Warning: LOTS OF SELFIES AHEAD 🙂
There’s a lot of controversy that goes in my mind when I travel. I tell myself, “Yes, try it all!!”
Then I hear, “Sab…don’t get fat.”
Another voice says, “Sab, you’re on vacation for goodness sakes. ENJOY GIRL.”
But that one devilish voice yells, “Sab…aren’t you about to wear a bikini tomorrow!?”
Luckily my strong-girl voice slaps the devil down and screams: “Screw it! YOLO! You’re hot, Sab! Go get ‘er tiger!”
BAM! Before I know it, I’m past my “carb limit” (whatever the heck that means…), my tummy is happily bloated, my heart is full, and that little devilish voice tries to ruin my satisfaction again!
“Sab, you’re gonna pay for that one…just wait.”
Well, this summer is the summer I learned how to ignore that annoying voice, listen to my body, and fully enjoy the heck out of myself. But these are the guidelines I discovered and will continue to follow whenever I’m traveling. And if you’re a fitness fanatic like me, I hope that you find these helpful on your next trip!
The first week will suck, but I promise it’s temporary.
I finally finally realized that when traveling, the first couple of days to a week will always be the worst. First, your body needs a day or two to recover from the flight. High altitudes, inactivity, and not enough hydration will all cause a decent amount of swelling, bloating, and inflammation.
Second, depending on where you are going, your body needs a minute to adapt to the new climate. Summer time is a fine time to swell-up. Spain, in particular, being at it’s peak of the season when I arrived, had no mercy on me.
Thirdly, the new foods of your destination may cause a little surprise to your digestive system. If you don’t normally eat huge plates of paella and infinite amounts of bread in one sitting (thanks Spain!) then your body might have to put forth some extra effort in digesting those new foods!
Those are the basic things to consider; among other factors that vary from person to person are: fluctuation in water weight, your own unique metabolic processes, and hormone imbalances. Being in a new country can be exciting, nerve-wracking, exhilarating, and stressful all at the same time – cut yourself some slack. Plus, a myriad of other things! There’s a lot going on so please don’t add more stress to yourself by worrying that you already gained 10 pounds just by looking at churros. I promise, you haven’t.
2. Consider your activity level (workout included below!!)
Okay, maybe you’re the type that doesn’t want to workout on vacation. That’s totally cool! Wherever you are, I’m sure you’ll probably be walking around a looot. Or you’re bike riding. Or you’re swimming in an ocean/lake. Or you’re participating in pool-side Zumba!
The only reason I bought myself a gym membership while in Spain was because I knew I’d have extra time living with my host family. Please, don’t feel obligated to go to the gym when you’re on vacation so you can “watch your weight.” Even with a gym membership, my workouts lasted no longer than an hour. They served as my down time, my me-time, a way for me to get out of the house for a little bit. I didn’t solely go to keep tabs on my appearance.
That devilish voice tried to tell me I needed to do extra cardio after eating 3 grande churros, but I told her to kiss my booty.
One thing that I liked to pay attention to was how many steps I was taking every day. My FitBit made tracking easy and every day it gave me a celebration-vibration for walking 10,000 steps. I loved this and it made me jump in excitement every time, but I also found it fascinating how far I was walking on a daily basis. One day in particular, I remember I looked at my FitBit before bed and read 45,000 steps…that’s about 20 miles! Talk about a celebration-vibration!! I deserved a mariachi band for that one! 😛
- Body Weight/HIIT: No access to a gym? No problem! Body weight/HIIT routines are totally doable in the comfort of your own apartment/hotel room. This one was completed in my host family’s garage/basement!
❋My Workout (30 minutes – 45 second on/15 seconds off) ❋
burpees (with push-up)
push up with pike
standing bicycle crunches
one leg jump kicks
- Outdoors & Nature: Get moving outside! Go for a walk/jog! Maybe this is the most obvious, but it’s almost the most overlooked. Get creative with it. Your options are literally limitless.
*Bonus:* Pick a sunny day and you’ll get some tan!
- Take free walking tours or rent a bike and explore: How about knocking out two birds with one stone? Learn about your destination, the history, and find out about all the secret fun spots by taking a free walking tour! Or rent a bike and explore the city on your own! You’ll be staying active while adventuring all in one! (And you may make some new friends along the way…)
3. You can still watch what you eat without stressing yourself out
After my experience with the Whole 30 fresh produce is what I naturally prefer to eat – given the occasional splurge. On the other hand, when I’m abroad, I allow myself complete food freedom; however, that doesn’t necessarily mean I pig out at every meal. I might add in a nice treat to each meal, but I want to feel good while I’m on vacation, too. I want to fuel my body with the right food so it can provide me with the right energy to make the most out of my days. That’s why, for the most part, I recommend focusing meals around veggies and protein.
