How to have a healthy holiday

Holiday season is almost upon us and for the first time ever last year, both Chaz and I achieved the impossible: a healthy hol.

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Our holidaying history prior to last summer could’ve been entitled ‘How to gain a stone in 10 days’ such was our enthusiasm to pile on the pounds the second we switched our out-of-office on.

Ibiza 2012: thanks for the calories

Ibiza 2012: meals all day

Returning home from an Ibizan getaway with friends over summer 2012 saw us reach our pinnacle of summertime sadness: we jetted off straight after being bridesmaids for our friend Terri alongside her sister Sarah and a few other mates and didn’t need any encouragement to obliterate all memory of the pre-wedding health regime. Within the space of a week Chaz and I had gained a stone each, eagerly piling our plates high with an array of all-inclusive beige foods at every opportunity. Since when was spag bol with chips and buttered white baguette a Balearic speciality? Those holiday pounds took me 18 months to finally lose. Not quite a lifetime on the hips, but certainly too long for my liking.

Ever since, we’ve approached holidays with a mixture of excitement and dread when faced with the threat of impending weight gain. Summer last year saw us discussing the looming flab ahead of our respective (and very different) holiday plans – a month driving around Europe for Chaz and a week in Cornwall for me.

How we managed to pull off the holy grail of a healthy hol is still something of a miracle to us, we talk about it often in amazement such is our narcissism. What was even more amazing was the fact we enjoyed ourselves more than ever because we returned feeling good about ourselves having enjoyed plenty of treats in the right way rather than bloated and miserable. So we decided to share a few of the things that helped us avoid the September slump in the hope it may strike a chord with a few of our fellow holiday bingers out there!

1. Plan plan plan

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The French don’t do salad by halves

For Chaz, this meant scouring Google, Twitter, TripAdvisor and Happy Cow (v handy for local healthy/veggie/vegan spots) ahead of each destination on her cross-Europe road trip to seek out the healthy hidden gems so she didn’t find herself forced into that all-you-can-eat fry up café that Ric lives to find on every excursion. She found some amazing places just by swotting up ahead of time and it didn’t take a massive amount of work before they set off, ubiquitous free wifi meant she could search on-the-go as they travelled between places.

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Seeking out the spirulina in South Cornwall

Down in sunny Cornwall, I had the extra challenge of finding dog-friendly health-tastic eating spots, but I managed to scope out a good few cafés and pubs offering great options and even a Truro juice bar for a green smoothie pitstop on my travels.

For the most part, Ric and Jak were happy enough to eat wherever we’d found as most places offered a variety of things to suit everyone and it saved traipsing around aimlessly hoping to stumble upon something great.

2. Debit and credit

My number one aim for the holiday was to amble through my Kindle wishlist with a large and constantly full glass of wine by my side, but to balance out the lazy afternoons and big meals I decided I would get in a few morning workouts to ease the guilt. This turned into a personal debit/credit system which saw me pounding the pavements most mornings to reward myself with wine and ice cream galore later on.

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Incredibly I still found something to complain about (come on, how small is that wine glass?)

I’m an early bird so I loved being out in shorts and a vest (for once) exploring Penzance’s amazing coastal views, tiny villages and quiet tree-lined country roads but if you prefer your lie ins there’s always that afternoon lull that could be filled with a bit of exercise.

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Country roads

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Slightly manic morning run face

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Vigours in Paris

On the other side of the Channel (and beyond) Chaz found some spectacular places to run all over Europe and even roped Ric in from time to time. I preferred my solo morning road runs, leaving Jak and Bernard the beagle to explore the rugged coastline and it made for great breakfast catch ups on our respective runs. Chaz and I both like an early run to get it out of the way, so most days we’d be done by 9am ready to tackle a hearty breakfast and get on with the fun parts of the day.

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Rotters

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Dutch courage

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In Bruges

3. DIY

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Struggling to hide her Super Juice smugness

Eating is one of the best things about holidays for us, but it doesn’t always have to be expensive or fussy to be enjoyable. Chaz found some great European supermarkets offering fresh salads, coconut water and juices for those lunchtime pitstops in striking surroundings while I stocked up on fresh fruit, muesli and yogurt at the local Sainsbury’s for cheap, healthy breakfasts on the balcony overlooking the sea.

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During a day trip to Marazion (which I never quite got the hang of pronouncing) I found a great little deli café (I think this was the one) selling homemade granola with berries and yogurt which made the perfect takeaway lunch to take down to the beach for an hour of people-watching.

Going away with the dog naturally led me to book a self-catering option which was great for keeping things healthy. Although I ate out most nights, I cooked a couple of meals at the apartment which was a cheap and sometimes equally fun option. Sipping wine, watching surfers catch the day’s last few daylight waves as I whipped up salads with fish caught in the next town along and delicious locally baked breads was a nice way to end the day.

4. Choose wisely

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We both used to think we had completely missed out (Chaz’s lifelong fear) if we didn’t order and gorge ourselves on the least healthy thing on the menu. I’m not sure why, we didn’t grow up during the war, but I know a few of you empathise with this (shout out to Marie). I’ve come to realise that too-full feeling you get from the double cheeseburger and chips actually makes the whole experience less than fun for the most part and there are usually tastier ways to dine that don’t make you feel like complete crap.

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Oh my cod this was good

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Tucking in at the Tolcarne Inn, Newlyn

The occasional burger blow-out is fine, but when I’m away for a week or two I end up thanking myself for mixing it up with something better for my body. Being by the sea, I made the most of the incredible array of fish dishes available everywhere in Penzance and by happy coincidence it was all so healthy too – one of the best things I ate was the simplest, a freshly caught piece of cod wrapped in foil with vegetables and baked on the BBQ at a less-than-salubrious Newlyn pub. I am seriously greedy and I honestly never felt like I was missing out by choosing healthier, tastier things. And does anyone else feel slightly better about themselves when they order salad and dessert?

