Last weekend I took the Amtrak from Chicago to my hometown in central Illinois to celebrate my best friend’s baby shower. It was the first time I’ve taken the train home, and it was a lot of fun!
It was also the first trip home I’ve had with zero food shame, guilt, internal pressure, or struggle to reconcile my love of all things healthy with my love of celebrating life with food, a MAJOR WIN for me!
“Anna, what are your tips for staying on track while traveling?”
I get asked this question by my health and fitness coaching clients all the time.
And to be honest, up until this summer, every trip home/vacation/work trip/wedding/holiday was a huge mental battle for me. I’d tell myself that I was going to make good decisions, avoid emotional eating, avoid the cake/wine/etc, and then inevitably I’d get caught in the moment, over-indulge, and then feel extremely guilty and beat myself up for letting myself down.
Now I'm proud to say I feel completely free around food and my body!
What changed for me this summer?
Not much in terms of what I do, but everything in terms of how I think and feel about myself.
I’ve learned how to be more self-compassionate, and how to make mindset shifts that allow me to make positive decision for my body without feeling deprived. I’ve been able to integrate “Anna the health and fitness girl” into...simply Anna, and it’s effortless for me to make positive decisions that honor the person I want to be.
And it’s my mission to help as many other women as possible make these mindset shifts too! We waste so much emotional energy worrying and stressing about what we eat and how our bodies look. Let’s take away the inner struggle so we can use our energy to do bigger things for the world, ok?
Here’s the thing: LIFE is always going to get in the way of our goals and dreams like a hole in a bouncy castle, deflating our initial excitement and distracting us from what really matters.
There will always be a trip, vacation, work deadline, holiday, birthday, move, death, new job, illness, personal drama, relationship drama, family drama...you get the point.
And for some reason, it’s incredibly hard for us to stay connected and committed to our goals when we’re thrown out of our usual routine.
So how do we hold ourselves accountable?
We can do all the obvious practical things like bring healthy snacks, pack our Shakeology and travel blender, pack workout clothes, vow to ourselves that we won’t overdrink, will say no to dessert, and will order ONLY SALADS when we go out, and we’re always looking for easy solutions and quick fixes to our struggles.
But as my mom always told me, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions,” which means the key to staying committed to your goals is to make sure you’re turning your intentions into ACTIONS that are second nature, aka habits.
Habits are automatic, no matter what life throws our way, and they don’t actually stem from what we do, but rather from who we ARE and what we believe about ourselves.
So my tips for staying on track with your health and fitness goals aren’t the usual practical advice nuggets, but rather the mindset shifts I’ve made to implement lasting, long term, sustainable changes in my life!
How to stay on track while traveling (or when life gets in the way)
1. Get clear on the person you want to be
Why do you want to make positive changes in the first place?
We can’t take action without a destination, and if you’re trying to motivate yourself to be healthy because you want to lose weight...you’re going to quit. The process of losing weight isn’t inspiring!! It takes soooooo long, and you're going to get discouraged if you can't inspire yourself in a deeper way.
Evolving into your most vibrant, confident, empowered, radiant, best version of yourself-- now THAT is pretty dang inspiring.
So take some quiet time to journal and brainstorm who you really want to be!
- As your best self, what would you wear?
- How would you feel when you wake up?
- What kinds of things would you say to yourself?
- What would you do?
- How would you nourish and move your body?
Create the profile of your Best Self, and then make daily decisions based on what she would do.
For example, the Anna I want to be eats food to nourish and fuel her body, but also loves celebrating life and the people she loves with food traditions and wine.
2. Make HEALTHY your lifestyle, not a wagon from which you can fall on and off
We always use language like “staying on track/falling off track” when it comes to habits. I think this is dangerous because we’re essentially telling ourselves that healthy living is an all-or-nothing thing, and that we can succeed or fail at it.
This mindset comes from the diet culture we’ve grown up in, and the belief that we have to restrict or deprive ourselves to lose weight, and can be “on” or “off” a diet.
The wagon is your LIFE.
You can’t fail.
You can’t fall off.
