We spend more time planning our holidays than pretty much anything else we do. The time and effort that goes into deciding on the destination (usually because you've just returned from your last holiday and 'need another holiday') is immense. Then there’s the snipping, polishing, scrubbing and waxing of every nook and cranny we have , never mind sorting out the 'capsule' wardrobe.
Usually everything goes into this holiday. The anticipation has been building for months. The desire to travel and do nothing. Drink cocktails before midday and go all out on the all-inclusive.
The 7 days before departure, we eat clean and cut out all junk in a bid to 'prepare' and drop the few pounds we were meant to lose 12 weeks ago.
I read somewhere that we double our Calorie intake during the first 24 hrs of an all-inclusive break (probably the Daily Mail :-/). Having just returned from one myself, I've been thinking about my experience and thought I'd share my views on over eating on holiday. Cos you know what, it doesn't mean you're ruining your health or that you're a greedy bastard.
Only last week I was facing the 25 different meats and cheese at breakfast, the buckets of nutella and syrup next to the pancakes, the daily show cooking and chips and of course for me, the 35 different desserts was one of the first things I checked out.
And it's all free. Free to fill ya boots. Well not really, you paid a few grand for all that so you might as well get your monies worth. I know Mr W thinks like that. I was like "woah, I NEED to try some of that and that, oh and that. ‘Look at all this food!"
I think it's quite natural to feel overwhelmed by so much food. We don't normally have that sort of choice or quantity in front of us, it's no wonder we go all weak at the knees.
A panic sets in. How am I going to eat all this? Will I be able to stop myself? OMG I can feel a food baby growing right now! There's a mixture of excitement and fear. Excitement of no cooking or washing up. Excitement of new foods. But fear about losing control and the Worlds worst indigestion.
I clocked the raised eyebrows. The sideways glances from the salad eaters at the plates piled with 'a little bit of everything'. The person carrying 8 puddings on two plates, with no intention of sharing.
We are judged for returning for seconds and thirds by those wishing they could do that too. The all-inclusive buffet can be a very stressful place! The media criticises us for bingeing and how harmful it can be. It's really not!
I believe we put way too much pressure on ourselves when it comes to holiday food. It all begins with the pre-holiday preparation. You know the saying that always comes out in February – that summer bodies are made in the winter. The ‘beach body’ and ‘bikini body’ exercise plans come out to banish that winter podge. Fear not, you too can look like the airbrushed model who is sucking in her tummy whilst twisting her hips having skipped her last meal before the photo shoot.
But stopping yourself eating or denying yourself of certain foods is only going to make you want more. Combine even a week of food restriction with being placed in an all you can at buffet, it’s like being 4 all over again, going to your first party. You will go crazy, you will over do it and you will most likely wished you’d worn your elasticated trousers.
I'm not saying this is wrong. Despite the media saying you'll put yourself on the shortcut to diabetes and heart disease, it's not the over eating that's the issue. It's the stuff going on in your head that can set off the spiral of over eating - guilt - denial - overeating. It's our food beliefs that mess with our head and damage our relationship with food.
Setting yourself rules that you know you'll end up breaking is the problem. Telling yourself you won't have more than x courses, certain desserts or you'll only drink y can still be unrealistic when you factor in the holiday factor. Sun, sand, sea and switching off can have quite unpredictable effects! Feeling more relaxed may mean you start letting go a bit. This is a good thing!
One of the things I look forward to most on holiday is simply 'going with the flow'. I spend so much time planning and organisation everything and everyone, my brain needs a rest. To be impulsive and spontaneous is liberating but I also get it can be scary if you are someone that monitors what you eat very closely.
By giving yourself permission to eat “whatever the heck you want” on holiday, you’ll find you’ll be less stressed, much happier and enjoy yourself more. You’ll probably also find that you won’t overeat as much as you feared in the first place.
You are also less likely to feel so guilty because you didn't set yourself up to fail. 'Falling off the wagon' is a normal part of the holiday season but here are a few tips to help you keep your head when all about you are losing theirs:
1. Despite the fear of missing out, you don’t need to try everything. Be mindful about enjoying each and every meal as much as you can - think about what looks most appealing at that particular moment. Try to think about how hungry you are and what you really feel like eating (not what you should be eating) at that moment. Most foods will be back another day anyway.
2. Eat more mindfully. You are on holiday, you should have more time to eat. Slow down. Place you knife and fork down between mouthfuls. Taste your food, think about the flavours, textures and sensations you feel eating it.
3. It’s OK to leave food on your plate. What's going to make you feel worse? Food going to waste or feeling bloated or crap that you ate too much?
4. Try not to stress about holiday weight gain before you've even left, or on the flight home. Its good idea is NOT to weigh yourself. Whatever the number says on the scale, it's usually not helpful and often just adds to stress and body worries.
So, give yourself a break. Don’t feel the need to be perfect. Enjoy and embrace your food belly :)
I specialise in helping women to stop stressing and about food and weight loss not just on holiday but throughout the whole year. I teach the principles of intuitive eating and practice non diet nutrition. If you are feeling frustrated and lost with your body and diet, drop me a message at mel@wakemannutrition and let's chat.