Episode 022: Staying Healthy On Business Travel with Jessica Sutera

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One of the things I aim to do on this podcast is to share stories of real women, like me and you, sharing how they make “being healthy” work for them - especially when working in the corporate world.

I don’t know about you, but whenever I’m on business travel, I find it challenging to keep up with my workouts and my way of eating and many of the clients that I’ve worked with have struggled with this too.

So this week I’m joined by Jessica Sutera. Jess is a Director of Corporate Communications, who’s job is in a completely different part of the country from where she lives - so she’s become quite the pro at business travel. In this episode she shares her best practical tips on how to stay healthy while on business travel.


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Naomi: One of the things I aim to do on this podcast is to share stories of real women. Women just like you and I sharing how they make being healthy work for them, especially when working in the corporate world.

Back in Episode 013 I had Jolene Peixoto on the show, and we talked about the realities of working from home, and also finding time for fitness.

This week, I'm super excited to have her triplet sister ... yes, I said triplet ... Jessica Sutera, on the show. Jess, as her friends and family call her, spends her days geeking out in the world of high-tech as a director of corporate communications, and she spends her off-hours fitting in as much good food, good wine, and great workouts in as she can. When she's not working, you'll find her hosting a cooking throwdown with her husband. How cute is that? Traveling to my neck of the words, Northern California, to wine country, which is her self-proclaimed home away from home, or going for a run with her friends and taking a barre class at the studio where she and Jo taught for over six years.

Jess and I first connected on Twitter about six or seven years ago, and we connected through our love for fitness and living healthily. But then we discovered that our professional jobs were in the same space in high-tech, so we instantly connected on a deeper level. And though I actually have not met Jolene in person yet, I did get to meet Jess at an industry conference here in San Francisco about six years ago. I think it was back in 2012. Now, it's always a bit risky to meet an online friend in real life, because you just never know if they'll be the same as they are online, right? But I can attest that Jess was just as fun and kind and genuine in person as she is online.

So, about a year or two ago, Jess took a new job that's based in a completely different part of the country from where she lives and she suddenly found herself traveling a lot, something pretty common for those of us in the corporate world. And I don't know about you, but whenever I'm on business travel, it's really hard for me to keep up with my workouts and with finding ways to keep eating healthy food amidst all of the carb-heavy office food and if you work in an office and have to go to these meetings, you know what I'm talking about.

So, Jess has become a pro at it. So, I asked her to come on the show and share her best tips for staying healthy while on work travel, both domestically and internationally. And this is a huge conversation, because with the clients that I work with this is a big struggle for them and like I said, it is for me, too. So, she shares some really great tips and we get really practical talking about some of the typical challenges that I'm sure you have probably faced and can relate to, as well. So, without further ado, let's get to our conversation.

Jess, welcome to the show.

Jess: Thanks for having me.

Naomi: I am so excited you're here. We had your sister, Jolene, on a few episodes ago, and not only is she your sister, she's one of your triplet sisters.

Jess: She sure is. If you see us on LinkedIn or Twitter, everybody kind of does a double-take, because our pictures look very like and our backgrounds are very alike and everything about us is very alike, so it creates quite a stir.

Naomi: How was that growing up with triplets, or being part of triplets?

Jess: It was a lot of fun, a lot of conflict, as you can imagine with three girls, but now that we're adults and we're immature, we are great close friends and it's like having two built-in best friends at all times, which is really nice.

Naomi: Oh, I love that. You mentioned that you and Jo have done similar work and unlike your sister, we have actually met in person through our work.

Jess: We sure have, and it's been far too long since that meet-up, I have to say.

Naomi: I was just thinking about it. It's been six years.

Jess: That is crazy. How has it been that long?

Naomi: I know! It was at an industry conference, but we first connected on social media, I don't think because of our work, but I think it's because you both had this interest in health and fitness.

Jess: Yes.

Naomi: So, were you always someone who was into being healthy and exercising and working out?

Jess: I would say it really interested me once I got out of college or right around college age, I started to think about it more and paid closer attention to it and really from there it skyrocketed into the latest fad workouts and things back in the day, it was kickboxing and it was step aerobics and all that kind of workout, and from there, I kind of figured out what worked for me and settled on running and barre classes and that kind of thing is what really appeals to me most of all.

Naomi: I'm laughing because I did kickboxing and step aerobics, too.

Jess: Old school.

Naomi: Totally old school, but good workouts.

Jess: Right?

Naomi: So, Jo shared that she was a barre instructor. So, you are too?

Jess: Yes. So, we both were instructors at the same studio. We taught there probably for five-ish years before taking a step back. So, because of my job and I travel so much more, I don't have time to keep a full-time or part-time consistent schedule at the studio. So, now I just sub when I can. It's not quite the same. I miss being able to teach ... Often I was teaching five to eight classes a week, and now I'm subbing once or twice a month. So, it's a big difference, but at least I can be there when I have the opportunity to, and I love being there so much.

