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The Traveler's Diet: Eating Right and Staying Fit on the Road Paperback – May 9, 2006
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About the Author
Peter Greenberg is the travel editor for CBS News, appearing on CBS This Morning. He is also the host of the PBS show The Travel Detective with Peter Greenberg and the nationally syndicated Peter Greenberg Worldwide Radio Show. He is the author of the New York Times bestselling Travel Detective series.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Chapter 1- Diet Another Day
The last time I weighed what I was supposed to weigh was in
1969. I remember it well. It was New Year’s Eve, and that
was the night I gave up smoking.
Three days later, I was in Israel, on the border with Syria,
covering a continuing border war. We were in foxholes, and
someone had launched mortars toward the Israeli positions. As
the explosions came way too close for comfort, the other journalists
with me were convinced we were going to die.
Suddenly, behind me, two Israeli soldiers appeared, and were
handing out disgusting French cigarettes.Two of the other journalists,
guys who had never smoked, accepted them and lit up.
When the soldiers got to me, I attempted to decline politely,
saying I was “trying to quit.” The war seemed to stop for about
fifteen seconds while everyone looked at me incredulously, as if
to say, “You’re trying to quit? We’re all about to die anyway.Take
I didn’t.We lived. And I haven’t had a cigarette since. OK, so
much for the good news.
But from the morning of January 6, 1970, when I returned
home, I was on Oreo patrol. Snack food. Junk food. You name
it, I went for it. And it showed. If it’s true that you are what
you . . . overeat, then I was the pie piper.
I became obsessed with certain “foods.” I had an obscene relationship
with Diet Pepsi, drinking up to twenty cans a day. I
found a candy connection online, in McKeesport, Pennsylvania,
and ordered those red Swedish fish candies in bulk. I didn’t just
stop there: Around my office you’d always find peanut M&M’s,
Snickers, and Root Beer Barrels.
In 1987, I went on a serious diet supervised by a doctor, and
I lost 51 pounds. Then I started traveling for Good Morning
America for seven years, and the weight came right back—and
Despite all good intentions, no matter what shape you’re in,
or whatever your exercise program, travel is the great enemy.
The minute you leave home, your routine takes an immediate
vacation.And as more and more people travel, it’s becoming obvious
that obesity is no longer an American disease. It has become
a global pandemic. And as obesity rates soar, so has
diabetes. In 1985, diabetes afflicted 30 million people worldwide.
A little more than a decade later, that figure had escalated
to 135 million. The good news—one could argue—is that as you
are reading this, about 100 million Americans are on a diet. The
bad news: Our lifestyles, coupled with our increased travel
schedule, work against us winning the weight war.
And it shows. I was never overweight as a kid. I didn’t eat a
lot of junk food in high school, but that’s when I discovered
Linden’s chocolate chip cookies in the cafeteria. By the time I
became an executive at Paramount, they were delivering chocolate
chip cookies to the office.
I love snacking. And snacks were everywhere. There were
potato chips and popcorn in the office, pretzels and peanuts on
the plane, chocolates waiting in my hotel room when I arrived.
Let’s not talk about the minibar. And we haven’t even gotten to
the social breakfasts, lunches, and dinners that go along with
I hate scales. Always have. My mother, the queen of the lessthan-
subtle hint, gifted me each Christmas with a beautifully
wrapped . . . scale. After the first year (this went on for more
than ten years), I stopped opening the “present.”
Dostoyevsky once wrote that every man lies to himself. At
the very least, we’re in serious denial when it comes to diet and
exercise. I fooled myself into thinking that, given my lack of serious
food vices—and all things being relative, my excess weight
was an acceptable trade-off.
Apparently, I wasn’t alone. More than 30 percent of adults in
America are obese, and the number who are overweight has
tripled in the last twenty years. We are addicted to junk food,
and, worse, our national food supply is the number one source of
I fit perfectly into some pretty scary statistics, many related
directly to my travel schedule. A friend once told me that you
should never eat anything served to you out of a window unless
you’re a seagull. And yet, the odds that an American will eat at a
fast-food restaurant on any given day are one in four.Well, I did
better than that. Three out of four days, you could find me at an
airport, or in a rental car on assignment on the road, pulling off
the highway long enough to get supersized. And on that fourth,
fifth, sixth, and seventh day? I was eating out, at a hotel or a
restaurant. Again, I was in trouble: That hotel or restaurant meal
was 170 percent larger than a meal prepared at home. Odds that
a person will closely follow a diet are, again, one in four. That
was me as well (I was one of the other three). Then there were
statistics that were not even close to describing me: The amount
the average American spends annually on candy is $84. (I was
spending at least ten times that amount.)
As the son of a doctor, and with my travel schedule, I get a
checkup once every three months. The results, despite my
weight, have never been cause for alarm. Blood pressure was always
a little high, and triglycerides and cholesterol were always
high but not out of control. I hadn’t smoked in more than thirty
years; I hardly drink alcohol. Don’t drink coffee.
