If I'm Doing It All Wrong How Come It Turns Out Alright?

by DavalosMcCormack on May 20, 2008

I have a confession to make. When it comes to long flights and trying to avoid jet-lag, I do all the wrong things. All the books and experts and advice gurus say you should not drink alcohol, but as soon as I get on the plane I have a beer. They say you should drink lots of water, but I have wine with dinner. They say you should get up out of your seat as often as possible and move around, to stretch your legs and reduce the risk of blood clots; me, I sit down, strap in and only get up to go to the toilet. And yet somehow when I arrive at the other end I’m fine.

Now I know some people have a horrible time with jet-lag. A dear friend of mine takes several days to re-set his body clock just traveling from the East Coast to the West. But me, I’m fine. Going east, going west. No problems.

So I was intrigued when I saw a new study about something called the Anti-Jet-Lag diet. Now anything that has two hyphens in one word is pretty impressive just by itself. But then I found out that this diet was developed at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory, so I figured it must be something special. The study, published in the journal Military Medicine, found that travelers who use the Anti-Jet-Lag diet are seven times less likely to experience jet-lag traveling west, and 16 times less likely when traveling east.

Impressive stuff eh! So I went to the company’s website to check out this wonder diet. Immediately I got a headache. It’s so bloody complicated. According to the company the diet uses “the same natural time cues that natures uses to maintain our healthy cellular time cues like meal times, sunrise and sunset, and daily cycles of rest and activity.”

What that turns out to mean in plain English is that you can confuse and trick your body by changing what you eat and when you eat it. But to do this you have to start the diet several days before your flight. Then you have to alternate between days of feasting and days of fasting. On feasting days you have three full meals, even second helpings. On fasting days you eat three small meals, salads with no fatty dressings, thin soup, half slices of bread. Are we having fun yet?

But wait, it gets better. If you drink coffee or tea you can only do so between the hours of 3pm and 5pm because apparently this is the only time of day that caffeine doesn’t seem to have an effect on the body’s rhythms.

So, three days before you fly you feast, the next day you fast, the next day is feast again and the day of the flight itself is fast. Then you only eat meals at times that make sense in the country you are going to. Say, for instance, you are flying from San Francisco to London; the time difference between the two cities is 8 hours, so 11pm in San Francisco is 7am in London. That means when everyone on the plane is having dinner, or trying to sleep, you have to eat breakfast so your body is in sync with where you are going.

Now, after eating “breakfast” you have to stay active because it’s morning where you are heading so you are trying to trick your body into thinking it’s already in London. So, it suggests you get up and walk the aisles and talk to the flight attendants and generally try and be as active as possible. Can you imagine the chaos if 20 or 30 people on the same plane were on this diet. Everyone walking up and down, squeezing past each other, trying to talk to the flight attendants who were just wishing they’d shut up and leave them alone and cursing the people who came up with this idea.
By the time you arrive in London you’re exhausted from walking around the bloody plane for seven hours and while your body clock may be confused into being on local time your brain has no idea where it is and you still can’t drink any coffee, or have a pint and you have to keep walking around and being active until it’s time for a high-carbohydrate supper but no protein. And then to bed. And apparently you wake up without jet-lag.

Brilliant eh! But guess what? You’ve just wasted three days of your life trying to stick to some ridiculously complicated formula invented in a government laboratory. That alone should make you question it!

Instead, why not just relax, get a nap on the plane. When you get to London, if it’s the middle of the day take another little nap, get up, go out, have fun, come back, go to bed, wake up. Repeat. And if the worst comes to the worst and you can’t sleep, at least you get to see the dawn breaking over London. Now how romantic is that? And it also leaves you plenty of time to call up the airline and ask them if they’ve found your missing luggage.

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