I’ve just returned from almost four weeks’ holiday abroad, visiting Japan, the US and my old home, Canada. It was my first overseas holiday since starting on the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol in 2013. The trip was incredible, I met so many amazing people (particular shout out goes to the Japanese film crew who followed my friend and I into an ice cave), witnessed the awesome power of nature (hiking around Mt Helen’s, in Washington state), enjoyed quality time with old friends and collected countless memories which will stay with me for a lifetime.
Travelling to such a diverse range of countries was always going to present difficulties to my dietary regime. I currently follow a modified version of the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol, eating a limited amount of sulphur-rich foods as I address my CBS polymorphism and gut dysbiosis.
Eating Paleo is a challenge at the best of times when travelling, let alone with my additional modifications. However, more and more I am convinced that mindset plays the central role in health and well-being, and I was determined to keep my mindset positive when inevitably consuming foods do not constitute my usual diet (refocusing my mind when emotions such as anxiety, fear and uncertainty entered my head).
Travelling is a part of life. This could be as simple as travelling to your in-law’s house for dinner or exploring the world, one country at a time. When we travel we are presented with situations that we don’t usually encounter in our daily lives, such as altered sleeping environments (the couch, a hard hotel bed, the floor, etc.) down to foods we wouldn’t regularly consume. On the topic of diet, there are some superb blog posts on the topic on preparing and planning your travel to stick to your dietary protocol as close as possible (see below) however this post is not that.
This post gives you an insight on what to expect when travelling on a restricted diet and how you can deal with these situations in order to negate or minimise their impact on your health.
1. “It’s better to eat the wrong food with the right attitude, than the right food with the wrong attitude.” – Chinese Proverb
On the trip I was presented with a number of situations where the only food on offer fell outside my regular diet. The occurred countless times in Japan where rice was the only carbohydrate on offer. I participated in a range of physical activities in Japan requiring more fuel alone that far and protein could offer. Instead of shunning rice, I embraced it as a source of fuel for my body.
What happened you ask? Well, I not only survived, I thrived, not missing one activity all trip (and the trip was very busy. I can count the hours where I didn’t have activities planned on one hand!).
Instead of rueing each mouthful of rice, I relished it. When anxiety and concern entered my thoughts on how this might affect my health, I consciously replaced these thoughts with positive ones. Previously I have experienced joint pain and lethargy when eating rice, on this trip the worst I experienced was some minor bloating.
If you convince yourself that a food or behaviour will adversely affect your health, it more than likely will!
2. Eating with your friends and family
One of the highlights of my travel was spending time with friends and family. As humans, one way we all connect is over a meal and sharing a meal with friends and family can be stressful when on a restricted diet.
We all know stress is detrimental to health so negating stress where possible is one of the best ways to safeguard your health. I found the best way to negate the potential stress of eating with friends and family was informing them of my diet and why it is important to me. My loved ones may not have understood the logic behind the diet but they certainly understood the emotion associated with its importance to me.
By informing my loved ones of my dietary choices I was able to eat more or less within a standard Paleo template for the entire trip (except the rice!). When eating out at restaurants we always chose places with Paleo-friendly options (e.g. Sashimi in Tokyo and Brazilian churrasco in Montreal). When eating at friends’ houses, this allowed my friends’ to prepare meals we could all eat (e.g. steak and potatoes in Montreal).
Not only was I fuelling my body with nutrient-rich foods, I was negating a crap load of stress!
3. & 4. Winging it and Fasting
When travelling, I like to take a break from the planning that is necessary in day to day life. I like the adventure of finding food to eat (or fasting) without researching in advance. It’s thoroughly liberating and kind of exciting!
On my recent trip, this meant that often I was presented with situations where I had very limited options with food, more than often on long plane rides.
The trip back from Montreal to Canberra took over 28hrs, including three planes, and two buses. I did not pack any food with me on this trip and instead, I decided to wing-it (pun intended!). Instead of eating the non-Paleo plane food served, I chose to fast. I was able to fast for over 20hrs because of my fat-heavy diet which keeps my blood sugar level low, meaning I am satiated for a long time and rarely hungry.
Not only did this keep me from eating nutrient poor, inflammatory foods, the 20hr fast initiated the process of autophagy, clearing out old, damaged cells, a process that doesn’t occur if we don’t fast for 16hrs or more.
Perhaps travelling means a break from planning for you too? If so, try winging it, it’s liberating and can be beneficial for your health!
5. Leaving your rules at the departure lounge (perfectionism)
There is NO room for perfectionism while travelling. I repeat, no room for perfectionism while travelling! Dietary rules and guidelines will inevitably be bent and broken during your trip. The worst thing you can do is to beat yourself up over it, embrace them.
This isn’t permission to go and eat the most inflammatory, nutrient poor foods available however it is permission to try foods which have nutrient value but fall outside of your regular dietary template. Even if you fall off the wagon completely, there is always room to get back on. The most important thing is that you enjoy your trip, whether or not you keep to your diet 100%. Your health will thank you for it!
Superb posts on planning your travel to stick to your diet as close as possible:
- Travelling on a Healing Diet – Pheonix Helix
- Paleo and Travelling – Paleo Leap
- Adhering to a Paleo Diet while Travelling – The Paleo Mom (guest post by Adam Schlaeber)
- Travel Tips while on the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol – Autoimmune Paleo