The dreaded permanent-change-of-station season is upon us. It’s a time when military spouses put on a brave face and say goodbye to friends, do a deep cleaning and purge of their houses and lives (again), and wait for the movers to whisk everything to their next duty stations. This time is accompanied with:

  • “I can’t wait for our next adventure!”
  • Some tears.
  • “The kids are really struggling this go-round.”
  • And, the inevitable 5-7 pounds of weight gain that is as standard as the travel, road trips, vacations, and hotel life that accompanies every PCS move.

Whether you are in the midst of a PCS move, about to embark on three weeks of block leave, or just taking a long trip this summer, these three tips will leave you prepared and ready to eat nutritiously. Go ahead, pack those skinny jeans.

Have a plan

I spend about two weeks on the road every month traveling to different military posts teaching health and wellness to Soldiers and their family members. At the end of a long, rewarding day, I often crave carbs. Carbs smothered with carbs and….if I’m lucky…topped with even more carbs. Stress – good or bad – can do that to a gal. This is where preparation has become invaluable.

  • Eating in: Whenever I land in a post or town, the first thing I do is hit the commissary or local food store and stock up on wholesome, well-balanced foods that only require a refrigerator. This food list is permanently in my phone, so regardless of how tired I am, my go-to meals will be available to me throughout the week. I travel with a cutting board, a spoon, a paring knife, and a wine opener (we all have our vices) neatly tucked into my suitcase. *See bottom of post for my food list.
  • Eating out: I always look up nutritional information for a restaurant before I arrive (Google and My Fitness Pal are my favorites). When my meal comes, I immediately put half of it into a doggie bag to save for another meal.
  • Always: Drink water. I am always seen with my coffee mug or water bottle — drink, drink, drink. Staying hydrated is key to feeling full and not gaining weight!

Have a scale

I don’t recommend weighing in daily when one is in a normal routine. I think the way your clothes fit and the way you feel is way more important. The problem with PCSing is that we all feel off. Nothing is routine and food has the potential to be more comforting than at any other time. It’s easy to make bad decisions and rationalize it. When I first moved to Germany, my motto was “no schnitzel left behind.” That was fun right up until my jeans didn’t fit. Even then, I rationalized the tightness of my clothes to normal bloating (there is nothing normal about being bloated all the time), water weight, and stress from the move. When the scale arrived eight weeks after the move, I was shocked to find that I had gained 10 pounds. I honestly had no idea that things had gotten so out of control. I now weigh myself at least twice a week when on the road. The scale doesn’t lie and can help keep you on track (and steer you back to the track). Think of it as the friend that is brutally honest with you even when the truth hurts. If you don’t want to travel with a scale, no worries, there will often be one in the hotel gym.

Have fun

Amidst the chaos and craziness of a move, look at eating and working out as a fun challenge. Invite your kids to help choose a healthy treat at the grocery store, stop at local produce stands, and search out healthier restaurant options. Being on the road gives a rare opportunity for us to go back to the basics of food, to rewire our brain and do things differently than we’ve done before. Above all else, be patient with yourself. Laugh at yourself. Try to be healthy 80% of the time, and remember, nothing is all or nothing during a move, balance is the goal. And for goodness’ sake, if those Jalapeño Cheetos are calling your name, answer the call.

Food list

Look for items with five ingredients or less.

wraps, hummus, southwest chicken, avocado, spinach and arugula, mustard, tuna fish packets, fruit, rotisserie chicken, whole grain crackers, raw almonds, trail mix ingredients, chopped veggies, balsamic vinaigrette dressing, cottage cheese

As a great workout companion to this article check out Exercise On-the-Go: Road Gym + 2 Workouts.What are your secrets to staying on track during a move?