I returned home this week from overseas, having spent a wonderful couple of weeks in Spain reuniting with some of my oldest and dearest friends who all live in different parts of the globe. We spent lots of time wandering the cobblestone streets, eating, looking at historical landmarks, eating, drinking, watching flamenco, eating, shopping, eating, attempting to speak Spanish, eating, gossiping, eating… well, you get the picture. This sort of travel is certainly good for the soul, and while it broadens the mind it also, sadly, broadens the waistline.
“Oh well!” I say to myself, “That’s what happens when you travel in Europe. Now that I’m back home in Australia everything will get back to normal.”
But then I realise that my 3 weeks in Broken Hill had a similar, if smaller, effect on the scales, and that in fact I’ve been gradually but steadily going up ever since I started my travel adventures eight weeks ago. Given that I already have a further six trips planned between now and August, if the trend continues, I could have a real problem on my hands. Better to prevent it from becoming an issue then trying to undo the damage later!
The concept of weight gain while travelling is not a new one, and many people would have been familiar with it. My challenge is to work out my particular areas of weakness so I can hopefully limit the consequences. Here is my recent list of excuses:
- You’re only in Spain once! It’s obligatory to eat all the delicious local food. All day. Every day. Mmmm… jamon, churros, chocolate caliente, chorizo, tapas, queso, bacalao, paella, montaditos…
- I’m on my feet, walking around all day, surely that’s justification for stopping for a snack every couple of hours?
- Although I’m usually not a big drinker, when on holiday it would be unsociable NOT to match my companions drink for drink at the local cerveceria. Another vino tinto, señor!
- Although I’m usually not a big drinker, when I’m in a new town for a locum job, it would be unsociable NOT to have a few drinks with my new work colleagues, right?
- All the restaurants in this country town just serve massive steaks with a huge pile of chips, and I couldn’t possibly leave anything uneaten on my plate – it’s too wasteful.
- All the restaurants in Spain serve tapas and I’ve got no willpower to stop eating it even when my friends have all finished and I’m no longer hungry. (Same goes for finger food at parties)
- I can’t cook healthy meals because I’m staying in a hotel and don’t have a kitchen.
- I can’t cook healthy meals because I’m in a house that does have a kitchen but it doesn’t have a pantry full of staples so I’ll have to buy easy to cook packaged foods instead.
- I’m in a new place by myself and I’m lonely and I DESERVE to eat nutella for breakfast to make me feel better.
- I can’t exercise because I’m jetlagged.
- I can’t exercise because it’s too cold / hot / rainy / snowy / sunny
- I can’t exercise because the streets are too cobblestoned / the footpaths are no good / it’s too hilly / it’s too dark / it’s an unfamiliar neighbourhood
- The local gym doesn’t have the class I like at a time that suits me
- I’m only back home in Perth for a week so I’d better have as many coffees / lunches / dinners with friends and family as I can before I go away again.
- I’m only back home in Perth for a week so I have a million things to do and no time to exercise.
- I’ll totally exercise today, but later this afternoon. Oh… oops it’s now bedtime and I didn’t quite get around to it.
Any of these sound familiar??
So what’s the solution? I think for a lot of these things there is no one easy answer. A lot of it is just discipline. I had an interesting discussion with one of my friends during the trip about the concept of certain foods being “NWTC” ie not worth the calories, and other things being “TWTC” or totally worth the calories. My NWTC list includes fruit juice, white chocolate, most biscuits, fried rice & soft drinks. Whereas things like ice cream, macarons, tiramisu, good quality dark chocolate and cafe latte are TWTC, but not for every day. It’s helpful for me to be aware of what is and isn’t improving my quality of life enough to justify it’s calorie content, and hopefully that’ll help me better avoid the things that are bad for me that I don’t even like that much. Must remember that it IS ok eat “normal” food while travelling and that every meal does not have to be a noteworthy culinary experience. Stocking up on healthy snacks like fruit, veg, nuts etc is probably helpful too, to avoid the impulsive eating of bad things while starving, tired and cranky.
I also really like being active while on holidays so I just need to stop making excuses and do more of it. I’ve always enjoyed “outdoorsy” travel activities like hiking, white water rafting, horseriding, swimming, snowboarding etc but even just good old running can be great too. It’s actually a pretty good way to see more of a city in a shorter amount of time than if you were just walking for the purposes of sightseeing. The trick here for me is to get enough sleep to wake up early enough to go in the morning before the motivation wears off. Definitely something to work on!
If someone has a cure for a complete lack of will power to stop eating everything on the table even after the hunger has long past, please tell me! I’m drawing a bit of a blank on this one. Maybe one day I’ll grow out of it!
With no more than 3 or 4 weeks at a time in any one place this year, I’m not ever going be able to establish a normal routine. Hopefully with time I’ll get better at settling in quickly to new places so I can eat well and stay fit enough to enjoy my travels. Still, it’s important to be relaxed enough about these things to be able to enjoy your holidays, and I’m certainly intending to enjoy my share of pasta and gelato in Italy later in the year. Oh and I’m definitely going to be much better about exercising regularly… starting next week. 🙂