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How to Stay Fit on Vacation - And Still Indulge

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Allianz - couple eating

I shouldn’t have eaten so much cheese… But we did spend all morning on that walking tour. Oh, but tonight we have reservations at L’Osteria di Giovanni. How am I supposed to resist the osso buco? I’ll just skip dessert. Tomorrow. Maybe.

Staying fit on vacation requires some complex mental calculations. You’re eating more, but you’re sitting less; you’re drinking more, but you’re snacking less. It seems like it should all balance out, but then you return home to discover you’ve gained five pounds. Ugh.

Our best advice for avoiding vacation weight gain: set some rules for yourself before you leave, choose your indulgences wisely, and don’t waste precious vacation time feeling guilty. Here’s how.

1. Define your bare minimum for staying fit on vacation.

It’s absolutely OK to indulge when you’re traveling. Eat dessert! Eat two desserts! The goal is not to deny yourself; it’s to ensure that you still feel good when you return to your everyday routine. Food Network chef Melissa d'Arabian recommends having a “bare minimum” plan: a travel routine and/or rules that keep you on track while allowing you to enjoy yourself. Her plan: 20 pushups on the hotel floor each morning and night, eating some kind of raw produce and protein at every meal; drinking extra water and getting extra sleep. That’s it.

2. Limit your vacation food options.

If you really, really want to avoid overindulging on vacation, you could spend your free week at a raw-food detox camp. Or better, a five-day yoga and cleansing retreat where you only consume herbal tea, water, and cayenne pepper-lemonade. But we’ll be honest: That doesn’t sound like a vacation to us. Instead, try to set reasonable restrictions. That could mean eating only at normal mealtimes (no midnight buffets); only eating at the table (no room service); or skipping specialty dining on a cruise.

3. Avoid sugar-bomb drinks.

The biggest threat at an all-inclusive resort may not be the buffets, but the fruity drinks. A daiquiri can have more than 500 calories, while a margarita weighs in at 700 — and most of those calories are sugar.1 Lighter options include vodka and soda water, wine spritzers or light beer.

4. Carry your own water bottle.

Bringing a sturdy steel, glass or plastic water bottle on your travels both reduces your environmental impact (did you know that more than 30 million plastic bottles are discarded every month in Bali?)2 and helps you stay hydrated and fit on vacation. Do pay attention to where you refill your bottle, however, because tap water’s not always safe to drink. Filtered water is available in most tourist destinations, including hotels, and on cruise ships.

5. Track your exercise and what you eat on vacation.

One breakfast buffet, minus a two-hour hike, plus one scoop of gelato, minus a beach yoga session… Instead of doing fuzzy mental calculations, maybe it’s time to track your eating and exercise with a travel fitness app. MyFitnessPal includes a free calorie counter and exercise tracker. My Food Diary includes not only calories but also nutritional information. However, if you find yourself paying so much attention to calorie counts that you can’t enjoy the sumptuous flavors of the country you’re exploring, it’s time to recalibrate your relationships with food and travel.

6. Seek out fitness-focused hotels and resorts.

If your hotel gym is a musty-smelling room with two squeaking elliptical trainers, you’re not going to spend a minute in there. Nor should you. If you really want to stick to a workout routine while traveling, you need a hotel that inspires you.

Even Hotels, a new brand from IHG, was founded with the sole intention of helping travelers maintain their healthy routines. These hotels have state-of-the-art workout studios, group fitness classes and an in-house market that serves healthy smoothies, salads, soups and sandwiches. You may even discover a new workout routine, like aerial yoga or sandbox surfing.

7. Choose your vacation indulgences wisely.

Fitness writer Christie Miller puts it bluntly: “Don’t eat crap.” If you normally wouldn’t stuff yourself with potato chips, then why do it on vacation? Avoid filling up on junk food you can eat anywhere, Miller says. “However, if you’re in Maine and they have fresh caught lobster on the menu, get it! And dip it in the butter! … And don’t you dare leave the Caribbean without enjoying a few conch fritters!” Cheers to that — and enjoy your travels. Before you leave, remember to protect yourself with travel insurance from Allianz Global Assistance. A travel insurance plan with emergency medical benefits, trip cancellation and trip interruption benefits can help save your vacation from disaster. Get a quote for your next trip — it only takes 30 seconds.

Richmond-based travel writer Muriel Barrett has a terrible sense of direction, and has spent many happy hours getting lost in Barcelona, Venice and Jerusalem. Her favorite travel memories all involve wildlife: watching sea turtles nest in Costa Rica, kayaking with seals in Vancouver and meeting a pink tarantula in Martinique.

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Feb 27, 2017