Naomi: So, you just mentioned that because of your job, you had to step back from teaching. How has that just influenced your own personal practice of your own workouts?

Jess: It's a juggling act for sure. I travel at least, I would say, probably once a month, on average. When it's really busy, last fall was a really busy time for me, so I was traveling a couple times a month. So, it was really hard to keep up with my own fitness, so I had to get creative and when you're on the road, you find ways to make it work, and when you're at home, you try to make up for lost time and it somehow works out, but it also keeps it interesting, 'cause when you're on the road you can try new workouts and new routines and things and that can be fun, too, so it's not all terrible horror stories.

Naomi: So, first of all, what kind of travel do you do? Do you do international or domestic or do you both?

Jess: It's mostly domestic. Probably twice a year I'll go overseas. I'm actually going back to London in March.

Naomi: Oh, fun!

Jess: Yeah. What's funny is I didn't think I was going to like London the first time I went, but now I absolutely love it. I think it's a great spot. It's fun to do those kinds of trips to see parts of the world that I might not normally see, unless for work, and even though you really don't get to see all that much of a city when you travel for work, at least you get to get a flavor of it, which is nice. So, I'd say probably two or three times a year international. The rest is all domestic.

Naomi: So, let's talk international first, and then we'll go domestic. So, how are you able to keep up with not just your workouts, but with also just eating healthy and kind of doing all the things that you need to do to feel good? First, internationally, and then domestically, because I think, and you can correct me if I'm wrong, I think there's a difference there.

Jess: Yes, so internationally it's definitely more challenging. Food is definitely a lot more difficult, because typically when I'm traveling overseas, it's to an event or something, so I'm usually in a conference room in a hotel for most of the day, and I don't have the chance to go out to a grocery store and pick up healthy snacks and things. So, I'm really relying on the things that I packed in my suitcase, which takes up a large majority of my suitcase a lot of times. So, often I'm stuck with energy bars and trail mixes and things that travel well.

Naomi: I was going to say, so what do you stuff your suitcase with?

Jess: So, when it's international travel, it's like I said: energy bars, trail mixes and little energy bites that I've made at home and just stuffed in my suitcase, fruit if I can fit it, maybe oatmeal packets that I can warm up with boiling water in the hotel room.

When I'm traveling domestically, I have more leeway. Like I said, if I can get to a grocery store, I absolutely do that and I will try to grab some fresh fruit and yogurt and things I can stick in a little fridge in the room. When I travel early morning flights, I always freeze a yogurt and stick it in my carry-on. So, once it thaws I can eat that on the flight and have something that's my own food versus relying on Starbucks or whatever to get something to eat before a flight. So, there are ways to work around it.

Naomi: Definitely. So, do you always look for hotel rooms with fridges?

Jess: I do.

Naomi: When you're booking is that your need-to-have?

Jess: I do. Often times maybe call a hotel and ask for a fridge, if they don't typically offer them. It's funny, but if you say that you have a medical need, like I need to store medicine in a refrigerator, they'll put one in your room.

Naomi: Oh, that's a good tip.

Jess: Yeah, so if you think about it, being healthy and keeping up with that is a medical need, so.

Naomi: It is! It is. Now, you mentioned something that I wasn't quite sure what it was. You said you make energy bites? What are those?

Jess: It's whatever I feel like putting together. I usually look at recipes online for inspiration, but it could be ground up dates and pistachios and some nut butter to bind it all together, maybe a little bit of protein powder. And I'll make a little energy bite out of it, like one or two bite treat that you can freeze and stick in your suitcase, and it just takes the edge off while you're traveling or before a workout or something.

Naomi: So you don't feel so hangry.

Jess: Exactly.

Naomi: So, if you're on a business trip, you're going typically to a meeting and if you're like me, a lot of my work meetings are you're stuck in this conference room all day long, bonus if you have a window but not always, and the meals served at this meetings are horrible.

Jess: Yes.

Naomi: I have literally brought my own entire breakfast to a meeting before, breakfast and lunch. Have you ever done anything like that?

Jess: Oh, yeah. Everyone laughs at me, especially a lot of times I'm in Austin, because that's where the company is based that I work for, so I usually always stop at Whole Foods and grab a bunch of stuff for my room. And sometimes if I have time in the morning, I'll go there in the morning and grab a smoothie or something, but if I know that there's a lunch meeting involved and I wasn't involved in picking out the foods for that lunch, which doesn't always happen unfortunately, I'll bring a salad from the salad bar and then add to it from whatever the lunch was. So, a lot of times it might be like barbecue for lunch, so I'll take some of the barbecue meat and put it in my salad. I mean, they all look at me a little funny with my big Whole Foods bag walking in, but you know what? I don't apologize for it. I want to eat my own food, and that's that.

