Losing Weight and Eating Right While Traveling

Airplane landingWhen you’re traveling for work, or vacation, there’s so many difficult things to deal with if you’re trying to eat healthy and lose weight. It’s especially hard when you’re doing it for work because your meals are typically paid for by your company or client; all of a sudden almost anything you want to eat is an option. Often work trips or vacations include more alcohol than you would normally drink on your dime.

While it’s hard, it’s sure not impossible. There’s several things to remember when you’re away from home, and you’re roving from restaurant to restaurant.

Know how your food is prepared – Remember that you’re in control of what your put into your body. When you’re at an eating establishment that you’re unfamiliar with, ask questions. How is the meat prepared? What kind of oil do you use? Is it grilled? You have every right as a consumer to know what you’re eating.

Stay away from fried foods – I’ve found that almost every place I’ve ever eaten on the road usually has fried food. Even when you’re in places like this, there are generally healthier options. Look for grilled foods, look for “lighter fare” portions. So many places are now offering healthier options, sometimes you just have to dig deeper and look.

Ask for calorie/nutrition information – A lot of restaurant chains are starting to publish their calorie information in their menus. Pay attention to this. Sometimes things I’ve thought are healthier, have more calories and fat that a burger and fries! Ask how many calories are in the food that you’re ordering, sometimes it’s just not something printed in the menu, but most places have this information available.

Stick to what you know – If you see places you know, and you’re familiar with healthy options they have, stick to those places! Do what works for you. When you frequent places that you know from home, you’ll be a step ahead, and using this approach can save you time and stress dealing with restaurant staff.

Breakfast – Breakfast is one of my favorite meals. I used to love getting a big plate of eggs, hash browns, toast, and meat. It’s an awful way to start the day, tons of fat and sodium. Try sticking to yogurt, a whole grain cereal, or just some eggs. A lot of the places I’ve stayed in have free continental breakfasts that offer a lot of great options, like yogurt, fruit, and oatmeal.

Lunch – Lunch is one of those meals when you’re traveling that you may be eating with other co-workers, clients, or if you’re on vacation, looking to indulge. One of the things I’ve done when I’ve traveled is found local grocery stores, and bought fresh salad by the pound, a bunch of spinach, some chicken breast, a little egg and balsamic vinegar, it’s a delicious lunch, and you can take it back to where you’re working, or eat it at the store. I love Whole Foods’ readily available foods.

Dinner – Dinner can be perceived as one of the meals that if you’re not paying for it, you should splurge. I say, challenge yourself to spend less, pretend like it’s your money. I try to eat a smaller portion of steak or chicken, maybe a potato and a small salad with the dressing on the side. They KEY with restaurant salads is to make sure to ask of the dressing on the side, and then use as little as possible. One of the things I like about balsamic dressing is that it’s low in fat and calories. Use a ton of it!

Subway sandwiches is a great place to go because they focus on low calorie sandwiches, and they are EVERYWHERE. They’re in just about every major city across the US. They also publish and make readily available all of their calorie and nutrition information. They also have gluten free options available and are very conscious about cross contamination, although they say they can’t guarantee 100% gluten free dining.

Airports can be brutal. Sometimes you have VERY limited choices. That’s why I always carry some good snacks with me. I have almonds, cashews, beef jerky, and other snacks that I can dig into if there are only fast food places available. If you don’t plan ahead, and you’re forced to eat fast food, be sure to stay away from “King” or “Super sizes”, order grilled white meats instead of red meats or fried items. A lot of fast food places now even ofter salads and things like yogurt. Just be aware of the portions and calorie counts of what you’re eating, and make good decisions despite the fact that you might not be eating at your first choice of restaurant.

Just remember, that YOU are ultimately in control of what happens. Everyone slips once in a while, everyone indulges, just make sure that you’re not making that the norm. Don’t let being away from home create an excuse to sabotage the work that you’ve done. When you do decide to stray from your course, remember to get at it strong the next day, and don’t let your faulty step become a habit.


