However as I am working to make vegetables and fruit the major portion of my diet, I realized I would need a new approach to traveling on the HMR Diet Healthy Solutions program. So I spent several weeks thinking about this, not only because I knew I would be traveling in March, but also because I needed to find a way to manage my weight during the long summers I teach at residential programs away from home, where I don’t have a kitchen and live in a dorm.
This weekend was the first test of traveling in the box and I wanted to document what I did so I can reflect on it in the future (and maybe help others out too).
I should also add that this week’s homework assignment for our Phase One class was to eat one more entree that our previous highest entree total for a day. In the first week in Phase One in January, I had two days where I ate 5 entrees (and still lost!), so I had to pick my most challenging day and eat six entrees. I’ll write more about that later but I do have to give a special shoutout because it meant I had to pack even more entrees for a three day trip than I had planned, but it actually served to be a very useful tool I might have otherwise not considered because I *didn’t* want to pack tons of extra entrees!
So what did I pack for my 3 day trip?
- A minimum of 3 entrees for each day of travel (well in this case I packed 13 instead of 9 because I had that special assignment) – most of these needed to be entrees I could eat cold in case plans changed (although I did have a microwave at the hotel and my HotLogic Mini packed). I may switch this to having 4 a day on hand after my experiences this weekend – front-loading with a double-entree for example really made the day a lot easier!
- 6 packets each of chocolate and vanilla 800s (they travel easier than the 120s)
- 2 packets of 70s for emergency pudding
- 2 batches of pudding cookies (divided into 4 snack size bags equivalent to 1 shake each)
- 3 benefit bars for emergency treats
- 4 pieces of fruit pre-washed that stand up to the jostling in my backpack
- 1 carton of blueberries with 1-cup snack bags packed to divided up upon arriving at the hotel (the fact the snack bags have measurements on the side make it easy for portion control!)
- 15 1-cup baggies of vegetables pre-washed and sliced that could be eaten alone or used as chips to eat the lentil and bean entrees
- Snap Peas
- 1 diet soda can (stored in my BlenderBottle) for an emergency mix-in
Equipment (don’t worry, I don’t use affiliate links! just sharing where I bought them):
- eBags Crew Cooler – after a lot of research, I settled on this bag with a removable liner. The top portion is where I store tools, the front pouch is condiments and my food journal, the side pockets for bottles (they zip up when not in use), and the main compartment for food. It looks professional, has a loop in back to slip over a roller suitcase, and has an easy to carry shoulder strap.
- HotLogic Mini – this fits easily in the top pouch of the cooler and is perfect for heating up food while I am in meetings (and in case the hotel didn’t have a microwave).
- BlenderBottle – Easy to use and clean, I picked one that matched my cooler.
- Bottle Brush for cleaning the shaker bottle.
- Travel cutlery for easy dining.
- AeroLatte Travel Frother – perfect for mixing hot shakes (and soups when I take them)
- Extra quart-sized ziplock bags. I actually also had travel ice blocks for this trip because we weren’t flying. But I keep extra ziplock bags to make ice packs on the road – getting ice from the hotel or a restaurant – to keep things cold.
I have also successfully purchased fruits and veggies at local spots, like having a bowl of fruit when taking my students for ice cream. But I didn’t want to rely on those options being available.
And yes, I will most likely have food left at the end of the trip. My students and coworkers also enjoyed munching on some of my vegetables when they were hungry so packing more was a great idea!
I won’t get home from my trip until this evening, but so far so good. I have survived a pizza party, an ice cream social, and a number of other temptations. And I haven’t suffered any anxiety about making a decision or not having options when I am hungry. I’ve met my minimums (and then some) and I have rather easily stayed in the box!
This has been a hard post to write and I have been mulling about it for a couple of days. I am currently in New Orleans aka “The Big Easy” aka Food Culture Lives Here aka a really tough trip to be on while on the Decision Free HMR Diet. However, I needed to work some things out and since that’s why I started this blog, I need to get it all out here.
I have been on Decision Free for 35 weeks and am currently in week 36. I have not slipped outside of the box once. Knowing my history with diets, I knew when I started that I couldn’t have a cheat meal and not risk derailing like so many diets before.
I am now at my lightest weight ever. Heck, I showed up on Saturday morning on a red-eye and decided to sign up for a 5k in downtown New Orleans that evening and ran it in under 31 minutes! I am so much healthier than I was in November when I started. (And crazier… do you know how hot and humid it is here?!?)
The problem with getting lighter and healthier is that I am finding it harder and harder to stay HMRStrong and inside the box. I have been on the road for most of July between personal and professional travel – I have survived three red-eyes, a week in Disney World, hours upon hours of stressful travel delays, revisiting old eating haunts in Boston… so much temptation. It’s becoming ridiculously hard to say no to temptations because I feel so much better than I ever have. My willpower is weakening by the day.
My health instructor has this demonstration that he does when he talks about willpower. He holds a pencil up in the air and tells us that eventually that arm will give out. Willpower isn’t enough – it can only take you so far. And my arm definitely wants to drop the pencil.
