Holidays are simply incredible moments that often, we literally spend our entire waking and working moments waiting for.
But we also know that holidays carry with them the assumption that we’ll be changing our eating and drinking habits.
We won’t be as vigilant in the gym, we won’t be as conscious of our food choices and we’re certainly not going to worry about having a drink at 10am in the morning or drinking on a daily basis.
Holidays are amazing for this very reason.
But they’re also a source of guilt and shame for many people when we come back significantly heavier than when we left.
This article is not intended for anyone who doesn’t care about adding significant body fat on holidays. And if you’re one of those people – I applaud you.
But let’s be honest, most of us would prefer to have fun and then come back feeling good, and looking the way we did when we left.
If you’re one of them, read on!
The time of my life, volume 2!
In 2016, my boyfriend and I went on the trip of a lifetime – a heavy metal cruise that leaves from Miami, Florida which goes for 4 days and sails around the Caribbean. The cruise features 60 bands playing around the clock as well as numerous opportunities to eat and to drink to our hearts content.
In 2016 I went away with the idea that I wouldn’t restrict myself and my choices whatsoever and so I didn’t. I came back with at least 3kg more bodyfat than I had when I left and it impacted both my ability to enjoy my holiday at the time but also how I felt about myself when I returned. It left a mark on me that wasn’t entirely positive. I wish it didn’t – but it did. We’re only human and whilst we might know that being a bit heavier doesn’t impact our lives, make us worse people or truly affect anyone other than ourselves – if you make health and fitness a priority, it’s only natural that you will harbor some negativity when fat gain occurs. Even if it’s only for one week out of 52.
So this year when we went back I decided to take a different approach.
I decided that I would indulge to my hearts content in what I really wanted, but while making a couple of sacrifices that meant that I minimized the changes to my body composition as much as possible. I train hard at the gym, I value a healthy lifestyle, I value looking after myself…… but I also love a drink.
By going all-out a few years ago, it impacted the fun I had because instead of being present and being fully engaged in the holiday in 2016, I spent a lot of time staring at myself and making myself feel horrible because of how much my body shape changed in such a short amount of time.
I wasn’t being true to my values, and even doing this for a short amount of time had a huge impact upon my self-esteem, my self-perception and my mood.
This year, I look much the same as I did when I left, despite drinking everyday and drinking as much as I wanted (which is a lot!).
I chose to eat as well as possible and stuck to it. Because I value healthy eating and indulgence foods aren’t appealing to me, this was an easy decision to make and something I found simple to achieve. I don’t eat desserts, burgers etc at home and therefore, I didn’t need to add them to my holiday in order to have the most amount of fun. So this year, not only did I have the time of my life, but I also avoided the pitfalls of the previous trip.
We all want to be able to eat and drink whatever we want and not feel horrible afterwards, but we know it’s a pipe dream. Read on to gain some insight into how you can have the best damn holiday ever, without coming home with the extra baggage that puts a dent in your enjoyment.
Start with a good foundation
Being healthy before your holiday is a great way to start your holiday. Many people who go away on a trip and indulge do so without having looked after themselves first. These are the people who have started on the back foot and will feel the brunt of their choices hardest.
What do I mean by “looking after yourself?”
– Eating a consistent number of meals each day which prioritise whole foods high in protein, fibre and nutrients. Carbohydrates and fats can be manipulated to suit your particular needs, but you must avoiding going too low in either macronutrient for a long duration of time. Minimum of 20% of your calories should come from fats and the benefits of carbohydrates cannot be understated for those of you training in the gym. Intake will vary from person to person dependent upon size, sex, age and activity levels however most women need a minimum of 120g of carbohydrates each day simply to fulfill the glucose needs of the brain and for men this would be even more.
– Training in a way in which muscle retention and growth is a priority, ie regular, moderate to intense resistance training and activities which improve glucose dispersal and fat oxidation. Think regular strength training done to a medium to high volume (recovery and training age dependent!) coupled with some regular, low intensity to moderate intensity aerobic activities such as walking which does not impede upon your recovery from your harder sessions. Getting your daily steps in is one of the best ways to ensure you stay active without impacting upon your workouts in the gym.
