By Sarah Teczar
On a recent trip to Europe, my first meal was an apple strudel and a brew at one of Munich’s best-known beer halls. Things only got better from there: greasy classic pub food in London, and cheese-drenched croque-monsieurs in France. For someone who is normally very health-conscious, this was a rather indulgent vacation.
When I returned from my trip, I discovered I hadn’t gained a pound. How? I did a lot of walking, for one; I was also relaxed and enjoying myself. Some people actually claim that having fun on excursions helped them lose weight while on vacation. Trying to maintain a strict diet while traveling is not only tough, but you may miss out on some of the best travel experiences. Here is why you should eat what you want while traveling.
Food is essential to the experience
Sampling local fare is one of the best parts of traveling. I stopped at a small farm during a Tuscan wine tour a couple of years ago. It was farm-to-table dining in the most literal sense: The owners made pasta, pesto and bread by hand, and served it to us on long wooden tables with fresh Caprese salad and Chianti. I even got to help drain ricotta cheese. Imagine if I had told these accommodating locals: “I’m sorry, I can’t partake; my diet is low-carb and dairy-free. I’ll just eat the tomatoes.” For most of us, experiences like that don’t occur often in life so when they do, we should embrace them.
I had become a more adventurous eater after living with a host family in Paris. When they served shrimp with eyes and legs intact that required peeling, my formally squeamish self decided I had to just dive in. That was a pivotal moment for me. I leapt out of my comfort zone and became more immersed in the culture.
Relaxing is one of the best things you can do for your body. When traveling, you’re free from the stresses of work and real life. It’s hard to relax and enjoy your trip if you’re constantly worried about your diet.
Krys Mroczkowski, a Boston-based health and wellness coach with an M.S. in biophysics, said: “Stress is one of the biggest detriments to people’s health. So a real vacation, when you’re not stressing about what you eat, or anything else, will allow the mind and body to recover.” He explained that cortisol is the hormone responsible for increasing blood sugar, which is linked to fat deposits in the body. “As stress levels lower, so do cortisol levels,” he said. “When you’re relaxing, that’s when your body will benefit the most.”
Being relaxed might also mean you’ll enjoy your food more. Scarfing down a quick lunch at your desk while staring at your computer is far less satisfying than dining at a restaurant at a leisurely pace.
You’re probably getting exercise without knowing it
I walked everywhere in Europe, and the flights of stairs I climbed would rival the most rigorous Stairmaster workout. My feet ached and my legs were stiff at the end of each day, but the views were worth it.
Many European cities are walkable and bike-friendly. Cycling or traveling by foot is a great way to view the scenery or find unique shops when you’re going from your hotel to your next tourist attraction. Plus, it’s rewarding—you feel like you earned that extra croissant. Or maybe your destination includes swimming and snorkeling. Whatever the case, exercising is fun when you’re not thinking about it.
Next time you travel, enjoy the food as part of the experience. Don’t overthink your diet, indulge a little, and see what happens.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sarah Teczar is a Boston-based writer pursuing her M.F.A. in fiction at Emerson College. A Francophile and lover of languages, she enjoys breaking down preconceived notions by traveling and meeting new people. Follow her @sarahteczar.
Photo of food on table by Shutterstock