When I went to see Raymond Keller, a brilliant and talented
physician, in March 2005, for another checkup, I thought that
once again I could just breeze right through. He had always told
me to lose weight and limit my intake of sweets and junk food,
and, of course, I never listened.
But on this visit, the numbers started to catch up with me.
My blood pressure was 145/95, and the cholesterol and triglyceride
numbers were frightening. Then it was time to stand on
the scale. I was more than a little embarrassed. I knew I weighed
too much, but nothing prepared me for the number that confronted
me. I weighed in at a whopping 284 pounds.
I thought: I can’t control the weather. I can’t control the political
situation, and I can’t control who’s driving on the freeways.
But I can control what I eat and how much I put in my mouth.
I knew I had to do something about this, but where to start?
Each week there are at least three new diet books published.
I was confronted with a little bit of everything: Actually, I was
confronted with more than I could digest (every pun intended).
• 3-Hour Diet
• 6-Day Body Makeover
• Abs Diet
• Atkins Diet
• Blood Type Diet
• Cabbage Soup Diet
• Jenny Craig
• Fat Flush Plan
• Fit for Life
• French Women’s Diet
• Glycemic Index
• Grapefruit Diet
• Bob Greene
• Hamptons Diet
• LA Weight Loss
• Dr. Phil
• Perricone Promise
• Scarsdale Diet
• South Beach Diet
• Step Diet
• Sugar Busters
• The Zone Diet
There was even an eat-all-the-bread-you-want-for-life diet!
To challenge me more, I felt I had two strikes against me: no
discipline and no guidance. And that was quickly counterbalanced
by . . . shame.
That night, I had dinner with my editor at Men’s Health,
Stephen Perrine. I told him of my disappointing checkup and
that I was now motivated to lose weight. “But you travel more
than anyone else I know,” he said. “How can you possibly stick
to a diet and exercise program?” The problem, of course, is that
so many of us travel, that on any given day even the most wellintentioned
diets are jettisoned, timetables and discipline evaporate
. . . And therein was the genesis of this book. Could we
develop a diet and exercise plan that worked not only at home,
but on the road, given all the obstacles? It was worth a try.
Like any good traveler, I needed a road map. First, Perrine
made me keep a food diary for a week. And when I was finished
with it, it didn’t make for pretty reading.
Without realizing it, I had become the poster child for the
Nabisco telethon—Chips Ahoy!, Fig Newtons, and the real
killers,Wheat Thins. Entire boxes would be consumed at a single
sitting . . .
A typical seven days in my life from early 2005:
6 A.M. Awake
No formal breakfast
Three chocolate chip cookies
8 A.M. Two Red Delicious Apples
8:30 A.M. Diet Pepsi
10 A.M. Six pieces of cherry Swedish fish
11 A.M. Another Diet Pepsi (keep in mind, I never finish
one—just about three hits per can)
12:30 P.M. Lunch: sushi
4 P.M. Red Delicious Apple
6 P.M. Popcorn
8:30 P.M. Dinner: Thai food—beef, pork, chicken satay, mee
krob (crispy sweet noodles)
11 P.M. Red Delicious Apple
And yes, a few more Swedish fish
Same waking time
Same morning habit
Lunch: skirt steak and sautéed string beans
Same afternoon habit
But no dinner. Instead, the red-eye to Chicago
(On the plane, no meal—but generous helpings of
mixed nuts and, of course, Diet Pepsi)
5:30 A.M. Arrive
Bagel and cream cheese
Lunch: cheeseburger (no fries)
4 P.M. Arrive at hotel
Here’s where problems start. The hotel has sent up
chocolate-covered strawberries, cheese, crackers, et al.,
and they are devoured by yours truly.
8 P.M. Dinner at hotel restaurant: rack of lamb, no dessert
Late night: chocolate-covered peanuts (ugh) and, of
course, some Diet Pepsi
No breakfast (there’s a pattern here)
Early morning ride to the airport
At the airport, a Snickers bar
On the plane, cereal and milk for breakfast, and the
ritual Diet Pepsi lunch in L.A.: sushi
3 P.M. Snacking on Swedish fish
6 P.M. Popcorn
9:30 P.M. Late Thai dinner
And back at the house: I devour a full bag of pistachio
I’m an idiot!
Early flight to San Francisco
Bagel and cream cheese at the airport
Working lunch at meeting: roast beef sandwich, potato
chips, Diet Coke, and cookies
Back to L.A. (peanuts on plane)
Dinner at deli: pastrami and swiss on rye with Russian
Late night: chocolate-covered almonds
Early morning Diet Pepsi ritual
Red Delicious Apple
Tape television show: cookies, honey-roasted nuts, and
licorice on the set
4 P.M. Flight to New York: steak on plane (disgusting) and
Midnight Arrive in New York
I probably left out a lot of guerilla-raid snacking, and that
week included only one hotel. It could have been worse. It was a
thoroughly embarassing diet, coupled with little or no exercise.