– Recovering by getting plenty of water, sleep and rest, therefore managing the stress and catabolic hormones which impact upon fat oxidation, insulin sensitivity and muscular retention.
– Moderation means eating a diet which is neither too high or too low in calories, and ideally – eating at a level of intake which ensures maintenance of your current bodyfat levels and avoiding crash and yo yo dieting before you go away. A healthy body can utilise insulin to clear the bloodstream of sugars, just as a healthy body can change it’s energy pathways to oxidise fats when there are no carbohydrates present.
– Mindset If you have issues with binge eating, overeating, mindless snacking and perceive that you have no willpower surrounding food – you need to work on your MINDSET, too. It is the mind that determines your behaviour, and if you want to change your behaviour you have to start with your attitude. Looking at everything through the lense of having a “shredded body” only leads to greater issues with body image, food consumption and self-esteem. You do not want to have this as an overarching impact upon your life now, let alone when you’re considering hiding away, avoiding situations and activities because you’re worried about how you’ll look!
I would highly recommend my Alpha Attitude program if you feel that your perception surrounding your body and your food choices is going to impact upon your ability to emjoy yourself, either today or when you go away.
Of all of the suggestions I have made above, this one is the most important because it impacts on EVERYTHING you do – from your training methods and your enjoyment of the gym, to the way you perceive yourself and to the way you choose to fuel your body.
All of the above are things that we “should” be doing DAILY, so if you haven’t started yet and don’t even have a holiday coming up – you have no reason not to start NOW. Eating well, moving daily and managing your stress and recovery has only benefits to your health, your moods, your self esteem and your quality of life.
2g per kilogram of bodyweight in protein daily. For a 65kg woman, this means every day you will eat 130g of protein, distributed evenly at each meal.
Minimum of 30g of fibre daily, obtained from fruits, vegetables, grains and other whole foods such as legumes and lentils.
Consistent water intake in alignment with your training intensity, the environmental conditions (heat) and your size. Best advice is to make sure your pee is never darker than the colour of straw.
Remove all foods which cause gastro-intestinal distress from your diet, integrate this with stress reduction and lifestyle changes for best results.
Between 3 and 6 resistance training sessions per week, goal, recovery and lifestyle depending.
Resistance training to a moderate to high volume, ideally between 8-15 reps per set and 3-4 sets per exercise.
Training each muscle group twice per week to increase hypertrophic response and influence your ability to utilise muscle glycogen.
Minimum of 7 hours of good quality sleep per night.
Caffeine intake to remain at a level at which it does not impair sleep, ideally no caffeiene after training sessions or after 12pm.
Stress management a priority, remove sources of anxiety, distress and drama from your life and have the ability to spend time alone / on self-development without feeling guilty.
Feel comfortable skipping the gym if your sleeping patterns are not adequate for recovery, you are getting weaker or less enthusiastic about the gym etc. Be able to self-monitor your intensity and pull it back where needed.
Weight loss, weight gain prevention and weight maintenance all rely upon the same principle: CALORIE MANAGEMENT.
If you want to avoid excessive weight gain during your holiday, you need to be cognizant of your choices on holidays! This is non-negotiable, even the healthiest individual will gain bodyfat when presented with unlimited amounts of calories and lack of awareness of energy balance.
You cannot escape it. So don’t try to! If you want to prevent fat gain on your holiday then your goal should involve;
a) Maximising your enjoyment during your holidays whilst
b) Minimising your excessive calorie intake.
So this means that before you go away, you’ve got a number of questions you need to ask:
What is my poison?
Do you love a drink?
Or are you more persuaded by amazing dishes and local customs surrounding food?
Maybe you like both?
Choose what you’re willing to sacrifice.
If you are unwilling to sacrifice anything and want to spend the entire time eating, drinking and being unconcerned with your intake while you are away, then you can stop reading this article now.
