How to stay healthy on holiday
Looking forward to your long-awaited holiday? Go prepared with our top tips on how to indulge the healthy way
Our resident personal trainer, nutritional advisor and health coach, offers some helpful hints on how to enjoy your long-awaited holiday without paying for it when you get back.
Embrace siestas and stay hydrated
Surprisingly, people are notoriously bad at identifying hunger. Frequently people confuse hunger with thirst – especially in sunnier climes. Keep yourself well hydrated by drinking at least 1 1/2 litres of water throughout the day to avoid reaching for food unnecessarily.
Another common mistake is to confuse hunger with tiredness. When you’re tired, your body will crave starchy foods. The quickest energy sources to perk up our flagging spirits are simple carbohydrates (sugars) and refined starches, both of which are absorbed quickly into the bloodstream, causing insulin to be released, and ultimately leading to fat being deposited.
We consume these in the form of biscuits, bread, confectionery, chocolate, holiday gelatos, and somewhat surprisingly in fruit. Therefore, if you are genuinely tired and you are on holiday, treat yourself to a siesta before reaching for a snack.
Choose your meal battles
While on holiday, there’s the appealing possibility of three course buffet breakfasts, lingering al fresco lunches, sneaky sundowners and à la carte dinners. Don’t feel you have to sample everything.
Some people need to graze on three or four light meals per day to keep their blood sugar levels stable, and some like to follow advice that promotes the benefits of intermittent fasting by eating one main meal per day. It’s not one size fits all.
But whatever you do, try to avoid consuming empty calories – forgo bread and butter before starting a meal and resist extra glasses of alcohol that you don’t really want or need. Consider substituting pudding with an espresso and a bite-size chunk of dark chocolate.
Try to stop eating before you feel full.
The hormone leptin, which is your appetite control monitor and regulator of fat stores, does not register fullness for at least ten minutes after you have finished eating. Try to use portion control and stop eating when you have finished what is on your plate. Second helpings should really be a no-no, even on holiday. Instead, order a coffee and distract yourself with the company around you. Incidentally, levels of leptin rise with good sleep, so bank up some long nights, too.
Take the time to enjoy exercise
Whether you are used to exercising on holiday or not, make this the trip to prioritise it. Exercise on holiday can be simple, time-efficient and fun. Use the great outdoors as your playground – swim in the sea, walk along the beach and make ample use of the pool.
Yogis out there, try doing some yoga poses on the beach or in your room. Salutations, downward dog and warrior can set you up very nicely before breakfast. Alternatively, visit the hotel gym if there is one. Gyms are satisfactorily empty in holiday destinations and are always air conditioned.
If you don’t want to drag yourself away from the sunbed, use it as a prop: ab crunches, lying leg raises, side leg raises, triceps dips can all be done on your lounger. Another useful tool for impromptu exercise on holiday is a rubber exercise band, easy to tuck into your baggage and user friendly for exercising within the confines of your own room. Exercise sessions do not have to be an hour long. A compilation of 10-minute chunks of any or all of the above can be just as effective, and leaves you plenty of time to do other things.
Enjoy sampling the local cuisine
Healthy eating feels good on holiday so load up with exotic fruits and vegetables. They are stuffed with antioxidants, which kill free radicals, improve your immune system and add extra glow to your already sun-kissed skin. If you are by the sea fish is super fresh and a rich source of omega 3, which is good for the heart, bones and brain – in fact, a pretty magic nutrient for most of the body's organs.
Wherever you are, try interesting local speciality dishes which often use the freshest seasonal produce: Greek salads, natural yogurt with honey and gazpacho are all good starting points.
Resolutions do not have to be made in January
Use your holiday to kickstart a healthy long-term nutrition and exercise plan. Instead of allowing yourself free rein to indulge at every opportunity, enjoy eating healthy, fresh, locally sourced food in moderation and experiment with new and interesting exercise options. Variety in both cases is of the essence and may open your eyes to the joys of arriving back from holiday feeling toned, healthy and motivated to continue the healthy lifestyle plan at home.
by Annabel Arkwright