Although it has been said that travel broadens the mind, travel may also shrink the body. Jet lag, sleep deprivation, minor intestinal upsets due to foreign water and unfamiliar foods, necessity to walk miles inside airport terminals, as well as the unavoidable need to use one’s feet rather than a car to sightsee at a museum or church, may allow you to return home thinner than when you left.
Weight loss can begin even before the trip begins.
Outrageous prices for junk food at airport newsstands and kiosks may decrease the temptation to snack while waiting to depart and once on the plane, eagerness to eat a meal (served if the flight is 3 or more hours) is tempered by its resemblance to high school cafeteria lunches. The timing of the meals on the plane also helps you resist consuming them. Typically flights that go cross country or across the ocean depart late in the evening. ‘Supper’ may be offered at 11 pm or midnight when the traveler’s tummy is ready for bed. Skipping that meal as well as the frozen bagel and plastic fruit served for breakfast the next morning at 3 am (well, it is morning isn’t it?) will further diminish your calorie intake.
Once at your destination, you should continue to lose weight if the following conditions exist:
1. Alien food…If restaurant specialties feature grilled octopus, marinated baby eels (they do indeed look like eels) or still living shrimp, dinner might consist of bread and water, or a protein bar back in your room.
2. Not understanding the language on the menu. Ordering from a menu written in an incomprehensible language, may present you with dishes that contain ingredients you hate or don’t recognize. (Years ago on a trip to Budapest for a meeting, my husband and I found that we had ordered , without knowing it, dishes made mainly of cabbage, including dessert of a cabbage strudel).
Caveat: If the destination city is known for steak smothered in cheese sauce, chowder made with heavy cream, fried clams with greasy French fries and mayonnaise loaded coleslaw or half a pig’s worth of barbecued ribs, weight can be accumulated as fast as used napkins at the barbecue. The frequent flyer diet works best when the foods at the destination are more or less bizarre, or inedible.
3. Smaller portion sizes. The size of meals served outside the US are almost always smaller than those offered in the states. Pasta in a restaurant in Florence may come on a salad size dish rather than on a platter large enough to hold a turkey, and almost nowhere will you be given 16 oz. steaks or half a chicken. Desserts tend to be tiny compared with our outsized offerings, and more likely to be a fruit and pastry combination, rather than a densely rich production of egg yolks, heavy cream and chocolate. Sandwich fillings are sparse and do not require a veritable unhinging of the jaw in order to bite into them.
4. Contaminated food and/or water. Sometime simply drinking the water may produce digestive discomfort ,and although most travelers avoid eating food that obviously does not meet US standards for hygienic preparation, even cautious eating may not prevent picking up a food born organism. Travelers may lose considerable amounts of weight if the problems persist, although often the weight lost is, alas , from muscle as well as from fat.
5. Increased exercise. Tour buses don’t pull up to the front door of a museum or church or monument; you often have to hike quite a distance from where the bus parks. Moreover, you have to walk to see. How else can you look at art, botanical gardens and zoos, explore historical buildings ( think of the Tower of London) or marvel at the natural wonders of a national park ? Some destination cities are so hilly ( think San Francisco, Seattle, Vancouver, Sydney) that your legs will feel as if they are on an elliptical trainer at the gym. And shopping requires walking ; open air markets, for example, may cover blocks and walking is the only way to find something to buy.
6. Jet Lag. Even a three hour time difference, for example between coasts in the US, can disrupt normal eating schedules. Your hunger will be at odds with the meal schedules of your destination: if you are in Europe, your body may want dinner when everyone is going to sleep and the restaurants are closed. Conversely, no matter how flaky the croissants served at a Parisian breakfast, if you are overcome with sleepiness at 8 am because it is 2 am back home, you may prefer to sleep through the first meal of the day. Substantial time differences of 6 or more hours, can make eating seem physically impossible. When you desperately want to sleep, you simply cannot bring yourself to put any food in your mouth.
If your destination is a cruise or beach resort where you can lie on a chaise and be brought drinks with umbrellas stuck in a piece of pineapple, the frequent flyer diet will not work. Otherwise you may find upon your return, that there is less of you than when you started.