I stepped on the scale. It read 205 pounds. I stepped off the scale, this couldn’t be right. Tried again, the same number appeared. It was the heaviest I had been in my whole life – at least 20 pounds more than usual. Something needed to be done. How did I get here?!
Unless you’re travelling for exercise itself, like a ski trip or a hiking vacation, staying healthy on the road may not come as easy as you think.
With so many delicious local foods to sample, combined with sitting on planes, trains and buses, Dariece and I have both struggled with keeping relatively fit while on the road. Despite walking or cycling in the towns we visit and doing a few epic, calorie-burning excursions like our 8 day trek in Mongolia, the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal and the O Trek in Patagonia, we’ve still managed to pack on the pounds during our recent travels.
On our first trip, it was the opposite, we lost a lot of weight because we were on such a tight budget that we were trying our best to save money on the road. Plus, we got sick, a lot. But today we struggle with a completely different problem.
We have come to call it “Blogger Bod”
Before I go any further, I should point out that we really don’t care about the superficial reasons that most people want to lose weight. We don’t really feel the social stigma towards “looking a certain way” while we’re on the road. This, we believe, is a gift and we’re happy to be able to look how we want and not feel judged by anyone (including each other of course). We love the pudgy goats!
We struggle with blogger bod because it’s unhealthy. We feel weighed down, lethargic and less motivated when we’re overweight and aren’t eating well. The reason we’ve been working hard to rid ourselves of the extra pounds isn’t because we want to look better for Instagram photos, we just want to be the healthiest, most productive version of ourselves possible.
So, we defined the condition as blogger bod and started working towards fixing it.
You may be thinking that this isn’t really a condition and we’re just a couple of lazy travel bloggers who eat too much. But it’s not just us. There are so many bloggers out there who have written articles on the same subject. I think it’s time that someone coins the term “blogger bod” and you know what? We just did.
Some other bloggers who have written about this problem:
- 2Monkeys: Gaining Weight While On The Road
- Explore With Erin: How I Lost 30lbs in 3 Months (After Nomadic Life)
- Nomadic Samuel: Lose The Blogger Belly
To define blogger bod further, I have to say that we as travel bloggers (and even more so, food bloggers) are in a very unique position on the road.
We’re often offered free travel and all-inclusive trips in exchange for writing blog posts and sharing a destination with our readers (no complaints here). But during these trips, we’re almost always offered luxury 7 course meals, wine, steak, desserts and all things fantastic and fattening.
Particularly as a couple of food lovers who enjoy writing about cuisine, we’ve been offered some pretty amazing foodie trips thanks to this blog. But this means that we eat… A LOT.
I know what you’re thinking. We could easily just turn the food down or not eat it. I’m not trying to sound like I’m complaining here. We love it. The truth is… we never want to turn it down! We relish in food trips and tasting amazing meals prepared by chefs from around the world is one of the joys of this job.
When we’re travelling in new countries, we tend to have a fear of missing out (FOMO!) – we don’t want to miss out on an amazing dish, and therefore, we sample them all. Not to mention, enjoying the cuisine of the destinations we travel is all part of experiencing the culture, and is a great way to meet new people.
As much as we enjoy it, the overload of food, combined with sitting on planes and buses, and a job that requires us to sit at a computer a few hours a day, leads to a bit of an unhealthy lifestyle.
At my heaviest this year (2018) I reached 205 lb. That’s a full 75 lb heavier than I was when returning from our first trip in 2009 (more on that below). Okay I was definitely not healthy at that point either, but at 205 lb it felt like I was piggy-backing a 10-year-old human being in extra weight everywhere I went.
Since moving to Grenada I’ve managed to lose 20 lbs and I’m now sitting at around 185 lbs. In this article, I’m going to explain how I did it, but also how I could’ve done it while I was on the road and how Dariece and I both plan to battle blogger bod in the future.
Our First Backpacking Trip
On our first trip, we were on such a tight budget that we lost a considerable amount of weight almost by default. And I mean A LOT of weight. Myself in particular. Although we were thin on that backpacking adventure, there’s no way you could call that healthy travelling either.
I was sick so many times that I was dropping pounds like castaway, and we were so cheap (trying to stay travelling as long as possible before making any money online) that we would skip meals, and only eat the bare minimum per day.
By the end of that trip, I weighed 136 lbs. At 6 feet tall, my body mass index would’ve had to have been dangerously low. Dariece was only sick once on that trip, so her weight loss was mostly from skipping meals and not eating enough.
