Monday, July 15, 2013

Pass Travel Fail

It's not the first time I've had to resort to this.  But, it always feels like a fail.

We just got back from a sweet little dive trip to the Keys.  Took our newly certified diving youngsters, R & A, for their first real ocean diving experience.

From a week out of our planned excursion, the flights looked WIDE open.  Rob was hugely optimistic.  Things hadn't looked this good for pass travel in a long time.  And we knew it would be tricky traveling with 5 people; we never even entertained the idea that we would all take the same flights.

As our travel dates drew nearer, we realized we had a small problem.  Rob had only recently undertaken to add R to his travel benefits as an approved "friend", and the paperwork had not yet cleared.  Not good!

It came down to the day before we were to leave.  I was on call, Rob at the end of a 4-day trip and it was decision time.  The kids were psyched to go; Rob's dad had taken off work, Rob and I had finagled our schedules to get the time off as well, and our dives and hotel were already reserved.  We decided we would go whether R was flying free or not.  We would book him on Delta and Rob would fly with him while the rest of us played the standby game. Gulp.

When I got home from work, at the end of a long shift, with only 2 hours of sleep the night before, Rob and I sat down and looked at the flight loads again.  He showed me what the bad weather had done to flight loads:  everything was now overbooked.  Not good!  With a good imagination and endless optimism, you could possibly envision the 5 of us getting to the Keys at some point the next day, but it sounded exhausting.  I knew my day would be starting at 3am, whether I made it to Miami by noon or by midnight.  With that information, we gave in and booked a full-price ticket for me as well.  Rob, his dad and A, as immediate family members, got discounted fares. Sigh...

Of course we love Delta, for the Biscoff and peanuts, but mostly we enjoyed the ease of traveling as a group with guaranteed seats!

That's the caveat with pass travel.  You always have to have a plan B and plan C.  Buying full-price tickets is usually plan D (desperate), but it is always a possibility.  In the past, I've only done it when I needed to get home to cover my call shift.  Doing it because we had not planned fully in advance to get R's paperwork approved, and being too exhausted to play the game, it felt like a pass travel FAIL.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Airline Diet: Packing His Lunch

When Rob and I first met, he was about 40 pounds heavier.  I thought he was hot of course and would never have guessed that he had 40 pounds to lose.  About 9 months ago, he started losing weight.  It was a conscious decision and has been the result of mostly dietary changes, some changes in his exercise habits.

When Rob decided he wanted to lose weight, he started using a calorie tracker.  We both really like, which allows you to enter your profile and then track your daily caloric intake and caloric burn (a combination of resting metabolic rate and exercise).  You can set a weight loss goal and track your progress. It's free and has a smart phone app that allows you to scan food labels to easily enter the nutritional content of your meals. Using the calorie tracker, allowed Rob to see how much in excess his typical diet was.  For a couple of weeks, he used tracking alone to reduce his intake.  He felt hungry alot, but he dropped about 5 pounds.

Then we looked into some of the more common diets.  The research doesn't really show a major difference in efficacy among the most popular diet plans:  atkins, south beach, weight watchers, the mediterranean diet. Any diet that reduces caloric intake will help you lose weight.  What the research does show is that for long term results, the diet needs to be more than just a diet.  You need to actually change, permanently, the way that you eat.

However; I often recommend a low-carb diet to my patients.  Carbohydrates tend to be the biggest culprit in the typical American diet: highly processed, loaded with fats, addictive.  If you can break the grip that carbs have on you, you can win the weight battle.  And, when you take simple, refined carbohydrates out of the picture, what you have left, looks like real food.

Rob was drawn to the P90X diet plan, because he wanted to build muscle while losing weight.  For that, he knew he would need protein.  So, we ordered a special insulated meal bag that would fit enough food for a 4-day trip and began packing his protein rich meals.  9 months later, he is still eating this way.  If you had asked him a year ago, he would have sworn that giving up bread and pasta would NEVER happen.  Now, he's the guy who orders a hamburger and asks the waitress to hold the bun, but bring extra lettuce.

Here's his full flight kit with meal bag attached.  It's pretty heavy at the front end of his trips.

That's the meal bag on top

The night before he leaves, I cook chicken breasts: either grilled, or flattened and sauteed with olive oil and seasoning.  I also usually do the same with some lean pork chops.  I pack sugar snap peas, carrots, grape tomatoes and a variety of fruit.  He takes at least 4 protein bars and some trail mix or nuts. Sometimes, there will be leftovers from a recent meal and if so, I always send that so he will have some variety.  But, mostly, his meals consist of this:  a chicken breast and a handful of carrots, or a pork chop and a handful of grape tomatoes.  

We pack freezer bags in around his food.  He refrigerates everything if his hotel room has a refrigerator and will sometimes have the luxury of a microwave to warm up his meal.  Otherwise, he is eating his chicken breast cold, and right out of the ziploc bag. Yum.  

He will occasionally eat a meal with the crew if they have a long overnight.  His weakness is chicken wings but he mitigates the damage by never ordering fries with them. When he is home, our meals are not quite so austere, but I don't make pasta, and we never do sandwiches anymore.  He will have an omelet for breakfast most days: with mostly egg whites and one full egg.  I usually fill it with veggies, but I don't skip the cheese. We rarely miss Wing Tuesday at Buffalo Wild Wings and he has not given up beer.  But it seems to be working.  Eating this way, out of his high protein meal bag roughly 2/3 of the time, and a clean/semi paleo diet at home, has resulted in 40 pounds of weight loss over 9 months.

I wish I could get him to run.  He says he does run...between gates sometimes, but only if it's to catch a flight home.  His exercise consists of a once a week P90X work-out supplemented by push-ups and pull-ups. But, it works for him.  He looks good, and he feels good.  

When 2/3 of your time is spent in airports and hotels, eating right can be challenging.  The lunch bag has been our solution.

He agreed to let me post before and after pics.  These are just snapshots, so they may not do the transformation justice. Here goes!

Before:                                                                                                     After:

Monday, July 1, 2013

Mile-High Book Club

I've lost things in airports and on airplanes.  Everyone does.  I've lost some good books!  Now I have a rule: if it's a Really Good Book, it doesn't go with me on the trip.  I buy a cheap paperback, mass-market, that I won't care about losing.

Rob has lost some things.  Yep.  He sure has.  Some expensive things, like IPads and Kindles.  He doesn't get to carry expensive electronics anymore.  I applied the cheap, paperback rule to him as well.

Good news is, there's a secret, airline industry book club.  I've read some really good books this year that Rob has brought home from work.  Books left behind on airplanes and found by the flight attendant, read first or immediately passed on to someone else on the crew.

Most recently, Lisa Gardner's Live to Tell, made it home with Rob.  He read it first and passed it on to me.  I'm a little embarrassed to admit I've never read her work before, but I will definitely pick up another of her books next time I need one for traveling.

So, to those of you who have left beloved books on airplanes, or like A did on our last trip, in the bathroom at the airport, don't worry!  Your book has surely found its way into the hands of a reader, maybe even the pilot who flew your plane home.  It will be passed along, making its way through the Mile-High Book Club, hand to hand, accompanied by the same passionate hand-sell pitch the book-seller might have used, if book-sellers still existed.  "I loved it!  Stayed up all night reading!"

Thanks for your donation to the Mile-High Book Club, and if you find that lovely story by Sue Monk Kidd, the one about the bees?  You're welcome.

Lost or found a good book in the airport recently? What do you read when you are traveling?