* The Carpe Diem Diet would likely get laughed at by nutritional scientists and used as toilet paper by Jenny Craig. However, I think there’s something to it.
Traveling is all about balance: having adventures without killing yourself, seeing as much as you can without wearing yourself out, and eating mind-blowing ethnic food without tearing a crotch hole in your jeans.
As someone who has torn many a crotch hole but has at other times been shocked by returning home slimmer, I want to propose a new way to eat on the road that is positive in both an emotional and physical way.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Carpe Diem Diet*.
The Carpe Diem Diet was born after a string of physically and emotionally exhausting trips, throughout which I alternated between sweet and utter indulgence and punitive self-guilt.
In my early travels, I ate anything and everything that looked good. My mindset was remarkably similar to that of a whale hoarding krill before a long winter. While I wanted to enjoy everything, an abundance of extremely rich foods left me with many a stomachache, accompanied by a side of brutal self – loathing.
At some point I couldn’t even enjoy the food anymore, because I began to anticipate the guilt that came as inevitably as the check.
Over time I tried to avoid the guilt by avoiding food altogether, with a mindset of asceticism that at times may have bordered on anorexia. I decided to spend my travel funds on everything but food: on entertainment, additional side trips, and even alcohol. I decided food wasn’t an experience abroad I needed or wanted.
This too was a huge mistake. I spent afternoons in incredible cities obsessing over whether it was okay to buy a coffee or whether I should save the two euros and spend it on something else. In choosing to avoid food, I ended up thinking about it more than ever.
I missed out on delicious insights into the cities I visited, fearing the regret of over-spending and over-eating. The regret I felt instead was when I arrived home and was asked about Belgian waffles and German chocolate. I had absolutely nothing to say.
After a bit of growing up and spending time learning from some amazing travel role-models, I have found a healthy way to eat on vacation that doesn’t lead to over-indulgence or missing out.
The concept is more of a mantra than a diet.
As we all know, Carpe Diem is Latin for “seize the day.” The idea is to make food-related decisions based on what will enhance your travel experience.
To simplify things, choose whether or not to eat something by ruling whether it fits into these two healthy, body and experience positive categories.
- For nutrients and protein to keep me energized and alert throughout the day.
- To try unique, local, culturally significant foods that I may never have the opportunity to try again.
If it doesn’t fit into either of these two categories, Carpe-Don’t.
These categories incidentally rule out unhealthy American foods that you don’t need to be eating abroad, such as chips, candy, and fast food.
(Side note: I’ll never understand why given the option, people choose to spend their money on expensive American food abroad when there is extraordinary local cuisine everywhere. Insert pitiful bitch-slap here).
But back to my initial point: the trick here is balance.
Your daily diet should not be solely purchased at restaurants or at the grocery store.
So here’s the breakdown.
One to two of your meals a day should be simple and healthy, or if possible, similar to what you eat at home. This will both help you maintain your natural weight and avoid your body giving you a gastrointestinal F-you after too many newly introduced foods.
Category A Foods: fresh fruits, vegetables, yogurt, nuts, meat, and cheese.
The other one-to-two meals a day, for example one meal and one snack, should be something authentic, experiential, and yes, sometimes less-than-healthy.
Category B Foods: restaurant cuisine, local desserts, and late night indulgences.
In balancing extraordinary culinary experiences with healthy, familiar foods, both your body and mind will stay balanced.
You don’t miss out, and you don’t get sick.
I’ll let you know when I sign my multi-million dollar book deal, but until then, let me know what you think in the comments section below.