Surviving the summer holidays
Summer is here. Finally. All those months of cold and grey, and now we get to enjoy a bit of long-awaited sunshine.
Even if the sun doesn’t manage to make an appearance in the UK, lots of us book holidays away somewhere sunny at this time of year, with family, friends, or even in our own company.
But if you’ve been working hard to cultivate a healthier, more active lifestyle in recent months, then as much as you might be looking forward to the school holidays or to those two weeks away in the sun, you might also be worrying about whether it’s going to totally undo all your hard work.
After all, it’s one thing eating well and living an active lifestyle when you’re nicely ensconced in a familiar routine and able to control the contents of your fridge and pop to the local gym.
But when you’re out of that comforting routine or those surroundings then things can be trickier to keep on top of.
Why is summer such a tricky time?
Now, don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love summer. I think it’s probably my favourite time of year. But I love it despite the challenges it poses on a health and fitness level.
Holidays abroad are, obviously, always going to be tricky, as you probably don’t want to spend your whole time cooking. Quite rightly. But you’re wary of restaurant meals, you’re not sure what’s in what you’re eating, and you’re surrounded by temptation. All. The. Time.
But, even if you’re not abroad, July and August aren’t your average months. If you’ve got kids, your entire schedule is thrown by those wonderful things called the school summer holidays.
And even if you don’t, there are suddenly all kinds of barbecues to be attended and pub gardens to be sat in. Not that any of us are complaining about pub gardens, but a couple of pints of cider is the equivalent to a full meal, calories-wise, so things can get complicated.
Amazingly, a survey last summer revealed that the average Brit eats 3,200 calories at every barbecue they go to. That’s the equivalent of an incredible six Big Macs.
If past summers have derailed your previous attempts at living a healthy lifestyle, or this is the first summer that’s rolled around since you’ve decided to treat your body a little more kindly, then you’ll be in need of a few handy tips.
So, I thought I’d share a few of my tried and tested ways to stay firmly on track whilst still having an absolutely fantastic summer making memories with the ones you love.
- Get a workout in first thing
It doesn’t matter what time of day you usually exercise, when you’re on holiday or out of your normal routine, it’s always best to get your heart rate up first thing in the morning.
That way, whatever happens for the rest of the day, you’ll be safe in the knowledge that you already squeezed some exercise in. If you do anymore, it’s just a bonus! That way, you can just go with the flow, without having to plan your day around your workout.
Whether it’s a pool or gym session, a workout in your hotel room or a bit of yoga, anything goes.
- Enjoy the exercise
Don’t see exercise as a chore. Find a way to make it fun.
Whether it’s using a morning run as a way to see the sights, using the open-air gym down on the seafront, or taking your yoga session to the local park, find a way to make it enjoyable.
Even if you can’t mix up your workout, go into it with a positive mind frame, determined to enjoy it, knowing how wonderful you’ll feel when you come out the other side.
- Drink plenty of water
This is important every single day of the year, but even more so if you’re in a hot climate.
Take a reusable water bottle with you wherever you go, and make sure you’re constantly sipping at it so that when you feel those pangs of hunger, you’ll know you really are hungry and not just dehydrated.
- Carry snacks
On the subject of hunger, carrying healthy snacks is very important when you’re on holiday, or on family trips, or just on a summer day out.
Things like nuts are full of energy and healthy fats and can help you keep the wolf from the door, so you don’t end up turning to a desperately unhealthy alternative in the absence of anything else to eat.
- Plan meals
When you’re at home during the summer, a little extra planning can go a very long way when it comes to meals. That way, you can make sure you’re maintaining a healthy, balanced diet.
Even if you don’t normally do the meal prep thing, cooking big batches of meals in advance and freezing them at this time of year means that there’s always going to be something nutritious to eat at the end of a long summer day when the last thing you want to think about is cooking.
- Fill up on veggies first
Whether you’re headed to a summer barbecue and are determined not to hit the 3,200-calorie mark or are going out for dinner somewhere with views over the Mediterranean, make sure you don’t turn to the meat or the fried food first.
Fill up on a delicious salad or some roasted vegetables before turning your attention to the rest of it so it’s not so easy to overeat.
- Walk everywhere
Whatever you do, if you go away this year don’t make it one of those holidays that’s entirely spent in the car. Use those legs of yours. Explore the local sites on foot. Get lost and discover secret corners. Climb hills and contemplate the beautiful views you’ll be rewarded with.
- Drink mindfully
No one is going to stand between you and a drink on a summer evening, or on your summer holiday. But it’s important to have measures in place to stop you from overdoing it, especially if the drinks are flowing, like at a wedding, or on an all-inclusive holiday.
Find a good way to keep your alcohol consumption in check, without ruining the holiday or the day. Make yourself a rule that you can only drink from, say, 6 pm onwards, skipping the beer with lunch, or decide that you can only have one drink per hour, or set a non-negotiable overall total.
When back at home, consider limiting yourself to alcoholic drinks only at the weekends, giving your body and mind a chance to recover during the weeks, no matter what fun summer activities you’ve got on.
- Don’t beat yourself up about it
Whilst it’s fantastic to stay active over the summer and only indulge in moderation in attempt to try and avoid undoing all your hard work, the last thing you want to be doing on your holidays is obsessing over your weight or fitness levels.
Your health is about much more than the number on the scales, and your mental health is just as important as your physical health. And spending time relaxing with the ones you love can do wonders for your mental state and well-being.
Don’t worry about overindulging at the odd barbecue, and definitely treat yourself to that ice cream. As long as it doesn’t become a daily occurrence it’s not likely to make much of an impact.
Now go and have the summer of your life. You’ve earned it.