Though you may have a love/hate relationship with your car, for most people needing one is kind of like death and taxes. And this time of year, you’re likely getting a lot more quality time with your car if—like many Americans—you’re taking a road trip. How will your medical weight loss plan fit into those hours of car time?
While long stretches in the car can definitely require some advanced planning, the advice for making your weight loss program work is the same whether you commute 20 minutes or spend four days traveling to Aunt Thelma’s. Here we offer three commandments on weight loss and driving—the long and the short of it:
- Avoid ‘Dashboard Dining.’ This involves eating any meaningful amount of food while you’re driving. Not only is it dangerous, it’s unhealthy—for a variety of reasons. First, you’re likely to be consuming high-calorie, high-fat foods with little nutritional value. Research shows that 30 percent of Americans eat drive-thru meals in their cars at least twice a week! Oh, but you say your dashboard delicacies are healthy? Even if that’s true, it’s still not good to eat while driving. Your digestion is likely hampered by fast or erratic eating. Equally important, you lose touch with the whole process of eating. In this state, you won’t enjoy or savor your food, and you’re probably more likely to overeat because you’re not paying attention to just how hungry you are or how much you’ve eaten.
- Know Your Danger Zones. Think back to the times you most often make poor choices while in the car. Maybe you get suckered by the thought of your favorite place to dine out, which you pass every day on the way home from work. Or let’s say that when you’re with your kids you succumb to their demands for fast food (and maybe treat yourself a little, too). Whatever it is, remind yourself that you are in control and create a plan to rewrite the script the next time. Take a different route home from work, pack some healthy snacks for your kids, and just say ‘no’ to fast food in general!
- Use Your Car Time Wisely. Quick: What’s the number one reason people overeat on long car trips? Ok, there’s no research to support this, but logic would dictate it’s probably boredom. So find ways to fight back against it. The key is to know what will work for you, since the solution is different for everyone. Some swear by books on tape, or you might take the time to learn a language. There could be a public radio program on a topic that interests you and that you can listen to every day during your commute; check the NPR or PRI website to see programming lists and times. Whether your upcoming trip is a quick jaunt or a lengthy drive, planning ahead to keep your brain rather than your mouth engaged is the healthiest—and safest—way to spend your car time.
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