Eating healthfully and incorporating physical activity into your daily routine can be challenging in the best of circumstances. But it's particularly hard for business travelers, busy parents and those with physical limitations. Time away from home, the demands of parenthood and limited mobility can thwart even the best of intentions and the mightiest of New Year’s resolutions.
"Whatever barriers you have, focus on what staff at the Rush Center for Weight Loss and Lifestyle Medicine call the four pillars of health,” says Naomi Parrella, MD, a bariatrician at Rush University Medical Center. With these pillars in mind, Parrella says you can find a successful weight management plan that fits your life:
- Sleep and stress management
- Physical activity
Create opportunities for weight management
Here, Parrella offers creative ways for globetrotters, harried parents and less active adults (including those with physical limitations) to incorporate good health practices into their grooves.
Don't fit into one of these categories? We bet you can find some useful tips as well.
Staying in shape while traveling
Business or seasonal travel can easily throw you out sync when it comes to food and fitness, whether it's due to jet lag, a different schedule or a new city. Avoid going off the rails with these tips:
- Pack your workout gear and use your hotel's gym. "Hotel gyms offer a great opportunity to try new equipment," Parrella says. "If you normally feel uncomfortable in a gym, seize the opportunity to work out where no one is going to see you again." Don't like fitness equipment? Bring your bathing suit and do some laps in the hotel pool. Swimming is also a great stress-reliever.
- Try the Seven Minute Workout app on your smartphone. This high-intensity, evidence-based workout is as effective as a longer visit to the gym, Parrella says. Better yet: You can do it pretty much anywhere, including your hotel room.
- Explore a new place. Nervous about getting lost? Take a work buddy or a new acquaintance from a conference for a walk around town.
- Be conscious of when — and what — you eat.
- Your old meal and snack schedule may go out the window on a trip, so create a plan ahead of time and stick to it.
- If you're travelling across time zones, shift meal times to where you're traveling; it will help your body adjust.
- Avoid calorie-laden drinks at the airport and cocktails at networking events, and buy an appealing water bottle at the souvenir shop to keep you hydrated and on track.
- Stock up on vegetables and proteins at the buffet, and skip the other stuff.
The key to reaping the benefits: Do physical activities daily — whatever they are and however long you do them.
Busy parents: Make health a family affair
Parents, do what you do best and take multitasking to a new level with these ideas:
- Include the kids in your workouts. Take walks with the stroller, find a workout YouTube video for parents and kids, or begin a tradition with family walks after dinner. It's all good for building family relationships and family fitness.
- Burn calories during spectator sports. Why sit and watch a game, when you can do it while moving? Walk around the field (or court) as your child gets fit playing sports.
- Make the most of kitchen time. Turn on the tunes and try squats while getting pans from lower cabinets, practice your bicep curls with soup cans, or simply dance or move side-to-side while the water boils. The key is to keep moving.
- Prep and plan your meals. Spend one hour a week chopping veggies and proteins, and then bag and freeze them. Then, you can quickly prepare healthy meals via instant pots (which cook meals in 20 minutes, Parrella says) or sheet plan cooking (just toss the food on the baking sheet, add desired seasoning and put them in the oven).
- Remove temptation, clear the table. Eating your child's leftovers can be habit forming and lead to unwanted pounds. Let children clear the table and plates.
- Grab the glass, but skip the wine. Spruce up your water by pouring it into your favorite wine glass, add cucumber or berries, and sip without guilt.
Physical limitations? Don't sweat it.
Almost everyone can engage in and benefit from some type of physical activity, Parrella says. The key to reaping the benefits: Do physical activities daily — whatever they are and however long you do them.
Just talk to your doctor first, find a safe and clutter-free space and ponder these possibilities:
- Dance a little. Not so steady on your feet? Find a partner you can lean on, and try a slow dance, or hold onto a barre. Walking not an issue? Square dancing can be fun.
- Sit a spell. Sit and stand several times. If unable to stand up, work your core muscles by arching and curling your back; add in arm circles or march your feet while seated.
- Stand in spurts. Standing for long periods difficult? Get up and step back and forth during part of a commercial. Slowly build yourself up to a full commercial or two.
- Stretch and repeat. Stretch while lying down in bed. Face the ceiling and bring your arms upward as far you can. Then stretch your feet and legs toward the footboard. Repeat several times if you can.
What everyone needs: A good night's sleep, a little calm and lots of support
Getting less than 7 hours of sleep at night puts you at risk for metabolic disorders, and stress can lead to overeating. And if you don't have a good support system, weight loss success and maintenance can be hard.
The following can help you get some shut-eye, find some peace and get support:
- Yoga, walks and communing with nature. These can all bring inner calm, as can music and movement.
- Lights out. Cell phones, televisions and laptops all blare their lights at us most evenings and mess with our circadian rhythms. Change your cell phone's light setting or simply unplug at night.
- Experts on your side. While family and friends can help you overcome your personal barriers to weight management, sometimes a little extra help is needed. Programs like the Rush Center for Weight Loss and Lifestyle Medicine can help by personalizing weight loss programs to meet your unique lifestyle and needs.