With the summer holiday season rapidly approaching, many of us are looking to shed a few pounds in the hope of looking and feeling great rocking that swimsuit.
It’s not unusual to try and crash diet a few weeks before the departure date, often reaching out for quick fix solutions like diet shakes, meal replacements and other severe calorie restricted plans.
It might also spur us on to give it all we’ve got at the gym for a few weeks in the belief that we really can get a bum like Kylie’s in 3 weeks flat!
The problem comes when we get on holiday and within a couple of days we’re feeling more like Jabba the Hutt than Kylie Minogue!
So what can we do to stop the holiday bloat and avoid the pounds piling on?
SET REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS
Firstly, we have to be realistic about what we can achieve in a few weeks leading up to the holiday.
Ideally, we’d start the weight loss process way ahead of the holiday date. The length of time before will depend on how much weight we want to lose but a realistic target is to aim for around 1-2lbs per week (or half to 1kg).
But if you have left it until the last minute then crash dieting is not a good strategy.
Don’t try and ‘cram’ for your holiday – it’s not an exam!
It doesn’t take long for the metabolism to slow down when we severely restrict calories, which means that as soon as we return to normal eating patterns, then the pounds will pile on.
As soon as you get on holiday and start eating and drinking normally you’ll feel bloated and the pounds will pile on quickly. In fact, most of us don’t eat and drink ‘normally’ on holiday. We tend to over-indulge – and why not? Isn’t that why we have holidays in the first place?
So if you have left it all a little bit late, by all means eat sensibly and maybe reduce calories slightly on the lead up to the holiday, but avoid very low calorie, meal replacement style restrictive diets – you’ll feel far worse by the 2nd or 3rd day of your holiday anyway.
Approach your holiday with a strategy for how you’re going to enjoy yourself without coming back feeling like you’re carrying extra baggage and a whole load of holiday guilt!
Maybe you will decide to allow yourself to fully enjoy your evening meal, and yes you will indulge in a dessert or a cocktail or two with dinner, but you’ll compensate by having a light lunch and avoiding the ice-creams and lunchtime drinks.
Perhaps you decide in advance that you will only choose fresh fruit for dessert or that you’ll dilute your drinks with sparkling water or diet soda.
Whatever you choose, try to have a plan before you go. Set yourself some boundaries, without being overly restrictive, and accept that you aren’t on holiday every day of the year and that some weight gain may be inevitable.
Avoid being too restrictive when you get on holiday. Telling yourself you absolutely can’t have something will push your willpower to the limit, and when it snaps there’s a good chance you’ll tip the other way and binge on anything and everything you can get your hands on.
PLAN FOR THE AIRPORT WAIT
Airports are packed full of eateries and it can be very easy to get into ‘holiday mode’ before you’ve even boarded the plane!
But do you really need that massive plate full of cheesy nachos and a double gin and tonic and 5.45am!
Many airline companies no longer serve a hot meal on the flight so we’re left to choose from highly processed hot dogs and burgers. Not great!
Try picking up something a little healthier to take onto the flight with you – and remember the bottle of water too. In fact, you might also want to pack your own healthy snacks for the flight since the airport is likely to be pretty expensive.
If you’re on a long flight you should try to get up and walk around regularly so you don’t suffer with swollen legs, there’s nothing worse than starting your holiday with ‘cankles’. Flight socks can also help to avoid swelling.
Lots of things can affect how our body hangs on to excess fluid, but feeling bloated can really ruin our holiday.
The best way to avoid this is to make sure that you remain fully hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
This is often easier when we’re on a sunny, beach holiday when it’s hot as we naturally want to drink more, however our needs also increase so making sure you get enough is imperative. Aim for 3-4 litres of water each day.
Alcohol dehydrates so try to have a glass of water between each alcoholic drink and avoid drinking alcohol during the hottest part of the day.
Check the colour of your pee to see if you’re dehydrated. A hydrated body has very light yellow, almost colourless and odourless urine. It’s the best way see if you’re hydrated or not. Don’t rely on thirst – by the time your thirst signals kick in you could already be pretty dehydrated.
