I’m on holidays with my family at the moment – at a beautiful resort in Sabah (Borneo) – and it struck me almost as soon as we arrived: there’s temptation literally everywhere. From those cute little alcohol bottles in the mini bar; the delicious looking cocktails by the pool (who can resist an umbrella in their drink?!); complementary canapés with our evening drinks – and don’t even get me started on the breakfast buffet (donuts/pizza/croissants/cake for breakfast anyone? It’s times like this I actually appreciate being gluten-intolerant!).
So how can you possibly navigate all of that without constantly caving into temptation (and coming home with some extra baggage – of the unwanted variety) – but still enjoy yourself and not feel like you’re being a spoilsport on holidays?
Here are my top 5 tips to beat the holiday bulge – which won’t leave you feeling deprived – and if done right might even see you come home a couple of kilos lighter than when you left!
1. Be buffet-smart!
We all know the lure of resort buffets – So. Much. Food. And it all looks so tasty and you just want to try everything. At the resort we’re at now they have 21 different kinds of bread and pastries at the breakfast buffet (seriously – I counted!).
Here’s my tip: Try to remind yourself that it’s not the last time you’ll ever be able to eat at a buffet – especially if you’re there all week – so space out the treats you want to try. No need to eat them all on day one (if nothing else, imagine how bloated and sluggish you’re going to feel in your swimmers later after demolishing everything in sight at breakfast!).
Here’s what I do: At breakfast, I always go for eggs first (boiled or poached if possible) and maybe another protein source such as smoked salmon or bacon, then I fill the rest of my plate with fruit and veges. If you’re still hungry after that, go back for your carbs (toast/ pastries/ muffins etc) – but choose ONE kind. You don’t need all the carbs (you’ll thank me later). Have a coffee or two as well (or tea). I find that helps to put a “full stop” on the meal.
Opt for a light lunch (especially if breakfast and dinner are buffet-style or rich restaurant affairs) – a salad or wrap with lean protein, or often I even take protein bars away with me so I’ll just have one of those with a piece of fruit to get me through till dinner.
At dinner, I follow a similar principle: load up on protein and vegetables first. If I’m in a buffet situation again, my first plate is filled with salad/ vegetables and lean protein such as seafood or chicken. If/ when I go back up (let’s be realistic, it’s a buffet so you’re probably going to get more than one plate!) then I get my richer foods such as roast meat or curry and ONE type of carb – the same deal as breakfast (choose rice OR pasta OR potatoes OR bread – not all the carbs!). Stop before you’re stuffed. For dessert, I always go for fruit first. If you want to treat yourself that’s fine – apply the carbs rule of thumb and pick ONE (not one of everything ?).
And the last word when it comes to food – no food guilt on holidays (or ever for that matter!) because as soon as you feel guilty about the food you’ll apply the “f*&$ I, I’ve ruined everything” mentality and chuck in the towel. If you overindulge in one meal, remember it’s just that – one meal. Move on and make the next meal a healthier one. No damage done.
2. Move it sista
I’m not going to tell you to go to the gym every day during your holiday (though if you enjoy it then please do) but you do need to move a bit, and preferably get your heart rate up in some way every day, to counteract the rich food you’ll likely be eating.
On holidays you generally have more time than in your regular daily life so there’s no excuse for not fitting in 30-60 minutes of exercise into your day. If you’re on a city/ active holiday this is not so hard as you’ll probably be doing a lot of walking or cycling. If you’re on a beach/ resort/ cruise-style holiday you might have to try a little harder!
Get creative – most places have a host of organised activities you can try if you lack the motivation to do it yourself. At our current resort, I’ve been on three hilly jungle treks, hit the gym (I actually enjoy resort gyms!) and played a LOT of table tennis. Pick something you enjoy or haven’t tried before. If I’m exercising indoors I’ll usually do it in the middle of the day when it’s too hot to be outside, and if it’s an outdoors activity then stick to early morning or evenings. Have fun with it, and it won’t feel like a chore.
3. Booze control
I know this is going to be controversial, but a holiday doesn’t have to mean a non-stop booze-a-thon. My rule: no drinking till 5pm (if you start at lunch – or earlier – then you probably won’t stop (and you’ll be ravenous by dinner!) and on most nights, stop at one or two. If that sounds unrealistic to you, then pick one or two nights where you can let loose – but on those days, make a special effort to eat leaner (protein/ eggs/ salad – see point #1) to compensate for the calories you’ll be drinking. And try to avoid too many sweet cocktails as they are usually high in calories (anything with coconut cream or sugar syrups are particularly high) – instead, go for wine, champagne, beer or spirits with low-cal mixers.
4. Sleep like a queen
This one should be much easier to stick to (unless you’re the parents of young kids, in which case, do your best!). Most of us don’t get enough sleep in our regular lives so if you can, take the chance to catch up on some rest while you’re on holidays. Lack of sleep can negatively impact on our hunger hormones, weight, mood and motivation so any chance to catch up should be seized. Obviously, you don’t want to sleep away your holiday but aim for 8-9 hours of good-quality sleep a night (and maybe a cheeky afternoon nap). If you’re one of the aforementioned new parents then try to nap when your kids do (failing that, kids club/ babysitters are worth their weight in gold on holidays!).
5. Treat yourself
This one shouldn’t be too hard to stick to either, but nonetheless often we (especially mums) forget that holidays are our time to recharge too. When our kids were younger I remember thinking holidays basically just meant shifting all our usual responsibilities to another location – the kids still needed feeding, bathing, dressing, sleep etc. We just had a more picturesque location in which to do it all! That means carving out time for yourself can be a little harder – but still essential. Again, I’ll go back to kids club/ babysitters if that’s an option where you are. If not, suggest a reciprocal arrangement with your partner so you both get time out alone to take a walk on the beach/ read a book in peace/ get a massage – whatever makes you feel human again!
You’ll be back to reality soon enough – hopefully without the aforementioned extra baggage – so get in that rest and relaxation while you can! You’ll be amazed at what a difference it can make to resetting your body and mind.
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