Fat Tuesday: The Bermuda Triangle of Eating

For the last decade, I have had jobs which took me out of town at least once a month, and sometimes as often as 3 trips before I flipped to a new page on my calendar.

For just about the same length of time, I’ve kept kosher. It’s something I’ve written about on EdibleTorah.com, among other places. Eating kosher food is a habit that doesn’t just keep me sensitized to the food choices I make, but also gives me a sense of connection to a community and to history. I like the way that works in my head. I’m unconcerned if it doesn’t work for anyone else.

And, of course, as I’ve mentioned before in the “Fat Tuesday” series, I’ve struggled with my weight for at least the last 2 years, but more realistically since I hit 40. So really about those same 10 years.

And I’m here to tell you today – that is the Bermuda triangle of food, my friend. If you occupy the center of a Venn Diagram where each circle is labeled “Kosher”, “Diet”, and “Traveling”, then you’re basically on the part of the map where people used to put “here there be dragons”.

It’s not just that kosher food can be hard to find in some cities (even though it is). Or that pre-prepared foods that are marked “low calorie” or “diet” rarely are (but it’s true). Or that traveling away from one’s home base also means leaving a kind of “cooking comfort zone” so that any preparation becomes an order of magnitude more complicated (although it does).

The actual pressure comes from the combined effect of all three, and exacerbated by the loss of convenience. The convenience of knowing where everything is, of having ample space to prepare, of knowing which stores are open at what times and generally which items they stock, or understanding which local brands carry the correct kosher supervision, etc.

That pressure easily leads to poor food choices, made not out of a moment of weakness, but out of a sense of self preservation. We don’t travel for no reason. Whether the goal is vacation or work, travel can create an inordinate amount of stress. After a day of long flights, or delays, or missed connections, or lost baggage, or long lines, time changes, and unavoidable immersion into the great unwashed impolite sea of humanity that occupy airports, taxi lines, and hotel lobbys – after all that, our self-preservation instincts kick in. In those moments, eating feels more necessary, keeping kosher is a non-negotiable, and thus when we find something that CAN be put into our mouth, we DO. Often with a glass of wine to calm the nerves.

Do I have a solution? Of course, but it’s a pretty obvious one, and it’s not something you can pull out of your bag of tricks last minute: Be prepared. Know that flights get delayed. Know that everyone at the airport (or train station, or bus depot, and so on) are all just as stressed as you are. Know that everything will take twice as long as you hoped, and usually 10% longer than you need.

Know all these things and prepare for them. Bring extra kosher diet snacks, but don’t eat them out of stress but only if your day drags longer than expected. Bring the empty bottle through TSA so that you can fill it on the other side and not burn precious cash on a $6 bottle of tap water. If you don’t have anyone you need to pay attention to, invest in noise-cancelling headphones so that you can get into your personal headspace even when you can’t be in an actually private space.

And so on.

Like I said, it’s not something you can just pull out to save the day. If you didn’t plan, you didn’t plan.

And in those moments, when the road warrior life is more “Mad Max” than “It Happened One Night”, you do what you need to do. You feed your soul even if it means compromising on how you feed your body, and you regroup.

Because tomorrow is another day.

And now to the numbers. Here in week 3, I’m at:

  • 5′ 8″ tall
  • 51 yrs old (but not feeling it as much)
  • 175 lbs
  • 41″ belly
  • 37″ waist
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