Since we were travelling in Southeast Asia, we lost weight because we were eating on a budget. But that’s not always the case. Not all budget food around the world is as healthy as a Pad Thai or a rice curry.
We’ve met a lot of backpackers who gained weight while travelling on a shoestring in places like Argentina and Mexico. That’s because the budget food in these countries is often the most unhealthy. Backpackers travelling in the overpriced towns of Argentina end up saving money by living off of the cheaper empanadas, milanesa, choropan and pizza. These carb heavy, greasy foods aren’t conducive to a healthy travel diet.
Similarly in Mexico many of the budget foods are carb and fat rich dishes like chorizo tacos, huaraches and quesadillas.
So if you’re reading this post and thinking “I travel on a budget, so I won’t get fat”, that may not be the case! It really depends on where in the world you are travelling and if you spend a few hours working on the computer each day, then you might still be at risk of blogger bod.
Our Weight Gain
Dariece and I really probably started gaining weight when we first went to Eastern Europe in 2016. We ate the delicious and filling meat and potato dishes all through Bulgaria, Macedonia, Albania, Bosnia, Montenegro and Croatia, before making it to the ultimate foodie haven of Italy. There are numerous places to visit in Italy, but naturally, we really enjoyed the wine region.
It’s no surprise that we gained a bit extra in the big boot. Dariece loves pizza and pasta and our blog had finally started earning us a decent income, so we no longer had to keep our budget so tight. It felt great to actually be able to enjoy the authentic, local cuisine and not have to stick to street food.
We were also offered a few free food and wine tours in the country, where we drank chianti and indulged in 4 course meals on vineyards.
We ate at Michelin starred restaurants and packed on the pounds primarily from pepperoni pizza, pastries, gelato and spaghetti. Mmmm.
Admittedly, we were gluttons.
From Italy, we headed to Malta where we lived for 2 months while working with the tourism board there. Again, they offered us countless dinners and tours where heavy Maltese food was featured on the menu. Plus we met up with our good friends Nikki and Michelle who really showed us how to eat Maltese-style, with massive platters of meat and cheese, delicious stews, pastas and plenty of wine.
From there we went to our “home island” of Grenada, where we basically stayed the same weight, doing quite a bit of exercise, but still enjoying plenty of wine and sunset beers, as well as burgers, fries and pub food.
Then it was onto Colombia. By this time the blog was doing quite well and the budget that once kept us from eating three meals a day, now afforded us as much food and drink as we desired. This new-found financial freedom took us by surprise and we didn’t hold back at all.
We indulged in Colombia – eating endless amounts of Colombian cuisine, as well as pastas and pizzas at nice Italian restaurants. We just didn’t want to miss out sampling all of the new foods on offer in this part of the world.
Then it was Argentina. Again we worked with the tourism board there and they spoiled us. I can’t even count the number of comped meals we enjoyed and they almost always consisted of always steak, pasta, pork and potatoes. We ate at vineyards where chefs would cook farm-to-table food including melt-in-your-mouth rib eyes, lamb and pork roasts. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.
We had a series of family members come visit us in Manzanillo Colima for Christmas this past year, and each was there to enjoy a vacation from Canada. We had back-to-back visitors for nearly 2 months and because they were all eating and drinking like it was an all-inclusive holiday… so were we.
By the end of that trip, we knew we needed to make a serious change. We both just felt slow, exhausted and unhealthy, both from the food and the excessive amounts of alcohol.
Before leaving Mexico, I weighed myself and was shocked to see 205 lb on the scale.
Getting Healthy in Grenada
The minute the last visitor left Mexico, we were on a mission to get healthy. We decided (pretty last-minute) to head back to Grenada. The island that we have called home since 2014. It had been over a year since we had visited, but we knew that we’d be able to go there to get caught up on work and, more importantly, try to “health up”. It was the perfect place to rest and rejuvenate.
And that’s exactly what we did.
Immediately, we completely stopped drinking alcohol for 2 weeks. We also stopped eating any red meat and cut out added sugars from our diet, only getting sweets from fruit.
We also went on a few smoothie diets where we would only have 2 green smoothies all day (spinach, kale, banana, soy milk or almond milk and papaya or strawberries) until dinner. For dinner, we would enjoy a low-carb meal like chicken breast and salad or zucchini noodle pasta with homemade tomato sauce.
