Holidays and Healthy Choices

If you’re a student like I am, your summer holidays are probably at least a month long. Even though you might just stay at home all summer, you probably still associate holidays with relaxation, partying, sleeping, eating etc. Yet, all of these activities can sometimes seem like obstacles in your ‘fit journey’. For me, the trick is to make healthy choices when I’m on holiday, without them getting in the way of enjoyment. Because I do really enjoy making healthy choices most of the time (with the occasional exception), summer holidays aren’t a lot more challenging than being at home. Yet, if you feel a bit stressed out, guilty or if you’re just interested to know how I try to maintain a healthy lifestyle in summer, read on!

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The first thing I want to say, and this is something I want you to remember when reading any other post on the blog, is that you need to decide what a healthy lifestyle or choice means to you. You can do this by defining your goals. If you’re perfectly happy with the way you feel and look by eating the amount and types of food you’re currently eating then that is probably a healthy lifestyle for you, simply try to maintain it! If you’re trying to lose body fat or gain muscle mass (or both) then you’ll have to first identify the amount and types of foods you should be eating to obtain this goal. The reason I’m pointing this out is that what I consider to be a ‘healthy’ choice might not necessarily be what your body needs or what you feel most comfortable with.

Once you have identified these personal choices you can decide how lenient you want to be with yourself when you’re on holiday. For example, if you’re going away for a week to a country or place where you know it is going to be extremely difficult to find a gym, have protein shakes, eat regularly, go to bed on time etc. make yourself aware of this before leaving. This will avoid you feeling guilty or feeling like all the efforts you have previously made have been for nothing (that’s never true!).

When you have, in a way, examined the circumstances in which you are going to be living you should try to find ways in which you can implement as much of your usual daily routine or lifestyle in to your trip and ways in which you’re going to deal with certain obstacles. Here are some common ones I come across when I go on a trip:

FOOD

When you’re on holidays the way you eat will almost inevitably change. It might be the frequency of your meals, the time at which you eat, the types of foods or the amount. Therefore, for most of us finding a right balance between healthy foods and ‘unhealthy’ foods is quite tricky. Yet, there are many things you can do to avoid falling in to the extreme of having high-carb high-fat foods at every meal.

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Resisting Temptation

For me, the hardest thing to stick to when I’m on holidays is trying to eat carbs at the right meals since I am often tempted by pizza, chips, pasta, bread, ice cream etc. Knowing this, and knowing how hard I find it to resist such foods when I’m on holidays, I give myself a sort of budget (ex: With this meal I’ll have one piece of bread and that’s it). Something else I try to do after having had a large unhealthy meal is to compensate by eating less for the next meal or by skipping a snack. By doing this you’re only restricting the (unhealthy) foods you love without forbidding them!

Healthy options

There are two ways to look at the healthy options you can find when you’re on holidays. The first is to expect to find all of the foods you usually eat when you’re at home (think protein shakes, nut butters, quinoa, dark pasta or rice, dates etc.). Of course, I am sure that you’ll be able to find all of these things or even bring some of them with you but if you’re realistic, especially if you’re staying at a hotel/motel, you know you won’t be able to prepare or eat all of these foods.

The second way to look at it is by making the best out of what is available. This might seem logical but just remember that you (almost) always have a choice of choosing a salad over a pizza, fish with veggies over a hamburger, fruits over ice cream etc. Be honest with yourself when you’re at a restaurant and ask yourself what the healthiest option on the menu is and choose that one. Disregard what everyone else at the table is having because the choices you make affect only you and no one else.

Lower the calories 

I don’t love saying you should worry about calories all the time but if you know you’ll be enjoying calorie-dense meals, cut down on the calories you consume in desserts or snacks. Even though this might lead to your snacks not always fitting your macronutrients, replace your usual protein shake with some low-calorie fruit. As dessert I usually have either banana ice cream or store-bought low-calorie ice cream.

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Going out and drinking alcohol

Something else most of us associate with the holidays is partying. Depending on the places you go and your personal preference the amount of partying will definitely vary. Yet, for most of us, partying goes hand in hand with alcohol. Now, as we all know alcohol has a very bad reputation in terms of weight loss as the drinks we consume are often calorie-dense. Yet, there are some tricks you can keep in mind to limit the amount of calories and sugar you consume from alcohol.

Number one: Don’t go crazy. If your goal is to get completely drunk every night, for seven days in a row, then I can’t really help you. You and I both know that to do that you probably require large amounts of alcohol, which is always going to result in a huge amount of empty calories, and thus slow down the obtainment of your goals.

Number two: Don’t drink cocktails, just don’t. I personally don’t get the appeal but I know many people love these sugary mixtures of juice, syrup and alcohol. As you can probably guess; these are the bad boys in terms of weight gain.

Number three: Go for low-calorie mixers such as light sodas or (sparkling) water.

Number four: Don’t go home emptying your entire fridge. After having partied all night most of us get quite hungry and we tend to crave fatty foods. These are the worst foods to eat when your body is trying to get rid of the alcohol in your body as the fat in the food will absorb the alcohol in the stomach and turn into body fat.

No gym

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This one is a tricky one. As I previously mentioned before leaving on holidays you need to determine how motivated you think you’ll be to workout or find a gym once you’re there. If you know the hotel or place you’re staying at has a gym then I strongly suggest you make use of it, even if it’s just for 20 minutes a day. However, if this is not the case there are still body weight exercises you can do without any special equipment. If your holiday is a week long and there is no gym to be found you’ll probably be very tempted not to workout out and… that’s OK. If you think about it, one week a year without serious workouts won’t be disastrous for your fitness journey. Yet, I do strongly suggest you find other activities such as swimming, hiking, beach volley, horseback riding, biking, waterskiing etc. to make sure you get some form of activity in daily.

Of course, you need to be honest with yourself by remembering that to see results you need to be consistent. Therefore, quitting your usual daily routine and replacing it with late night dining, alcohol, ice cream etc. is not going to get you closer to your goal. If you interrupt your routine for about 10 consecutive days or less you probably won’t see any major fallbacks but don’t adopt this lifestyle for 2 months!

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