If you've been following me and my fiancé's crazy military life, you probably know that we've lived in 4 states in the last 10 months and are currently living out of suitcases in a studio hotel room for 3 to 4-ish months. (Give or take; we aren't usually given a solid timeline, which is why I'm terrible at committing to plans.) Although I don't have to move everywhere with my Marine Corps pilot, I choose to because I love not knowing what life is going to throw at us next and the adventure never ceases to amaze me. Plus, we're kind of a package deal now.
Aside from my obsession with workout leggings (hey, technically it's my work attire), I would consider us to be a pretty minimalistic couple. But a few months with just a suitcase in my possession was enough to make me realize all the little things I take for granted: a full kitchen, a washer and dryer without a coin slot, a bathroom with a door so I can get ready with the lights on when my fiancé and I have opposite work/sleep schedules...
(Sending sincere apologies to everyone who meets me on early morning Zoom calls; we are both seeing me for the first time that day.)
Expensive laundry and microwavable meals aside, I've come to realize how truly lucky I am to have this experience. 2020 wasn't so kind to others. Now more than ever is the time that we need to prioritize our health over all else and I get it - under certain circumstances, that's not always easy. Trust me, as I eat cereal out of a measuring cup with a plastic fork, I'm right here with you. But I do want to remind you that it doesn't have to be hard, either. Here are some of my go-to quick and inexpensive healthy living tips that I've pulled out of my back pocket during my WFH (work-from-hotel) experience:
Pack your favorite (suitcase-friendly) healthy living items that you can't live without.
My packing list typically consists of the following items that help me stay on track with my health goals, without weighing down my luggage:
Amazon yoga mat (This one is pretty thin and can easily be stuffed into a suitcase.)
Arbonne plant-based protein powder (The coffee flavor doesn't have caffeine in it, but it gives me my fill of both coffee and protein when my options are limited in the hotel.)
These babies have been my lifesavers during the COVID-19 era due to gyms still being closed in Southern California (including the one in our hotel). Pro tip: some hotels will let you borrow their gym equipment. Just make sure you ask for the return policy.
Look for healthier packaged food options.
I know, packaged food is probably not the suggestion you were expecting to hear from your nutrition coach today. While fresh, whole foods certainly contain more natural ingredients, sometimes you just don't have the option (whether it's lack of accessibility, finances, or any other reason) and that's okay. In order to distinguish healthier options, you can look on the back of a packaged food label for the following:
Does it contain more than 5 ingredients? If so, chances are there are probably a lot of unnecessary additives in it (like sugars, fats and other chemicals). Aim for items that have the least amount of ingredients possible. A good example is peanut butter: does the ingredient list just say peanuts and salt, or is there a long list of additives that follows?
Look for whole, unprocessed ingredients. This might mean something would find in your fridge or pantry, like whole fruit (not fruit juice). A good rule of thumb is if you don't know what an ingredient is or if you can't pronounce it, it's probably not your best option.
Aim for low to moderate sodium content. Salt is a common ingredient in packaged foods because it's an effective preservative, however large amounts of it can be detrimental to your health by contributing to increased blood pressure. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends consuming less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day. (That's 1 teaspoon!) An easy way to tell if sodium content is high is to check the percent daily value: 20% or higher is considered high.
Find ways to stay active.
Making time for regular physical activity, even in new or unfamiliar places, can ensure that you continue making strides toward your health goals. Don't just set them to the side because you feel limited. Step out of your comfort zone and make it happen!
Up your daily step count by getting outside and exploring new places. You can download apps like AllTrails or MapMyRun to see recommended hiking, biking, running or walking routes in your area. (Pro tip: read reviews before you go! People post helpful information about pets, closures and restroom accessibility.)
Try a new workout class. MINDBODY is my go-to app for finding deals on gyms and fitness studios anywhere I go.
Whether you're part of the military community, on the go often, or just need some simple health hacks, I hope these tips can motivate you to be the happiest, healthiest version of you - no matter where you are.