Ever feel like you’re in that weird place that isn’t quite vacation but still manages to launch you completely out of your comfortable routine?
I think we’ve all been there at least once. Having babies, starting new jobs, moving to new cities, getting married, getting divorced.
It doesn’t really matter what it is: it’s not easy to figure out a new normal. But possibly the most frustrating situation for those who want to keep up healthy habits is being away from our cozy, predictable nests.
It might be because we’re on an extended business trip, or we’re moving, like my friend Lexy is doing right now.
She’s a badass working mom who is getting ready to move into a new house. That’s all good stuff except while they’re waiting for their new home to be ready they have to camp out in one of those long-term business hotels. The ones with only a microwave, a mini range, and a fridge.
Her kids love the pool but other than that, it’s a heck of a stressful situation. Have you ever found yourself in a similar place – one where all of your normal routines felt like they’d been blown to bits?
I had an online coaching client whose kitchen burned to ashes. She had to deal with a major kitchen fire and had to figure out how to feed herself and her family for several weeks. Yeesh.
Life is messy, isn’t it? Lexy asked me if I had ideas for how to make healthier choices while living in her situation. The good news is that there are things that she can do to feel like she’s taking care of her health; things that work for anyone who might be traveling a lot, going through a new job transition with little time to cook, or just having big stuff going on in their lives.
Remember this above all else…
If you’re nodding your head right now, you need to know one big thing. Here it is:
You don’t need to do everything just like you were when you were in your normal routine.
That’s a nearly impossible task, and it sets you up to feel defeated. It’s okay to loosen up your expectations for a time.
Perfect is the enemy of good; it’s so common for people to say “screw it” and just completely abandon eating well and working out because they aren’t able to do what they think they should. So first and foremost, give yourself permission to let go of what your perfect “healthy” routine looks like at home.
Phew. Feels good, yeah?
Next. Let’s brainstorm some solutions.
Lexy felt frustrated because of how often they were eating out. I asked Lexy what she thought was going well and she had already come up with some magnificent strategies:
- Fresh fruits and veggies to keep in the fridge.
- Family picnics in the park
- Getting lean protein via deli meats
- Choosing portable and easy to store fruits and veggies like carrots, celery, grapes, bananas and clementines
- Chilling out about using some Lunchables for school lunches but choosing the kind with no extra cookies/candy
- Pre-diced chicken
- Microwavable veggie/pasta combos
Lexy mentioned that making salads frustrated her in such a small space, and I don’t blame her. There’s usually an odd assortment of utensils, fewer available bowls, and in short, makes for the opposite of my Barbie dream kitchen.
Simplicity is your new best friend.
My biggest bit of advice for eating while out of your routine is to do whatever is simple and still healthy. Pick the things that help you meet your goals yet don’t stress you out too much to prepare. And for the love of all that is holy, stay the hell off Pinterest. You’ll just torture yourself.
Your #1 goal is to make your life as simple as possible. The fancy stuff can wait.
Embrace new ways of cooking:
You might not be able to grill a steak, but you can do a surprisingly large number of things in a microwave besides nuke those bags of vegetables:
2. Scramble and even poach eggs
3. Zap a protein mug cake (they’re not great but passable)
4. Cook whole grains like oats, quinoa, farro
5. Steam fish like salmon
6. Blow up Peeps. (This is a requirement at least once in your life. Clean it up though.)
Other ideas for “no-cook” meals:
- Buy rotisserie chicken and a pre-packaged salad kit. Instead of having to chop veggies, you’ll just throw it all together.
- Tuna + those little guacamole packets = magic. Actually anything + those little guac packets are wonderful.
- Use that microwave – but in steps. Nuke some sweet potatoes. Heat up a can of black beans and/or diced protein. Add salsa. Fill your belly. This works with regular old potatoes too and whatever microwaveable veggies you have. Add whatever fixings are easy to use – a little cheese is great.
- Take advantage of pre-chopped veggies in the supermarket. It stinks to have to chop up things in a tiny space, and if this makes you more likely to actually eat some more vegetables and skip eating fast food, do it.
- Keep portable and no-prep munchies around. Aside from fruits and veggies, I’ve found it pretty easy to nab Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, string cheese and jerky for quick snacks.
- Oats are easy. For breakfast, oatmeal is easily microwaveable and even comes in disposable containers now if you’re traveling and have no bowls.
- If your hotel offers a free breakfast, bulk up! Grab a piece of fruit for later. Choose yogurt, hardboiled eggs, and oatmeal over choices like pastries and cereal.
- Allow yourself some “pretty good” choices. These might not be your favorite go-to solutions. I don’t love daily protein bars and bottled protein shakes, but this might be a perfect time to keep some available.
Flipping your mindset.
I think the big thing here is to maintain a sense of order. Make a plan ahead of time, just as if you were cooking at home. Is Monday cold cuts night and perhaps Tuesday rotisserie chicken night? Write it down or save it in a file.
Take more choices out of your life and it becomes easier to choose wisely.
Lexy also shared that she didn’t much she found foods creeping into their hotel room that she never had around at home. Again, loosening our expectations a bit is probably wise for our mental health, and yet it’s easy to see a transition time as vacation.
But if that vacation is 4-8 weeks long, we might begin feeling not so great about what we’re putting into our bodies on a regular basis. Lexy was wise to attempt to curb the creep here.
It’s not vacation. It’s your life – your real life, just in a slightly different spot than where you’re normally at. Vacation mentality won’t necessarily make you feel less out of sorts; it might erode your peace of mind as well as those routines that keep your body and mind humming.
Working out when life is nuts.
Again, doing fitness if you’ve just moved to a new place or are going through a crazy period can feel rough. Don’t have a gym? No biggie. If you’re talking about 3-4 weeks of upheaval, take a deep breath. You won’t lose all your progress.
But I encourage you to do SOMETHING. Every small, positive action reinforces more positive actions that help you care for yourself. Exercise is a huge stress reliever, and if you’re in the weeds, taking 20 minutes to do a very basic workout will go far in helping you feel good. If your hotel has a gym, that’s fantastic, but there are plenty of body weight routines that you could do just about anywhere. Investing in a suspension trainer like a TRX is another wise idea if you’re a frequent traveler.
But really, don’t sweat the details too much. Go for a walk. Just move your body, because it will make you feel like you’re on track. And that thought will piggyback into you doing more things to put yourself on track.
Here’s a “do anywhere” quick set that will keep you strong and centered:
Instructions: Complete 5 rounds of the following moves, resting when you need to, preferably at the bottom of a set.
1.5 Bulgarian split squat – 8 reps/leg (all the way down, half way up, down, then all the way back up for one rep.)
Pushups – 8 (add a pause at the bottom if they’re easy for you)
Lateral lunge – 8/side
Russian twists – 8/side
Living in limbo is a weird place. Whether it’s for a week-long business trip or a month-long stop on the way to somewhere else you’d rather be, it’s maybe not what you expected, but you can absolutely still do things that not only help you be healthier but make you feel a little more at home.
Do you have strategies that have worked well for your own crazy weeks (or months!)? Leave a comment below and share!