Eating healthily on holiday
July 9, 2012 3:36 AM   Subscribe

I am looking for some tips on how to eat healthy while going on holiday.

Hi Mefites. I'm this person. Things are going well for me. Somewhere along the line, I have become a lot less obsessive about food, and am eating pretty healthily and intuitively - 3 good meals a day when I am hungry, minimal snacks (though a lot of coffee), limited amounts of sugar but not freaking out when I do eat a whole dessert or whatever. What's more, I'm feeling really good about myself.

But I think a large part of my success has been routine. I have control over what I eat and that's a big deal. I am going on holiday, which I am really looking forward to, but a little apprehensive about my routine being thrown out of whack and what that is going to do with my eating.

(1) Everything is delicious in the countries that I will be visiting (I'm going around South Asia).
(2) I will be visiting plenty of family members while there. Everywhere you go, they serve you snacks and get seriously offended if you don't eat anything. These snacks are usually deep-fried things or sweets. I can politely say no, but some of the older members of the extended family can get very shrill if you refuse to eat anything and take it as a personal affront. They also notice when you don't eat much and tend to point that out in a really high-pitched way ("Ziggy500, there is NOTHING ON YOUR PLATE!"). It can be very embarrassing.
(3) It will be very hot and I won't get a chance to do much exercise.

It would be great to come back home and not find all my hard-earned efforts destroyed when I step on the scale, so I'm looking for tips on how to successfully navigate my holiday while still enjoying myself.

For info: I am limiting my carbs, and trying to drastically limit my sugar intake. I have desserts every now and then. I eat a lot of vegetables and salad.
posted by Ziggy500 to Food & Drink (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
How long are you going for? If it's less than two weeks, I'd say just eat whatever you like/have to, and go back to your usual routine when you get back. I think giving yourself permission in advance is much better psychologically than trying hard to keep your usual diet and then failing. The "try to diet and fail" thing is something that you might conceivably slip into as a pattern at home if you aren't careful and if it's been happening while travelling.

A couple of weeks won't make that much difference to your weight - if at all - unless you have a particuarly tricky metabolism. And you should be able to compartmentalise the eating you do on holiday as something that happens in that context, so that it doesn't interfere too much with your eating back home.

The only thing I might try to retain, if I were you, was the limitation of sugar. Regaining a taste for sugar when you worked to lose it is something that could be problematic on your return.
posted by lollusc at 5:39 AM on July 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seconding the 'let it go' while you're on holiday but really, just eat meals until you are full. Then stop, even if your relatives are giving you sad faces. Just say 'it's so delicious but I can't eat anymore'. And snacks, say "I'm still acclimatizing to the weather...or I ate too much at lunch" etc.

I am really big on routine eating too but this is a special occasion. Just try to not 'diet' in the way that you are limiting yourself so that you feel deprived and hungry. Just eat meals until full. Sorry if that's annoying advice, because people probably have different internal mechanisms.

Enjoy your trip!!!
posted by bquarters at 6:06 AM on July 9, 2012

I started eating healthier/ limiting carbs almost exactly a year ago. I also started traveling a lot almost a year ago. I know this doesn't answer your question exactly, but I'll tell you what works for me. I have always given myself permission to treat myself when in another city or country. It is part of exploring local flare. I don't binge; I eat small portions of the yummy goodies that I don't normally allow myself to have. Usually, I will gain a couple of pounds but it is all water weight. Carbs are heavy in water and so when you eat them after restricting, the weight that you gain is likely water weight. If I jump right back into healthy eating after a trip, the weight falls right back off and I am good to go. I have managed to lose 70 pounds this way while traveling almost monthly including a 2 week trip to Europe (ohh the pastries I filled up on!). I think its all about finding a good balance.
Suggestions if you do not want to indulge: Fill up on anything green and leafy. If there are veggies, cover your plate with them. Ask for meats without sauce. Walk when you can. Do short HIIT exercises in your room. But most of all have fun!
posted by allnamesaretaken at 6:11 AM on July 9, 2012

On my most recent trips, I've eaten very light breakfasts - usually just an energy bar and coffee - both for financial and calorie reasons. I've found that on vacation, I usually sleep later than usual, so by the time I get around to eating said light breakfast it's halfway to lunch, anyway.
posted by something something at 6:33 AM on July 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

If your trip is going to consist of some times when you are eating by yourself and then other times when you are eating with relatives/others, you might make yourself a rule that you only eat salad/vegetables/lean meat/whatever is "light" on your diet when you are by yourself, then when with others you allow yourself to eat whatever they are offering. This might let you maintain some semblance of control throughout the trip.
posted by CathyG at 6:53 AM on July 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

Can you claim a bogus medical reason? You doctor has told you to cut back on sugar on account of your recent case of the Winkles, or you need to eliminate fried foods for six months to rule out Flenderson's Syndrome, or something? May be more trouble than it is worth if your family is the nosy type, but a possibility. Also, make sure to eat as much as possible of the low-calorie stuff (veggies, lean protein) and really gush over how much you love it, so that they will want to serve you more of that, and less of the carby/fatty stuff.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:55 AM on July 9, 2012

