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When the Extra Weight you Carry Home Isn’t Just From Souvenirs

by Kat Edwards

Food is a universal language we all speak, right? It’s been said that when Americans travel they always return home with a story about one food, one meal, which sticks out in their heads. I suspect this is true of other nationalities as well.

Years later and hundreds of miles away, when we reminisce about our adventures there is always that one perfect dining experience that we can still remember. Looking back, you can almost taste that perfect meal. So, it’s no wonder that many travelers often over-indulge. In many ways, the experience would be lessened if you spent your entire trip on a strict diet.

In other words, if you’re spending a week in Tuscany, leave the Atkins guide at home!

But in today’s day and age, we are completely bombarded with news reports about the spread of obesity and the health risks associated with being overweight. If returning home means purchasing a whole new plus-sized wardrobe, that cheesy plastic Eiffel Tower might start to seem like a much smarter souvenir than the spare tire or love handles you brought home instead.

So how do we keep our weight in check, while enjoying the local cuisine? The answer is easy to understand, if not always easy to execute.

The laws of physics apply on every inch of the planet earth, so if people consume more calories then they burn, they will gain more fat. (For reference, you’ll gain approximately 1 lb for every 2,500 calories.) So, that easy answer is to try to maintain a balance between how many calories you’re consuming and how many calories you’re expending.

Of course, being an intrepid and inquisitive traveler who’s interested in trying the local fare doesn’t always make it easy to be a person who counts calories. Those new foods you’re tasting are coming in unpredictable portion sizes and are being made with who-knows-what ingredients. And besides, when you’re presented with a wide array of choices, it is hard to not want to sample everything!

Eating too many calories might just be unavoidable on the road. There are simply too many pleasurable opportunities to increase our daily calorie intake that are set on pretty plates in front of you. It would be rude to refuse, right? Right. Luckily, when you’re traveling there are also plenty of equally pleasurable opportunities to increase your daily calorie burn.

Here are a few things you can do to return home with more memories and fewer extra pounds.

  • Walk. Everywhere.
    Not only will the walking help burn calories (approx 100 per mile on flat terrain), but walking is also just good to do when you’re traveling in an unfamiliar place. You can not only see more of the city that way, but you could also get to experience more of the day-to-day life of the place on foot than if you were sequestered in a subway train or rental car. Even if you’re driving from city to city on your trip, park the car when you get to each destination and don’t plan to get behind the wheel again until you’re ready to leave town.
  • Plan Active Excursions
    When faced with the choice of taking a scenic train ride or scenic hike, choose the latter. As an added bonus, more calories are burnt when there is an incline. Even a .5% incline can help burn 50% more calories.

    Another way to burn calories while getting involved in the local scene is to join a local event, like participating in a race of some kind. Triathlons, distance runs, 5 and 10Ks, distance swims, and biking events are hosted all over the globe. Check before departing, pack your running shoes, and sign up for a race.

  • Catch Dance Fever
    Sometimes, sampling the regional drink is one of the best ways to emerge yourself in the local culture. Unfortunately, liquor is high in calories, and alcohol is more easily stored as fat then other sugars.

    However, after one or two drinks you may be more likely to shed your inhibitions and get your dance groove on! Nightclubs and discos are available all over the planet and are often packed with young locals. Get out and hear the music, pick up the local dance, and feel less guilty about drinking five glasses of that home-distilled Tequila. It’s not only a fun way to spend an evening and meet new people, it’s an excellent way to burn calories without even feeling like you’re exercising.

Traveling offers us the ability to live a life that is different then the ones we were born into. A huge part of that is getting to eat foreign cuisine. By all means – enjoy the food, feast on the unfamiliar, and come back with great stories and recipes.

But traveling also offers us the ability to test our physical capabilities. Earn some bragging rights by climbing the highest local mountain. Hire a guide to navigate the rainforest on foot. Or perhaps show off your best dance moves from a foreign nightclub at home.

Remember the simple rule – calories in should equal calories out, more or less. Find opportunities to enrich the traveling experience by becoming more active and return home a fitter person with better stories.

>> For more ideas to help you stay fit while you’re on the road, check out our article Exercising While Traveling.