Forget your fear of packing on the pounds after a 10-day Caribbean cruise. Where you’re going, there are no all-you-can-eat buffets, thousand-calorie cocktails or cheese lover’s pizza.
Hell, there probably isn’t even cheese.
Where you’re going, my friend, is to a magical land of effortless travel weight loss, where the very foods you eat and air you breathe will melt the pounds away faster than you can say “How can I do this at home?”
Here are 9 reasons why long-term, international travel will help you lose weight (sometimes whether you like it or not.)
1. You’ll get sick
Ok, I hope that it goes without saying that I’m not suggesting you try and get food poisoning.
That being said, you probably will get food poisoning at some point during your travels. If not the full-blown, coming-out-both-ends version, you’ll at least get traveler’s diarrhea as your stomach attempts to navigate the rocky waters of so many foreign invaders being dumped down your gullet.
The good news is that once you’ve recovered (as a mean, lean, 10-pounds-lighter version of you), your system will be able to handle just about anything.
Get sick early in your trip, and you can relax the rest of the time you’re traveling. Hell, after my Exorcist-like episode in Nepal, my immune system is so strong I don’t even have to wash my hands anymore.
Kidding. Kind of.
2. The food is fresh
That chicken you’re eating never saw the inside of a truck, was never shipped anywhere, and was never frozen. In fact, she probably lived about a block away from the restaurant you’re eating in right now.
In the absence of hormones, preservatives, and the chemicals we’re used to ingesting when we eat at home, the body begins to deflate at lightning speed.
You can even choose “bad” foods – like fried foods, and bread – because somehow even those are less fattening.
My theory is that all of the ingredients used in Southeast Asia, and even in developing areas of Eastern Europe, are just “closer to home” – the butter was churned a few doors down, the flour was milled at a local farm, the milk came out of someone’s friend’s cow a few hours ago.
I’m no expert, but it seems to me that freshness is much more important than the ingredients themselves when it comes to losing weight. Pancakes in Los Angeles make me fat. Pancakes in Vietnam do not.
3. You’re constantly active
When you’re traveling, the majority of your time is spent doing stuff, seeing stuff, then getting up early the next day to go do and see even more stuff.
A lot of the time, the coolest stuff can only be accessed via exercise. That is to say, in order to experience what you’ve come to experience, you must first hike to the stupa, climb the waterfall, kayak down the river or cycle across town. In a lot of cases, there simply are no non-exertive (read: motorized) options available.
Even if you’re not into exercise or adventure travel, you’ll end up exercising more than ever simply by going to see cool stuff in whatever town you’re in.
I mean, you’re not going to not see the largest Buddha statue in Vietnam, just because it’s at the top of 200 steps, right? Right.
4. You’ll eat less
People eat less in other parts of the world. In Nepal, dahlbat is served 2x per day, and there’s rarely snacking in between.
In many of the Asian countries I’ve visited, it seems that locals simply don’t eat that much, at least by Western standards. One or two meals per day is the norm.
In Taiwan, on the other hand, people seemed to eat constantly, but it’s always something small – a smoothie, a handful of nuts or seeds, a chicken foot. The eating habits of the entire country make a great case for the whole metabolism-boosting theory.
And yes, a chicken foot.
What surprised me most was how easy it was to fall into the routine of infrequent eating. In Taiwan, I ate less because I was a) a big chicken, and b) too afraid to try a big chicken (foot).
In my subsequent travels, I’ve found it really easy to adopt the eat-to-live habits of those around me.
Again, I’m no scientist and no diet expert. All I know is that when I’m around people who eat less, I eat less, and when I eat less, I lose weight.
5. You’ll feel like a heffer
So….Americans are fat. We all know this. We see the reports of epidemic obesity on the nightly news, we joke about our portion sizes, we marvel at the mesmerizing 500-pound creatures who tend to frequent state fairs…
But it’s not us, right? We’re normal. We could stand to lose 10 pounds, sure, but we’re not overweight.
And then you step off the plane…..
