Monday 18 November 2019

'Sun, sea and.... zero weight gain - is it possible to diet on holidays?'

Barbara Scully (57) continues her fitness and weight loss journey following a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. Can she stay strong during a trip to Tenerife?

Barbara Scully. Picture: Steve Humphreys
Barbara Scully. Picture: Steve Humphreys

In my last column I extolled the virtues of autumn, my favourite season, and my love of hibernation, all of which still stands.

But I also love sunshine and am a firm believer in the health benefits of vitamin D and so, as we didn't get abroad this summer, myself and himself took ourselves off to one of my favourite places, Tenerife, for some rest and relaxation last week. I knew that this time away would test my resolve about losing weight and keeping my sugar intake to a minimum after being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes two months ago.

Knowing the resort very well (in a previous life I worked in the travel business) I carefully chose a hotel that was a little out of town in the hope that my exercise regime would continue naturally as we walked into town at least once a day. I also took my blood sugar monitor with me so I wouldn't be tempted to throw sugar caution to the wind.

Before we left, I phoned my travel insurance company to advise them of my diabetes, just in case it may have impacted my level of cover. I was delighted to find out that our travel insurance company (VHI) cover pre-existing conditions so all was well and, in fact, I hadn't even needed to inform them.

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Barbara Scully during her recent holiday to the Canaries
Barbara Scully during her recent holiday to the Canaries

Flying from Dublin to the Canary Islands takes about four-and-a-half hours and so if, like me, you are trying to control what you eat, it pays to plan ahead. Airline food is never great and on short-haul routes a lot of what is offered is packaged up with other stuff in 'meal deals'. For example, I wanted some cheese and crackers but I couldn't buy them on their own as they were part of a 'deal' which included chocolate, crisps and shortbread. I settled on Pringles (not great). On the way back, we bought salad at the airport to take onboard with us. My other top tip when travelling is bring your own water bottle which you can fill once you're through security and refill on board if necessary.

You will be glad to hear that I am not going to bore you with all the details of my holiday, but I will say that I did a lot of sunbathing, reading, more swimming than I would normally do and we walked between 5km and 10km every day and this included a 10-minute clamber down lots of very steep steps to the town. Walking is much more natural when you don't have a car and don't have to worry about the weather. We also never used the lift in the hotel, although we were only on the third floor, thankfully.

Yeah, yeah, I hear you mutter, but what about the food? Well, let me once again state that I am someone who has had a very happy and loving relationship with food since forever. Bad day? I comforted myself with food. Good day? I treated myself with food.

Holidays? Well sure, isn't half the point of it being able to eat out every night. Lounging at the pool during the day with the only decision to make being where you might eat that night.

But after two months of working hard on my new lifestyle, I was determined that the new me would have to change how I ate on holiday. Now don't get me wrong, we ate out every night and we ate well, but the days of starters, main course and dessert with a bottle of wine and drinks at both end of the meal are over. We generally only ate a main course and dessert was a coffee afterwards. Most nights our dinner cost less than €40.

I will confess to having a small jug of sangria most nights because.... because, well, sangria. On the last night we decided we might treat ourselves to a dessert because flan (or crème caramel to you) is another delicious Spanish musthave. However, when mine arrived, all I could think of what it was going to do to my blood sugars in the morning. And so, I only ate about a third of it. Needless to say, I might have gone the whole flan had I known that my sugar monitor batteries had died and so I couldn't take my bloods the following morning anyway.

Our hotel was a lovely family-run establishment and our bathroom came with a weighing scales.

So, the day before we left, having had what I considered a very healthy holiday and feeling good and fitter than I have been in decades, I weighed myself. The scales showed me that since I had last weighed myself (about a week previously) I had lost another half-stone. I got on and off three times to make sure they were correct and I got the same result each time.

I bounced out of the bathroom to share this good news with himself. He congratulated me but urged caution.

The scales were the old-fashioned ones and ours at home are digital. He thought I should wait till we get back and see what our scales say before announcing the result to the world.

And yes, dear reader, he was right. I have just weighed myself and I am the same weight as I was when we left for the Canaries.

So maybe it was the slice of toast at breakfast or the sangria which countered all the walking and resulted in my weight remaining static.

Disappointed? Yeah, I am a bit. But the real kicker is that himself, who ate as healthily as I did but drank an awful lot of beer and swam hardly at all, lost three pounds.

One of the greatest truths, as my dear mother is fond of saying, is "don't expect life to be fair because it isn't." I guess I should be grateful that I didn't put on any weight.

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