I just came back from a 3 weeks holiday in south-east Asia. It was an active holiday. I was independently planning the trip and also did some spontaneous change of plans when I considered it was worth spending more or less time in a pre-planned place. As this was for me the longest holiday ever, I found some tricks to keep my nutrition and exercising on track. These tricks work just as well for beginners also, therefore, I decided to write this blog post and share them with you too.
I always thought a holiday is like a weekend on steroids. And just like a weekend, it can easily make you lose most of your healthy habits just because you’re not in your typical Monday to Friday routine. If intermediate and advanced dieters find tricks and motivation to keep their nutrition & exercising on track during weekends and even in holidays, it’s a different story for beginners.
For beginners’ sake, we’re gonna assume a weekend is like a recurring holiday. That’s because it’s likely that you make some short holiday-like trips on the weekends also, and not just stay at home where it’s way easier to keep your nutrition and exercising on track. So this post is going to help you maintain your healthy habits in the weekends too.
A holiday typically consists of two main and distinct parts:
- spending time at the destination
I’m gonna treat these parts separately.
The travel time can take from 30 minutes of flying / car up to 30 something hours of car/ bus or plane ride. My plane ride, for example, took 25 hours in total, from arriving at the departure airport to the final destination. For me, this was the longest trip yet so I had to do some quick planning and preparation for it, from the nutritional point of view. I did not expect to find exactly the same food quality as at home but I still wanted to maintain a minimum level of non-junk food that I was gonna eat.
I think that with a little of prior planning you can definitely follow two of the basic three rule in my weight loss system: your fixed number of meals and not drinking liquids containing calories. Even if you have a long trip ahead, I would avoid adding exercising – other than walking and avoiding the escalators. That is because you are likely to get really tired on a long trip and any form of exercising beyond walking would not be helpful for your body.
Check your car/ bus/ train/ flight schedule and identify where your meals would fit in your typical home routine. For example, I have a fixed three meals / day eating schedule – as most of you also probably have. The first flight of my 25 hours trip took 6 hours, departing at 1 PM and arriving at 6 PM – local time at the middle point of my journey in Doha, Qatar. Then I had to wait there for 8 hours until my next flight to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. So I already had a clear picture of how my first travel day was going to look like:
MEAL #1 – 9 AM – breakfast at home, as usual
MEAL #2 – 2-3 PM – in flight lunch. Skipped the bread and the cake.
MEAL #3 – 8 PM – Dinner at the airport. Fresh salad with yogurt and olive oil.
Then, after some window shopping at the airport designer stores, it was time to sleep, since my next flight was departing at 6 AM the next day. Luckily, the Doha airport has some separate spaces with special bed-like chairs for sleeping. I strongly encourage you to try to sleep during your usual sleep hours, even if it’s not as comfortable as a regular bed. Otherwise, you risk messing up your entire schedule, eating out of tiredness and boredom and arriving dead tired at the final destination.
Regarding meal planning for the second day of travelling, I was going to arrive at Ho Chi Minh City around 12 PM local time. That meant I was going to eat a great seafood lunch in the city, but I still had the upcoming in-flight breakfast which I already knew was going to be a sandwich like meal. In order to avoid that shitty sandwich, I just bought some almonds from the airport and prepared one of my protein bars. So, my second day of travelling/ arriving at the destination looked like this:
MEAL #1 – 9 AM – in-flight breakfast of my own choice: Almonds and a protein bar.
MEAL #2 – 3 PM – lunch in Ho Chi Minh City after hotel check-in
MEAL #3 – 8 PM – dinner in Ho Chi Minh City
So, as you can see, even for a 25 hours travel time you can still keep your usual eating routine with the smallest amount of effort and planning. Basically, you just have to know where you’ll be at your regular eating hours and what are the food alternatives over there. In case something doesn’t fit your preference/ diet, just bring along some healthy food. In my case, it was just some low carb protein bars and almonds.
Spending time at the destination
I cannot stress enough how important it is to keep your eating organized, especially if you’re away from your routine back home. People stress a lot about the quality and variety of the food they’re gonna eat on a vacation when their attention should actually be directed on how much time they spend revolving around food over there. This is the real challenge. To have fun in a foreign, unfamiliar location without having to plan and think about what you’re gonna eat next all day long. So let’s break it down:
- Keep the same eating schedule as you have back home wherever you go. Of course, this is easier if you have a 3 or fewer meals/day eating schedule. In my case, I had breakfast included at the hotels I stayed so the first meal of the day was pretty easy to eat. And I think most people have an included breakfast with their accommodation away from home.
- Hydrate all day long, especially if you go in a hot place. It’s easy to forget about drinking water when you’re not in your daily routine. The easiest way to do this is to always carry a small 16 oz water bottle in your backpack or purse. Whenever I sat at a restaurant or bar I ordered a bottle of still water beside my drink or food. Another good idea is to take the water bottles offered for free when taking tours in hot places, even if you’re not thirsty at the moment. A thing I always do when I get to an all day/ weekend long party is to find a small bottle and constantly drinking and refilling it. It’s way easier than using a glass. Besides water, I also started drinking unsweetened hot tea, especially in hot locations.
- Postpone your food temptations. Same as you do at home, do not fall into food traps found in tourist places. The more tourist a place is, the more food there is available. So it’s really easy to fall for stuff in between meals. Try to postpone your cravings for next meal. You could even find out you don’t even want that particular food. IT was just a temptation.
- Try eating local food. Wherever you go there must be some local food that’s more or less different than in other parts. So why not try it? Even though the ingredients might not be your favourite, maybe they are prepared in a way that makes them taste totally unexpected. In a good way. Or maybe you go to some tropical, seaside location that has tons of fresh seafood, fish, veggies and tropical fruits. Which is exactly the food that makes you lose weight!
- Have healthy snacks with you in the case of emergency. Same as the water bottle situation, there’s no excuse not to have a small pack of raw almonds, a banana, or a protein bar tucked in somewhere in your backpack or purse. You may not always find food that you like or the chance to eat and then, instead of choosing some junk food that somehow is available everywhere, you can quench your hunger with your small backup stash.
People often say that the above ideas seem too radical, that they take a lot of time to prepare and spoil all the fun of a vacation. I strongly disagree. Regarding preparation time, as I’ve shown above, you usually already know your schedule and it’s pretty easy to know your meals in advance. I also disagree about the fun being spoiled. People who think like that seem to me like the same that are envious of other people’s success and say that having it doesn’t bring happiness. On the contrary, trying to keep your nutrition schedule in shape, at least partially, takes away a lot of frustration, changes your focus from food to more important things and, last but not least, improves your physical and mental state.