I’m not saying you should lose weight. However, being around people who are infinitely more fit than you are does something to your psyche.
I believe that people are like fish – we adapt to our environment. Put us in a big fish bowl with lots of space, we’ll eat more and grow large. Put us in a tiny space with other tiny fish, we’re sure to follow suit.
Besides, it’s impossible to feel sexy next to gorgeous 90-pound Thai women who manage to make that weight look not only healthy, but like it’s the epitome of femininity.
You may not be inclined to shoot for double digits, but you may very well be inclined to shoot for your own healthy number.
6. You’ll have to wear a swimsuit
It’s not hard to never wear a swimsuit at home, but when you’re traveling, there’s always a pool, a sauna, or a midnight skinny-dipping opportunity that seems to be calling your name.
You’re not going to want to feel gross in your swimsuit – especially next to all the tiny local girls!
7. There’s no dairy or wheat
This reason applies specifically to Asia, where dairy and wheat are rarely used in traditional cooking. You won’t even notice they’re missing either, as you try all sorts of fresh, flavorful, delicious dishes that’ll make you say “Laughing Cow, Schmaffing Cow.”
Rice is no longer your side dish, it’s your God.
It’s your go-to ingredient for everything from noodles to soup to – well, to actual rice. Especially in Asia, you can trust that just about everything is made from rice, meaning you’re essentially removing wheat and gluten from your diet without even trying.
When you eat “naughty” foods you love from home, like noodles and desserts, you’re actually eating rice whether you realize it or not.
Your daily diet will consist of fresh meats or tofu, vegetables, seafood, fruits, soups, and rice, instead of bread, cheese, pizza, and sandwiches. You won’t even be tempted by those foods because a) they won’t even be available, or b) they’ll be available but crazy expensive.
After a little while, you’ll start to feel so clean and energized that indulging in dairy or wheat just makes you feel bloated and lethargic. Who needs ice cream anyway when you can have mango sticky rice drenched in coconut milk? [insert Homer Simpson donuuuuuuuut noise here].
And the best part is that this massive diet change happens naturally – without you having to “try and be good.”
8. You’ll hate the food
I hope this doesn’t ever happen to you, but it’s happened to me. While I didn’t relish spending a month in Taiwan subsisting almost entirely on Ramen noodles, I did lose 10 pounds.
If you hate the food and can’t find anything you like, losing weight is inevitable. [Sidenote: I absolutely realize that there is delicious food in Taiwan and that it’s one of Asia’s greatest culinary destinations. Unfortunately, due to a massive attack of culture shock, I just didn’t realize it while I was there.]
What’s remarkable is that in the West, we’re so used to being able to get whatever we want to eat, whenever we want it. But in many parts of the world, that luxury simply doesn’t exist. And if you don’t speak the language and can’t ask for what you want, you’re even more shit out of luck.
But look on the bright side – those rumbling hunger pangs are going to make that bikini look better than ever.
9. You’ll sweat your balls off
Have a wedding coming up and want to shed a few pounds? Fly to Siem Reap in April. Or try Taipei in August. You’ll be sweating all day and night. If you’re lucky enough to have AC, you’ll sweat the second you walk outside. Don’t worry about looking like a disheveled jerk, either – everyone rocks sweat stains during the hot season.
I’ve never been good at losing weight, and I’m a notoriously inconsistent exerciser. But since I’ve been traveling in Asia, I’ve lost 10 pounds without even trying. Food poisoning kicked off the slim-down, but fresh food and the local lifestyle have kept the weight off.
Have you ever lost weight traveling? How did you do it?
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You will automatically lose weight while traveling abroad (especially to Asia) because:
1. You'll get sick
2. The food is actually fresh
3. You’re constantly exercising whether you like it or not
4. You’ll eat less because everyone around you eats 1x per day
5. You’ll feel like a heffer next to all the tiny local girls
6. You’ll have to wear a bikini every other day
7. There IS no dairy or wheat
8. You'll hate the food
9. You'll sweat your balls off
Want to dig deeper? Go for it!