Frequent business travelers weigh more

I travel to lecture on medical (anesthesiology) issues, and plan numerous continuing medical education meetings in various locales, in and out of the US.  The most stressful trips for me are ones where I don’t spend more than a day or two in one place and keep moving around.

Some things I try to do to stay on track while traveling:

  • Book hotels with good gyms (info online) and bring lightweight sneakers and workout gear.
  • Try to avoid flights that cause sleep deprivation (e.g., having to get up at 4am to catch 6am flight).
  • Carry my breakfast (oatmeal, protein powder, cinnamon, pure cacao powder, powdered skim milk, a little dried unsweetened fruit – I just add hot water!).  I also generally bring my first lunch with me to eat on the plane.
  • Carry my green tea and hot sauce with me.
  • Try to stay on my regular eating schedule.  I often eat dinner around 6p.  If a cocktail party and dinner start at 7:30, I’ve already eaten.  I may apologize to my hosts for not eating their dinner, but explain that my health is more important.
  • When ordering in restaurants, I don’t even look at the menu.  Instead, I request steamed salmon and a double order of steamed green veggies.  80% of restaurants are able to accomodate me.

A look at the recent cover of the American Airlines inflight magazine celebrating “road warriors” suggests that the stress of travel often translates into obesity.

A new study confirms this, showing that workers who spend > 20 days a month traveling are twice as likely to be obese.   The authors note:

Business travel may have detrimental health consequences because it increases job strain, defined as an increase in psychological job demands and a decrease in job decision latitude.
Be it because of travel delays or being placed under the schedule of the meeting, conference, or sales appointment the employee travels to, business travel often removes the control of the workday from the employee thus reducing job decision latitude.
Frequent flying and longer trips were associated with higher stress-related effects.
Chronic stress appears to be associated with a dietary preference for energy-dense foods and, particularly among men, with weight gain.

Dr John Ellis MD

Board-certified anesthesiologist, with expertise in cardiovascular anesthesia and the implications of obesity and sleep apnea in anesthesia. See vascularanesthesia.com for professional information. Dr. Ellis has used the strategies in here to: (1) lose 120 lbs over 18 months, (2) stop all antihypertensive medicines, and (3) no longer need CPAP treatment for sleep apnea.

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