Make water more interesting by asking for a piece of fruit or a mint leaf and some cucumber in it. Try sparkling water in a wine glass and it’ll feel more like you’re having a ‘proper’ drink.
If you’re a regular exerciser than getting your exercise in on holiday shouldn’t be a problem but if not then what better time to get moving than when you’ve got so much more spare time and so many new places to see.
Stick a pair of trainers in your suitcase and get walking. Exploring the local area can get your step count cranked up.
If you’re put off by walking in the heat of the day take an early morning stroll along the beach before the crowds spoil the view.
Or go for a leisurely walk after dinner to soak in the evening air (and help your dinner go down!).
Try a new activity, maybe surfing or snorkelling or hire a bike and go exploring.
Many resorts and hotels have a gym and getting up before breakfast for a quick workout can make you feel very virtuous and offset some of those extra calories you might enjoy throughout the day.
Or how about a few lengths in the hotel pool? Cool down and burn off a few cocktails at the same time.
ALL INCLUSIVE DOESN’T HAVE TO MEAN “EAT AND DRINK IT ALL”- INCLUSIVE
If your holiday includes all your food and drinks avoid the temptation to go down the ‘well I’ve paid for it so I might as well have it’ route.
You may have paid for the convenience of all inclusive, but if you throw caution to the wind and aim to REALLY get your money’s worth – you could end up gaining more ‘pounds’ than your bargained for.
If you’re faced with a breakfast buffet try to go for some good protein options; cooked meats, eggs and yoghurt. Also try to include some fresh fruit.
Another good tip is to head to the end of the buffet table and have a good look at what’s on offer before you join the queue. Remember you’re there for a few days so you don’t need to try everything at once!
Don’t assume a continental breakfast is a healthier choice than a full English – pastries and croissants are packed full of empty calories.
Decide which is going to be your ‘main’ meal of the day and aim to reduce the quantity of food eaten at the other meals. But, avoid skipping meals as this could easily lead to getting over hungry and over indulging.
NOT SO ‘HAPPY HOUR’
If you’re tempted by the hotel bar’s ‘Happy Hour’ try to make good choices.
Fruit based cocktails will generally contain fewer calories than creamier ones.
Choosing olives over the crisps and salted nuts to snack on can help reduce the calories consumed, and avoiding the snacks altogether will be even better.
There’s a very good reason why the barman is offering you salty snacks and it’s not to help with your electrolyte balance!
Salty snacks encourage you to drink more by making you feel thirsty. Who’s a clever little barman!
Don’t forget too, that alcohol is very good at ruining our good intentions. Our judgement over food choices goes out of the window after a few cocktails.
EXPECT TO COME HOME WEIGHING A LITTLE MORE
Lastly, remember we don’t go on holiday to feel deprived. We go to let our hair down and have fun, and often that involves trying new and exciting cuisines, wines and other local specialities.
It’s important that we don’t ruin our holiday (and those we’re with) by putting severe restrictions on what we allow ourselves to do.
We need to accept that there’s a good chance we might come back a few pounds heavier.
How much weight you put on will come down to the choices you make while you’re away.
Whilst being overly restrictive will spoil your holiday, equally, throwing all caution to the wind and simply eating and drinking to excess isn’t going to help you either.
It’s all about finding balance.
So decide what is ‘on the table’ and what’s ‘off the table’ before you go.
For more help with eating well, visit me at www.florescofitness.co.uk or find me on Facebook at Floresco Health and Lifestyle Coaching or you might want to join my Facebook Group, Fifty, Fit and Fabulous, a fabulous community full of information, motivation and inspiration for anyone heading towards, through or beyond midlife.
Bev Thorogood is owner and founder of Floresco Health and Lifestyle Coaching (formerly Fitness and Fat Loss Coaching). She’s a PN1 Certified Nutrition and Lifestyle Coach, a personal trainer, exercise instructor, wife, mum and Nan!