The amount of time spent in my vehicle truly amazes me. I drive my kids to school, play dates, birthday parties, grandparents house, school activities, and the list goes on and on. I run errands everyday and honestly can’t remember a day I didn’t spend time driving. I’m sure many of you can relate. Maybe you’re not the “drive around town” dance mom but instead you spend 2+ hours a day commuting to and from work. Or maybe you drive for a living? The point is, many of us spend large chunks of time in our vehicles so it makes sense to create habits that keep us focused on our weight loss goals while we drive.
I know it might sound a little odd to put car and weight loss in the same sentence. But here’s the thing… your car can be a breading ground for hot zone moments. Think about the time you stopped for fast food on the way to work because you were hungry, or maybe you stopped at the gas station to grab water and walked out with a candy bar, or said no to a lunch time walk because you didn’t have sneakers. Whether driving to work, or taking a 2-hour drive to the country, preparing ahead of time can prevent those hot zone moments.
Here are 6 habits that help keep me focused on long-term healthy lifestyle goals instead of short-term “hot zone” survival choices.
#1. Keep a gym bag with clean exercise clothes, sneakers, and ear buds
Typically, I exercise in the morning before I take the kids to school or right after I drop them off. So, I’m already in my workout gear before I leave the house. However, if I forget my ear buds (which I have) then all bets are off. As pathetic as it sounds if I don’t have my earbuds I’m not exercising. It’s just the way it is so I make it priority to have an extra pair in my car.
Even though I’m dressed for exercise when I leave the house I still find it helpful to have workout gear in the car even if that’s just sneakers and earbuds. Often, I have a little extra time while waiting for my girls to get done with dance or activities. Or one of my friends will call me to go for a quick power-walk or run. In these times (and if weather allows) it’s good to be prepared. Not saying I’m always this motivated, or that I have the time, but if the mood strikes I want to be ready.
Keeping a gym bag available makes it more likely you will fit exercise into your day during times that otherwise would be spent sitting or doing something less productive. This helps to form the habit of moving when opportunities present itself.
#2. Bring a Water bottle
I never leave the house without water. There’s no worse feeling than being on the highway and becoming thirsty. Truly, nothing sets me off like when one of my girls starts saying “mommy I’m thirsty” 15 minutes into our drive. Yes I know there are bigger problems in the world but for some reason I find it stressful to be thirsty with no water on hand. Also, it’s good to have water available for those impromptu walks or runs. For this reason I make sure we all have our water bottles and I keep a case of water in the trunk for emergencies. I’m telling you this has been a lifesaver and keeps me out of the hot zone more than I can explain here. We all have this water bottle (in different colors) by Camelbak.
Staying hydrated is important to losing weight and an overall healthy lifestyle. We should be drinking about 62-ounces of water a day and probably more when factoring in exercise. In my experience, it’s easy to forget about water. However, by keeping water bottles front and center I’m reminded to make this habit a priority.
Also, I found that keeping water in the car saves money and prevents me from picking up trigger foods at a gas station or fast food joint. Think about it…a bottle of water costs over $1 and does anybody walk out with just water? Probably not. Most likely we’re walking out with a candy bar, donut, coffee, or something else we don’t really want or need. Just saying…been there, done that, and this is the reason I now keep water in my car.
#3. Invest in a small cooler bag
Let’s go beyond water and talk about having food available in the car. If you spend large amounts of time driving I think it’s absolutely essential to invest in a small cooler bag. I started this habit about a year ago and it’s saved me tons of money and I’m positive calories too.
Of course, I’m not advocating eatings all your meals in the car but if there are days you’ll be on the road, instead of home during meal time, then I recommend getting in the habit of bringing food with you. The reality is that many of us spend time driving our kids to and from after-school activities and possibly hang out there while practice is underway. Instead of sitting in your car starvingm or stopping at a drive thru, plan ahead of time by packing meals to bring. There have been many nights I’d show up to my girls dance class with homemade meals portioned out and ready to eat for all of us. This keeps us eating food at a normal time and reduces the stress of rushing home to make a quick (and most likely unhealthy) dinner afterwards.
