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How to avoid holiday weight gain

I wasn’t sure about writing this blog, as I’m worried about coming across as smug.

But on balance I’ve decided my story could be helpful if you struggle with holiday weight gain, so here goes…..I have just been on a week’s holiday and I haven’t put on any weight.  (See, told you it would come across as smug – but please bear with me).

I’ve always had mixed feelings about holidays.  I love relaxing, discovering new places, getting some sunshine, trying different foods, having fun instead of working and having quality time with my partner.  But I’ve always dreaded the (what I thought was inevitable) weight gain.

For years I viewed holidays as a break from my usual way of life.  My “real” life involved lots of exercise and constant efforts to lose weight by restricting what I ate, so I’d go on holiday and not exercise at all, drink wine all day long and eat everything in sight.  It was quite usual for me to return home from a two week holiday half a stone heavier.  I once flew back from Egypt with my jeans unbuttoned and unzipped as I had put so much weight on I could no long sit down in them!  Then I’d spend the months up until the next holiday punishing myself with exercise and dieting to lose the weight, only to then go on my next holiday and start the cycle all over again….

But yesterday, after a week in France, I stepped on the scales and discovered that I haven’t put on any weight, despite having sampled quite a bit of the local food and wine.

So what’s changed?  Well, quite a bit.

Firstly, how I exercise and how I eat in “real” life has changed.  I no longer use exercise as punishment for eating, and I no longer believe that healthy eating has to involve deprivation.  I’ve found a form of exercise which I enjoy, and I eat (a lot) to nourish myself so that I can exercise as effectively as possible.  So the way I exercise and eat is no longer something I need to escape from, because I like it.  I chose to do a couple of workouts while I was away this time because doing them seemed more appealing than not doing them.

Also, I no longer treat being healthy as an all-or-nothing state – treats are OK, one day off the gym is OK, a few glasses of wine are OK, as long as you get back to your healthy habits straight afterwards.  So I am more relaxed around food, kinder to myself, and don’t just give up and pig out the moment I’ve had one treat.

Add those two big changes together and I’ve ended up with a completely different mind set, and realised that if the way you eat and exercise at home is something you enjoy, you won’t be looking to abandon that when you go away.  It’s taken me a long time to “get” this but now it makes total sense.

So my top tip for you if you dread holiday weight gain?  Change your behaviour at home and your behaviour on holiday will take care of itself.  If you hate the exercise you’re doing at the moment, or see it as punishment, think about changing it – stop torturing yourself and find something which makes you feel good, from which you won’t need to escape.  Aim for healthy eating about 80% of the time.  Then you’re not deprived, and you’ll be less likely to treat holidays as an escape from that.  If you have an ice cream every so often at home, you might not feel so driven to go mad with ice creams when you’re away.

And remember that food eaten on holiday is no different to food at home – your body won’t forget you’ve eaten it when you get home, and you’ll hate yourself for the overindulgence.  Try the local foods (some of which could actually be healthy), chill out with a cocktail or two, but don’t eat and drink everything in sight just because it’s there.   I really don’t recommend sitting on a plane for five hours with a new belly hanging out of unzipped jeans!

By the way, I went on holiday with my sister, who has in the last few months changed her own relationship with food.  She didn’t overly restrain her eating either, and she lost four pounds!!  Now there is a reason to be smug!

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