How to have a happy and healthy European haul

Bon voyage, bonjour, bienvenue, and most importantly bon apetit!  European vacations have so much to offer including rich history, beautiful architecture, unique cultures, and most importantly, an extremely diverse cuisine!  If you’re a foodie, you’re stoked for your upcoming trip across the pond.  With great food comes great risks to your belt-line so if you’re inclined to conserving your physique, I’ve got some great tips.

Vacationers headed for the Mediterranean beaches in late Spring and Summer are better off preparing for Europe beforehand.  A 12-week diet will give you plenty of time and allow you to save plenty of money in preparation for your trip.  I wrote a piece on my blog about saving money, time, and energy during a diet.

Culturally dense Europe provides a new adventure around every corner.  People of all different walks of life and backgrounds have coexisted for centuries on the city streets.  The best way to immerse yourself in the culture is to head out of your hostel or B&B for a walk.  Walking tours are a fantastic way to soak up your surroundings while burning a few calories.

Fuel up for your morning walk by stopping at a cafe and grabbing a European breakfast, which is usually quite simple.  Cafe au lait, cappuccino, latte and a small pastry will provide you with plenty of caffeine and carbohydrates (energy).  A simple breakfast of around 300-400 calories will be plenty for several hours of exploration.  Large breakfasts can cause a spike in blood sugar and insulin which lead to the inevitable crash during digestion.  You wouldn’t want to end up back in your hotel bed napping the day away with so much scenery!

The cuisine is just too good to skimp on meals all day, every day, so you’ll have earned a great dinner with your daytime strolls and light, European breakfast and snacks.  Long, lively dinners are the norm amongst the locals in the restaurants.  American travelers are ushered in from the streets and treated like family in the best spots and you’ll get the 5-course treatment.  I suggest sipping a glass of vino while you wait for your food to avoid the bread basket binge.  A main course of learn protein like chicken, turkey, fish, or lamb will keep you fuller than a high carbohydrate meal such as pasta, potatoes, or polenta.  Should you have room for dessert, go for it since you’re on vacation and the gelato is out of this world good in Italy!

The discos and night clubs are popular amongst locals and American travelers alike.  Fast paced, European house music is the perfect nightcap for you to literally “dance your ass off!”  Two hours on the dance floor can burn up to 1,000 calories and offset the day’s delicious meals and evening drinks.  Limit that bar tab to four drinks and you’ll feel much better the night of, and the morning after.  Low blood sugar after a night of heavy drinking causes severe hunger pangs that could lead to a poor diet of junk!

The combination of walking, watching your early calorie intake, and limiting your alcohol will do wonders for your physique and mood on your upcoming European trip.  Even the exercise obsessed will be satisfied using the hotel gym or even hotel room.  Check out the plethora of workouts available on the web here!

Dispelling dogma – Myth #10: Never skip breakfast, it’s the most important meal of the day

Dispelling dogma – Myth #10: Never skip breakfast, it’s the most important meal of the day

You’ve heard this one a million times from doctors, nutritionists, ‘experts’ wearing white lab coats and glasses on infomercials, and even physical trainers.  “Skipping breakfast is the reason you are overweight.”  “You should never skip breakfast because you’re going to overeat later in the day.”  “Without a healthy breakfast, you’ll DIE!!!!!1!”

Newsflash folks, there is no magic bullet for building a lean, muscular physique, and eating breakfast falls into that category of not-a-magic-bullet.  How awesome would it be to enjoy a stack of pancakes, a couple scrambled eggs, some fruit and yogurt, a tall glass of OJ, coffee, and then watch the pounds magically melt away like the cheese on your piping hot eggs?  That sounds magnificent and I swear I can smell that buttery syrup coming from some far off place.  While this is possible…it requires a caloric deficit over the entire day and week, not ADDING calories to your daily routine.

In the above breakfast day-dream, you would have a small amount of room for food the rest of the day.  Would you prefer to follow your doctor’s orders and have breakfast every day but then eat like a bird and go to bed hungry every night?  I realize I’m being overly hyperbolic in my example of pancakes, eggs, etc, but the point is a lot of people don’t eat breakfast and have gained weight, so it makes no sense to add another meal to their day.  Another meal is added calories.  The message you need to drill into your head is the overall daily and weekly calories will matter, end of story.  It’s science…

Eating early in the day isn’t going to “jump-start your metabolism” or “make you feel more alert” or “give you an edge on the competition” any more than a steamy cup of coffee.  Your body is too smart to let you shrivel and die without any food in your stomach…energy sources come from stored fat or even the meal from the day before!

Food will lead to a temporary spike in your blood sugar but you’ll also have to digest a big breakfast which can make you feel sluggish.  If you’re like me and prefer to get every second of sleep in the morning before you head out on your AM commute, don’t be afraid to wait until brunch or lunch to have your first meal.  I’m the most productive early in the day while the office is quiet.  I practice something called Intermittent Fasting, an art perfected by Martin Berkhan (the guy is RIPPED) and adopted by many people in the fitness and nutrition industry.

The other side of the coin for you early birds is to enjoy your breakfast, but keep in mind your overall daily calorie intake.  If you like eating more early and light late, then that’s totally fine.  You’ve found your sustainable sweet spot!

Dispelling dogma – Myth #9: Yo-yo dieting is terrible for your health

Myth #9:  Yo-yo dieting is terrible for your health

Your weight can be hypnotizing

You are probably wondering why I’m even discussing the topic of “Yo-yo dieting” on a blog that has been drilling the concept of SUSTAINABILITY into your head forever.  I’ve taken some time to really think about this topic and experienced plenty of it myself, so you can call me an expert.

Yo-yo dieting can be defined as gaining weight to the point your clothes are uncomfortable or don’t fit, so you decide to drop the fat you’ve put on quickly until you’re satisfied or back to the starting weight, then you might start the process of gaining weight again.  I would say my weight has fluctuated between 170 and 210 pounds since 2000!  Perhaps a more extreme example would be greater than 50 pound fluctuations.  How in the world does this happen to us time after time?  To answer this question, we need to get to the root cause; our lifestyles.

Yo-yo dieting typically doesn’t start until after one has made a significant lifestyle change where activity decreases but diet does not, i.e. one stops playing team sports after high school/college, quits an active hobby such as dancing, moves to an area they cannot perform a hobby due to various external influences, gets a desk job, gets a serious injury, etc.  Weight gain happens when your calorie intake doesn’t change but your output from exercise decreases so you decide to make a drastic diet change, temporarily, to shed the added fat.

Most people I know have a well-rounded social circle.  Social functions amongst close friends, family, coworkers, and religious communities always involve delicious food and beverages!  When I say delicious, I mean pizza, burgers, ice cream, cookies, and cake.  Thanksgiving, weekend barbecues, happy hours, birthdays, football watch parties, and weekly family dinners are just a few examples of the many events that occur in our lives.  You’ve probably unconsciously yo-yo dieted after a big event to compensate for that bloated, exhausted feeling!  I just went through two days of salad-eating after my lady’s birthday weekend festivities.

Is Yo-yo dieting really as terrible as what we’ve all been reading or is it just more fear mongering by the fitness industry to make us adapt our lifestyle and buy their proven products?  Let’s get one thing clear; Yo-yo dieting is better for you than not dieting at all and gaining weight consistently.

In conclusion, Yo-yo dieting is sustainable if it works for you to stay lean and lead a well-balanced social life.  It’s really not cool to bounce on your friends and coworkers every time you get an invitation to happy hour or a party!