Holidays are hard for healthy eating, pretty much no matter where you go. I also find social eating and special events really difficult, because I feel like people expect me to eat everything they cooked. Oddly, a lot of that feeling was just my own worry - they don't really expect that. Try to go into this with as few assumptions as possible, and don't go out of your way to do/eat what you think someone wants of you, without confirming that they really do care one way or the other. And when Auntie says "Oh! You're not eating!!" maybe what she's really saying is "Hey, I love you and I'm glad you're here and I bet you haven't cooked this for yourself so I made you this food-gift but now I'm worried that you've been gone so long that you don't like our food any more, and you're so young now I'm worried that you don't take care of yourself and hey, I love you!" So don't get all flustered and think she needs you to eat 6 of the dozen pastries she cooked just so the platter is clear. Your job is to eat one and tell her she's wonderful.
Take one, have a couple of bites, compliment her profusely, tell her how much you've missed her, and her cooking, and the food. Talk about something else for a while, something that involves setting your utensils down and waving your hands vigorously, while giving them nothing to do but listen and eat their pastries. If there's a round two, you couldn't possibly because you haven't finished your first yet.
The key is to make sure the food is neither (1) so important that eating and paying attention to the food is the whole point, nor (2) so unimportant that you eat it without thinking, just as something to do with your hands and mouth while you listen to the gossip.

Over the course of the day, try to not eat unless it's food that is handed to you. (like CathyG said, eat very little when you're by yourself). My personal weakness is to get into "party mode" for a week-long family reunion, which means no only do I eat the slice of cake when it's served after dinner, but when I walk into the kitchen the next day and my cousin is eating a piece as a snack, I want one, too. And when there's a big spread of fruit and eggs and bread and jam and cheese and all sorts of things people might possibly want to eat for breakfast, I don't look around and notice "hey, my uncle had a piece of toast and peanut butter and now he's just drinking coffee while we stuff ourselves", I take some of everything. And when the host has made a variety of snacks and just left them out for us, I can't keep my hands off them mid-afternoon because they're different and delicious. But then a real social mealtime rolls around and there is the "make Auntie happy" motivation to eat the food, and I've already spent my daily splurge when I didn't have to, which makes me feel twice as manipulated as if I'd planned ahead.

One tactic that might work for you is to locate the person in the room who is eating least. So when your auntie says "But you're not eating!!" you can say "Oh, of course I am! I've had plenty!" If necessary, mention that you've had at least as much as X has (though if X is also trying to be healthy, s/he won't appreciate that!) but more to the point, you have a benchmark for how much "plenty" really is, so you can feel calm and not be bullied, and just have confidence that you don't have to say yes to the next round of food, because there's someone else who's also politely refusing.

Or maybe you just need to take a serving for your aunties to be happy, and you can eat only part of it, and compliment them on how it lured you in because it looked so delicious, and it tasted so delicious, but you just couldn't possibly eat another bite because everything is so fantastic and you love them so much and they are so amazing to have cooked all this when you came over.
posted by aimedwander at 7:02 AM on July 9, 2012

Having an Asian family, I learned the most important thing to survive a family gathering was to always take some of everything and always leave some food in your bowl. Nothing gets attention like an empty bowl.
posted by advicepig at 7:18 AM on July 9, 2012 [3 favorites]

I, too, limit my carb/sugar intake and just came back from a four day trip to the bay area. We walked. A lot. Up hills, down hills, all over Alcatraz, etc. I weighed myself the morning after getting back. I gained five pounds. Five pounds in four days. I wasn't thrilled by this, but I didn't let it throw me for a total loop either.

No, I did not stuff myself silly. I ate about the amount that I usually would, but I did eat a few silver dollar pancakes with a bit of syrup, a croissant, half a cookie, a scoop of breakfast potatoes and some sushi.

This morning I'm down ~3 pounds from yesterday. I think it's a matter of carbs/water retention and muscle. I'd be surprised if I didn't drop the rest over the next two days.

If you do wind up going the route of sampling what you must to keep the peace... do not freak out when you get back on the scale. It's not permanent.
posted by FlamingBore at 10:00 AM on July 9, 2012

Also a fan of taking some of the somethings, nibbling a bit, rhapsodizing over how amazing it is, and then leaving a semi-full plate or bowl for as long as possible so you won't be offered more.

Now my issue isn't that I'm trying to lose weight, but that I have some ongoing stomach problems where I can only eat a small amount at a time, but you would be surprised how little people seem to care about that even when I explain it. So I would think my strategy would work for people trying to lose weight as well!
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:22 PM on July 9, 2012

I also limit my carbs, and my husband and I visited Thailand this February for our honeymoon. We also decided to Let It Go for the honeymoon, because how often are you in Thailand?

But what actually happened was this: for the first 5 days, we went a little off the rails and ate All the Rice, All the Sticky Sweets, and we drank All the Beer (it's sort of pertinent that Thailand has limited quantities of wine, which is my usual vice). After 5 days, we were totally over eating tons of carbs. So we went back to a more normal diet of meat, vegetables, spices, coffee, and very very few sweets and beers. We still ate rice because it's a social sin to leave rice in one's bowl, as rice is very hard to harvest and central to Thailand's culture, but if possible we'd avoid it.

I'm not saying you can't just let go, but in our case, we didn't feel very good after letting go for days on end. I wanted the energy to explore temples and wander around alleyways, and I didn't have that energy when I was carbing it up every meal. It was a natural choice.

So yeah, definitely enjoy yourself in South Asia, but eating food for the sake of Fun Vacation Times can often backfire. Have fun!
posted by zoomorphic at 12:56 PM on July 9, 2012

« Older Can you identify these classic Infocom fonts?   |   Is Rosemary that Bitter Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.