Last weekend I spent the weekend under the Texan sun at Austin City Limits (ACL). This is the third time I’ve been to Austin/ ACL, and it’s always a treat. Austin is a fascinating mix of hippies, hipsters, southerners, students, and young professionals escaping exorbitant real estate prices on either coast.
My weekend in Austin was about as eclectic as the city itself. From concerts in grassy fields, to hip coffee joints, boot camp classes on a surfboard, and healthy dose of Southern cuisine, there was no shortage of variety. I ate at a paleo coffee shop in a shipping container, discovered amazing acai bowls at a food truck on a vacant lot, and found myself in a supermarket the size of a small town. On the outside, Austin seems like another vast Texan city, but behind the thin veil of strip malls lies a vibrant food scene, thrift shops full of treasures, and chic boutiques.
The weather in Austin was perfect all weekend. Even in mid-October, temperatures in Austin hover around 90F (32F). We shared an Austin bungalow with two other couples, and stocked the fridge with Lone Stars to celebrate the coming together of old friends.
The focus of this weekend away was fun and friends however, as always, I had a few tricks up my sleeve to stay well on the road. Here are 5 simple things I do to stay healthy when I’m away from home:
#1. Plan to exercise.
Whether I’m traveling domestically or abroad, exercise is always on the agenda if I am away for more than two days. In fact, exercise options are one of the things that I sleuth-out before I leave, or as soon as arrive at my destination.
In Austin: After we got settled at our AirBnb in Austin we went for a walk, and I scoped out a safe running route. On Friday morning, I got up early and went for a couple of quick loops around the block before we headed down to Zilker Park for Friday’s lineup.
On Saturday and Sunday morning, I went to City Surf with another member of our party, Mel, who attends City Surf classes in New Orlean and arranged for me to use her friend passes. We had a blast doing a combination of surf moves, and traditional circuit exercises on a surfboard.
#2 Find a supermarket.
This is one of my old tricks from my corporate wellness days when I frequently traveled for work. I always chose a hotel near a supermarket (usually Wholefoods) so I could pick up snacks, and pull together a quick, healthy meal if the local options were slim.
Controlling hunger is one of the best kept secrets to making healthier decisions away from home. When blood sugar drop, cortisol levels spike which spurs cravings for calorie-laden, carb-y foods (among other things) [1,2]! Eating often helps ward off blood sugar highs and lows, and prevent overindulgence.
In Austin: This trip we made a group excursion to HEB-- a Texas supermarket chain-- shortly after everyone arrived at the house. I picked up some of my go-to snacks and breakfast options including: whole grain gluten free toast, avocados, hummus, KIND breakfast bars, bananas, Siggi's yogurt, and salsa. We also got a big batch of eggs for the group.
#3. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.
This one is not something that should be neglected, especially when you’re out in the sun, and are planning on enjoying a few drinks. Even a 1-2% decrease in total body water can make you feel foggy, lower immunity, increase your risk of heat-related illness, and create a false perception of hunger [3,4]. Alcohol increases water losses, and makes you more likely to experience all of these things if you’re not vigilant about replacing fluids.
In Austin: Whenever I travel I always take an empty, TSA-friendly plastic water bottle with me. My water bottle lives permanently in my handbag, and gets carted literally everywhere with me. At ACL, they had several Camelbak hydration stations to make rehydration easy. We also stocked up on gatorade to replace salt lost through sweat.
#4. Assess healthy food options nearby.
Before I take-off for a trip, I also look at the food and drink options within walking distance of my accommodation. I pick out a few healthy options as back-ups in case I can’t get to a supermarket or need a quick fix. I love a good latte so solid coffee shop is another must for me!
#5: Indulge wisely.
Staying healthy on the road doesn’t mean depriving yourself of local favorites-- it’s more about indulging sensibly. Trying local food is part of the travel adventure, and something that I look forward to on every trip!
In Austin: I ate barbequed brisket, tamales, Amy’s ice-cream, chicken nuggets, and queso, but these were all shared with others, and offset with some of my usual go-tos like avocado toast. When we ordered barbecue for the group, I asked for some veggies, and loaded my plate up with a garden of plants next to my brisket. Healthy living isn’t a game of perfection; it’s about being better everyday.
I am pleased to report that I have returned from Austin without feeling sick, tired or defeated. In fact, after two tough sessions at City Surf, I am feeling slightly stronger than before (albeit a little sore). Next stop: Boston for the National Food and Nutrition Conference and Exposition. Here’s to another healthy trip!
 Relative metabolic stability, but disrupted circadian cortisol secretion during the fasting month of Ramadan. Bahijri S, Borai A, Ajabnoor G, Abdul Khaliq A, AlQassas I, Al-Shehri D, Chrousos G. PLoS One. 2013 Apr 18;8(4):e60917.
 The psychobiology of comfort eating: implications for neuropharmacological interventions. Gibson EL. Behav Pharmacol. 2012 Sep;23(5-6):442-60.
Dehydration affects brain structure and function in healthy adolescents. Kempton MJ, Ettinger U, Foster R, Williams SC, Calvert GA, Hampshire A, Zelaya FO, O'Gorman RL, McMorris T, Owen AM, Smith MS. Hum Brain Mapp. 2011 Jan;32(1):71-9.
 Alleviating effects of dehydration under no hyperthermia on the immunomodulatory response to the polysaccharide fraction from fu-ling (Poria cocos) in male collegiate wrestlers. Jang TR, Kao MF, Chen CH, Hsieh KC, Lai WY, Chen YY. Chin Med J (Engl). 2011 Feb;124(4):530-6.