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Eat like a traveler and lose weight


Slim and happier

Fat and happy









How is it that you can go on a trip around the world, enjoy incredible foods and a relaxed lifestyle, and still manage to lose weight? Well, the secret is not in the travel; it is in the habit that long-term travel creates. You can easily learn how to eat like a traveler and lose weight without ever leaving home. Hey, you can even drink the water!

Over the last 11 months of travel, we have each lost about 20 pounds. We wrote before about how much easier it was to eat sensibly when living your dream (no more need to stuff that unquenched desire down your gullet!), but there are also some habits that contribute to these healthier, “sveltier” bodies. After several requests for more info on how we got our skinnier butts and guts, here is our top 5.

Live life in the slow lane

Long-term travelers live in the slow lane, enjoying the world around them because they have nothing else on the agenda, and this kind of appreciation of eating and food preparation comes naturally. When you live in the slow lane, you do everything at a more measured pace. There is no need for fast food when you don’t need to eat fast.

By learning to appreciate your food – in the planning, preparation and consumption of it – you will feel satisfied more quickly, actually enjoy eating it, and think about the food going into your body – the flavors! the textures! – instead of answering email, driving, or watching television.

You will gladly spend time planning your lunch for work the next day, the breakfast you’ll have in the next morning before leaving, or the dinner you’ll enjoy when you get home from work. Once you make this switch, you’ll enjoy food far more than you do now, which makes the planning something to look forward to.

Buy only what you need

Travelers have limited space and can typically only shop for 1-2 days at a time. This seems like a drag when you consider how often you have to go to the store or market, but in practice it is actually refreshing. You can make what you want instead of what you thought you wanted last week when you went shopping. And there is no snack shelf/drawer for mindless nibbling.

We determine what we’ll be cooking and what meals will be eaten out every evening for the next day. This helps us plan our grocery shopping, makes trips to the market or store quick and painless, and keeps us from eating extra junk because there just isn’t any sitting around. If we want a treat, we buy it that day and eat it. By focusing on needs instead of planning for every possible want, we can satisfy those needs now (and the other needs later).

Walk or bike everywhere you can and buy only what you can carry back home

Long-term travelers usually don’t have cars. We buy our groceries on foot or on bicycle or with public transportation to take back to our hostels or rentals. There is no pile of junk food when you shop this way because it is simply too heavy or too bulky to carry.

Buying groceries on foot or on a bike is the perfect way to keep your purchases to a minimum. You get the exercise and the shopping challenge of buying only what you can carry back. We have a couple of sturdy fold-up shopping bags that we carry in our backpacks and we use them almost daily.

Eat what is in season

Do you know what is in season now? By buying what Mother Nature deems ready, you will always have the freshest, best-tasting food. Indulge in white asparagus in the spring, blackberries at the end of summer, corn and apples in the fall, and even kale and leeks during the winter.

Long-term travelers do not have the option of putting things in the freezer or easily hauling around cans, so they depend on what is locally available and in season, and they eat tastier, more satisfying food because of it.

Live an unprocessed life

The best part about long-term travel is the unfiltered lens through which you get to see the world. The same holds true for the food, since pre-packaged, processed food is always less interesting than what you can create yourself with natural ingredients (equally true for non-travelers, but easier to overlook for the sake of convenience).

When you choose to nourish yourself from the source, be it “real” food (foods that are in or very near to their natural state), experiences, people, and destinations, you get an unfiltered, unprocessed experience that is up to you to decode and utilize in your life. A processed life is decoded for you by someone else who determines the taste, consistency, and nutritional value you need.

Real food beats a pack of Twizzlers any day (and I used to LOVE those things).

The stay-at-home travel diet

It doesn’t take a passport, a plane ticket, or exotic foods to help you lose weight. You can take every one of these travel tips and use them in your everyday life.

  • Live life in the slow lane
  • Buy only what you need
  • Walk or bike everywhere you can and buy only what you can carry back home
  • Eat what is in season
  • Live an unprocessed life

Could you give up processed convenience foods for a trip around the world? If so, why not give them up for the life you have now?

