How to Take Your Healthy Habits on the Road—and When Not To

Healthy habits on the road

March 31, 2019

Beth Lipton is a writer and certified health coach. She is a contributing editor at Clean Plates.

Since you care about keeping up your healthy lifestyle (we know you do, because you’re reading this — hi!) you also understand that travel presents its own set of challenges. Will you eat healthy and if so, how? Will you exercise and if so, how? What will happen with sleep —will you be jet lagged, will you have sufficient time for rest? If you drink your normal volume of water, will you be able to hit the restrooms whenever you need to? These are the realistic questions we consider when traveling.

Throwing out your healthy habits entirely can leave you feeling sluggish, lower on energy, possibly bloated, dehydrated, and more. At the same time, though, our healthy habits exist to help us feel our best so we can enjoy our lives more, not to give us a long list of to-dos—so at a certain point, you have to consider whether your dedication to healthy habits becomes unnecessarily stressful when you’re traveling.

Here are some thoughts around keeping up healthy habits on the road, while also maintaining your sanity and—of course—enjoying it all as much as possible.

1. Where are you?

Ask yourself this: What’s unique about where you are? For example, let’s say that under normal circumstances, you avoid carby foods like pasta or bread. But you’re in Italy, where the food is such an integral part of the experience. You could easily avoid all the bread, pasta and pizza; there’s plenty of other amazing food to eat there. But… you’re in Italy. This might be the moment to ease up. You don’t have to go crazy and eat pizza three meals a day (though we wouldn’t judge if you did), but perhaps you choose your moments and give yourself some leeway. Remember: Healthy habits are there to help us enjoy life more. You don’t get extra points for suffering and deprivation. Will a few carb-heavy meals completely kill your body goals? Unlikely. But having those foods in that setting could up the enjoyment factor of your trip.

2. What’s the opportunity cost?

Every choice means leaving behind other choices. You work out every morning like clockwork, and you want to be loyal to your fitness routine on the road—but does doing so mean missing out on the early-morning trip to a unique marketplace? Or walking away from an interesting conversation with your innkeeper or a fellow guest? Give yourself a chance to be a bit more flexible than usual when you’re traveling, so you don’t miss out on a special experience in favor of a workout you can do anytime.

3. How can you incorporate healthy habits into the trip?

Of course, if you can keep up your healthy habits and enjoy unique travel experiences at the same time, that’s ideal. Love CrossFit? Find a local box wherever you’re going. Is indoor cycling your jam? See if your hotel rents bikes and get an early-morning look at the city you’re visiting, or sign up for a guided ride. Or trade in your cycling class for a local hike. The point is to move, not necessarily to do the same activity you normally do at home. Walking around all day sightseeing counts as exercise—and it’s a chance to give your body a break from the shorter, more intense workouts you may normally do at home.

If you sleep in a perfectly dark room at home, pack a sleep mask (earplugs may be helpful, too). Sign up for a healthy cooking class—there are many ways to experience most locations and keep up your health at the same time.

Remember that your trip is a short space of time, and everything you do for your health counts. So even if all of your healthy habits fall by the wayside for the whole trip, you can get right back to it when you’re home. If you get in a workout and a healthy meal or two, good for you. And if you do more, fantastic—as long as it doesn’t interfere with your enjoyment of the trip.

The important thing is to have fun and not stress. Your healthy habits are there to help you feel great, look how you want to and have enough energy to have as much fun as possible.

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