How to Not Gain Weight Abroad
My aunt, an experienced traveler, and I decided to embark on a last minute adventure to Vietnam for a month. I was excited to experience the sights, the people, and of course the food!
After two weeks there, and two more to go, the rice dishes, fatty meats, rice noodles, and the hearty sauce made me feel bloated, groggy, and honestly pretty cranky. I could see and feel my body gaining weight. Something needed to change because I did not want to return home unrecognizable. More importantly, I did not want to feel depressed and unhealthy. So, I made a few adjustments, and I even lost some weight (honestly, that's just a perk).
Here are a few tricks I swear by that kept me physically and mentally fit while traveling abroad:
Only eat when you're hungry.
In America, eating three meals a day is customary. After my first few days in Vietnam, I realized how physically uncomfortable I felt after eating 3 meals a day. After that, I only ate when I was hungry and felt significantly better.
Don't eat everything on your plate.
I don't like food to go to waste. Perhaps you don't either. Back home, I was able to control my portion sizes. In Vietnam, we ate street and restaurant food every day, and the portion sizes were hearty. I accepted that if I wanted to feel better, I would have to portion what I was served, and not feel guilty about it.
Switch up the variety.
In Vietnam, you will always find on every street and in every restaurant rice noodle beef soup, fried egg rolls, and other delicious Vietnamese delights. Variety is an essential component of my diet that keeps me healthy. After some time, we tried to switch it up a bit. We ate at a charming Belgian bistro, Le Petit Bruxelles. We loved it so much that we returned for another dinner. Variety includes changing not only the type of food you eat but how it is prepared.
Take your time while you eat. Take pauses in between bites to savor the food, observe the sights around you, or engage in pleasant conversation. Eating should be lovely and enjoyable!
Drink plenty of water.
My goodness. I cannot stress this enough, especially if you are in an environment that is 100 degrees Fahrenheit with 98% humidity. Drinking water keeps you energized and helps boost your metabolism and cleanse your body of waste.
Limit sugary drinks.
In Vietnam, they have delicious coffee, cà phê đá, that simply is made with condensed milk and medium to coarse ground dark roast Vietnamese-grown coffee. However, it is sweet and very sugary. I did not cut this out of my diet entirely. Instead, I was selective about when to indulge in this delightful treat. For example, coffee culture is huge in Vietnam, and every so often you'll stumble upon a little cafe that is over-pouring with locals - the cafe is open-faced with seats stuffed inside and on the sidewalk in front. I decided to partake in this social ritual with the locals in the crowded little cafe. The cà phê đá I ordered was dark and rich and delicious - undoubtedly the best coffee I had in Vietnam.
Limit fried food.
On occasion, I would have french fries if they were available or a local specialty that was fried, like bánh xèo. For the most part, if there were many options, I skipped the fried food and opted for something lighter.
We were moving around every day, except one. This activity ranged from three-hour strolls to exploring the caves in Siem Reap to a six-hour trek in the stunning mountains of Sapa. We did not "workout" (with a single exception of Aerobics at 5 a.m. at Phnom Pehn Olympic Stadium with the locals - a MUST if you're traveling to Cambodia). We did the activities we enjoyed. Stay consistently active to stay healthy.
At home, I cook my meals and manage my portions and cook what is in season. When you travel to another country, this is not always possible. Don't let it stop you from traveling the world! Keep these tips in mind for healthy and happy travel.