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About Betsy

Betsy Talbot can't live without a Moleskine notebook, her passport, and happy hour. She sold everything she owned to travel the world with her husband Warren in 2010, and she's been enjoying her midlife crisis ever since. Betsy writes about creating the life you want from the life you already have in her books and on the Married with Luggage website. Drop her an email at btalbot (at) marriedwithluggage (dot) com and check out her Google+ page.


  1. Love this!!! Great points. :)

  2. Do u have “before ” & “after ” pics?

    • Well, that was my before/after, but maybe my before shot was too far away. I tried to find a full-length shot of both of us before the trip, and it seems I was VERY good at not letting this happen!

  3. I think a lot of us eat too much or eat junk out of sheer boredom, which doesn’t appear to be a problem for you guys at all! Long hot days here in The South (yeah I capitalized that) tend to create an environment where people just sit in the house and eat all day.

    What you say above applies completely though. If we just buy a couple of days worth of supplies, it makes us at least get out in the world, walk around a bit, if only to purchase more supplies. Much healthier to stock up only when necessary.

    • I’m a boredom eater myself, Brian, so I know where you are coming from. (And I’m from the Southwest, so I get the capitalization, too :) It goes back to the previous post about living your dream so you don’t feel bored and unhappy enough to down a giant bag of Twizzlers and a few sodas between a junky lunch and a giant dinner. Not that I know anyone who would do that. Ahem.

  4. Terrific post Betsy – we have been having conversations around real and fresh food – and this idea of shopping and bringing home what is fresh and in season. We have looked at our grocery budget lately – and notice that when we stop and buy only for the next day or two – we spend less than when we attempt to meal plan a week in advance – now if I’d just walk to the grocery store – I might accelerate the gut and butt loss!

    • It really is key to just buy 1-2 days at a time – especially financially – though when I mentioned this tactic to one person he said I would be doomed in the event of a zombie takeover because I would have no provisions to outlast them. Something to think about, I guess.

  5. You both look great! I lost 10 lbs in 3 months eating custards and real butter and cream living in London. I really need to try the travel diet again soon. :)

    • Right on, Rachelle. There is NO SUBSTITUTE for real butter. Especially French butter. I do believe in eating the real thing, and I will never go back to margarine. Better to have a little bit of the real stuff and moan with delight than to eat the substitute and wish for something better.

  6. Betsy,

    This just makes so much sense. We have ferry issues right now ($20 ferry ticket and at least a half day gone if we go out to shop), but I love the 1-2 days at a time. When we move back to the mainland, this will be much easier.

    I freak out about the cost of fruit (which I absolutely love), but then the island market sells a small bag of potato chips for $4.19, so who am I kidding? : )

    I want to live within walking distance of a grocery store! Maybe after we move. Thanks for these excellent tips.

    • Judy, I didn’t realize you guys were moving away from your island paradise!

      I have a friend who recently moved to a close-in suburb rather than live out in the boonies, and she gets very excited to be able to walk to a coffee shop. Kinda takes the fun out of a relaxing cup of coffee in the morning when you have to drive 45 minutes on a highway to get it!

      Yes, I think everything is more when you live on an island – healthy and otherwise. The price you pay for living in paradise!

  7. Good points, and good ideas.

    When I couldn’t drive (legally) I rode my bicycle everywhere and the busses would take my bicycle on board as well. I stayed relatively closer to what I should weigh, then I started to drive and deplored walking/riding my bicycle everywhere.

    While it is possible in the USA I find it hard to find fruits and meats that are not processed so my question about travel & eating in the slow lane overseas/abroad is in countries like Thailand, Cambodia, and maybe in some countries in South America where you can go eat at local establishments that use locally fresh products, would this be the same as what you suggest?

    • I think you can find fruits and veggies and meat in the US at farmer’s markets and co-ops just about everywhere – or sign up for a CSA-type delivery service for locally grown, seasonal produce that is usually delivered right to your door (or you can pick up at a central location). It takes a little bit of extra effort to find these places, but once you do they make it pretty easy for you to continue using the services. I know that readers Angela and Rob both use CSA services in two different areas of the US and like them very much.