Once I handed in the food diary, I was already negotiating.
For the new diet protocols, I asked to be able to keep four Red
Delicious Apples a day (something I had been doing since I was
a child) and at least a few Diet Pepsis.
Next stop was a nutritionist. Heidi Skolnik, a contributor to
Men’s Health and a friend, volunteered to help. Then Perrine
arranged a meeting with an amazing trainer,Annette Lang.The
only non negotiable: I had to listen to them, and I couldn’t
Team Greenberg was formed. And before long, others were
added, including dieticians, food researchers, scientists, sleep experts,
chefs, and other trainers from around the world. What
we’ve done in this book is look at every single possible component
part of the travel experience as it relates to diet, exercise,
sleep, time zones, and all the other absurdities, anxieties, and
imponderables of the travel world. From that, we developed and
then embraced a lifestyle, and a discipline, that allowed me—
and now you—to either stay in shape or lose weight, or both, at
home and on the road.
Was it easy? Of course not. I travel 400,000 miles a year.Was
it worth it? Absolutely. And believe me, if I can do it with that
travel schedule, anyone can do it.
Top customer reviews
1) Instead of a list of menu items at specific (expensive) hotels around the world, I would rather have gotten some guidance on how to select healthier menu items regardless of which hotel I find myself in. Menus in restaurants change too often for a "list" to be very practical. Also, I don't stay in the same hotels the author does, so the list is not useful.
2) It is also not very practical to me to have the personal trainer at the hotel direct me straight to the gym as soon as I check in instead of going to my room. To be able to do this, the author sends his luggage by courier in advance (so that he doesn't have to haul his "stuff" with him) and the hotel puts it in his room for him to. How about some advice for us mere mortals who might not even be in a hotel with a first class gym and personal trainer? Or no gym at all? (Let's see, what is the expense report charge number for "personal trainer"?...Oh, that's right, I don't HAVE one!)
3) I don't need a pound by pound description of what his personal trainers back home thought of his exercise and weigh-in sessions. Give me a practical, on-the-road plan to follow. Too much of the book is spent describing the author's personal adventure in weight loss and exercise with very little practical information.
4) He describes the exercises he followed by name only. Most of them I recognized, but some I didn't. How about a description of the exercises for those of us without a "personal" personal trainer?
To sum it up, this seemed more like a personal diary that a useful guide to "Eating Right and Staying Fit on the Road". I'm glad that the author travels 400,000 mile a year, (and am even more glad that I don't!!). I'm glad that he lost weight and got in shape, (I need to) and that he was successful at working out a program and then following it (again, I need to). I'm also glad that he stays only in the best hotels with marvelous facilities and that he doesn't have to lug luggage around and that he has a team of personal trainers and others to look after him, including personal trainers who attentively meet him at the front desk of the hotel...etc, etc. (I don;t and I'm jealous!!!). :^)
How about something that those of us travelers who live in the "real world" can follow?
If you do not fit the target profile, but it is worth the money to get some of this information, go ahead and buy the book. I was able to extract some useful items that will hopefully maintain a higher level of fitness, but I don't think it will be quite as revolutionary for me as it was for the author.
The exercise recommendations are quite good, as are the detailed reviews of hotel chains and exercise strategies/equipment. For that information alone, I give this book four stars. The missing fifth star, unfortunately, is for the book's wholesale negative attitude towards low-carb diets in general.
If you have Syndrome X, carbohydrate intolerance, or diabetes (and a greater percentage of people in today's world do), this book is a sure-fire ticket to problems. Most of the dietary advice centers around a vegetarian, high-pasta, high-rice, high-fruit or fruit juice-containing meal. That's a lot of carbs. For some people, high-carb meals tend to pack on a lot of water-weight in the extremities. That's the last thing many of us want on a long-haul flight!
Most diabetics have to watch their carb intake for health reasons - fail to do so and you need to pack more pills or insulin, at the very least. At worst, your business or pleasure trip might end up in the local hospital. So, if this is a concern you need to be aware of, this is a great book for EVERYTHING but the food advice.
If you are buying this FOR the food advice, and have diabetes controlled by diet alone, or are on Atkins/Protein Power/Sugar Busters/South Beach/Zone/any of the low-carb regimens, you will probably be happier buying a book on low-carb meals instead.
Otherwise, it's a great book! If you have no dietary problems, and want to get the spare tire off so you rattle in that coach seat, click buy now! Peter Greenberg's books are always well-researched, easy to read and follow, and are keepers on any traveler's book shelf. If you get this one, and don't have any of his other books, I HIGHLY recommend you get at least one other of his books with this one. Just one tip can save you the cost of a day's rental car or more.