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Posted: January 23, 2014

Chef Laura: The secret 30/70 rule

The weight-loss truth you need to hear

Laura Cook Newman

Recently I was talking to a fellow road warrior. He travels Monday through Thursday for a month at a time. In that month, he said he gains about 8 pounds. While grounded, he loses the extra weight, only to repeat the pattern the following month.   

Nothing about his story shocked or appalled me.  If anything, I was impressed it was only 8 pounds.

Disclaimer: This is NOT an article about eating salads when you travel.

Last week, I wrote about the exercise component about staying fit while on the road.  Was this supposed to make you ripped?  No, just keep you healthy, keep your energy up, and stay productive and motivated during business trips to Schenectady, or wherever you peddle your wares.

But the data states that in 2014, Americans’ top resolution is to lose weight, not just maintain.

My father will attest that I am no mathematician.  But I do know this: to lose 1 pound, you need to burn approximately 3,500 calories.  During a week, that’s 500 calories per day, which is like running five miles a day or 35 miles a week.  Pretty slick, eh Dad?

You can log more miles than Hal Higdon, but that alone won’t move the scale’s needle enough.  There’s a dirty little secret to the whole weight loss equation.  How does a chef know this dirty little secret? Well, in a former life I was a certified aerobics instructor – sometime between Jane Fonda’s thong-wearing days, and Shaun T’s insane T25 promises.  To add to the insanity, I minored in nutrition.

Here’s the secret: exercise accounts for 30 percent of weight loss.  The other 70 percent is – you guessed it – what you eat…or don’t eat, for that matter.

You could do 1,000 crunches a day and still have a gut.  Why? Because of the above equation.  As they say, “Great abs are made in the kitchen, not in the gym.”

“Traveling” is to “dieting” as oil is to water – they just don’t mix.  I don’t advocate deprivation while on the road anyway. You need some creature comforts when you’re away from home, and sometimes a little vino and red meat fills that void. 

I’m going to share some tips I incorporate on the road to be both “good” and good to myself.  I’m sure you don’t want to eat rabbit food while traveling, but you also want to take care of yourself.  There’s nothing worse than coming home from a business trip feeling completely depleted; you still need some gas left in the tank for interacting with your family and friends.

1.   Water – At 5280’, we Coloradans value the importance of H2O.  Our Nalgene bottles outnumber our dog leashes, barely.  We implore our out-of-state visitors to “hydrate!”  Hickenlooper’s proposed state motto: One glass of water for every craft beer. 

Apply your aquaphile ways when traveling.  On the airplane, in your hotel room, and before every meal.  DIA now has those snazzy water bottle refill fountains.  If you fly to SFO, they call them “Hydration Stations”, and if you fly to Logan, ask ‘em where the “bubblahs” are.

2.  Booze – My Irish roots prevent me from telling you to avoid alcohol on the road.  After a long day of schlepping your roller bag around O’Hare, you might need to tuck into a pint of Guinness.  And who am I to begrudge you this end-of-the-day treat?  Before your first drink, drink a full glass of water.  I’ve also learned that the “First of the Day” as my Uncle Patrick says, is usually the best.  The subsequent drinks after are fine, but not really necessary.  Drink another glass of water.  Sláinte!

3.  FoodBreakfast: eat it!  A good protein-based breakfast: eggs, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese.  Too many carbs for breakfast is sure to induce the dreadful glucose crash and leave you starving by 10 a.m.  And when you are famished, you always overeat at the next opportunity.

Lunch: What animal is quicker and lighter: a bird or a bear?  Bears strategically pack on the pounds to hibernate, whereas fast flapping birds peck away throughout the day.  Take a cue from Mother Nature and make like Tweety.  Nuts, seeds, hummus, crudité, broth-based soups or a banana.  Small snacks and mini meals are the way to keep blood sugar steady mid-day. 

Dinner: aka the most dangerous time of day.  You’ve been responsible all day, but dinner – especially a meal with clients/coworkers - can even derail Dr. Oz.  It’s fun!  It’s social! The cocktails are flowing!  And your boss ordered one of every app “just to get us started”.  Skip all of those apps and don’t even touch that bread basket.  You know what bread tastes like; no reminders required.  Order one glass of wine, your entrée, (BTW membership to the Clean Plate Club is overrated) and drink your water. Dessert?  Sure! – a bite, one taste, a little sorbet, a square of dark chocolate. It’s allowed.

Remember a business trip is not synonymous with a vacation – so show a little restraint, even if you’re on an expense account.  And my last tip: always pack a protein bar in your carry-on.  There’s nothing worse than traveling hangry.

Laura Cook Newman is a professional Chef and Training Manager for a Fortune 500 food manufacturer. She earned her chops at Johnson & Wales University, has an MBA in Marketing and hosts a blog for behind-the-scenes insights on the food service industry. Contact her at

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Readers Respond

quick update, I've been buying the LIKE bars, and I like 'em - even my husband likes them and he usually hates "rabbit food" type of stuff. Thanks again for the tip. By Vicki on 2014 02 14
good advice for all my trips! By Ta Tee on 2014 01 30
My favorite is the glass of red wine....why cant I just do that! By Ruben on 2014 01 24
Who needs a gym? When you lug a 30lb carry on luggage and schelping the food bag, I should paying my company for a gym membership. By Mark S on 2014 01 24
thank you! I'll check them out. By Vicki Felmlee on 2014 01 23
Vicki, I love KIND bars. Delicious flavors, not dry, and a healthy nutritional profile. You can buy a case direct for less than $1.00 per bar. By Chef Laura on 2014 01 23
as always....amusing...i love reading your ink! By nicoleaulik on 2014 01 23
Question about protein bars - which ones do you recommend? Seems like the ones I buy have a lot of sodium (bad) and/or are so dry they're choking hazards! By Vicki Felmlee on 2014 01 23
Clean Plate Club - I was at a business lunch yesterday. Ordered a Salmon salad and didn't eat the croutons. KILLED ME. My mothers voice came into my head, I felt like a bad guest, and perhaps rude. that is a hard one to overcome By Are you sure? on 2014 01 23
Hangry - Ha! I laughed out loud 3 different times when I read this. A really fun, accurate, and funny article. Well done. By Annie Wilkes on 2014 01 23
Good advice keeping us sane on the road, Chef L. By Shaun T on 2014 01 23
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