We also did a couple of weeks where we completely cut out all meat and dairy, but I didn’t feel as good as I thought I would, so we occasionally still eat chicken, eggs and cheese (we love cheese).
For exercise, I’d like to say we did a lot, but that’s really not true. On most days we’d go for a 30 – 45 minute hike somewhere on the island and to be honest… that’s about all the exercise we’d get. Our plan is to step that up with daily workouts and yoga, but we’ve just been busy enjoying the island and haven’t got around to it!
Despite the lack of exercise, within 2 months Dariece and I had both lost a considerable amount of weight. Assuming that scale in Mexico was correct, I lost 20 lbs and Dariece lost 15 lbs. This is all just from enjoying a healthier diet. Cutting out sugars, drinking WAY less, having smaller portion sizes and not eating any red meat.
Dariece would like to lose another 8-10 pounds, but I’m satisfied with where I’m at. So far, we’ve both maintained our new weights since April and are feeling happier and healthier.
It’s easy for us to lose weight while living in one place. Instead of eating at restaurants 3 meals a day, we are able to go to the local markets and grocery stores to pick up fresh, organic vegetables and fruit. Grenada has a pretty well-stocked supermarket that has imports like quinoa, tofu, whole wheat pasta, soy milk and almond butter. It’s just easier to eat well when you’re cooking for yourself.
By stocking our fridge with healthy food, we are able to have ingredients for wholesome meals every day and also eliminate the temptation for that fatty burger with fries meal that always seems to be on special at restaurants!
Keeping Healthy On The Road
This is something that we’ve always struggled with and we’re going to have to work on. Even though we’ve rented a place in Grenada long-term and plan to be here for a while, we’ll also be doing a lot of travelling from here. The goal will be to have some dietary discipline while on the road so that we can keep ourselves feeling fit.
While we have never been fully successful with healthy full-time travel, some things that have worked for us are:
- Seeking out vegetarian & health restaurants
- Always starting the day with a healthy breakfast like yogurt and granola
- Snacking on fruit and veggies rather than chips and popcorn
- Utilizing guest house, hostel & hotel public kitchens to cook for ourselves whenever possible
- A morning workout routine. Committing to a few sit ups and push ups a day can really help
- Walking A LOT. Probably the only reason we weren’t completely obese is that we love to explore places on foot while travelling
- Sharing meals, or having smaller portions
- Never ordering potatoes, fries or unhealthy desserts
When we go on our next big trip from Grenada, we’re going to do our best to follow all of these guidelines and try to keep away from the blogger bod.
If we’re working with a tourism board, we’ll try to plan our meals so that we’re not having three massive five-course feasts per day. If we have a comped dinner planned, we’ll try to just eat a salad or something light for lunch. We’ll cut out the ice creams and steaks and see if we can walk a bit more than normal, particularly on those high-calorie days.
We’ve recently been invited on a big blogger trip which is all about barbecues, craft beer, music festivals and fantastic food. It’s definitely going to be a challenge to fend off blogger bod while being paid to promote the city and stuff our faces with the local fare! But it’s something we’re going to have to learn how to do, while still enjoying ourselves.
We feel as though we have one of the best travel jobs and truly feel fortunate to be spoiled while “working”, but one of the downsides is definitely that it is too easy to become unhealthy and overweight. This constant nomad life had led us to our heaviest weights ever recorded by the scales, but we’re determined to keep the weight off and lead healthier lifestyles moving forward.
If you’re already a blogger getting some free trips, or you’re an aspiring blogger considering getting into this lifestyle, heed this warning. It’s not easy to stay healthy while on the road and once you lose control and begin packing on the pounds, they become harder and harder to shed once you’re stationary (especially when you get older!).
Do what many food bloggers do and truly just taste the meals so you can write about them, rather than devouring the entire plate (like we did). Try to do a considerable amount of exercise while on the road and snack on fruit and veggies rather than full-carb meals. It’s important to find a balance.
Blogger bod is real and if you want to avoid it… you’ll need to start early. Just because your blog is earning money and you’re getting free trips, doesn’t mean you have to indulge in everything. It’s not easy to say no, but the only way to bypass blogger bod is to have some dietary discipline and commit to exercise while travelling.
Have you ever had to deal with blogger bod, or found it easy to gain weight while travelling? How do you combat the carbs and stay healthy on the road? Share with us in the comments below.
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