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The Road Less Traveled

23 October 2022

This month I traveled to Germany to see family.  Between having family in multiple different countries (not to mention both coasts), vacations, work and medical education, I actually travel quite a lot – usually 1-2 times per month.  However, after so many years of practice, I feel like I have healthy living in any city down pat.  This trip was something special though…it was as if all the years of practice and training left me the second the plane took off.   

It started with not having much of a plan.  I had been so busy the last 2 months at work that I hadn’t gotten around to planning anything around our trip to Germany beyond booking the flights and a car.  I even forgot to book a hotel for parts of our stay.  I certainly didn’t look at the towns where we were going and forgot to see if the hotel had a gym.  (It didn’t, BTW).  After a really busy last week at work, packing and cleaning furiously on Saturday, we headed to the airport Sunday morning only to be turned around for a 6-hour delay as our flight got bumped.  We normally don’t eat in the morning, but since we had ample time, the trip started with brunch at Sophies.  Somehow with the travel, we ended up catching a late dinner in SLC and most definitely were not within an 8-hour window.  The next morning, we were up early and started the epic adventure that is traveling to Europe.  A very long red eye and multiple plane meals later (as you know, not my recommended meal plan) we arrived and had a 3-hour drive to Gernsbach.  We arrived at the hotel, tired, somehow hungry again despite multiple meals and not exactly sure what day it was.  Apparently committed to bad decision making at that point, we had a multiple course meal with wine and then went to bed.  Exercise had not even crossed my mind.  We also made the rookie mistake of going to bed later than we should have and ended up sleeping 14 hours until noon the next day.   Yes, you read that right, noon…

We had planned to go to Baden-Baden about 45 minutes away, so after a quick breakfast, we hopped in the car and headed over.  Again, exercise somehow got pushed back another day.  The next day we made it out of bed at 10a but had to pack and wanted to take advantage of the free hotel breakfast.  I figured I would get in a run when we got to our family’s house in Köln that afternoon, but what is normally a 3-hour drive turned into a 5-hour traffic nightmare on the autobahn.  We ended up just driving to a local restaurant they suggested to have dinner with them.  It was a lovely meal, but we had anticipated a healthy, home cooked meal and once again were thwarted from our good intentions by time and circumstance.  The next day I did manage to sneak in a run, but it was the only one for the entire trip.  We normally plan the days’ schedule in advance of our trip (the Germans are known for their love of plans and schedules ;) and we had forgotten to check in with them.  They had a full calendar for us!  Beyond the normal family brunch and visits, champagne and wine with friends, there was a 4 hour visit to the local pumpkin patch for my 7-year-old Godson complete with delicious German pastries.  There was also a 6-hour trip to pack medical supply boxes for the Ukrainian relief in Köln, and a 6-hour dining event at a famous local restaurant complete with 6 courses and wine pairings. 

Everything was amazing and so much fun, I don’t regret a minute of it!  However, the reality of the week’s culinary events and sedentary lifestyle hit me as we embarked on our 22-hour duration flights home.  A series of flights that, once again, I hadn’t planned for as I usually do with a more prolonged fast or at least some healthy meal options.  I realized that I was NOT looking forward to getting back to the grind and losing those pounds that found their way on while I was on my 10-day culinary world tour. 

However, this is not my first misadventure.  While I normally plan well ahead to avoid airport food, get daily exercise, and keep to an 8-hour eating window, I know that 10 days of poor eating and no activity does not end in complete destruction of a healthy lifestyle.  It may feel like it when you get started again, but the reality is that I can apply myself to my normal routine and be back on track within a month.  The first few days are always tough with a lot of fresh salads and sluggish workouts, but ultimately, I will feel much like myself again in a week or two.  

Why do I tell you this?  Because I want you to know that we all make mistakes.  No one lives perfectly and a healthy lifestyle SHOULD have occasional bumps in the road that make you go off course.  If I look back in my life, the best times were often when I did something I probably shouldn’t have (i.e. staying up too late with friends, going to that concert the day before a big test, etc.).  A little misadventure now and again is good and the road less traveled often comes with wonderful surprises and memories.  Often, I hear patients talk from an “all or nothing” perspective, but it’s what we do on a day-to-day basis that really matters.  It's being consistent with healthy decisions the MAJORITY of the time that makes for a healthy life.  It’s getting to the gym or going for that walk 5 times a week, consistently getting 8+ hours of sleep, or making good food choices 85% of the time.   It’s the day-to-day choices that shape us and make us who we are. 

I can’t tell you the last time this happened (definitely not in recent years), but I can tell you it will happen again at some point and I’m glad.  A perfect life is not worth living and black forest cake enjoyed together with your 7-year-old Godson is priceless.  My life lesson: take the road less traveled occasionally but make healthy choices daily.  Viel Spass!

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