      As for eating this way when you travel, we find that it is pretty easy to eat this way outside the major cities. In South America especially, we could find free range chicken everywhere (there they just call it chicken and you can see it “free ranging” in the yard while you eat its cousin), eat trout fished from mountain lakes, and enjoy a variety of potatoes, fresh fruit and vegetable juices (my favorite in Ecuador was made from a tree tomato). When we go to cities is where we typically meet our downfall because there are more abundant food options and you don’t have to really plan ahead if you don’t want to. But if we do plan ahead, we can find great, healthy food in cities, too (and an abundance of farmer’s markets).

      Probably the hardest thing to avoid in the US is the high fructose corn syrup, which is not used in a lot of other places in the world. You quickly realize the difference in taste when you get away from that – most importantly that there is a taste. And of course the food is healthier without it.

      • I looked at the CSA options, interesting most of the CSA farms only offer seasonal in my area there is one that only does year long. No meats though, none of them offer meat just veggies, eggs and flowers (what the heck am I going to do with flowers for $600/yr?! :P)

        I would rather find an establishment/restaurant that will cook fresh foods but just because its fresh/organic doesn’t mean they haven’t left out all the other stuff like fructose Syrup (but I am sure the best restaurants will not add other additives if they want to be well known for their organic/freshness)

  8. Marcia Bartlett says:

    Betsy and Warren,
    I just read a book my nutritionist suggested – “The Slow Down Diet” by Marc David. It talks about exactly what you talked about – eat slowly and deliberatly, limit processed food and eat locally as much as possible. There is scientific proof that eating slowly and cutting out stress as much as possible increases metabolisim and helps you to loose weight. Great book – You guys are proof it works!

    • Hi, Marcia. You are right – we did not set out to lose weight and still enjoy plenty of good food and treats, but we do eat most foods freshly prepared and hardly ever have any kind of processed food or food from a box or bag. It just comes naturally in this kind of lifestyle, but I can see where we could have done it back in the US with small changes to our overall habits. I just wish we had discovered this sooner! We’ll have to check out that book – thank you for the recommendation.

  9. Betsy, I have nothing to add, but wanted to let you know that these tips are spot on. I counted calories for years (mostly to maintain my weight after losing a bunch in 2003). Once I started traveling and cooking/eating/walking as you state above, I even lost a few more pounds. Now it’s something I don’t even think about AND I enjoy the occasional pastry and chai tea in the afternoon.

  10. savingfortravel says:

    You both look great and what you write is so true.

    I love travel and when in remote places I just eat for energy and don’t miss the flavour of food as it just serves a purpose.

    At home I seem to constantly eat.

    Keep up the great posts. Glad I’ve found you. HAPPY TRAVELS!

  11. I found your site a week ago and am loving it. I am going to take the five points to heart. I’d been thinking about this type of thing for awhile now and you summed it up perfectly.

    Four of the items seem very possible for me. The only one that is difficult is the bike or walk (or even take public transit). I live 10+ miles from anywhere to buy things with no sidewalks bus routes and mostly across fields near major highways (no bikes allowed). Besides big picture rethinking the whole “where I live issue” (which I am), I’ve come up with a different but I think similar solution. I take the reusable bags (1 or 2 depending on size) into the store and use them instead of a cart. I can only carry so much this way. I literally know by awkwardness and weight that I simply CANNOT add that bag of Oreos to my purchases. I get some stares and I think some people wonder if I’m shop lifting. Between using one bag and meal planning. I’ve spent less money and lost weight. What more can I ask for?

    Great job on the post and the lifestyle!


  1. The Crossroads of Fitness & Happiness - House of Good Karma says:

    [...] I’ll adopt those healthier choices. For instance, I was just reading Betsy Talbots post about eating like a traveler. It just makes sense how a little planning can truly simplify your life and help you become more [...]

  2. [...] in the world is not being able to fit into your pants and I refuse to have that happen to me.  Since I’m small to begin with, it’s extra hard to stay that way.  Especially when part of experiencing another culture has to do with sampling the local food and [...]


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