If you’ve been told putting on weight is just part of travelling, think again!
It is actually possible to remain more or less the same size throughout your trip and save money, and I’m here to tell you how because, in all honesty, I'm a veteran of piling it on while in travel-mode and I successfully figured out how to travel and not gain weight.
When I got back from my four-month trip around India and South East Asia, I put on 12kg and I was miserable.
My clothes were too tight, I hated looking at myself in the mirror, I felt bloated, tired, and generally unhealthy all the time, and I was feeling pretty low at the prospect of never losing it all.
The same thing happened in 2016 after two months in England and Italy – I put on 10kg this time, and realised I couldn’t continue ignoring it and eventually feeling down about it like last time. I needed to actively take control of what I was eating, change it up, figure out how to travel and not gain weight, and enjoy the rest of my trip.
I tried some things out and ended up losing most of it within a two-month period, and I did it all without work-outs,or compromising my European food and cultural experience.
I still did things like take myself on a food tour around the Riga markets, go on beer-heavy pub crawls in Budapest, buy burgers in Transylvania, eat buttery and cheesy French-style toast in Melnik (because I wasn’t always vegan), and drink sickly-sweet cocktails on the beaches of Bulgaria, but I realised how to travel and not gain weight, developed these guidelines, and saved myself from feeling crap most of the time.
Before we kick-off on this health journey together, I should mention this is not a weight-loss guide – it's a health guide. Feeling healthy, energetic, and vibrant is what really matters here at The Global Shuffle, so these are tips to help you maintain your normal weight (whatever that may be), gain some muscle, feel better in the mornings, and have the energy to explore new things, while indulging in the culinary experiences of planet Earth.
Part of the overseas adventure is about the food, so by all means, put amazing things in your face! But you don’t need to experience that every day for months on-end.
For example, you might be in a city for three-days, so on the first day you might want to go on a pub crawl or eat somewhere local with traditional heavy food. If that’s what you’re in to, you should have that experience, but once you’ve done it, you don’t need to keep doing it in the same city. This is where hostels come in.
Hostels tend to have kitchens – some have amazing kitchens – and they’re there to be used. Go to a local supermarket (also an interesting food-related cultural experience), buy some healthy stuff (if it contains ingredients a three-year-old couldn’t pronounce, it’s probably not healthy), and cook food for your remaining time in that city. When you move on, you can do it all again, but this is a really good, cheap way of experiencing local food while kicking it to your metabolism like the healthy ninja superstar you are.
Tip: If you really want to know how to travel and not gain weight, your diet is key, and Pinterest is your new best friend if you don't know how or what to cook. My recommendations are vegan, but you can add meat proteins if that's what works for you. You can also follow me on Instagram for daily food and travel inspiration.
Beer is great, but it’s carbonated and full of yeast and everything that makes you look like you’re four-months pregnant, so I recommend opting for wine – it does the same thing, but without the excess of empty calories that stick to you like Clag glue.
It’s really the sugar in wine that might leave you a bit bloated, so dessert wine isn’t great, white wine is ok, and red wine is better.
Tip: It’s a bit harder to get wine in places like Asia, so hard liquor on the rocks is probably the way to go BUT don’t overdo it. If you’re going to go wild, do it with beer if you want to live. Not spirits.
When I was catching trains and buses all over Europe, I made a point of walking from the station to my hostel with my 20kg backpack (it's not called The Global Shuffle for no reason ;) ). I saved loads of cash by not catching taxis, burned off some cheese, I saw parts of cities I would have missed had I jumped in a car, and my legs were looking pretty super by the end. And yours can too.
The trick here is to map the trip out on maps.me (or Google Maps if you have a sim card) before you leave your departure point so you know exactly how far it is, and how to get there. My limit was usually an hour – any more than that and I would usually opt for public transport because I’m a small person and my bag was really just huge, but if it was 45-minutes I’d hit the road and try not to think too much about it. But that’s just me.
If you push yourself too hard and you’re not usually a walker, you will probably end up hating life the first time you give it a go, burn yourself out, and go back to taxis. Take it slow.
Tip: If you don’t like walking, I recommend packing some headphones so you can listen to sick beats on the walk to pass the time.
Catching transport through mealtimes? Take your own snacks! It’s cheaper, and you don’t have to reply on whatever food stands you find at the station which are probably filled with chips and fried things.
I used to take loads of fruit and juice with me (because I’m an all-or-nothing person and if I’m not eating piles of fruit I’m eating buckets of ice-cream), but if it’s at the supermarket and it’s unprocessed, I recommend that too.
Tip: Cook more dinner the night before, get a container from the supermarket, and take it with you the next day.
I made sure I ate a super amount of veggies on my healthy(er) days, and it contributed immensely to maintaining my normal size – not only are natural fruits and vegetables high in water, they're really rich in nutrients which can help you maintain a healthy weight. This is because vitamins play different roles in the way your body processes nutrients, and if something's missing, things can go awry.
For example, if you don't have enough vitamin D, you body won't be able to absorb calcium properly, which means you're more susceptible to muscle spasms, cramps, bone breakage, and generally means you won't want to walk around as much. Similarly, if you don't have enough iron, your red blood cells can't carry oxygen around your body properly and you'll be tired and not want to do anything, which can also lead to weight gain. Either way, it pays to make sure you're getting enough of everything, and the best way to do that is to shove some different coloured veggies in with your food.
Hate veggies? There are steps you can take! Google is a thriving metropolis of information for the best ways to eat vegetables if you hate them, and Pinterest is also a thriving metropolis of amazing ways to cook your veg so it tastes like a mouth explosion. Get on it! I guarantee you'll feel the difference.
This one sounds obvious (and borderline lame), but you need water to live... Sounds like a no-brainer, but there are loads of people walking around the world who don't drink water.
Public service announcement: not drinking enough water makes your insides flip-out.
More than half your body is made up of water (50 to 70-percent), so it makes sense you'd need to top it up on the regular. If you're someone who doesn't drink much water, try replacing juice (unless you're drinking it as a meal) and soft drink with water and you'll feel better, you'll look better (I'm not joking), your waist-line will shrink, you'll save cash, and your hangovers won't be as bad – it's a win-win.
Tip: Buy a bottle of water and keep refilling it throughout your trip. A glass one is better for you and the environment, and it'll last longer.
Go To Sleep More Than Sometimes
There are so many factors that contribute to sleep deprivation while travelling (jet lag, overnight trips, your social life, pub crawls, and different events, to name a few), but if you can get on top of all that at the beginning of your trip, you'll feel much better at the end.
If your body is stressed-out and over-tired, it can start storing from the foods you're eating because it thinks it's in survival mode, so sleep and relaxation can actually help you maintain a healthy weight, so it's pretty important to make sure you're getting 8-ish hours most of the time.
Tip:If you're a social ninja who likes to hang out with people at night, plan it a bit beforehand – you need rest days so your body can catch up, so make it a thing and use those days to eat well, get some sleep, and hang out with yourself because you're rad company and there's no one else like you and why wouldn't you want to hang out with yourself.
Think About Future You
Ultimately, we're trying to think about our future selves – will future you be happy with the food choices made by present you?
It might seem like a good idea to chow down on three blocks of cheese one night, but it's really helpful to consider how you might feel about that the next day – if it doesn't bother you, that's great! If it does, you might want to consider using some of these methods.
The main thing is to have days full of beer, eating tours, and whatever else you want to do that's food or drink related, but try and commit to your off-days and you'll be fine.