Overseas holidays are normally associated with lots of eating. We want to sample all kinds of delicious foreign food and we take a break from our usual workout routine. It’s not uncommon to come back with our bellies bloated and skin blotchy from poor eating! Even if the trip involved physical activities like hiking for two days, it’s still possible to eat unwisely when we are not prepared with healthy snacks. Or we may pig out after our strenuous activity thinking that we have burnt enough calories!
How do we stay healthy on overseas holidays then? I just returned from my friend’s bachelorette party in the Maldives and indeed, we feasted non-stop! Actually, I thought we ate a lot less than our usual holidays simply because the food and drinks were prohibitively expensive. Here are a few tips:
- Do a fast before your holiday
If you know that your holiday will involve a lot of eating and sitting around, it may be prudent to do a one-day fast before the trip to compensate for the extra intake. There are several ways to fast. My favourite is the Fast Diet method, in which you only eat 500 calories for women, and 600 calories for men, for one day. The next day you go back to eating normally. It’s not as difficult as water fasts and not as sugary as juice fasts. In fact, I wouldn’t recommend juice fasts at all given the amount of sugar consumed. The good thing about fasting is that you do it just for one day but studies have shown that even temporary caloric restriction can have many benefits for the body, including improvements in blood pressure and insulin sensitivity.
- Start with a salad
Dining out may be difficult. Sometimes all you’re faced with are pizzas and pastas at an Italian restaurant. We were lucky that we had buffets for breakfast and dinner in the Maldives, which meant that there was a wide variety for me to choose from. I found sensible advice from Mary Helen Bowers’ book Ballet Beautiful and I will quote her:
“Always start with a salad, avoiding the salad dressing dump that many restaurants unfortunately do by ordering yours with olive oil and vinegar on the side. I sometimes use this technique when I order a wedge salad at a steakhouse: get some blue cheese on the side instead of blue cheese dressing and order the salad with olive oil and vinegar. I get to enjoy the freshness of the greens and tomatoes and the tanginess of the blue cheese without the guilt of consuming a heavy, creamy dressing.”
I think this is great advice because sauces tend to contain hidden sugar and it’s always better to eat food in its purer form (such as blue cheese) rather than blue cheese dressing.
Following her advice, I dutifully picked a salad as my first course at the buffet table. As you can see, my salad is still very substantial and could be one meal by itself. I ate salad greens, tuna flakes, eggplant, cucumber in yoghurt and curry reef fish.
- Hold off on desserts
I really tried my best but in the end I gave in and ate some sugary desserts. I tried to comfort myself by thinking that I picked my favourite one and didn’t go around sampling every single pudding at the buffet table. I left the chocolate and strawberry cakes alone and I went for my favourite pancakes drizzled with honey. Really bad for my health but really great on my tongue.
To make better choices than me, go for fruits or dark chocolate instead. Look at the yummy watermelon and oranges on the table! Eat them first before heading to the rest. You may be too full after fruit to gorge on puddings.
- Skip the sugary drinks
There is no need to put useless calories in your body by drinking sweet processed drinks. It’s all about choosing wisely and getting the most bang for your buck. Instead of soft drinks, go for a smoothie, coconut water fresh from its shell, wine or water.
Speaking of water, I would also recommend sipping water constantly throughout the day! I find that I tend to get dehydrated quickly when I’m travelling because I get too excited and forget to drink, or I’ll deliberately drink less so that I don’t have to hunt for toilets. Drinking water constantly is also a good way to manage our appetites – sometimes the body can mistake thirst for hunger.
- Schedule physical activities on your holidays
Visiting a city? Check out local yoga classes or pack your running shoes so you can take a jog in the local park. When I was in London recently, I attended a fantastic hot yoga class at Yotopia. It felt incredible to shrug off my winter coat and step into a heated room. I also packed my shoes for jogs around the countryside. It was a great way for me to stretch my legs and start the day.
Instead of lazing on the beach, why not take up surfing classes or go diving like what I did in the Maldives? Barbara brought her snorkel gear so we could swim around and look at fish. Workouts don’t have to be boring. Do something you enjoy and work it into your holiday!
- Do circuit training at home
If you have no time to go for a run in the park, or maybe it’s too polluted outside, stay indoors and do some circuit training. Here we are training our abs by doing mountain climbers on the front porch of our holiday chalet. Our circuit took a mere 20 minutes to complete but by the end of it, we were dripping in sweat and exhausted. The best feeling was when we woke up the next day with our stomach muscles aching. We knew that we could only get stronger after that.
If you have Internet access and a computer or tablet, you can check out interval training videos on Youtube, or just print off some exercises to take with you. I used this free bikini body workout by Kayla Itsines, which gave me exercises for abs, upper body and lower body for three days.
- Do yoga… anywhere!
I’m a huge fan of yoga. It’s both yin and yang. After a hard circuit training session, you can get into some yoga poses to lengthen your muscles and stretch out the soreness. Or if you want to skip the circuit training itself, performing sun salutations will definitely get your sweat flowing. Best of all, you don’t really need a mat.
This is a good yin pose, demonstrated by Alicia, to open up your hamstrings and back. This is a full split but for mortals like you and I, who can’t do that, gentle hamstring stretches will suffice as well.
Another stretch we like to do is the wheel pose. It’s really good for opening up every part of the back, from the upper back all the way down to the lower back.
And lastly, we have handstands on the beach by Alicia.
What tips and tricks do you have to stay healthy on holidays?