Ten Travel Tips for Hormonal Harmony During the Holidays
When you travel, many factors conspire against you. Your circadian rhythm often suffers, and you’re less likely to get a good night’s sleep. Poor sleep may make you choose food and drink poorly the next day, ultimately leading to a snowball effect of dyscircadianism, overeating and/or lousy food choices, drinking too much, and facing January with a bad case of regret and tight jeans. Not so this year. Here are my 5 best tips for staying in balance while traveling and having tons of fun during the holidays.
1. Plan now. You know the adage: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” That means if you wait until your arrival at your destination to plan the way you eat, move, think, and supplement, you will miss out on the winning formula for success: planning for it. Find out where the yoga studios, barre classes, organic restaurants, and health food stores are located. Get a sibling or your travel companion to commit to getting up early each day with you to hike or go chi running.
2. Work out when you arrive. This is my golden rule of travel. Whether I’m staying at a hotel or with my sister in Portland, I plan my flights so that I can at least hop on a treadmill for 30 minutes at a 12 percent incline. There’s something awesome that blossoms when you arrive and move—it sets up a great metabolic tone for the rest of the trip.
3. Start your day with a green shake. If I’m staying at a hotel, I pack my mini blender (such as a Magic Bullet). If I’m staying with family, I use their blender, even if it’s old school. I pack enough shake powder to make a morning shake each day. Speaking of metabolic tone, you will maintain your weight and make “green shake” decisions all day when you get a healthy, hormone-balancing breakfast.
4. Walk 12,000 steps each day. You’ve heard the 10,000-steps per day rule, right? We’re going to bump up the expectation by another 2,000 steps so that you can maintain your weight and feel agile. If it’s late at night and you haven’t gotten your steps in, pretend you’re in my family and start a dance party. Beyonce, Pixies, Kanye . . . whatever it takes.
5. Reset melatonin. Whether you’re sleeping in an unfamiliar bed or traveling across time zones, melatonin levels can drop and make sleep more challenging. Instead of suppressing your own production of melatonin with screens at night and/or large doses of a melatonin supplement, do this instead. Put yourself of a screen curfew four hours before bedtime (that’s 6 pm for most of you), so that melatonin can rise (screens suppress melatonin production in the pineal gland of the brain). If you need additional help, take 0.3 mg of melatonin (no, that’s not a typo: 0.3 mg) four hours before bed. As the level of melatonin gradually declines, your body will make more just in time for slumber.
6. Eat a fiber bar before the party. Fiber is the secret of long-lived cultures and the flat bellies. I’m amazed at how fiber fills me up and makes me calm and present, especially when eaten prior to attending a party with tables of temptation.
7. Drink a full glass of water before your booze. I know you want to party, but travel usually means dehydration. For a reality check, look at your urine in the toilet. Is it light yellow, the color of straw, or more concentrated? Drink a large glass of sparkling water before you booze—you’ll be more present for the taste of your next glass, and hit the reset button of your dried-out cells. Alcohol in excess robs you of REM sleep, so more water will help you sleep better tonight and dilute the damage.
8. Interrupt your sitting. Of course there are times on an airplane when you must sit, but I have to actively resist the tendency to sit around on the couch and gab when I visit my family. When you pop to your feet every fifteen minutes—to stand, perform 10 heel lifts, stretch, or wash a few dishes, you tell your body that metabolism needs to stay high, bones need to stay strong, and fat needs to be burned not conserved. You say “no” to diabetes and weight gain.
9. Pop a detox packet. Around the holidays, we have a long tradition in my family of spending more money on fine red wine and sharing a few bottles over slow meals. Yet I’ve found after age 40 that hangovers last for days, and even two glasses of wine is over my limit. I like to help out my liver by increasing my consumption of detoxifying herbs and supplements, such as berberine for blood sugar control, milk thistle for protecting the liver, and N-acetylcysteine for anti-oxidant support. It may be a placebo effect, but I swear they make a difference in how I feel the next day.
10. Aim for “Canyon Ranch” bowel movements. That’s what my Darling Husband, David Gottfried, calls them. When you’re away at a spa, eating tons of vegetables and staying well hydrated, your poop is well-formed, and hopefully S-shaped. Ideally, you poop one to three times per day. Anything less is constipation, and could be a sign of dysbiosis, where you have too many bad microbes compared with the good. As Dr. Oz famously shared with Oprah, “You want to hear what the stool, the poop, sounds like when it hits the water. It should hit the water like a diver from Acapulco hits the water [swoosh].” Travel can make you constipated, so be sure each day to eat your pound of vegetables—extra points if they are fermented, such as sauerkraut, kim chee, or simply cultured vegetables—and stay well hydrated.
Hopefully you’ll find these tips helpful during travel, and can put them into action over the holidays.