I consider myself a pretty healthy person. I go to the gym most days and try and eat wholesome fresh food as much as possible. Sure I like a few wines on the weekend and I will never say no to a piece of dark chocolate, but generally I'm a salad rather than a burger sort of girl.
It's never been about the scales to me because my body has settled on a weight it's happy with and I barely fluctuate more than a few kilo's either way no matter what I do. I'm happy with that. It's really about how I feel on the inside and I know that if I'm not eating well and exercising I just don't feel right. I get grumpy, I don't sleep well and I find it hard to get motivated to participate in things I'd normally love doing.
Like many of you, this becomes a particular problem when travelling because there are so many more temptations. You tend to eat out most of the time, there's a lot of social drinking and you don't have the local gym up the road to sweat out all your sins.
I'm sure this won't surprise you but out of all the places I've been too I struggled the most to find healthy food choices in the USA. It's little wonder it has the highest rate of obesity in the world when you consider the amount of junk food readily available and heavily advertised. At one point whilst I was there I remember thinking that McDonald's actually looked like the healthiest option and that's never a good sign! When you're comparing the cheeseburger to a quadruple bypass burger from the heart attack grill the humble cheeseburger really doesn't look too bad.
There are also many temptations in Europe - who can say no to the baguettes in Paris, a strudel in Vienna, tapas in Barcelona? Yorkshire pudding in the UK- delicious!
The rest of the world isn't much better. Asia - A traditional Thai curry is my absolute favourite dish of all time. And quesadillas in Mexico - don't even get me started!
So the question is how do we enjoy our trip, sample the cuisine, and still have a great time away without the added weight gain and sacrifice of a healthy lifestyle?
From my experience I have found you have to commit to sustaining the lifestyle and you have to prepare to give yourself the best chance.
Right at beginning at the packing stage you need to set yourself up to be able to exercise. It's easy to use the excuse you didn't bring anything suitable, but even if you are packing light you can always fit in a pair of sneakers or something equally as comfortable to walk in. Then you only need a shirt and shorts or leggings and you're ready to hit the road. Nothing fancy is required.
If you are catching a flight the plane ride might be the start of your food temptations and it's best to start your trip with good habits straight away. Most airlines actually offer healthier choices that you can pre-order before your flight such as low calorie, low sugar etc. Check their website or contact their customer service team to see if they offer healthier alternatives beforehand. Make sure you pack some healthy things to snack on during your flight such as trail mixes, air popped popcorn or fruit bars so you are not tempted to reach for the fried chips or chocolates if you get a bit peckish.
When you arrive at your destination it may come down to where you are staying and what facilities are on offer, but if you are staying for a week or more the best thing to do is to do a grocery shop as soon as you get there. Not only will you save money on dining out, but you can pick healthier choices and you also know exactly what you are putting in your mouth. It's also great to check out the local markets and pick fresh produce from the country, which to me is a fantastic experience in itself.
If that's not suitable and you find you have to dine out for your meals don't be afraid to ask the waiters where you are dining for the ingredients list on what you are ordering. Things that sound reasonably healthy might not actually be so when you discover what's actually in it. When I was in the USA I asked for an egg white omelette which you would think would be a healthy choice. What I actually received was an omelette so drenched in butter to the point it was barely eatable. I learnt my lesson quick smart. If there is a language barrier but you know you will be dining out I would suggest you research what's in the traditional dishes before you land and have some choices picked already.
Use your common sense and the healthy eating rules you would stick to at home. Just because you are in another country that does not give you an excuse to over-indulge. Stick to the portion sizes you normally would eat, try and find dishes that contain fresh vegetables and salads and ask for dressings on the side. Choose tomato based sauces rather than cream and avoid most deep fried meals. If there isn't something on the menu you think is a healthy option, most places will be completely fine with making some changes for you. There is always a way to make your meal healthier as well. Half your pasta/pizza dishes and have with salad instead or order bowl of steamed vegetables so you fill up on them instead of hot chips.
Traditional dishes aren't necessary unhealthy. There is nothing better than a hearty papaya salad (som tam) in Thailand or an Arroz con Polla is Spain. I'm not saying you should avoid a green Thai curry or churro's completely because you really will be missing out, just remember moderation is key.
Alcohol. It goes without saying that if you are a regular drinker you will probably consume a fair bit more alcohol when you are travelling. I'm not going to lecture you on the calories in alcohol as I know you're still going to drink it no matter what I say and I don't blame you. I would suggest that you limit the cocktails full of cream and try and avoid mixers that are full of sugar. Other than that you really shouldn't miss out on a beautiful wine in Italy or a sake in Japan.
The next morning perhaps avoid a huge fry-up and opt for foods full of potassium, an important electrolyte that is often depleted due to alcohol's diuretic effect. Banana's, kiwi's or spinach are a great choice. Also, eggs are fantastic as they are full of cysteine, which is a substance that helps break down hangover-causing toxin acetaldehyde in the liver's easily depleted glutathione. Poached eggs with sautéed spinach on toast with a banana smoothie! Not only delicious, nutritious and hangover helpful but available in most countries.
Exercise also doesn't have to stop just because you are in another country. Hiking in Malaysia's Cameron Highlands is truly spectacular but if that's bit too extreme for you then there really are numerous ways you can fit exercise in when you are travelling. Bike riding is the best way to get around Amsterdam and it's easy to hire one for the day or week. If you are staying anywhere with a pool, swimming laps is a great way to stay in shape (make sure you pack your swimmers) and if you are staying somewhere tropical why not partake in some activities like surfing lessons or paddle boarding? Winter activities- Obviously snow skiing is a great choice but even just snow fights will keep you active whilst you are there.
There are always options, even if hitting the pavement outside isn't possible. You can do crunches, lunges, squats, push-ups, star jumps all in your room and none of these require any equipment. You can also always pack a skip rope as well which is a handy tool for cardio anywhere that doesn't take up too much room.
I've seen people on flights doing push-ups and crunches in the aisle. I am in no way suggesting you need to go to these extremes. Just by being prepared, committing to some physical activities and balanced healthy eating should ensure you have a healthy and happy holiday.
To travel is to live, to open our eyes to the wonders of the world. To become whole. It doesn't have to mean you can't sustain a healthy balanced life or you have to sacrifice the choices you would normally make in order to feel healthy. Like everything to do with travel it's just about adapting to the situation, lifestyle and culture. That's the beauty of travel after all.