When I booked my London vacation many months ago, there was no lifestyle change on the horizon. London beckoned with its old man pubs filled with delicious, carb-loaded ales, chips and pies. My mind's eye could see shelves upon shelves of ready single-serving Marks & Spencer meals, and I looked forward to eating my weight in the thick-cut chips that accompany everything. I even began craving Nando's.
So as my countdown to vacation crept closer and closer, I got a little scared -- how could I continue my newfound healthy eating habits in a city that for me holds all manner of delectable culinary sins?
The answers turned out to be simple, and despite the fact that I have been largely ignoring my scale over the past month or two, I actually lost weight while I was in London. Here are the ways I did it -- and it really doesn't have to be too hard to take your health lifestyle on the road.
Learning to Walk Again
I am convinced Europeans are slimmer than Americans only because they have much better public transportation systems than we do -- every tube stop contained dozens and dozens of stairs, as well as out-of-commission escalators. When I arrived in London, jet-lagged, bleary eyed and exhausted from nine hours spent wedged between two passengers who don't understand the rules of airplane armrests, I thought I might die from hauling my suitcases around Paddington Station. The next day, my arms and legs ached as though I'd been lifting weights, but each successive day of tackling stairs in tube stations made me feel stronger, lighter and less on the verge of cardiac arrest when faced with four flights of stairs.
Part of the fun of going on vacation is trying new foods, maybe over-indulging in adult beverages and generally letting go of your at-home routine. But I knew that with just a month's worth of my lifestyle change under my belt, it would be dangerous to let loose entirely and eat whatever I wanted. At home, I have one cheat day a week, but with lots of friends and opportunities for delicious meals out, I knew I was facing a week and a half of cheat days. So, I made smart choices -- if a friend said they'd like to meet up for dinner and drinks, I knew I just needed to do a bit more walking that day, and instead of having a scone for breakfast, I'd have a fruit smoothie and lots of water. Weather permitting, I might even get off a tube stop earlier than I'd plan and walk to my destination. At museums, I took the stairs instead of the elevator. And by the end of the day, I'd worked up to and earned a delicious meal at a Brazilian steakhouse, or a couple of extra glasses of wine at a comedy club.
When I was a little girl on vacation with my dad, I remember waking up to him doing sit-ups and push-ups on the hotel room floor, SportsCenter blaring in the background. At the time it seemed silly to me, in part because I was a child, but also, even as I grew older, I didn't really understand why you would want to work out on vacation. Now, I understand the importance of a routine and admire my dad's dedication at keeping up with his fitness, even as a blissful vacation day beckoned. Many people with active lifestyles make a point to integrate running or a quick trip to the hotel gym into their vacations, but I decided to take it one step further and seek out exercise activities in London that would add a little local flavor to my trip while also keeping me active -- a kind of fitness-inspired tourist stop. A quick Google search for Zumba in London found me a treasure trove of classes. For £8.40, I was able to join in a local Zumba class, see how it was done on the other side of the pond, and burn off a few of the calories I packed on through my love of scones and clotted cream. It's a habit I'm excited to keep up in other cities I visit. Yoga in Berlin? Spinning in Paris? (That does not seem particularly Parisian, though.)
I am probably totally alone in this, but I love visiting grocery stores when I'm in a foreign country. Europeans and their unrefrigerated eggs and milk, and British people in particular with their endless aisles of ready-made meals fascinate me. It provides a keen insight into a country's makeup. And it also provides a money- and calorie-saving opportunity. My hotel room in London came equipped with a mini-fridge, and on my very first day in London, I hoofed it to a local Sainsbury's to stock up on essentials. In addition to every conceivable type of sandwich, British grocery stores carry lots of pre-cut fruits and veggies, perfect for travelers without access to utensils. I bought water, smoothies, fruit and nuts, keeping those handy in my room for munchies, as well as in my purse for on-the-go snack needs. Not only did I save money, but having easy access to quick and healthy snacks prevented me from succumbing to the siren call of empty calories found at omnipresent American outposts like McDonald's.
At the end of my trip, I was incredibly proud of myself for successfully navigating the treacherous waters of being on a semi diet on vacation. With a little preparation and a bit of balancing, I was able to stay on track while enjoying all the culinary delights a city like London has to offer. How do you stay on track when you're on vacation?