A few weeks ago, I was in Melbourne for the biannual Sports Dietitians Conference.
During my flight there, I was served a complimentary snack box, decorated with the pink ribbon for breast cancer awareness. Inside, two sweet muffins and a mini bottle of water.
I wonder how many people on that plane truly enjoyed those muffins, ate them slowly and savoured it. I'd say the majority did it simply because it was given to them, and paid no more attention to the muffins as they did to the safety demonstration.
Situations like these bring a few factors together to create the perfect storm for mindless eating:
1. It was given it to you. Is it polite to refuse food? Will they be offended?
2. It's not cool to waste food. Now that the food was given, if you return the box, will they give it to someone else? They will probably throw it away.
3. Muffins are a treat. It's not every time that you eat them, so you better not waste the opportunity.
4. Plane trips are quite boring. Eating muffins is distracting, it helps pass the time.
There you have it. Likely, these thoughts won't come to mind straight away, you will have them sort of floating in the background. You have finished the muffins without even realising the reasons behind it.
Point number one of travelling for work:
- Don't eat all that is given to you.
Make conscious decisions about what and when to eat. Nuts, cheese and a little fruit can be a good snack for longer trips. For shorter ones, rely on your main meals either before or after the flight to provide you with the required nutrition.
Now, this is where things get more complicated... conference lunches! It's a surprise, isn't it? Sometimes catering is amazing, other times it works against our best interest, providing nutrient poor, high sugar foods - not the types of foods that keep us alert and interested while sitting in a dark room listening to a talk. Quick snooze anyone?
Here, another few aspects come together to create another perfect storm:
1. It was included in the price. I've paid for it, might as well make the most out of my conference fee.
2. I don't want to be the different one, what will people think?
3. Lunch time is a good networking opportunity. If I go away to have lunch somewhere else, when will I speak to others?
4. I don't know the area very well, I might not have time to find something suitable.
Again, perfect storm pushing you to eat what is provided by the organisers, and hope it's not a muffin. What to do then?!
Rule number two of travelling for work:
- Be like Mary Poppins.
Have some back up in your bag: nuts, cut up veggies, a tin of tuna or some cheese. Make a point in the morning to have a really good breakfast, including some lean protein and a few veggies. At lunch, eat what you feel like. If that is not enough, you know there's a healthy snack in your bag as a back up.
Ordering the 'vegetarian' option in hope of more salad is risky, as you may be given a plate full of pasta and nothing else.
Don't worry about being different. Most people I speak to are not happy eating pastries and heavy meals at conferences either. They would rather not drink alcohol with clients and are craving a healthier meal. The more people stand up for their convictions, the more others will follow. This is the only that way that we can make a difference and start changing these situations.
Be a pioneer!