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Frequent Business Travelers More Likely to be Fat!!!

In Mental Bliss, Nutrition Bliss on June 9, 2011 at 3:47 am

I came across this Time Magazine article a few weeks ago which I took immediate interest in since I travel a lot for work. Basically, it indicates that frequent business travelers are more likely to be fat and unhealthy. This makes sense since a road warrior lifestyle does not lend itself to healthy eating, exercise etc.

While I thought this article had many salient points, such as the lack of healthy foods, gyms etc. on the road, I did not entirely agree with the final summation. This article indicates that unhealthy travelers are entirely a result of the US being a “fast food nation”. While I am absolutely certain that the road-warrior experience varies greatly from  person to person, I feel like there are a few more factors I would like to add.

Loneliness

I do not care what the toughest road warrior tells you– business travel can be lonely business. It is clearly so if you are on a solo project and do not have colleagues (from your company) with you. Combine being alone and away from home with the stress of work (which we will get to)– it is pretty much a great combo that would make anyone want to run for some waist-widening comfort food.

Some business travelers work in teams which can make a road experience less insular–but this can also introduce challenges. Sometimes there is pressure to be “social” and go to dinner with colleagues every night– the venue may not always be your choice. While it is definitely possible to order healthy at restaurants– it is more challenging in some than others. Some teams also “work hard/play hard” so there could be pressure to indulge in a few more drinks than one usually would. Also, let’s get real, your coworkers are not your family (typically)– maybe you do not love them– YET you see them all week during work and after work as if they were family– would you like a salad or molten chocolate cake– yeah I thought so.

Stress

One may ask– why does traveling for work incur more stress than a non-travel job?  It boils down to the Benjamins– lots and lots of Benjamins. When you travel for work– you are usually expected to deliver something that means a lot to either your client or the mothership (what I lovingly call the company that employs me). You are being asked to do something specialized that is of high value to a client which the mothership is charging a lot for.

Also– whether you are a traveling consultant at a client-site, or a roving field reporter on a mission– you are on guest territory. No matter how nice your client is, or how secure a relationship seems, you have to be on your A-game. Forget long lunches or running off early for a dentist appointment– no way Jose! Not for mothership money and the high value deliverable you were supposed to produce yesterday!!!

Stress in certain quantities typically equals being unhealthy.

Stingy Corporate America

Sometimes business travelers have to take one for the team. This can happen in multiple forms– maybe you have to drive vs fly to cut costs. Maybe you eat extra project hours to appease a client which will pay off in the long run. In any case– while consultants may do better than your average bear– if you break down the $/hr and quality of life– it may not look so awesome. In many cases, consultants usually reap the most rewards in regards to the diversity and breadth of experience gained in shorter periods of time.

Despite the professional pay-off– sometimes taking one for the team can lead to personal sacrifice–which can affect how people take care of themselves.

Travel Fatigue

Some people handle this like champs– but if your work commute includes two 8 hour airport stints a week– it could leave you feeling drained. Some road warriors have to jump off even longer international flights and hit the road running. Fatigue definitely makes it hard to eat well, exercise etc.  There are tricks of the trade such as hydration, nutrition, mastering restful plane sleep etc to help alleviate this.

Maintaining Personal Relationships

Actually, I think this coin has two sides. All the time spent on the road can definitely cut down on the time you are able to spend with friends and family. However, all the points that travel gets you can also increase your ability to travel and see your friends all over the place.

In any case– when you spend more days per week on the road than home, you definitely have to put more planning into spending time with friends and family. Sometimes, people who do not travel frequently cannot always empathize with how stretched you feel! In any case– friends and family are important– stress in relationships could possibly  lead to ooey-gooey slices of cheese pizza– but no no– go for a run instead!!

I am sure there are numerous other triggers that can lead frequent travelers to being unhealthy– but these are the ones that immediately come to mind based on my own experience. So, while fast food certainly does not help matters– it is probably not the only thing making road warriors unhealthy. I wish I had a solution to all of this, but unfortunately I do not. I do notice that the people who seem to conquer the road warrior lifestyle are 1) on top of their subject matter game (this is usually a given) 2) masters of the art of client communication to address conflict  (there is tons of material on this) 3) extremely organized and disciplined 4) do not take anything work-related personally 5) know how to prioritize. I have definitely been trying to incorporate more of these principles into my day-to-day activities to ease the brunt of the lifestyle.

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