Do you feel like you always gain weight after a holiday? You definitely did not intend to. Perhaps the first day, you just had to try something from that street side stall. The following afternoon, you may have booked a dinner reservation at a really famous restaurant. What’s more, that city has two food markets that is planned for the day after and the one following. And there’s no way you’re going to skip dessert! Before you know it, your jeans are a little tighter as you settle into your seat in the plane and buckle your seatbelt around your happy (but unwanted) food baby. Everyone loves a holiday but no one loves the weight that comes with it. So read on, to find out how you can enjoy holidays without weight gain!
1. Have small meals
It’s no doubt that you’ll be eating many types of food when on holiday. Every country has its own foods, unique in the world. It may be in the form of breads, smoked fish, sandwiches, preserved meats, pastries, buns, meats, coffees, fried snacks, cocktails…the list goes on and on. Food is a huge part of culture, and is a showcase of a country’s freshest produce, culinary skills, and lifestyle.
To fit this myriad of food into your short trip, you’d probably be eating frequently. However, everyone has a certain calorie requirement every day. If you eat more than that, your body will store them as extra reserves (fat stores), and you will gradually put on weight. Having frequent meals is the thing to do when on holiday, but the key is that they should be small.
This is one of the main tricks to enjoy holidays without weight gain. Think about your daily calorie requirement like your bank account balance. If you only have 1500 calories, or $1500 to spend every day, you can either buy three $500 items, or ten $150 items. So, rather than have 3 big meals, try having 10 small meals or snacks instead. Easy for me to say, but how can you do it? Go on to the next point.
2. Share the calories
A huge point of holidays is to try out different foods (even for dietitians. Click here to have a look at my holiday itinerary if you don’t believe me). The magic word is try. While you normally have a whole meal for lunch to keep you full until dinner time at home, you don’t need that during holidays. There will always be food along the way to keep you full. So forget about satisfying your hunger.
Savour your food. Try eating just for taste. To do that, you don’t have to eat much at all. It is essentially what it is—tasting. Instead of having a whole meal for yourself, share it with friends or family you’re traveling with. This frees up some extra calories for you to have dessert, or try out street foods at the market later in the day. My rule is, if I anticipate food within the next 2-3 hours, I’ll eat less at the current meal so I have space in my tummy (or calories to afford) at my next meal. Think about your calorie-bank account.
3. Always make your own judgement call
Whenever I go on a holiday, friends and family will recommend places that I can go to, or restaurants I can dine at. As a foodie, I enthusiastically note them down, but will always do a quick search on Tripadvisor before I go. It’s not that I don’t trust their recommendations, it’s just that everyone has different tastes and preferences when it comes to food. A dish that a friend enjoys may not be prepared in a style that I appreciate, vice versa!
Making your own judgement call also applies when you’re at a food stall or restaurant. Your waiter may recommend you more dishes than you and your travelling companion can finish. Do not feel like you should order them all. Prioritise the dishes and order the ones you know you must have first. You can always order more if you’re still hungry, or return another day to have the other dishes. I’ve done that a few times. There’s no point stuffing yourself with more than you can manage and end up feeling worse for it.
This is the same for street food. There may be a huge queue for pad thai that this lady in a straw hat is frying up. It must be very authentic, you think. She’s also selling some prawn fritters and mango salad at the side. People are buying those too, but they don’t look very fresh to you. Besides, it’s only the smell of pad thai that’s wafting in your direction. Go with your gut feeling. If something doesn’t look good or smell good, there’s a low chance of it tasting good. It might have been delicious when it was made fresh, but not now. Make your own assessment and don’t fall prey to crowd behaviour or peer pressure.
4. Just keep walking
I definitely do not mean for you to walk past a food stall and overcome your temptation. That only leads to more cravings and regret! Instead, try to keep active and get your step count up whenever you can. Have to get between a shopping centre and lunch? Walk. Is your next tourist destination 15 minutes away? Walk. There’s a cable car to the peak of the mountain? Walk up, and cable-car down. Sometimes, there is just no other way to enjoy holidays without weight gain than by keeping active. I know of people who eat more on holiday and yet lose weight! Such stories really show you the true power of exercise. Imagine what they could have achieved if they simply had that level of physical activity on a regular basis!
I like to plan tourist spots that are in the same area within the same day so I can easily walk between destinations instead of get on public transport or a cab. If you have time, look out for scenic routes or shopping streets between tourist destinations. You might catch a glimpse of something unique, or find a bargain!
To some of you, my tips may come across as idealistic and difficult to carry out realistically. I agree—occasionally I lose myself on holidays too, and gain a kilogram or two. But like all lifestyle habits, change takes time. You may not be able to implement all of these tips in one holiday, but small baby steps often lead to big changes that you’d be surprised to look back on. All you can do is remind yourself, and keep trying. One day, slowly but surely, you’ll get there. You’ll be able to enjoy holidays without weight gain.