HCG & Other “Fad” Diets

Let me just start by saying, this is my opinion, I’m sure there’s plenty of people that swear by their approach to weight loss, and I say do whatever works for you, seriously. If you love The South Beach Diet, and it works, go for it. If you are doing Jenny Craig, HCG, Weight Watchers, the Paleo diet, or even Atkins, and you are having success, I applaud you. What’s working for me is math, hard work, and determination. Technically, I can eat whatever I want as long as I stick to my calorie budget. But I don’t, I’m trying to be smart about it.

I have a friend who’s a nutritionist, and her words to me when I asked about no carb dieting was that it was never good to cut all of something out, it’s just not healthy. Her approach was similar to what I’m trying to do, eat well, and control portion and caloric intake. One of the fad diets that I have a hard time with is HCG.

When I first heard about the process I was skeptical, but I saw people that were getting FAST results. Dropping 10+ lbs. in a week with no exercise, it sounds great, right? The extremely hard part of it is, you’re limiting yourself to 4 oz. of meat for two meals. I would literally skip breakfast (never a good thing) have a small salad at lunch with some chicken, and then an equally small dinner. HCG wants to limit you to 500 calories per day with no sugar. They want you to try and do it for 40 days. I lasted 14, but lost over 20 pounds.

HCG Drops

Diet advice from a gas station?

It sounds great right? 2 weeks, 20 pounds, sure it was awful at times, I was literally starving. I know what you’re thinking, I was losing muscle. Well they claim that there’s an amino acid you take as a supplement taken on a strict regimen several times per day that prevents this. I don’t really know if it worked, but I did a LOT of research prior to doing it, and SO many people raved about it.  In retrospect, it was another one of those times where I should have listened to that voice in my head, “It’s too good to be true”. The weight all came back.

I don’t know how fast all the weight went back on, but it was just a super unrealistic approach to losing weight in a healthy manner. I think what I’m doing now is a way more grounded and healthy approach. I feel more in control and I’m generally not hungry at all. Sure the weight is coming off slower, but it’s consistently coming off and I can directly correlate it to the calories I eat, and the work I’m doing in the gym.

If you’re looking for a miracle pill, or a solution that requires no exercise, it’s not going to happen. The only healthy way to lose weight, is to create a realistic caloric deficit, and add good habits like working out, drinking lots of water, and getting plenty of sleep.

Spicy Chipotle Tomatillo Salsa

I’m not a huge vegetable eater. I don’t like the textures and the chunkiness of them. So when it comes to salsa, I typically like the kind that’s totally blended. I first really discovered that I liked this when I found Chipotle’s spicy red tomatillo salsa. I’ve asked them if I could buy it in larger portions, but they won’t sell it anything but a 2 oz. cup.

So I set out to find what the recipe was, and replicate it as best I could. What I found is that Chipotle is very secretive of their recipe. Everyone online has claimed to have replicated it, but reading the comments and looking at the vast ingredient differences it’s a sea of confusion. After much discovery, I finally found one that sounded right. I am not taking credit for the ingredients, just reviewing the recipe. It’s not quite the same as Chipotle’s, but it’s so darn good. The thing I like best about it, is that it’s ALL vegetables, except for a dash of sugar and salt.

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Here’s the recipe that I used. I made some variations on it, which I’ll discuss. The ingredients I used are:

      • 12 small green tomatillos, husked and washed
      • 4 vine ripe tomatoes
      • 10 cloves of garlic – left in the skin
      • 1 onion – cut into strips
      • 1 can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
      • 4 tablespoons of chopped cilantro
      • a pinch of sugar
      • salt – seasoned to taste

It’s very easy to make this salsa. Start by taking a rimmed baking sheet, line it with aluminum foil, and spray the foil with pam, or lightly rub with olive oil. Turn your oven’s broiler on high, and move the rack about 4″ from the broiler. Put the tomatillos, tomatoes, garlic (in skin), and onion on the baking sheet. Place under the broiler, and roast the veggies turning them often until they start to brown or slightly darken, they will almost fall apart. Remove from the oven, and peel the skin from the garlic. Put all of the ingredients into a blender or food processor and blend to the consistency you want. I personally like no chunks. If you want to add more spice, you could add two cans of peppers.

I like it with corn chips (in a measured portion) or on eggs, low calorie crackers, or on salads its good too. But the thing I like is that it taste great, and I don’t feel like I’m choking down veggies. The flavor is sweet, smoky, and the acid from the tomatoes with the flavor of the garlic and heat from the peppers all blends really well. It’s not quite a clone of Chipotle, but I like it enough to keep making it at home!