So I am in one of the most food-centric cities in the world and trying not to eat everything around me. Instead I am practicing more is better but second guessing after the ninth meal replacement if maybe that one bite of duck sausage or crawfish wouldn’t have been easier. Yet knowing full-well it wouldn’t have been “just one bite.”
What isn’t helping is that my weight loss has slowed down to about a pound a week for the last couple of weeks. I knew it would probably slow eventually. I also know how water math works and that I might see a bigger loss in the future. Additionally I have been weighing in right after returning from trips and I know that travel fundamentally messes with my routine and body. But the slowdown has me second-guessing if it isn’t time to stop. Rationally, I know I have a ways to go. I am still overweight and still have so much to do to make myself healthier.
The siren call of food will continue to beckon for the rest of my life. I know this. It will beckon whether I am “Decision Free” or in “Healthy Solutions” or fully transitioned into “Phase Two.” I know that the time I live “in the box” allows me the time to evaluate “The Gap” and learn how to handle these tough situations while still holding a barrier to protect myself from making those decisions now.
This is going to be a tough week. I will continue to be tested. I planned ahead and made HMR muffins and biscuits to carry at all times (like last night in the French Quarter) and brought bars and extra shakes and entrees. I have fitness plans in place. And I have work to throw myself into during the weekdays to keep me away from food. I have worked way too hard for way too long to not see this to the end. I want to be as successful as I can be. I want to do this the right way. I just needed to talk myself through my thoughts and remind myself that I can do it. It will be hard. Life is hard. As I tell my seniors going into their last debates – “Give it everything you have. Leave it all on the table. Do your absolute best. Because win or lose this debate, you want to look back and have no regrets about the choices you made. You’ve got this.”
Travel continues to guide my experimentation in the kitchen. I wanted a savory option that could be easily carried on planes, trains, and automobiles!
The 70 shakes have an egg protein in them that helps with the muffins but wouldn’t work well for a savory biscuit. I use the chicken soup but it took awhile to keep the end product from being very dense. The secret is stirring in the baking powder just enough so it’s mixed and activates but not to over stir and lose the bubbles that make it fluffy! I also use a 2-tbsp scoop to portion out the dough on the silpat which means less handling and fewer bubbles lost!
Savory Cheddar Muffins
- 2 HMR Oatmeal
- 2 HMR Chicken Soup
- 2 tbsp Molly Cheese
- 1 cup water
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 tsp baking powder
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Mix oatmeal and 1 cup of water. Microwave for two minutes. Stir and let stand for several minutes.
Add in soup, cheese powder and the remaining ¼ cup of water. Stir until combined.
Once dough is mixed, add baking soda. Carefully fold in without losing the air bubbles.
Gently scoop onto a baking pan covered with a silpat mat or parchment paper.
Bake for 15 to 25 minutes until the biscuit is cooked through. Cooking times will vary significantly based on how big you make each biscuit and your personal oven calibration.
This recipe makes six ½ shake servings of three baby biscuits for my prescription.
Don’t forget this is a low-density preparation of the soup and oatmeal. Make sure to drink lots of fluids while enjoying these!
During my 34 weeks on the HMR Decision Free diet, I have traveled more than the average American. And while some of it has been for fun, the majority has been work related and thus relatively regimented. So when I decided to visit my sister for a week in Florida and we decided to spend three of those days in the land of Disney, I got a little anxious about staying in the box.
First, a spoiler, I survived! However I thought it would be helpful to write about my experience for others and also as a reminder to myself for future trips.
According to the WDW Web site:
“Guests with food allergies or intolerances are allowed to bring food into Walt Disney World theme parks and dining locations. When entering a park, simply inform the Security at bag check that someone in the party has a food allergy or intolerance.
Refrigerating and Heating Personal Food Items
Guests staying at a Disney Resort hotel who have items that need to be refrigerated should ask the Front Desk to have a refrigerator placed in the room, subject to availability. An additional charge may apply.
Please note that Cast Members are prohibited from storing, preparing, cooking or reheating any food brought into our Resorts or theme parks by Guests.”
I had no issues with Security and didn’t even need to inform them about the food I was bringing in, they must see a lot of things come through.
Before we left, I baked both savory and sweet HMR mini muffins using the oatmeals, soups and 70 shakes. You can find some of my recipes here. I portioned them out into individual servings that were equivalent of a half a shake for me and a full shake for my Healthy Solutions at Home sister.
I also packed a shaker bottle with two 800 shakes, a 70 shake, and a Benefit Bar. As pictured here:
We also each packed an entree that could be enjoyed cold (Five Bean casserole!), several types of sugar free gum, and a sandwich baggie full of various water flavor squeeze-ins like Crystal Light Liquid (mmmm Sangria and Strawberry Lemonade!) and Dasani Drops (Cherry Pomegranate FTW). The gum and water flavorings allowed us to change up flavors we were experiencing without increasing our caloric intake.
Next, we each packed an empty water bottle to refill throughout the park. We quickly learned you could walk up to vendors who had fountain drink machines and request cups of ice water for free! We would fill up our water bottles with refreshing cold water and play with flavorings. We also purchased various diet sodas and unsweetened iced teas when we wanted a special treat.