I assume if you’re still reading, then you’re willing to sacrifice something to enjoy yourself without blowing out. If that’s the case – then choose your poison!
It’s safe to say that eating and drinking everything without caution will be the greatest negative impact upon your calorie management.
Alcohol can impede both the use of glycogen as fuel and fat oxidation as it is a toxin. When we drink, our livers sole purpose is to remove alcohol from the bloodstream and to prevent alcohol poisoning. Unlike food, alcohol crosses from the stomach directly into the bloodstream and so therefore when this occurs, digestion and fat oxidation is slowed dramatically.
Combining alcohol with incredibly calorific, dense and rich foods is the fastest way to add bodyfat, and it’s easily done considering that when we are drunk our inhibitions are impacted.
If you want to eat rich foods, particularly those with a high amount of carbohydrates and fats combined such as creamy pastas, pizzas, curries and many customary foods – avoiding alcohol is highly recommended.
Choose which you would prefer NOW, before you go on holidays. One of the best ways to do this is to ask;
What’s my current approach to food and drink?
Do you look at food as a source of pleasure and of indulgence?
Do you see food that is high in sugar and fats and find it difficult to resist?
Do you often find that you overeat without even noticing, or you’re frequently going back and forth to the kitchen to eat when you are bored?
Are you the sort of person who finds activities more enjoyable when you have a drink in your hand?
Are you more inclined to enjoy yourself when you have had a few drinks and your inhibitions are lowered?
All of these things will impact upon your food and alcohol choices during your time away. Personally, I KNEW that going on my holiday I would have been more partial to a drink than to food. I KNEW that I would prefer to moderate my eating and that I had the right approach, attitude and mindset to be able to choose very healthy options and forgo the indulgent snacks, desserts and dishes in exchange for drinks.
If you’re the sort of person who can have a glass of wine with dinner but otherwise are unphased and disinterested in drinking more than one or two at a time, you can feel free to choose the foods you enjoy in moderation.
If you’d prefer to drink
– Choose drinks with a lower calorie content most of the time such as clear spirits with soda water or diet mixers
– Avoid eating high carbohydrate and high fat foods, and combinations of foods when eating meals
– Choose meals which are high in protein and fibre and get as much vegetable content on your plate as you possibly can at EVERY MEAL.
– Ideally, avoid desserts, huge portion sizes and things which are incredibly rich in calories.
– Avoid eating after having too many drinks, if you’ve had a meal which is high in protein and fibre your appetite will be greatly reduced and will offset the calories you’re ingesting via alcohol.
– Keep following the DIETARY GOALS above as closely as possible whilst on holiday.
I chose to drink on my holidays and I followed the above guidelines, eating only proteins and vegetables at every meal (adding small serves of fat or carbs if I felt I needed extra energy) and only once or twice did I have something heavier.
During these instances, I chose a very small portion or I shared it with my travel companions. Eating well during my holiday also helped me to recover from my hangover faster, it made me feel infinitely better after a long night and made the biggest impact upon how I came back from my holiday.
70000 TONS OF BROCCOLI (AND RUM)
If you’d prefer to eat
– Avoid more than one or two drinks per day, do not get drunk!
– Avoid excessive snacking and eating more meals than you currently would
– Choose higher protein and high vegetable options as your base, and then indulge in moderate portions of whatever you want.
– Share higher calorie foods with friends and family instead of eating whole meals. “Tasting” a dish can literally be done with one bite, not with an entire plate.
– Remember that you can still explore cuisines, flavors and dishes without giving yourself a food coma, keep to realistic portion sizes. A portion of carbs is around the size of a cooked fist, and a portion of fats is around the size of your thumb.
IF YOU WANT BOTH
Be conscious of portion sizes.
Eat mostly whole foods.
If you want to indulge in food one day, avoid alcohol and particularly things like cocktails, beers and drinks with a lot of calories.
If you want to drink one day, avoid eating high calorie foods.
This is just common sense, refer back to the part about managing calories.
The things you will be doing on your holidays and the activities you will be undertaking will also play a part. So then, you need to be aware of
Will I be active on holiday?
