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Stay slim and healthy on your summer holidays

In his new book, ‘The Traveler’s Diet,’ ‘Today’ travel editor Peter Greenberg tells you how to maintain healthy habits when you’re on the road
/ Source: TODAY

For anyone who travels, trying to maintain healthy habits on the road is tough. But the “Today” show’s intrepid travel editor Peter Greenberg shows you how you can keep the weight off, in his new book, “The Traveler’s Diet: Eating Right and Staying Fit on the Road.” Last year, he traveled 400,000 miles last year and lost 40 pounds, which is not an easy feat to accomplish. Greenberg was invited on “Today” to talk about some tips on staying fit while you’re traveling this summer either for pleasure or for business. Read an excerpt:

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 the cigarette!”

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 then some.

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 the job.

I hate scales. Always have. My mother, the queen of the less-than-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 chronic disease.

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
  • Curves
  • Fat Flush Plan
  • Fit for Life
  • French Women’s Diet
  • Glycemic Index
  • Grapefruit Diet
  • Bob Greene
  • Hamptons Diet
  • LA Weight Loss
  • NutriSystem
  • Dr. Phil
  • Perricone Promise
  • Scarsdale Diet
  • Slim-Fast
  • South Beach Diet
  • Step Diet
  • Sugar Busters
  • WeightWatchers
  • 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 well intentioned diets are jettisoned, timetables and discipline evaporate ... And therein was the genesis of this book. Could wedevelop a diet and exercise plan that worked not only at home, but on the road, given all the obstacles? It was worth a try.

Excerpted from “The Traveler’s Diet: Eating Right and Staying Fit on the Road” by Peter Greenberg. Copyright © 2006 Peter Greenberg. Reprinted with permission from All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.