I was recently posed an interesting question.
In the #TTOT twitter chat that I take part in with a bunch of other travel industry professionals on a near weekly basis, we were asked the following:
Stopping to think about this for a second, I pondered what I thought would be an appropriate answer. At first, travelling at too fast a pace came to mind – a big problem I had on the three month trip I took through Europe with my partner Robert a year ago. But then I realised no, that wasn’t the biggest problem I had.
What was worse, was getting fat.
While I still try and be careful with what I eat, I do tend to eat larger portions and fattier foods when I travel. So unfortunately for me, travel = weight gain.
Typing my answer and hitting the tweet button, I felt a sense of satisfaction. Surely other peeps in the travel industry had come across this same challenge, so I waited for the re-tweets and replies to start gushing in, messages of understanding about how hard it is to stay slim during long-term travel.
Instead, I got told ‘As long as you’re keeping fit and active, you’ll be fine’, ‘Enjoying the Gelato a bit too much?’ and ‘I actually lose weight. Much more active travelling.‘
You’ll be fine! Just do what I do.
It was a virtual slap to the face.
Now I don’t consider myself a chunky person, though I’m sure I have some room for improvement, but I have to work bloody hard to keep the figure I have. I’m tiny, only just over 5 feet, and I need to eat much less than the average human’s energy intake.
A few short weeks of unhealthy eating (and I don’t mean eating at McDonalds every day, I mean eating slightly larger, slightly less healthy meals than usual and maybe a chocolate bar every couple of days) and suddenly I’m a couple kilos heavier.
I don’t go to the gym or work out, but I do a hell of a lot more walking than most people do (usually between 30 and 60 minutes daily) and I measure my kilojoule intake about 50% of the time so that I don’t turn into the marshmallow man.
Now I know that some people don’t have to work hard to stay slim. My partner, for example, can eat twice as much as I do (including junk food every day) and it will take him months to start putting on a tiny bit of weight. You know why? Because A) he is a man, and men usually need a higher energy intake than my small female self, and B) he has been genetically gifted with a killer metabolism.
So when fellow travellers tell me ‘just to stay fit’ I say, piss off. We’re not the same person. Our bodies work differently, and what works for you will not necessarily work for me.
If we all went out to the same restaurant and ordered the same dish, we’d be given the same portion size. If I eat it all, I get fat – and if you eat it all, you might not.
In Innsbruck Austria, 2 months in. My chubby cheeks say it all.
Travelling and dieting at the same time is bloody hard. I know – I’ve done it. Two months into our Europe trip and I realised I’d put on a few kilos and I needed to do something to avoid putting on more weight. So I spent the third month counting kilojoules to make sure I wasn’t overeating.
It was tough, and there many nights where I went to bed miserable because I wasn’t allowed to eat that Italian pizza or have a few drinks after dinner. If you have never had to go through the emotional ups and downs of dieting then you should count yourself damn lucky, because it is not a fun journey.
So this is what I have to say to those who sit there and judge people when they have expressed that they find something difficult. They are not the same as you, they have different hurdles to overcome and different solutions to their problems.
In this online world filled with trolls and haters, we need to encourage understanding and empathy. Because one day it might be you on the other side, and I can tell you – it’s no fun to be judged for something you can’t help.