Every time I travel to a new gig, I face a new and unknown living situation. Sometimes it's possible to have a pretty good idea of what I'll be getting --- if I'll be in an apartment or hotel, for example --- but if I'm staying in someone's home, either as a guest or a renter, you never know until you get there what the accommodations will be like. Will there be space to work out, and will it bug your hosts if you do? How far do your kitchen privileges extend?
So, the name of the game is preparation and flexibility. I always bring a few key items that I need for food prep (good knife, my trusty little food processor, sometimes a blender) and workouts (resistance bands, DVDs, yoga mat). And I've developed a scaled-down on-the-road repertoire of menus which involve a few foods that don't take up a lot of space.
It took me a long time to get over the notion that traveling = vacation = laze around and eat whatever I want, damn the consequences. Eventually I realized that this IS my life, not an escape from it, and even though it's harder to be healthy when you're traveling for any number of reasons, if I don't want to end up looking like Jabba the Hut's younger, prettier sister, I have to come to terms with it. Sometimes it's harder than others, such as when the cast wants to hang out after rehearsal, which inevitably leads to a drink or two and a lot of snacking, or when my darling husband is able to join me (because we DO tend to treat that time like a vacation ... working vacations are the only kind we take).
I had had big plans to use my time in Sarasota to work hard, recover from my Christmas break milaise, and start the scale moving back down. Sarasota was an important milestone to me because it was a photo from the steps of Ca d'Zan, taken on a visit to a friend in the summer of 2007, that helped me realize changes had to be made. I had a sort of fantasy of taking an "after" photo in the same spot.
Well, that didn't happen. I didn't want to see what such a photo would look like right now. I know it's silly, but it would make my backsliding seem more real, possibly more permanent, and I am not willing to let go of the fight. So in a way, I'm in hiding. But while I haven't lost any weight for some time, I did accomplish two important fitness goals while in Sarasota. Number one, I worked out almost every day. I did Power 90 --- nothing as strenuous as P90X, but still good cardio and strength training --- and biked and hiked quite a bit. Number two, the beautiful atmosphere there and my wonderful experience with my cast and the show helped me in just the way I needed to shake off the final remnants of that debiliating stress episode I'd been dealing with. No doubt the exercise helped, too.
So here I am in Miami, and it's an adjustment. Drivers here are crazy and mean --- I'd be afraid to ride my bike anywhere on the streets. My cast here is friendly and cordial but we don't hang out. No one's going for drinks after rehearsal. I can cook, but have limited space to store food. The nice lady from whom I am renting a room has a beautiful but small kitchen, and I don't think she's used to her guests wanting to do much cooking. I can store food, but she couldn't give me my own shelf in the pantry or fridge, and I just feel inhibited.
Good thing I have the Barbie Gym and my Road Food Repertoire.
There is a great article here about eating right when you're traveling. It's geared towards runners, but it applies very well to opera singers, business travelers, and even vacationers who are serious about not going overboard. Singers have to be fussy about their food just like athletes do --- just like anyone who wants to stay fit does. There are lots of good points and tips in this article: overeating or skipping meals can mess you up; you have to prepare for both transit and time on the ground.
The article recommends high protein snacks like string cheese and hardboiled eggs, peanut butter, hummus and carrots, turkey, granola bars, and trail mix. When I'm on one of my redeye flights for auditions and lessons, I always have 100-calorie packs of almonds or a baggie of homemade trail mix; single-serving packs of peanut butter, and Think Thin bars (which are very high protein and relatively low carb). These travel well and are great if I get stuck and don't want to spend $18 on an airport salad composed of iceberg lettuce and a few coldcuts. I've also found that salad bar salads --- one of those big cardboard boxes from Whole Foods --- keep pretty well outside refrigeration for a couple of hours at least on an airplane. I always stock up at the salad bar (with vegetarian options; unless there's a lot of dairy, they'll stay good longer) before I hit an evening flight, and believe me, I am the envy of my seatmates and many a flight attendant when those plastic-wrapped microwaved cheeseburgers start making the rounds.
When Eric and I drive long distances, we always pack a cooler with treats for picnic stops, rather than stopping at restaurants. We like to get smoked fish, hummus and carrots and fresh broccoli, a small piece of really good cheese to share, and maybe something snacky and crunchy like pretzels. It's become a little ritual we really enjoy.
Once I'm settled into town, I keep my eat-at-home foods pretty basic. It saves money, space, and decision-making. I also follow the law of "if it ain't in the house, you can't eat it" and try not to bring temptations home with me. If I want a treat, I have to go get it.
Spinach is my miracle base. You can cook it, you can eat it fresh as a salad. I throw a big handful or two on a plate and top it with black beans and corn; or tuna fish and sprinkle of lowfat cheese, or a mix of frozen veggies, soy sausage, and a little cheese. Or I make a big salad. At home I prefer fresh veggies but on the road I usually buy a package or two of frozen broccoli and whatever else appeals in the moment. I usually buy one rotisserie chicken per trip --- one person can eat off that for a week. I buy eggs for hard-boiling and omelettes; omelettes with lots of veggies make a great quick meal. I also always buy a few really good olives, sun-dried tomatoes, a bit of really good cheese, and something crunchy like soy nuts or walnuts. Just a couple of these can really dress up a salad or a hot meal with little bursts of flavor and texture. A few pieces of fresh and dried fruit, Greek yogurt, oatmeal, and maybe some whole wheat pasta for those times when I get really busy and need to have a heat-and-eat meal ready, and I'm good to go.
Yes, it gets boring. And when that happens, I eat out.
So, the good thing about Miami is that I can really concentrate on working out and eating better, and get myself geared up for the summer. I guess this is part of the cycle, too, learning to deal with the really busy times and the less busy times, the swings towards better fitness and the backsliding. A lot of my colleagues are really on the fitness bandwagon, and that helps. A lot of them are doing Crossfit and the whole Paleo thing. I'm intrigued by Crossfit and would like to try it, but it needs to be a time when I'm not working. Paleo ... I can see adopting the basics but I'd never, pardon the pun, go whole hog.
So, it's time to hit the gym again. Today's treat: something called Ballet Barre Burn. Barre classes are all the rage these days, so I am really looking forward to trying it. I just really hope the music isn't so loud.