Tuesday, April 24, 2012

To Live and Die(t) in LA. This week's healthy travel plan

Big surprise for me:  I've got yet more travel in front of me.  It's a relatively longer trip that stretches over the weekend, so it's got my alert systems gearing up for a potential health wreck.  

With this in mind, I'm going to try a new(ish) practice:  actually writing down a plan and sharing it publicly.  The logic behind this is pretty straightforward, but for me, it's also pretty powerful.  Some time ago, I wrote about research around Hot States and Cold States.  As a refresher, here is what they are:
  • Hot state:  when we find ourselves tossed into a situation full of temptation right in front of us and having to make decisions in a vulnerable mental state.  For example, if I were to fall into a large vat of mixed nuts, that would likely put me into a hot state.  I would deal with the situation by eating my way out of said vat-of-nuts.  Not surprisingly, research shows that people are less likely to be make smart decisions in a hot state.  
  • Cold state:  This would be an instance in which we were developing a plan for which the subject of temptation was not immediately in front of us.  In a cold state, we can be much more calculating.  In this case, I might write a plan to ask for a life preserver when I get tossed into a large vat of nuts and have someone on hand to pull me out.  
The point is to make decisions when we are not feeling hot and bothered, so we can act responsibly.  Sometimes in life, we don't have a choice, and we unexpectedly end up in a so-called hot state situation.  I would argue that more often we can see the perilous waters long before we hit the water fall.  It's in times like these that we need to pre-arm ourselves and have a plan.  

I've known all of the above for a while, but sometimes my good intentions just seem to get misplaced somewhere in the fun house otherwise known as my brain.  This time, I am going to take a new approach by actually writing said plan down.  For many of you, this is probably not a big deal or revelation, but for me it is.  I am not wired for such activities.  I despise to-do lists and anything that generally resembles them.  I only do them out of duress.  In this case, I will do one to avoid later duress.  It's all a trade-off.  

So here's my new plan for this coming week (let's call it Dangerous Water Plan:  template 1.0)

Down and Out in Beverly Hills?
How bad could it really be?

I'm hopping on a plan on Wednesday morning, and I will be attending a bunch of different meetings and conferences over the coming six days.  I return on a red eye on Monday night.  There will be a lot of socializing-type functions, and the conferences will no doubt be littered with food stations.  I will be a little jet lagged due to the three hour time difference, so I expect to be slightly sleep deprived.  Finally, I'm stuck in LA over the weekend sans family so I will be feeling sorry for myself, eager to tend to my brittle emotions with the loving salve of bad food.  

My plan:

  • Once and for all, I am going to attempt to summon every ounce of will power to ask the flight attendant not to offer me nuts.  In fact, I may ask her not to even offer before she offers.  
  • I will order whatever seems the less unhealthy as part of the meal service
  • No mini-bar food excursions!  
  • For the weekend, I might hit a local grocery story and stock up on some fruit in the room so I have alternatives
  • Oatmeal 'n fruit 'n yogurt.  Pretty easy.
  • Whatever healthy thing is available.  At the conference, look to use smaller plates.
  • Order healthy and try to leave 1/3 of the food on my plate.
  • Skip dessert
Snacking at conferences
  • Only fruit
  • Try to stick to coffee
  • This one is easy.  Both hotels have good gyms, and one is close to the gym I belong to (Equinox)
Selectively letting go
  • Give myself two dinners where I will take the shackles off a little.  I'm thinking Friday and Saturday night.  Get back on plan by Sunday night.  
So that's the plan.  What is interesting about this post is that I really did write it 98% for myself.  Should you get anything out of it, that's great!  



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.



Saturday, April 7, 2012

Learning to practice safe food love

This series this month on “Why I wrote a book” has forced me to try to distill some of the hard fought lessons that have had the biggest impact on my unending efforts to achieve health and balance.  You can’t talk about weight management without talking about food, but I wanted to talk about a different theme:  learning to not be miserable.

Reason #3 (for the book):  Long-term weight loss isn’t easy, but it need not be a life of deprivation

I recently had my annual physical memorializing the completion of my third year at goal weight.  It’s a fact that I’m pretty proud of.  Suffice to say, I’m extremely happy about the fact that I’m healthier today than I was when I was in my 30’s.  Good blood work, low blood pressure, low resting heart rate, etc.  But wait!  There’s more!  I’m also not too proud to admit a SLIGHT bit of pride over being able to wear clothing intended for thinner people.  It almost makes me forget the impending age lines wrapping around my eyes and my rapidly greying hair.

So what horrible price did I have to pay for this treasure trove of benefits?  Do I now have to live a loveless life without any joy for eating any more or ever again?  Do I wander the earth like one of those ghosts from A Christmas Carol dragging a huge cinder block & chain, moaning my eternal life of deprivation and hunger?


Just not unrequited love...
I love food as much as I ever did.  I just try to love the food that loves me back.  I’m done with the bad girlfriends of food.  You know the type.  Fast and loose, a little psychotic and ultimately bad for you.  They give you cheap thrills and then torture you.  I finally learned to settle down with great food I can live with that makes me happy, is good for me, and is still sexy as all get out.

All of the most important lessons I have learned about food have been about how to not live in deprivation.  The simple truth is that some food will fill you up while others will leave you wanting for more.  The beautiful and incredibly convenient truth is that there are no shortages of good foods that have a crazy combination of 1) being filling, 2) being full of nutritional awesomeness and 3) being low in energy (calories).

Everything I have learned about my current “diet” has been about cheating the devil.  I grew up liking to eat a lot of food, and I still like to eat a lot of food.  I’ve just learned to do it without the collateral damage to my gut.

This is one of the key messages I wanted to share in the book:  if you live in deprivation and hunger, you will almost certainly fly off the wagon.  The trick is to find a predictable set of foods, meals and strategies that you can live with.  Forever.  And happily.

Important announcement redux redux

Don’t forget.  Your book purchase helps a kid get a square meal.  All of my proceeds go to Share Our Strength.  They deserve your money more than I do.

Click to giant book picture in the upper right hand corner to learn more...