Fear and Self-Loathing on the Road(trip)


Midway through Kansas and about to feast on a Taco Bravo and Grande Burrito Supreme. With sour cream.

I believe in the power of positive thinking. I also believe that most people usually have nothing but the best intentions when it comes to taking care of their bodies. However, there are certain forces that exist in this world that can derail even the most virtuous. It is a force so evil, so powerful, that it can take the most mindful eater and turn her into that person that says, “Taco John’s at 9am? Why not.”

I’m talking about road trips.

At home I wake up early, walk the dog for an hour, return home and pick some spinach from my garden and have it with a piece of whole wheat toast and hummus. Seriously. Don’t hate me because I’m perfect. Mock me for my weakness, because the bigger they come the harder they fall.

Every year I schelp my whole family across the country for our annual reunion at a lake in South Carolina. This year we acquired a Great Dane and a minivan and all signs were pointing to us doing an epic 27 hour drive. That would be 27 hours each way. The $2200 airplane tickets (not including the dog) also had something to do with it.

I’ve been on plenty of road trips. Furthermore, I’ve read more than my share of How to Survive Road Trip articles. Speaking from personal experience I know that the more I stay away from road food, the better I’ll feel. I even managed this once when I was pregnant and had the would-be guilt of feeding my growing baby junk food to keep me away from Cool Ranch Doritos. I felt great after the trip, numb posterior notwithstanding.

I prepared for this odyssey by dutifully stocking a small cooler with baby bell peppers, snap peas, carrots, hummus and raw nuts. I’m not saying that I didn’t eat any of them, but let’s just say that more than a few crudités made the full round-trip.

Looking for an excuse?

At home I easily, perhaps even happily, snack on raw veggies and have salads for lunch. I think it’s because I am too busy to make a special trip to the store for junk, because I sure don’t keep it in the house. On the road, when I’m bored and the kids are driving me crazy and I have to stop for gas and there they are, all lined up at the check-out? Let’s just say those baby carrots don’t satisfy the way a bag of Cheetos do. Something about the salty, crispy, fattiness of them keeps my mind off of the monotony of crossing Kansas. They also keep the kids quiet, too. I know. My bad.

Do good options exist?

Sure they do. I’ve had the oatmeal at McDonald’s (just try not to think about the sugar) and I’ve ordered my fair share of Wendy’s salads (hold the cheese, chicken and dressing) or plain baked potatoes. And there is always that cooler in my car, now repurposed as a footrest for my youngest. After I pay a king’s ransom for what amounts to a raw potato and a head of iceburg lettuce, I feel clean and superior to my husband who just horked down the chili cheese fries, a bacon cheese burger, and a fried chicken sandwich. In one meal. Apparently he takes a free pass on nutrition when he hits the road, too. I, however, have the decency to loathe myself afterwards.

What’s a girl to do?

I read an article a while back on self-control. It takes energy to exercise it and people eventually fatigue from the effort, that’s why many diets fail. My self-control on a road-trip lasts about 200 miles before I say, “Screw it. I’ll have the cheese enchiladas with a side of sour cream. And a soda.”

I’m not sure what to do about this except dutifully pack healthy snacks and then get back on track when I get home. Fortunately my good habits are ingrained enough that a couple days on the road doesn’t affect the big picture all that much. I rarely travel, which helps too. Perhaps there is something about wallowing in the filth, so to speak, that makes it easier for me to eat well most of the time. Right now my spinach patch is looking really good and I don’t even want to think about fast food or chips or soda for a really long time.

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