I would be lying if I said that I limited my carb sources here in Spain. As an exchange student, part of my mission was to immerse myself in the local lifestyle as much as possible. That meant getting used to the culture of eating like a Spaniard…AKA:bread, potatoes, bread, olive oil, bread, ham, bread, and more bread.
Veggies were luckily included because my family followed a Mediterranean-style diet, and respected my healthy lifestyle. Nonetheless, they reignited the bread-lover in me. Additionally, it broke my fear of carbs – a fear I didn’t know I had until I was faced with the decision to eat bread and pasta or nothing at all.
And that brings me to my next, most important, piece of advice…
4. When in doubt: Just watch your portions
Although it’s a privilege for us Americans, protein is not as abundant in Europe. If there’s one thing Europeans are well known for, it’s their abundance in bread. What really interests me is how Europeans can eat so many carbs (pastas, breads, potatoes, etc.) but seemingly have lower obesity rates than us Americans (who constantly attack and berate the consumption of breads/pastas/and carbs in general). How can that be?
I definitely believe a lot of this explanation comes down to portion sizes. Studies have proven time and time again that it will always be calories in vs. calories out.
Although I do not believe all calories are made equal, that argument can be saved for another post. In the general scheme of things, weight fluctuates because of calorie consumption versus calorie expenditure.
An example to consider: Spanish culture consists of a small breakfast, a large lunch, and a medium-large dinner. Where breakfast is slim-to-nothing, you can see why lunch and dinner would be exceptionally large (they need to make up for that almost-nonexistant breakfast!)
Another thing to consider is that Spaniards walk a lot. Therefore, their metabolic processes will demand more carbohydrates (AKA: energy!). From my observation, about 60%+ of a Spanish diet consists of carbohydrates: pasta, rice, fruits, veggies, and bread; plenty of energy to fuel their active lifestyles.
We can also see this kind of diet being true and necessary for Olympic athletes as well! Not to say Spaniards are olympic athletes, but they surely walk around more than us Americans.
This is why it’s so important to listen to your body. Watch how it reacts to certain foods, pay attention to what makes you feel good and what doesn’t. Focus on proteins and veggies, but let yourself live like a local. You may surprise yourself and find that you enjoy their lifestyles much more than your own normal diet!
5. You have the rest of your life to reach your goals
Please, don’t ruin your chances of trying something abroad only to look back one day and say, “Wow…I wish I wouldn’t have cared so much.” I promise, you will only ever regret the things you didn’t try more than the things you did; similarly, you will only regret the things you didn’t do more than the things you did.
But remember, it’s not so much of what you’re trying, but the experience you’re having while trying it. Food is such an important part of every culture: the spices, the preparation, the tradition- they’re all intricate parts to one big piece, the piece that makes up how beautifully diverse our world is. Additionally, food is what fuels the body, it’s what brings people together, it’s what makes our happy senses dance. It’s not about whether you ate the ice cream or not, it’s about: who you spent your time with eating it; what memory that food brings; was it a surprise to your senses? How does it differ from the culture you grew up in?
There were times in Spain that I felt like “ahhh, should I really eat it? After all the pasta I just had?” But then, when my host-Dad saw me having this internal struggle he told me this (and it’s stuck with me ever since): “Sabrina, you have all year to work it off. You’re here in Spain, you can let yourself get a little bit fat.”
Hahaha! I thought about it, and he’s right! You and I have the rest of our year, our lives, to get in shape. Whether you’re on vacation for a week or a month, there is 365 days in a year, and you’re only taking 7-? 30-? out to enjoy yourself? You have plenty of time to work on fitness goals, gain strength, and have abs, and ripped back muscles, and whatever else you want, when you return home.
Now, I can say that I tried real paella with real squid ink and calamari. With that big bowl of rice and seafood, I also enjoyed many chunks of freshly baked bread with butter!
No more looking back and saying, ” I wish I would’ve tried that…but I was too scared I’d get fat.”
In summary: don’t let the first few days discourage you, stay active, eat what makes you feel good, watch your portions, and please, whatever you do just enjoy yourself wherever you go. Make the most out of your adventures!
Happy (and delicious) traveling!
Carbs did my flex selfies some serious good…call me a tool if you will, but I was proud! 😁