The finished product!

Kid Dinner Challenge – Second Installment

If you didn’t read my first post about the kid dinner challenge, you can read it here. The general synopsis is cooking for six is hard. Making sure we create meals that are healthy, exciting, and relatively easy to make is not a simple chore for four kids and two adults. This is the second installment in what I’m calling the Kid Dinner Challenge.

The requirements of “kid” prepared dinners are this:

    • A budget of $20 to feed six.
    • They plan, research, and determine what is to be served.
    • The meal has to be healthy, protein, starch, vegetable, fruit. They can include dessert if there is budget. (No macaroni and cheese, with chips)
    • Everyone has to like it.
    • They have to do the shopping (we take them).
    • They have to do the cooking.
    • It has to be Gluten Free.
    • They have to serve the meal.
    • They have to do all of the cleanup.

This week we were served a wonderful meal, better than we make sometimes! It’s a meal that should be eaten in moderation, but is simply ok to have once in a while.

Dinner consisted of: Fresh Broccoli, Fruit Kabobs, Gluten Free Lasagna, and a Layered Jello Dessert. The kids pulled it all off for $19.10. The Lasagna was delicious, gluten free noodles, ground turkey instead of beef, ricotta, mozzarella, monterey jack, and parmesan cheese. While not a meal you’d want to eat every day, in moderation, and watching portions, it was a great change.

Creating a Calorie Deficit – Planning, Measurement, and Success

The key aspect to losing weight is dead simple. You have to create a caloric deficit, burn more calories in a day than you consume. That’s it… there’s nothing really more to it than that. Of course adding habits like eating a low fat diet, adding an exercise regimen and getting good sleep are all things that can do nothing but accelerate the process.

I was told there would be no math…..

The key to planning out this approach to losing weight requires several (easy) steps that you need to do. The first step is to create a calorie budget, and stick to it. It’s just like it sounds, determine how many calories you’ll allot yourself for the day, and then simply don’t exceed it. Use a tool like Lose It to track your caloric intake. Determining how many calories you should budget requires learning a few terms, doing some calculations, and then applying some assumptions. Let’s talk about a few terms that will help you with this process:

        • BMR – Basal Metabolic Rate – Is a measurement of how many calories you would burn during a 24 hour period.
        • Calculating your BMR – Use an online calculator, or if you want, you can do the math yourself using these equations. There’s two schools of thought on this, I’m providing the calculation I’ve seen the most. Find your BMR:
          Women: BMR = 655 + (4.35 x weight in lbs.) + (4.7 x height in inches ) – (4.7 x age in years)
          Men: BMR = 66 + (6.23 x weight in lbs.) + (12.7 x height in inches) – (6.8 x age in years)
  • To determine your caloric needs, multiply your BMR by how active you are:
    • If you are sedentary (little or no exercise): BMR x 1.2
    • If you are lightly active (light exercise/sports 1-3 days/week): BMR x 1.375
    • If you are moderately active (moderate exercise/sports 3-5 days/week): BMR x 1.55
    • If you are very active: BMR x 1.725
    • If you are extra active (very hard exercise/sports and physical job or 2x training): BMR x 1.9
  • The number you get from that is the number of calories that your body uses for the day. Subtracting roughly 500 calories from that number, without going lower than 1200 is a good place to start losing about a pound per week.

By figuring out some of the math, this will allow you to better understand where you’re at, it’s slightly different for everyone. Creating a calorie deficit has been one of the key tools to my weight loss so far. I of course couple this with an aggressive exercise routine. Using my calorie tracking application on my phone really helps keep me accountable. Weekends tend to be the hardest, I try to keep busy working out, or doing projects around the house.

Once you understand where your caloric intake needs to be, it’s easier to figure out what kind of deficit you want to create. I’m currently eating up to 1600 calories per day, this should create about a 1 lb. per week weight loss, but paired with exercise 4 – 5 times per week, burning about 500 – 700 calories per workout, I’ve been dropping about 2 – 4 pounds per week. Adding exercise will help accelerate your weight loss. Eating foods that are lower in fat, and cutting down on carbohydrates has helped me too. I haven’t cut carbs out completely, but I’ve drastically reduced my consumption of them.