The secrets for me were front-loading and keeping myself occupied. I ate an entree before we left in the morning and drank a giant bottle of water. Then I made sure to always have a low calorie beverage in my hand (yay iced water!) so that I could drink whenever I was tempted with food. And I won’t lie… I was tempted! I never craved a turkey leg before (I have never had one) and it was all I could think about for an hour or so after walking past a booth selling them. But we moved away from that part of the park, I enjoyed a couple of flavored waters and bites of a benefit bar, and I stayed in the box.
I think it is easy to give up your diet when you are on vacation. Your schedule is switched up and you are relaxing. You can justify things because you “deserve” them or it’s a special treat. But what I asked myself was if I were never going to return to Disney World, could I live without ever trying X or Y? And the answer I figured out was that I would be fine.
And I am planning my return. My sister and I are all signed up for the Disney Princess Half Marathon in February! So if that turkey leg still sounds good after running 13.1 miles, I may let myself have a bite. But I will be in control of the food rather than allowing it to control me. I will plan for the food. I will also be in a place by then where I have not only transitioned into Phase Two but I will have lived in Phase Two for several months.
I am proud of my success of staying in the box but I also realize my vacation wasn’t ruined by not eating Gap foods. I didn’t need a turkey leg or margarita or mouse-shaped pretzel to complete my experience. This realization has helped me further separate food from my day to day life. Food is fuel and it can be a delicious experience but it is not the whole experience.
Now to remember this all as I head into two weeks of travel into major “foodie” cities like New Orleans!
After spending months of eating cold HMR Five Bean Casserole at debate tournaments, I was determined to find a new way to enjoy it. I have been playing with this recipe for almost two months trying to find a balance of flavors and while these pack a flavorful punch, I am sure there are still ways to play with it even more. This is the entree of the month at my clinic and I am traveling a fair amount in July, so I will continue to tweak it and will add modification suggestions if any turn out. I have also frozen two batches for upcoming trips, so I will also post how it travels.
I have made these to enjoy at parties and on road trips. They are great warm and cold!
Curried Mustard HMR Bean Cakes
- 1 HMR Five-Bean Casserole
- 1 HMR Oatmeal
- 1/2 cup of water
- 2 tsp dried minced onion
- 1 tsp yellow mustard
- 1/2 tsp curry powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare baking sheet with a silpat/silicone baking mat lightly sprayed with cooking spray. I use a small baking ring to form my cakes and I also lightly spray the inside of the ring with cooking spray.
Mix all ingredients *except* the casserole in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 90 seconds. Add in casserole and mix well.
Spoon mixture into ring molds or make small mounds on your cooking sheet. If using ring mold, press down lightly to pack the mixture together before gently lifting the ring mold.
Bake for 25-35 minutes depending on your oven. You want the cake to be relatively firm. You do not need to flip over the cakes, however it is optional after 25 or 30 minutes depending on the thickness of the cake if you want it browned on both sides. The cakes pictured were not flipped over during the baking process.
This recipe made about 8 cakes. On my prescription it is a shake and an entree. Please remember this is a low-volume preparation for the shake, so drink lots of fluid to help with the volume/fullness!
As I have worked to increase my physical activity, I have found myself needing to fuel on-the-go. This combined with the travel demands of the job have left me playing with ways to increase the portability of the HMR shakes and cereals. This is one of my go-to recipes. It’s important to remember that these would be a low volume food — I make sure to have at least 8 ounces of water with each serving in order to help with the volume of the meal.
Spiced Rum Muffins
3 HMR Oatmeal packets
3 HMR 70 shakes – vanilla
1/4 cup DaVinci Sugar-Free Chai syrup
1/2 cup DaVinci Sugar-Free Butter Rum syrup
1 and 1/2 cups water
2 tsp baking power
Preheat oven or toaster oven to 350 degrees. Use nonstick cooking spray quickly over mini muffin tins (I find the silicone mini muffin tins to be the easiest).
Begin by mixing the oatmeal, syrups and water in a large microwave safe bowl. Heat for two minutes. Stir and let cool for about five minutes. At this point the oatmeal will have cooked and soaked up much of the liquid but will still be warm. Add the shakes and baking powder by folding them in. The heat from the oatmeal will begin to activate the rising agents and over stirring will deflate the batter. You want those air bubbles being created in order to have fluffier muffins!
Gently spoon batter into muffin tins. Bake for 20-30 minutes depending on your oven calibration – you want a nice brown color on top and a slight firmness to the muffin when you gently touch the top. After removing the pan from the oven, you will want to work to release the muffins from the pan relatively soon after baking or you risk the temperature issues between the heat of the pan and the cool air above causing the muffins to collapse. I like to use a butter knife if I have trouble just popping them out and then I put them on a rack to cool.
After muffins have cooled, I divide the muffins into 9 equal servings. Depending on which pan I use, I either get three or four mini-muffins per serving. I am on HMR Decision Free 3/2 with the 180 shakes, so 1/9 of this recipe counts as half of a shake for me (1/9 of the recipe is like a half an oatmeal or one 70 shake calorically). I then put the servings into snack bags and put them in either the fridge or freezer depending on when I plan on consuming them.