Food in the Air

The art of traveling ... without putting on weight
Food in the Air

Laura Pérez

“For most gulls, it is not flying that matters, but eating. For this gull, though, it was not eating that mattered, but flight. More than anything in the world, Jonathan Livingston Seagull loved to fly.” -- Richard Bach, from Jonathan Livingston Seagull  
I, on the other hand, just wanted to fly without succumbing to the temptation to eat. Shortly before publishing my second book, The Clairvoyant of Calle 8,  I managed to lose 10 kilos. No, don’t congratulate me. I did it using questionable methods out of desperation: extreme diets, “magic pills”, even injections.
Of course I knew that the pounds would return if I didn’t change my eating habits, but after a hundred and one failed attempts to lose weight healthily, I decided that seeing my slim self would give me that little “push” that would encourage me to eat better.
The day I discarded my old size 12 jeans and slid into a beautiful size 8 dress, I thought it was time to begin a new era in my eating. I filled my kitchen with spices, fruits, vegetables and other ingredients for meals that would be both delicious and healthy.
At first, while my days were filled with writing a new novel in my pajamas at home, I didn’t find it difficult to control the temptation to eat, substitute ingredients, and motivate myself by reading magazines full of models in their forties with the bodies of teenagers.
Everything was going just fine until the book came out and my publisher sent me the schedule of launch presentations, which included trips to Puerto Rico, New York, San Francisco, and Mexico City. Instead of feeling happy, thinking about my readers, my first thought was of the kilograms that inevitably pile the pounds on one  during each of those trips, and of my struggle for weight loss disappearing beyond repair.
My husband advised me to relax: “No-one gets fat that fast,” he said. I believed him during the first trip to Puerto Rico, and, although I said a resounding “no” to fritters of salt cod, corn, and meat as I waited in the airport for a delayed flight, I said “yes” to a delicious mofongo (a purée of plantain) with chili shrimps and a glass of Maví (a kind of fermented tea made from the maví, or Greenheart, tree) that tasted like heaven. The result? According to the scales, to which I ran to weigh myself as soon as I got back to Miami, I’d regained almost two kilos.
When I stopped crying, I walked to my private psychotherapy center (my bookshelf) and read for hours and hours, and then and there I came up with the plan that has helped me maintain my weight loss despite nine more visits to an airport.
My plan has three parts: relaxation, planning and distraction. The thing is, for me, boarding a plane is an enormous green light inviting me to eat everything in sight, because “who knows when I’ll next be able to eat?”. So I start to relax the day before I travel. I pack calmly, I have a soak with bath salts, I listen to music, and I meditate on the unlikelihood of experiencing the stressful scenarios I usually imagine.
The second step? Planning! If it's a short trip, I bring my own food. It can be a turkey, cheese and spinach wrap, a piece of brie with grapes and wheat crackers, or a delicious half chicken from the rotisserie with a whole avocado and a lemon. I take plastic cutlery and napkins to cut up my chicken, and accompany it a simple salad of avocado made on the plane.
I also carry a small container (baby-food containers are perfect) with a mixture of spices. On the plane, cut the lemon and squeeze it into the container with the spices, and it’s ready. I end up so well fed that when the flight attendant asks if I want anything, I invariably smile and reply, “Just water for me, thanks.”
Alternatively, I check out the airport I’ll be traveling through. It’s rare these days that an airport doesn’t offer healthy choices. Always include protein in what you buy.
The third step is distraction. Bring bananas, apples, dark chocolate bars, even boiled eggs seasoned with your favorite hot sauce and a couple of crispy toasts. I always take sugarless gum, too, to manage anxiety – I’d rather look like a wild goat for a few minutes of turbulence than not be able to zip up my trousers for weeks.
Finally, I make sure I have with me on board a really good book and some fabulous magazines that can  generate enough inspiration to make me say, “Who needs to eat?” All I need now is to fly …