You can’t cheat on a diet. Cheating means that you’re doing something bad or unethical. Eating a cookie isn’t bad unless you make it bad...and that would be sad.
So let’s stop beating ourselves up for no reason, ok?
(Read: how to overcome food guilt)
You get to make your own food rules, based on what FEELS BEST for YOUR body.
3. Give up the all or nothing mindset
The all or nothing mindset is the number one thing that holds the women I work with back, but here are some truthbombs I want you to really think about.
You don’t have to work out 6 days a week and eat perfectly in order to feel better or lose weight. One pizza won’t make you fat, just like one salad won’t make you thin.
When you eat the donuts at breakfast, are you tempted to throw in the towel and eat crap for the rest of the day? Remember that every single minute is a chance to press the RESET button. Forgive yourself if you do something you aren’t proud of instead of wallowing in guilt and self-pity, pick yourself back up, and learn from the moment so you can make a positive decision next.
There’s this Pinterest quote I love that goes something like “If you get a flat tire, would you slash the other three? Of course not! So don’t give up on your entire day if you make one bad decision.”
It’s about letting go of your need for control, and opening yourself up to creative solutions in imperfect situations.
You might not be able to workout for an hour and eat perfectly portioned and timed meals every single day, but there’s no need to be perfect to see and feel changes in your body and energy.
4. Cut the drama
Stop making a big deal out of everything! That just puts more pressure on yourself, and we’re naturally rebellious when it comes to irrational rules and strict boundaries. If you go into a trip telling yourself “you aren’t going to eat the cake,” guess what you won’t be able to stop thinking and obsessing about? Eating the damn cake. And then you put yourself through mental torture: obsessing about eating the cake, and then guilt and regret when you finally cave.
Give yourself wiggle room and approach the trip with curiosity, not strict rules.
Ask yourself “I wonder if I can go on this trip without eating the cake like I did last time?” and be calm and neutral around the decision.
5. Trust your decision making abilities
Deep down, we’re all still like little kids. When you set hard and fast stupid rules like “I am not a good person unless I workout for an hour” or “I have to be perfect with my nutrition” you’re going to want to break them, just like a kid when you tell them they have to do something or they can’t have something.
When you respect and trust yourself enough to make the right decision in the moment, you’ll feel empowered and will have the mental clarity to actually make the right decision instead of freaking out, losing control, and sabotaging.
Stop setting hard rules and boundaries for yourself. You’re an adult! You know deep down what’s best.
When you’re faced with the decision to sleep in or get up early to workout, practice asking yourself “how will this make me feel? Why does this matter to me?” and you’ll remember why you want to get up in the first place.
When the decision is whether or not to eat the junk food appetizers, ask yourself “will this food really make me feel my best, or can I pass for now?”
Explore and experiment until you figure out what kinds of food make you feel your best, and then decide to eat more of those and empower yourself to pass on the stuff that will make you feel like crap.
If everyone else is eating crap and judging you for saying “no thanks, I’m not in the mood right now,” remember that you aren’t doing this for them. They don’t have to understand, and they’ll get over it faster if you don’t make a big deal out of things.
7. Get your workout done first thing in the morning, no matter what!
This is the one practical piece of advice that I’ll give you, and it’s my golden rule while I’m traveling or thrown out of my routine!
While traveling, I recommend walking or running outside, because you get to explore your surroundings and get some quiet time in nature, which will help you deal with the busy day to come.
When you start your day with a positive decision, it’s a million times easier to continue to make positive decisions. And flooding your body and mind with endorphins, fresh air (if you can get outside) will make you more confident and empowered for the rest of the day.
Plus let’s be real - when you’re traveling for work, family, or pleasure, working out later in the day isn’t going to be an option. Get it done, girl! Action before emotion. Get your body moving before your brain can convince you all the reasons why it would be better to slack off and stay in bed. You will never regret a workout.
Speaking of which, I’m off to do my Pilates.
I hope these tips have helped you. If you also struggle with staying on track while traveling or have any tips to share, I’d love to hear from you!
p.s. Accountability is the glue that holds everything together. If you want some support and guidance in making your own lifestyle shifts, you can learn more about my health and fitness coaching here!