Naomi: It's sad that we have to have our own food.

Jess: I know, but when possible I do try to throw my bone in for what the food should be for the lunch meeting.

Naomi: I do, too, especially if I need to ask someone's executive assistant to order it, I'll try and throw in, "These are the dietary needs of the people who are attending, but they're mine."

Jess: Exactly.

Naomi: Yeah, we think alike.

Jess: Yes.

Naomi: Now, what about business dinners, when you're going out? How do you navigate those?

Jess: So, again if I don't have a say in the restaurant and I'm stuck with whatever place the people organizing the meeting chose, then it's a little bit more difficult. But usually you can always find something that you can healthify. So, you can always ask for sauces on the side or for them to go light on the oil when they roast up their vegetables or whatever that you're ordering. My one big thing that I always try to do is just try to eat as normally as possible. Just because I'm going out to dinner with co-workers doesn't mean that it's a treat. It's still just dinner, so if I was at home I wouldn't have an appetizer, a plate of bread, an entrée, dessert and two glasses of wine. So, why would I do that at a dinner with co-workers? So, I try to look at it in that way and I'm still eating as normally as I can while eating out.

Naomi: That's a really good point, 'cause back in the day and also when I've traveled with over co-workers, the whole idea that, "Hey, we're on the company's dime. Let's go all out. Let's eat out every single meal. Let's do all of this." And I'm like, "That's fine, but I'm still going to stick to what I eat." And in fact, I remember, I think I was in New York City for work, and I would order room service. Every morning I would have eggs and some fruit and some ham or bacon or something, and when I got to the office, they would all be there with their Starbucks and their pastries and they'd be like, "Aren't you hungry?" I said, "Oh, I ordered room service." And I would get such a hard time about that. And they said, "Look, we are in this meeting all day. The company's paying for us to be here." We all need to have a sustainable breakfast so that our brains will be alert, and I'm not going out and drinking all the alcohol and running up a tab, so I feel like we even out here.

Jess: Yeah, I agree. I've totally done the same thing if I know that there won't be a food option, or the options are limited. I've definitely done the whole room service thing. I will say I don't understand how hotels can get away with the upcharge on the room service. I ordered a bowl of oatmeal with some fresh berries and a pot of coffee, and it was like $40. Well, that was a delicious $40 bowl of oatmeal.

Naomi: See, I kind of take the stand, well, if I have to be here somebody need to pay for it. If I'm going to be inconvenienced, somebody has to be inconvenienced.

Well, this has been awesome. Any other tips you have for how to stay healthy when traveling, not just with food, so how do you go about finding or maintaining workouts?

Jess: So, workouts. I've you limited to just the hotel gym, you can make deal with the treadmills, the elliptical machine and the weights and all that. There are lots of really good apps out there to keep you motivated on the treadmill, especially for me.

Naomi: What are your favorite ones?

Jess: I love ... I don't know if you've ever used 'Aaptiv'?

Naomi: I've heard of it.

Jess: I love it, because it's literally like a personal trainer in your ear telling you, "Okay. Let's do an interval. Let's do a hill climb. Let's do some speed work." And it keeps you going with good music and it helps you just not think about the fact that you're on a treadmill. There's lots of other good options on it, too. There's strength workouts and yoga workouts.

Naomi: Oh, I didn't know that.

Jess: Yeah.

Naomi: Okay. Whenever I've heard people talk about it, it's always been some type of cardio workout.

Jess: No, they have lots of options.

Naomi: Oh, okay. I might have to check that out. This is what I did when I traveled internationally. What is your experience with ... I'm not always able to workout if I'm on an international trip and their treadmills are different, because they're in kilometers, not miles, so I never know what's the right pace I should be going for the kilometers that I'm keeping up with. But I always just get out and walk the city.

Jess: Yeah, if you can do that, that's the best way to get some exercise, but also see the city, especially if you're not going to see much of it otherwise. So, I definitely try to do that. I did that ... I went to Amsterdam for work in the fall and everybody walks or bikes or whatever there, and it was just so nice to just get out, get some fresh air, clear my head, wake up because the time difference was killing me, just doing that makes a huge difference.

Naomi: Nice way to stretch your legs too after a long flight.

Awesome. Thanks so much for being here.

Jess: Thanks for having me.

Naomi: Are we going to meet up any time soon?

Jess: I hope so. I'm coming out to California in probably April or May, so we should make some plans.

Naomi: Yes, let's make it happen.




Hi, I'm Naomi

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I’m an expert in Functional Nutrition, a nerd when it comes to clean living, and my obsession is debunking fad diets and weight loss myths by teaching others where food meets physiology so they understand where health and healing truly begins.

A San Francisco Bay Area-based health coach, 21-Day Sugar Detox Coach, podcaster and puppy mama to Coco Pop, my happiest days are spent empowering health-conscious women to speak their truth and become leaders in their own healthcare.

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