Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Cohen Travel Tips

My typical breakfast in Singapore

I was on my 8th week of the Cohen diet when I had to take a trip out of the country. I'd been able to follow my program strictly because I was always close to home. I already mastered the art of eating out in restaurants--I would choose wisely from the menu and tell the chef how to prepare it, or I'd bring my meal, and ask the kitchen to plate and serve it together with the rest of the food.

But traveling while on "this strict medical diet" is a challenge, and I was nervous I wouldn't be able to stay on track.  But one thing I set my mind one was:  I didn't want to deviate, not after 8 weeks of obsessing and following the plan to the dot.

My typical breakfast in Bangkok

I was going to spend 3 nights in Singapore and 3 nights in Bangkok--almost a whole week away! The people on the Cohen FB support group, many of whom travel a lot, had numerous tips on how to prepare for a trip. Some go as far as bringing cooked food enough for 3 or 4 days, while some book a hotel room with kitchen facilities.  As I was just accompanying B on his business trip, I couldn't choose the hotel and I also had to attend a couple of lunches and dinners with the group. There would be some days with lots of time on my own and I had faith I'd be able to stay deviation-free by going to a grocery.

 Yogurt for breakfast, Tuna for lunch, Roast chicken for dinner

The happy ending is that I didn't deviate the whole 7 days I was away. The worst that happened was I skipped a meal (a Cohen mortal sin) because I didn't find anything Cohen-worthy and I wasn't exactly prepared when I first landed in Bangkok.

Now I've figured out how to prepare for trip while still on the Eating Plan of the program.

I learned to pack "Cohen Travel Essentials:"

1. Pocket Digital Scale
2. Food container (Lock2 or Biokips type to make sure nothing spills inside your bag!)
3. Travel utensils (with pocket knife for cutting veggies)
3. Small Ziplock bags (for fruits, crackers, anything you want to take from a buffet for a future meal)
4. Salt, Pepper, Balsamic Vinegar, 2 cans of easy-open tuna in brine (for an emergency meal)
5. Cucumber or celery (veggies for the emergency meal)
6. Crackers (bring enough from home, you may not find Cohen-approved crackers)
7. Splenda packets (always have some in your wallet)
8. Flower optional

(Balsamic vinegar, tuna cans and metal travel utensils must be checked inside luggage and not hand-carried or they will be confiscated. You can bring a dry meal on the plane)

Singapore is Cohen-friendly.  Yogurt brands are aplenty and hotel buffets are so varied I could easily assemble a Cohen meal. Any food court here also had a Hainanese Chicken outlet--and in Singapore, I can eat this over and over again (which I kinda did). Here is a sample of what I had for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
 My favorite yogurt and mango breakfast, lunch from the hotel buffet, dinner at Wee Nam Kee.

The only thing that got heavy use in Singapore was my pocket digital scale. I had variations of the meals above on all three days.  Then I got to Bangkok and my "travel essentials" came in very handy. Thai dishes, dressings and sauces are usually loaded with sugar and are Cohen-deadly.

I headed for a grocery the first chance I got and loaded up on my veggie allowance from the salad bar, picked up celery, japanese cucumber, roast chicken, steamed prawns and some fruit.

Back at the hotel, I packed a couple of Cohen meals in Locklock containers and stored them in the hotel fridge. Before going out for the day, I'd have a filling breakfast in the room, and then leave the room with a packed meal in my bag. I was such a girlscout!

In Bangkok, the hotel and the supermarket didn't have our allowed yogurt brands, so I had to go with a hard-boiled egg and salad breakfast. I had forgotten how good a hard-boiled egg tasted and I wasn't too sad to miss my favorite yogurt mornings. My packed emergency lunch was usually roast chicken.

One lunch was with the whole group, and I told the gentlemen sitting around me that I was on a "strict medical diet" and one of them immediately said "Cohen? My brother-in-law lost 70 pounds! He also used bring his food everywhere." He continued to tell me about his now-skinny brother-in-law as I plated my roast chicken and celery sticks. "He has been able to maintain his weight loss too for over a year."  It was encouraging to hear, and more than ever I was determined not to reach over for the deep-fried chicken pandan.

On the days that I was on my own (while B was at his meetings), I would have a steak lunch. There is always one place that serves grilled steak at any mall foodcourt.  I'd tell the chef to season a tenderloin steak with salt and pepper only and hold off on the oil. They could also quick grill mixed veggies and I was good to go. 

I just removed the red pepper and carrots. Not allowed on EP
The chef also gave me a side of balsamic vinegar and minced garlic/ginger/chives

Our last evening in Bangkok was another big group dinner at a riverside hotel. I was pleased to see that it was a buffet grill with lots of choices (although I had a  steak "safetly meal" in my bag). Again, it was a matter of picking the right things, and avoiding all the sauces. I chose these grilled shrimp below because I saw that all the meat cuts were soaked in marinades. The shrimp remained unseasoned so I went for that. I just asked for a dipping sauce of plain white vinegar on the side (to which I added crushed garlic).

I had 10 of these grilled shrimp just to reach my gram requirement. I was stuffed.

For the plane ride home, we had a two-leg trip ahead of us because we were flying Bangkok to Manila via Singapore. I packed a meal for the plane (Steamed shrimp bought from a sushi bar and cucumber/celery) and brought a couple of kiwis. I noticed that the salad they served on the plane was Cohen-friendly but it was over my allowance so I packed it for the next leg of the trip (I'm a girl scout, and a scavenger).
And here below is my next plane meal. I got B's salad too and together with my portion, it reached my gram allowance. In unusual circumstances, I have no qualms about repeating my meals nor do I require a lot of variety (actually, even in normal circumstances, I don't mind eating the things I like over and over again). But this mid-diet trip was all about staying on track.

My nice fresh food beside the airlines' overcooked, oversauced fish and carrots/potatoes

I focused on plain fresh food--simply seasoned chicken, meat and shrimp/prawns, egg, yogurt, lots of veggies in allowance, fruit and crackers.  I didn't even mind skipping Thai food on this trip.

My eyes were trained to immediately spot "allowed" food, and I was always planning my next meal. On trips, aside from crackers and a fruit, I've learned to have a meal in my bag-- even if it's just a hardboiled egg and celery sticks. 

My reward for not deviating during this travel week? My weight loss was on track--I lost 3 pounds! After surviving a trip without any deviation or starvation, I now find it easier to stay on course.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Seen at the San Francisco Airport

Airport police patrolling the San Francisco airport. They make it look like such fun.  I can just feel how those wheels glide on those smooth floors.

Definitely beats standing and walking around the whole day. They should have some for the passengers to rent. Layovers would be so much fun!


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