Having spent the last ten days in the beautiful little fishing port of Honfleur, I have returned home from my holiday feeling relaxed and rejuvenated. Honfleur is a very old fishing port with cobbled streets and tall wooden buildings which sigh into each other. This is where the impressionists came to paint ‘en plein air’. I’ve known about the place for a long time and it definitely didn't disappoint. We stayed in a fourteenth century town house with a winding wooden staircase and had breakfast brought to us each morning- what a sight! This was definitely breakfast ‘french style’, with baguette, different types of pastry and croissants,bien sûr! I ate, enjoyed and savoured the warm, fresh breads. This is what France is all about for me...
I have to admit though that it takes me some time to truly ‘wind down’ and relax on holidays. I’m not a great one for lying in, in fact I’m almost always up at the craic of dawn. So finding my ‘rhythm’ on holidays can be a struggle. Luckily my husband, Liam, is very good and taking it easy, it's an art I greatly admire in him. The longer we are together, the more I begin to acquire some of these very important attributes. We are pushing close to a decade together now and I have managed to sleep in until 9am once or twice….
That is my pitfall when it comes to holidays, but I know for so many people the build up to going away and getting into the swim suit or more revealing summer clothing can be very, very stressful. What I typically see is people desperately dieting and sticking to it, because they associate more pain with getting into their swimwear and not feeling good in their skin, than they do to denying the foods they love. So once the tickets are booked there is typically enough leverage there to motivate them to lose the weight. Does this sound familiar?
But then you arrive at your destination and meal time becomes an important part of the holiday, usually it's the only thing that breaks up the day and designates a rhythm, because holidays are all about relaxing- right? And so, having starved yourself to fit into the summer clothes, you now fall off the wagon and over indulge. All the hard work goes out the window, and typically you end up putting on more weight than when you began. NOT GOOD!
Holidays can become a yo-yo disaster that your body will not thank you for. So today I want to talk to you about how to eat in moderation. Now back to my beautiful breakfast bread basket….
I LOVE croissants and I also love french baguette. None of this supermarket ‘baguette’ that you buy at home, but the stuff fresh from a boulangerie. The texture of which is completely different, it's lighter, chewier and much less stodgy. But most importantly it’s delicious. Each morning, upon receiving this basket of beauty, I was faced with a choice. Do I skip the carbs (which apparently should be forbidden!). Do I think ‘feck it, I’m on holidays, I’ll eat it all!’, or do I chose option number three: Enjoy the food I love, but eat in moderation. Each morning I enjoyed precisely half a croissant and a delicious piece of the baguette and I savoured each bite of course! However later in the day when the bread basket came round, as it inevitably did for every meal, I was mindful that I had my bread indulgence for the day and mostly, politely declined the unnecessary filler and waiting for the scrumptious main event.
Holidays are a time of indulgence and we tend to eat out a lot more with starters, mains and desserts dancing before our eyes on the menu. So I encourage you to be smart and strategic. If ordering a starter and a main, then with one of the choices pick something light, like the soup or salad and with the other you can then afford to be slightly more indulgent. Remember though, you do not have to finish everything on your plate! Allow yourself to enjoy the food, but remember to leave room for the next course. Eat slowly and enjoy each mouthful, but always leave plenty on the plate, so that there is space for the next course. The flavour is in the first few bites, so engage with the food and pay attention to what you’re eating!
Now when it comes to dessert this is not something you should deny yourself! But I ALWAYS share my dessert with my dinner partner. That way I get to taste it, enjoy it, but not eat too much of it!
I remember being out for a girlfriend's birthday recently. She had brought her gal pals from her gym who I hadn't met before. They were a great bunch and we had a fantastic time, giggling the whole evening. These women were all very fit and healthy as they are committed to a private training session they do four times a week together with a personal trainer (!). I noticed how they all ordered salads and avoided any sides. When it came to dessert they all automatically said ‘no thanks’ to the dessert menu, but I chimed up and said I’d love to see it! I decided to order the profiteroles and with that, the tide had turned. It was as if my ordering had given them permission to enjoy a dessert too. So I suggested we order two and all share. They were truly delicious and everyone got to enjoy them without overindulging. This is something I strongly encourage. Eating in moderation and enjoying a little of what you like mitigates the inevitable binges that come from denying yourself the foods you love.
But I digress a little...back to holidays! The other pitfall of any holiday are those permission giving thoughts that say ‘I’m on holidays, I can have that!’. This is a big mistake, it's those impulse purchases of potato chips, ice-creams or cocktails that we ingest without really registering, that tip the balance. When you are on holidays, think about balance. Think about trying new foods and flavours and if you fancy a snack try some watermelon or a juicy orange! Whatever you do, notice and register what you are eating. Enjoy it and make it count. Eat the foods you love, but enjoy in moderation. I’m sure you have oft heard the expression ‘the eyes are bigger than the stomach’ and it is so true!
Going somewhere different is an opportunity to have a fresh perspective, to see and do different things and taste different flavours of life, not just the culinary kind. My time in France this year gave me the mental space to reflect, to read, to enjoy a feast for the eyes sightseeing throughout the beautiful seaside villages. It is also a wonderful time to get out and get moving. The weather is (hopefully) good and time is on your side so take the opportunity to walk. Walk as many places as possible. When I’m on holidays I regularly clock up 20,000 + steps a day. You see more and being more active helps a little to balance out the extra indulgences holiday time inevitably brings.
Most importantly I had time to connect with my husband and enjoy our time together before our new arrival comes along. I am pregnant and very excited for the future when our little family, Liam and I, our two dogs, Luther and Pip and our cat Moo ( who looks like a Holstein-Friesian cow hence the name!) expands. So this summer I encourage you to enjoy, indulge but always find the right balance.
What do you find most challenging on the run up to the holidays, and indeed when you are away what do you struggle with? I’d love to hear from you so email me firstname.lastname@example.org I respond to every email I receive.
PS- If someone you love is heading on holidays and think they might benefit from this- do pass it on!