was like water torture trying to resist the temptation.  I then did what I normally do by self-flagellating myself for my weakness, and I then hid the nuts and bars underneath my TV stand.  For the next two days, I didn't touch any of them.  

I have a few observations about the above:
  1. Am I a four year old?  Who hides food so he won't eat it?  Me.  That's who.  
  2. Why not just throw the food away?  I really don't know.  I felt guilty about doing that even though I knew that someone else threw them away.  I'm weird that way.  
  3. I knew that if I put them outside of my sight lines that I would be much less tempted to eat them.  Out of sight, out of mind.  That worked.  I'm smart that way.  
I've got more travel in front of me.  The trick will be to keep planning for each trip, and importantly planning for each occasion/event that will be a trouble spot.  

Game on.




  1. That schedule is a killer. I am flying in a few days and it's the first time I have been away since I started WW. I am kind of a wreck about it. Probably should stop obsessing and find a way to plan out my week away as best I can. Thanks for the thoughts....room service = Satan's imp? HILARIOUS.

    1. Don't sweat the trip. Just have a plan and try to stick to it about 80% of the time. BTW, just looked at your blog. You are a hoot!

    2. David, I'm so excited to read your book! I've been a faithful reader of your blog and love how you are so much like everyone one of us doing this weight loss journey with Weight Watchers. I am about to make Lifetime for the first time at my weigh in tomorrow and cannot believe it! I have lost 93 lbs with Weight Watchers and I love that you as CEO of the company not only talk the talk but walk the walk. I entered your contest on Facebook to hopefully win the trip to NY for your book launch to meet you. If I don't win and can't meet you then, I'll be looking for your book tour (come to Northern CA!). I am living the life of a Weight Watcher (and can say LIFETIME as of tomorrow!) and think that much of it's success is because it's leader really knows about the lives of "its people". Your book will be amazingly successful I'm sure! Thank you for all you and WW does.

      Kelly Hamilton
      khamilton obrienlaw com

    3. David, you are so right - Nat's blog is great! She's a good writer and very real. I bookmarked it for inspiration.

  2. David - you live in my world….

    Airlines, Airports and Hotels, should WAKE UP to the fact the MOST business travelers need to be eating healthier. I mean real healthy-eating – not the pseudo healthy crap being marketed today.
    This should make good business sense too.

    Please keep the honest commentaries coming

    PS: I can’t wait for my copy of the book to arrive from Amazon

  3. I hope you are taking your vitamins! That is a crazy schedule. I like the fact that I am not the only one that hides food LOL!!!

  4. Re: throwing away food, I can't either, but I discovered that the hotel staff are usually excited to take care of that for you. I take things I shouldn't eat down to the front desk, explain that I am too tempted to leave it in the room, and ask if someone else might be interested in this? Bonus, you get some good will and maybe additional perks.

  5. I'm a horrible eater on trips. Props to you for trying and succeeding even if it is imperfect. We have to do what we have to do, and I'm proud of you for finding tricks and ways to deal with it. Good luck in the future and I cannot wait to get your book! It comes out on my birthday. So exciting.
    Tammy Mabry

  6. It's true, if I don't see it I won't eat it. That's why all the food that I shouldn't eat on a regular basis is in the cupboard above the sink. It's high up and I don't keep staples there, so it doesn't get opened often. All the food that's ok for snacking is on the kitchen table or front and center when I open the fridge. I have a weakness for nuts too, so if they have to be in the house, they get portioned out or shut away where I won't see them. it's true what they say about out of sight, out of mind.

  7. Your being real is very refreshing and I feel like keep on keeping on like you do. Most CEOs act as if they are perfect in every way, never fail and are sooo above doing one hundred percent perfect. Who wants to follow that person? Besides it is not true, no one in tis fallen world can even be like that. Thanks again for your real spirit and being a model for us all. I will certainly pray for you with all your pressures. God bless.

  8. Ulli - weight watchers member from FranceApril 19, 2012 at 6:04 AM

    David, I must tell you - I love your blog.
    But this post is EVEN BETTER than usual. I actually laughed out loud when reading "Am I a four year old? Who hides food so he won't eat it? Me. That's who." :-)
    I am SO looking forward to your book. Please please keep writing.

  9. David, thanks so much for your inspertation. I'm just two weeks into my life time membership. And I'm looking at a sample of your new book on iBook. Haven't decided weather to buy hard book or electronic version, but I will diffently get one, maybe both. That way I will always have a copy with me.
    Willie P

  10. Travel....love the travel.....seatbelt issues with British Air got me back to WW. Have you noticed the difference in lengths between airlines? ie British Air versus American Airlines?

  11. I am a frequent flyer for work- I take between four and six planes a week, every week, 46 weeks out of the year! I work with a team hosting educational seminars for three days a week. I have stopped and started WW 5 times in the past nine years, and just went back to my first meeting in nine months yesterday! I'm very excited to re-committ to the plan. Something I've started doing the past few months is planning out as much as I can with my food, so I can control what I eat for about half the day.

    Since I fly domestic, I pack a sandwich for the plane, regardless of what time it is. I also call ahead to make sure I will have a mini fridge (or have them clear the mini bar in advance), and bring a freezer bag filled with non fat greek yogurt, hummus cups, apple slices, hard boiled eggs, and if I will have a microwave, quinoa salad and grilled chicken. I bring high-fiber cereal, brown rice crackers and homemade energy bars as well. I always have pre-made bags of oatmeal and tea with me, so I have a good snack and drink option instead of digging in to the cookie and brownie platters we have for our students every single afternoon (not that I don't find myself nibbling...often).

    Hope some of these tips help you, just like reading this blog post got me so excited for my new journey with WW!

  12. Hi Dave,

    I just want to say, you are my weight loss maintenance soul mate. It is so refreshing and so inspiring for me, even after 10 years at Goal (and 11 years on the WW plan), to know that someone else is going thru the same struggles with the same thoughts and the same reactions. I, too, will hide food to keep it out of sight rather than throw it away (such a waste to throw it away!). I, too, need to summon every ounce of good intention to keep from going postal on the airplane smorgasbord when on long flights. And self-flagellation and I are old friends...but thru your blogs, I know I'm not alone in that crazy space. So thank you for taking the time to share your journey with everyone so as to help us with ours. :-)

    All best,
    Carrie Watts
    (reached Goal in 2001; working every day since then to stay there!)

  13. Dave, I am leaving for a cruise at the end of May and my plane ride will be about 14 hours. I have never been on a plane for more than 2. What do you suggest I do for food while on the plane. Phyllis

    1. Hi Phyllis,

      I hope you don't mind if I take a shot at this. I'm a flight attendant and we all carry soft sided coolers with our food in them. I take lots of fruit and veggies, and a strong zip close baggie, which I fill with ice from onboard the plane. 14 hours is a long time, but you can call the airline and request special food for yourself. All international airlines will cater to special diets. Most of the stuff they have is predetermined for, say, a diabetic. I'd suggest ready made tuna or chicken to carry also. You might want to restrict you sodium intake too.

      Have fun and enjoy your trip.

  14. Mr. Kirchoff: I applaud your weight loss success. What about people down at the lower end of the pay scale who can't afford monthly passes or annual payments, and who, like you, find that job related work causes them to miss meetings? These folks are seriously committed to WW, but their absences are billed anyway. We feel like school children reporting an absence to a principal, who regardless of the reason, makes them pay anyway. Can't WW be less rigid about this?

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