Bringing a cooler bag helps even without kids. If you travel for work and often at the mercy of restaurants, fast food, or gas stations for your meals then packing food for the day (or week) will keep you on track and eating healthy.
This is the Igloo 9-can cooler bag I have. It’s under $15 and perfect size for our needs. I can fit a days worth of food and snacks in this cooler. However, I will need to keep our water separate. There are many sizes to choose from so pick the one that will work best for you. I recommend investing in slim ice packs too. These are great because they keep food cold without taking up a lot of space. Yetti Coolers are pricey but if you travel long distance a lot then I recommend looking into one of these coolers because they are worth the price. My sister has one for traveling long distance and loves it.
Keeping mindful with food is absolutely essential to losing weight. If you struggle to stay out of the drive-thru as you travel then consider purchasing a cooler bag and keeping meals with you. This will save you money in long run and keep you focused on your weight loss goals.
#4. Keep a stash of non-perishable snacks
Maybe you don’t need a cooler filled with food but instead just need to curb snack cravings as you drive – or prevent snack meltdowns when kiddos get hungry. Trust me, been there!
Snacks, in my opinion, are important meals to include during the day. I eat 5 times a day with 2 of those meals being snacks. However, not all snacks are created equal. A good wholesome protein snack can take the hunger edge off and hold you over until lunch or dinner. These snacks include nuts or high quality protein bars. However, a high carb sugar snack can make you crash, burn, and even more hungry. I’m looking at you cookies and donuts. So, it’s important to choose your snacks wisely.
If you often find yourself (or the kiddos) craving a small snack while driving then try keeping some non-perishable snacks handy. Again, this little habit saves me time (I don’t need to stop anywhere), money (don’t need to spend any extra cash), and calories (no fast-food and I control the food in the car). My favorite non-perishable snacks are raw almonds, cashews, luna bars, and lara bars. Or try making your own trail mix.
I keep the snacks in a small bin in the back of my truck.
#5. Buy a Phone Charge for the Car
If I’m going to be ready for an impromptu run or powerwalk it’s essential I have my phone and that it’s charged. My phone is kind of like the hub to all my weight loss tools. I have the My Fitness Pal App to track my calories, I use Map My Run to track any outdoor runs/walk I do, and most importantly I have the Spotify App for all my music. Without my phone I feel lost. Sure I can survive (I think) without it but the weight loss and exercise tools I use have truly been an important part to my weight loss journey. This is why I keep a phone charger in my car that stays in the car. I mention this because in the past I only had one charger for both car and house. Well one day I went to meet my friend for a run and didn’t have my charger and guess what? Yep, my phone died. I still ran but I didn’t have music or my tracker. Yes I survived but that day I went out and got a phone charger so I didn’t have to worry about that again. It’s important to keep my “I can’t exercise because” excuses to a minimum.
#6 Pack Your Own Coffee
This is a big one for me, and might not pertain to you if you’re not a coffee drinker, but I definitely have a bad coffee habit. I will think of ANY excuse to go to Starbucks and get a Grande Café Mocha (skim milk, no whip please). Just one sip relaxes me and sends me to a happy place. Yes I know my coffee habit is a mental one. Believe me, I get how the brain works. I’ve been trying to control this habit longer than I want to admit. Notice I said control and not break? That’s because at this point I can’t imagine a life without a Café Mocha so instead of swearing it off I allow myself to drink one once a week.
Another way I control my coffee habit is to bring coffee with me. This seems to reduce the triggers that send me into a trance that lead me to the Starbucks drive-thru without even realizing it. I purchase a strong French roast coffee and then use 2 tablespoons of flavored creamer. It’s not Starbuck but it does the trick. Bringing my own coffee saves me money (hello, mochas are $5) and calories (220 calories).
Maybe coffee isn’t your vice, maybe it’s chia tea, donuts, or that morning breakfast sandwich habit. The point is to replace that bad habit (Starbucks) with a better one (bring my own coffee) and notice the positive results you get from that change.
The habits you do at home, work, and even in the car all play a role in your weight loss journey. In my experience, the foundation to successful weight loss is built on the small every day habits you do everyday. Can any of these tips help on your weight loss journey? What are your car struggles?