Dining Out – It’s Inevitable

No matter how dedicated you are, no matter how much you plan, no matter how much you may want to avoid it, at some point you will have to dine out. I used to eat out for lunch almost every day of the work week, and at least once or twice over the weekend. The amount of money I was spending for the convenience of not having to do a small amount of planning and kitchen work pales in comparison to the amount of calories I was consuming.

But I have to be realistic. It’s unrealistic to think I’m never going to eat out again. There will be birthdays, parties, date nights, times out with friends, the list goes on and on. So what I need to remember are two things; 1. Portion control and sizing, and 2. Better choices. Instead of a burger and fries, maybe a chicken sandwich and side salad. Instead of half a pizza, a slice or two. I used to love going to Chipotle and Qdoba. I was SHOCKED to find out how much the burrito, chips and salsa cost me in calories.

This is what I used to order for lunch. Oh my goodness, I had no clue.




So I’ve made some adjustments, I’m not a huge vegetable eater (maybe I’ll get better with that) so cutting just the chips, and the burrito shell was a huge help. The chips and burrito shell alone are a 900 calorie cut and a whopping 37 grams of fat. I don’t go to Chipotle much any more, but occasionally it will look more like this.

1000 calories less? Seriously? I don’t miss anything either.

What a difference. I love it too, there’s nothing I feel like I’m missing. 1000 calories is almost two thirds the amount of my total daily calorie budget of 1600 calories! 400 calories for a great lunch out makes me happy? Yes. Check out the places you frequent for information online. Qdoba has almost an identical interface that allows you to build exactly what you want in your meal so you can understand every nutritional aspect of what you’re going to consume  You can even then create a custom food in Lose It, so that when you go back, you don’t have to enter all the ingredients, you can just pick a food called “Chipotle Burrito Bowl”.

Using the “Lose It” iPhone application you can also look up information for many mainstream eating establishments. It’s especially useful for those times where you have no choice in where you’re eating. You can look up food for most of the places you’re going to eat, and stick to your calorie budget, even though you may not get much to eat because of how restaurants prepare their food.

The Decision to Change is Only One That You Can Make.

Simply put, you’re the only person that can make the decision to make change in your life to do anything; lose weight, stop smoking, be a better parent, anything. Despite whatever people are telling you, no matter how bad they may want to help, criticize, or point out the obvious it all resides with you.

Now is the time for change.

Maybe you’re not there yet, maybe the things you want to change aren’t as bad as you think they are, maybe you’re afraid. These are all very normal, common, and real reasons to not want to change. This site is about change, it’s going to be the story of what it took for me to change. It’s also going to be what I use to keep me accountable for that change. I plan to share this journey with you over the coming months, I’ll tell you about my success, and I’ll be honest about my failures. This is a project for me right now, but I hope some people that choose to read my experiences will gain something useful from them.

I’m going to share my journey of the struggle, challenges, and triumphs of weight loss and living a more fit & healthy life. This isn’t a diet blog, although changing my diet and approach to how I treat food is certainly a huge part of it. I’m not going to tell you that if you just cut out carbohydrates, or completely avoid sugar, that you’re going to experience a miracle weight loss, because that’s just fantasy. My goal – what I profess – is an approach to losing weight and being fit that is beyond simple in theory it’s all numbers and dedication.

You’ll never lose weight in a long term healthy way, unless you do one simple thing. Create a caloric deficit. Eat less calories than you burn on a consistent daily, if not weekly basis. If you’re eating 3000 calories per day, but only burning 2200, you’re probably in the long run going to be consistently adding weight. Sure, we all know those people (that we’re quite jealous of) that seem to be able to eat anything without appearing to gain weight. They have the metabolism of a 12 year old apparently! I don’t think this is how most of us are constructed, I know that it doesn’t work that way with me.

I plan to focus on my regime. What I’m doing to accomplish my goals, the tools and technology I use (there’s a lot), and my progress as I strive to reach my first weight loss goal. I’ll also tell you the exact situation that sparked this all.

Thank you for your time. I hope some people will find this motivational or gain some ideas that help them in their daily lives.