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5. Hydration stations

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Beach bum

Whenever I’m dehydrated I seem to find myself reaching for less healthy snacks and it’s never more important than in sunny climes. I took to taking my own water bottle out on day trips and filling it up on my travels (often to Jak’s embarrassment but you can’t knock all those saved pounds you’d have spent stocking up at garage prices). Get a smart bottle and you’ll want it to be your summer accessory.

6. Work it out

Sloth-like summer behaviour is certainly top of my holiday to do list, but both Chaz and I found ourselves enjoying the slightly more active side of our getaways on occasion.

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Cool rider

Regular cyclist Ric and novice Chaz hired bikes in Rotterdam (or anywhere) and spent an active morning cycling the 60k to the Hague in previously unheard of holiday decorum. It turned out to be one of her favourite parts of the break but something she might not had considered a few years ago.

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Splash

Meanwhile, I set out on a coastal hike and happened upon a deserted little beach which was the perfect spot for a midday dip and Bernard’s first seaside swimming lesson. The cider cooldown after huffing and puffing my way back to base in the scorching Cornish sun tasted all the sweeter for the morning’s exertion.

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Now I am the least outdoorsy, active holidaymaker you’ll ever meet, but if you can find a way to burn a few cals in a way you’ll actually enjoy on your summer break, it’s definitely worth a try.

7. Plan for the journey

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Both of us set off on our respective breaks armed with Nakd bars, water, fruit and nuts a-plenty to curb the lure of the unhealthier corners of the service station and it more or less paid off. I had a happy service station experience at Tossed in Warwick Services last month, but they’re still generally slow to embrace the healthy life so if you’re embarking on a long car journey it’s best to be prepared. While I do love a Waitrose stop, you end up paying a pretty penny for those organic edamame beans.

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Road trip

If you’re hopping on a plane to your summer destination, the same is true – those airline meals and mini Pringles aren’t going to give you the best start to the getaway so you’re better off supplying your own healthy treats (or even meals if you choose something that will keep for a few hours in Tupperware) to keep temptation at bay. Check out healthy hero Madeleine Shaw’s top travel tips to keep you glowing from take off to touchdown.

8. Get over it

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Carb loading

If you do find yourself succumbing to a belly busting bonanza, don’t sack off the rest of the holiday with that all-too-familiar baby/bathwater ethos. Enjoy it, don’t feel guilty, just get up the next day with a healthy agenda and resume the balance of exercise, healthiness and treats for the remainder of your stay. Treats are essential – descending into a self-loathing shame spiral just because you had chips is not.

9. Pack smart

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Whether you’re a runner or not, pack trainers. If you don’t have any you like, invest in a pair you’ll be happy to be seen in day-to-day. A beach stroll is far more likely to turn into an afternoon’s hike to the nearby beauty spot if you’re prepared and footwear is crucial, you won’t get very far without sacking it off for a 99 in ballet pumps or flip flops. Luckily, right now trainers have never been trendier (I have never felt less so as I typed that) so you have your pick of the bunch, just make sure they’re comfy enough to see you through. When I bought an older version of these Nike Frees (pictured above) I never imagined the wear I’d get out of them; so far they’ve seen me through hundreds of training miles, a marathon, a week’s stomping around the south Cornwall coast and many a day trip since, they go just as well with normal clothes as running stuff.

I pack my running stuff wherever I go now because you never know when you might find yourself with a spare hour or two. If I’m staying in a hotel or by the sea I always chuck in swimming things for the same reason and I even packed a Tracy Anderson workout DVD on last year’s holiday – didn’t end up doing it because I managed to run most days but it would’ve come in handy if the weather had been crap and I’d wanted to still do something. If you pack it, you’re setting out your stall to commit to doing something and there’s nothing seeing like Tracy Anderson’s smug little face looking up at you judgmentally from your suitcase to guilt-trip you into some holiday action (not that kind, but any exercise counts).

10. Choose your choice

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The most important thing for us in achieving the elusive healthy hol was the very first step of all – making the decision to do it in the first place. Once we’d got it in our heads it might be possible we actually got really excited about it and were frantically what’s apping and snapchatting each other our latest healthy finds, planned activities and interesting new running routes while we were away, the challenge each day to find the healthiest choices and earn a really good evening meal and drink became way more fun than our previous routine of sleep, carbload, wine binge, repeat. Prior to last year, we hadn’t quite got our head around the fact that just because it’s there, you don’t have to eat it (a concept we still struggle with) but if you crack it, especially on holiday, the rewards last longer than the tan.

Healthy hol packing checklist

  1. Cool, comfy trainers
  2. Water bottle
  3. Swimming stuff you can actually swim in
  4. Fitness DVD (find out ahead of time if there’s a DVD player where you’re staying or take your laptop)
  5. Sports bra, shorts and vest
  6. Nakd bars, nuts and fruit for journeys
  7. Small Tupperwares for healthy snacking on day trips
  8. Blender – if you have room and think you’ll use it, this could come in handy for morning smoothies if you go self-catering and the fresh local produce is cheap and readily available (Chaz and I laughed at Deliciously Ella for doing this a while back but we’ve come to see how it could work!)
  9. Handwashing stuff for your exercise gear
  10. Rucksack for hands-free adventures – there are plenty of cool ones available now to avoid the French exchange student look

Are you going away this summer? Are you planning to make it a healthy trip? Any tips we haven’t thought of? Please share them below as we all prepare for this summer’s sunshine getaway…

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