I just returned from spending 10 days in the desert for an event called Burning Man. Burning Man is a temporary city of 80,000 people living in the desert, and is based on self-reliance (because you need to be prepared in the middle of the desert), self-expression (in the form of art, dance, music and crazy costumes), gifting (no forms of currency are allowed) and no judgment (you can feel the love and energy in the city!).
It was an incredible experience, in many ways, and in this post I want to focus on what I learned from the desert, and how I stayed balanced and ate in a healthy way. It was like a PFC extreme sport!
1. PFC-balanced Does NOT Mean Perfection: You may be wondering how I managed to eat anything remotely healthy in the middle of the desert… being a dietitian and all. 🙂 Well, it’s possible and (for the most part), I did!
*And you don’t have to plan a desert escape to use the tips in this post: they’re applicable for any kind of travel: long road trips, vacations, or weekend getaway. 🙂
I always prioritize eating PFC-balanced—especially when I travel. I made this an extra top priority on this trip because as you can imagine, the conditions in the desert are stressful! The desert isn’t meant for human survival — between the disorienting dust storms to the extreme heat and potential dehydration. That stress can do a lot of harm to the body (sickness, mental fog, low energy levels, and weight gain, just to name a few).
In all fairness, we leveled up our camping experience by having a small trailer, which included a stove, and was a blessing. This expanded the cooking possibilities tenfold, although extreme heat doesn’t always make firing up the stove it seem like the best idea.
That said, I started every single day with a protein shake (in our new Redefined Vitamins shaker bottles which meant no blender needed!!) I added the Pure Primal Redefined (chocolate or vanilla) with half an avocado (nice and portable, and a bag of these lasted the full trip!), or I’d have a couple spoonfuls of almond or peanut butter on the side since they don’t mix as well as the avo! For carbs, I’d eat a handful of dried apricots alongside my shake. I travel with the protein powder in ziploc baggies (or maybe smarter would be sealed tupperware containers), and in the desert we had plenty of bottled water, so these were so easy to quickly whip up!
I was warned that I wouldn’t get too hungry in the desert and this ended up being true. So, lunches were either an Rx Bar — my favorite portable PFC-balanced bar — or a Simply Snackin’ beef or chicken stick with a handful of nuts and a handful of dried fruit. (Both Rx Bar and Simply Snackin’ were kind enough to ship me a bunch of boxes straight to the desert!) On days when my appetite was bigger, I made eggs cooked in coconut oil on the stove.
Dinners were simple, yet so delicious, and full of my favorite things! We stocked up on a ton of the pre-cooked smoked salmon from Whole Foods. These are great protein options that travel really well, and just need to be refrigerated or on ice. They don’t even need to be heated up. We did use the stove for cooking sweet potatoes in coconut oil with a little salt and pepper. I also melted some butter over mine for a little extra fat. Eating butter STILL feels like a treat to me, so if I can have it every day, then I do. 🙂
For bedtime snacks, I had some gluten free crackers topped with avocado and salt or topped with nut butter mixed with some honey that one of my fellow campers brought (brilliant!). Or some of those dried apricots with a handful of almonds or cashews did the trick (so yum!).
I brought tuna packets which were perfect for travel, but I ended up not even tapping into those. There was something about the simplicity and consistency of the eating regimen that was refreshing and felt really good. I just paid attention to my body and kept it simple.
2. Targeted Supplements are Key: As far as supplements go, when I travel I can’t bring ’em all, so I make it a priority to take a few (five 🙂 ) key ones:
- Hydrate Redefined: the one supplement I brought with me that I don’t use on a daily basis. One of the rules of the game in the desert is to stay hydrated with plenty of electrolytes. So I mixed a couple scoops of this into my Camelback every day before heading out. It does contain sugar, but given the circumstances (lots of sweating and fluid loss), my body needed it!
- Probiotic Redefined: so that my digestion stays on track. Yes, we recommend storing probiotics in the refrigerator for freshness. However, studies conducted show that temperatures must reach 172 degrees Fahrenheit for 72 hours consecutively before any impact on viability occurs, so they were fine even in the desert! 🙂
- Glutacaps Redefined: so I don’t crave sugar, especially since I was ingesting a bit more than usual with the daily Endura.
- Magnesium Redefined: so my muscles stay mobile instead of stiff and tight, which tends to happen with traveling. I also took a few each night to promote restful sleep since I was sleeping in quite an unusual environment!
- Melatonin: this one I don’t take on a regular basis. I think of it as more of a “reset,” and when traveling it’s easy for one’s schedule to get mixed up and our body to get confused. For me, I know that if I don’t get enough restful sleep, everything’s off, and I won’t be able to function as well. So I took this with me.
3. Listen to your Body!: Exercise? No thanks.
As far as moving my body goes, biking was our primary form of transportation to get anywhere, so we did a lot of it. The temperatures were so high, that my body didn’t really feel like doing anything else. So, I listened and focused on doing a little bit of yoga (meaning, like once), some meditation (which was super helpful — I am motivated now to make this a regular practice), and…that’s about it. 🙂
My belief is that, while exercise on a regular basis has tons of health benefits, it can also be healthy to take a momentary sabbatical from almost everything we consider to be the norm — routine, devices, cars, and even workouts.
I’m excited to be back to my regular exercise routine (check back for an upcoming blog post on that!), but I also felt pretty good not moving much, and just… being.
4. Occasionally go Screen-Free:
This was my first time this year (or ever!?) being completely off the grid — meaning no computer, no ipad, no cell phone, no alarm clock (same thing as cell phone, but I wanted to add it to the list because it was great!). In full disclosure: I did use my cell phone to take pictures, but there wasn’t service anywhere near the desert so it technically doesn’t count. :). I was a little anxious about it, but my team is amazing and it was really great affirmation for me to completely step away and see how much gets done without me there! 🙂
For me, this trip was very much about stepping out of life as I know it and “filling my cup” so to speak, so that I could come back more refreshed, creative and ready to create new materials (and a new program…stay tuned!) for you. But, you don’t have to spend 10 days in the desert to get the benefits of periodically going screen-free! I encourage you to try it for a day or two and see how your creative juices flow… you become calmer, more focused, and notice that you engage more with the important people in your life. 🙂
5. Ask for Help:
One of the main principles of Burning Man is gift giving, since the community is built around no currency, therefore no buying or selling. What this meant was if we forgot something we needed, a fellow camper would help us out! This experience reminded me to value other people’s abilities and gifts by asking for their help when I need it, and also giving —not in return, but because we have plenty to share, and when we give, everyone benefits. 🙂
I’m so excited to be back and energized so stay tuned for new content! 🙂