Exercise does not have the impact upon fat loss and weight management that we think it does, from a calorie burn sense. As long as we can eat something in less than one minute that would take upwards of one hour to “burn off” then we are playing a game we can never win.
However, consider that what you’ll be doing on holidays will have a huge impact upon your food choices, the frequency of your meals and the amount of opportunities you will have to eat.
If you’re the sort of person who loves going somewhere new and walking around everywhere to discover hidden gems, sights and attractions and will spend many hours of your day being active – this presents a boon for you. Going snorkelling, hiking or cave diving, visiting a waterfall or a national park or doing any such activity means you will not be presented with the opportunity to eat as much as someone who is intent on lounging will. Your ability to be distracted by food while you’re out moving and seeing the beautiful surroundings of your chosen location is significantly reduced.
Therefore, think of your activity levels not as a way to “burn off” your food – but as an opportunity NOT to be eating.
Whilst on the cruise ship, we spent over 10 hours every day walking to and from different places on the boat and/or moshing, and often didn’t have the time or opportunity to stop for food. Our daily steps were up to 25,000 because of our constant movement and we never sat down unless we were having a meal.
Will you be in the same situation?
How active is your holiday going to be?
What opportunities have you left in your schedule to eat and drink?
last thing to ask is….
If my holiday involves a gym or the opportunity to train, will I REALLY use it?
It’s nice to think that the pretty gym in the hotel will be used on vacation, but what’s the likelihood you will actually do it?
If you’ve decided you’d like to imbibe in alcohol on your trip, chances are you’ll be too hungover and get up too late to fit a workout into your day.
If you’ve decided that food is the way to go and you’re going to be active and do many different things and explore as much as possible – you probably won’t have time to visit the gym and neither will you need to, as you’ll be getting plenty of exercise in.
Be honest with yourself – you cannot eat and drink as you feel and then use the gym as a place to “burn off” your indulgences. The idea that an entire day of eating and drinking without restraint can be “undone” by an hour of training in the gym is one of the greatest barriers to results which people have.
Do not try to use your activity as a means to counteract un unregulated calorie intake, either whilst you’re on holiday or while you’re at home.
It. Doesn’t. Work.
Nothing I have written is groundbreaking
It is common sense.
“Eat and drink in moderation,” “stay active,” “get plenty of vegetables and lean proteins” etc are things we need to think of EVERY DAY.
Moderation is not sexy. It doesn’t really sell diet plans, books or dieting products.
Unfortunately, in this industry the things that DON’T SELL are the things we need to be most
But so often we allow our food and drink and activity choices on holidays impact our enjoyment of the holiday and how we feel about ourselves and our bodies when we return.
On my previous trip, I indulged in everything. I came back significantly heavier than when I left and the weight gain wasn’t the thing that was the most disruptive. It was how the weight gain impacted how much fun I had during my trip.
It took me a week to add 3kg of bodyfat and then over three months to get back to where I was, but that wasn’t the worst thing by far.
The worst thing was being unable to be fully engaged in an incredible holiday, because I was too busy holding back and avoiding the activities I was so excited to do, because I was worrying about how “fat” I’d become. I became self conscious, anxious and uncomfortable in a place where I should have been liberated, free and happy.
Conversely, can you imagine being upset with yourself that you “couldn’t control” your eating on your holiday, because you hadn’t decided before you left that you can enjoy different cuisines without going overboard? What about the guilt and the shame you’ll be heaping upon yourself for months afterwards?
How about going away to a tropical island and spending the entire time self-conscious and avoiding wearing your bathing suit even though that was what you were most excited about before you left? We often regret what we don’t do more than we regret what we have done.
Understanding your priorities NOW before you go, and creating a plan to maximize enjoyment whilst minimizing negativity will be a huge benefit for you, and all it takes is a little awareness and common sense.
Having said that, there’s nothing wrong with indulging, throwing caution to the wind and doing whatever the hell you want!
If you feel that way – just know there is no judgement whatsoever – it’s just that this article wasn’t really written for you.