Do you keep up your healthy habits on holiday, or do you blow out and enjoy yourself? For me, I like to compromise: balancing a few extra treats without losing sight of my principals. As I pack up to come home from sunny Cuba I am definitely feeling a little softer around the tummy, but still feeling good in my bikini and not regretting the choices I have made.

I write to you all from a beautiful but not so sunny Cuba. The rain has come and with widespread floods and power cuts we are delegated to the hotel lobby. Not letting it defeat our positive vibes, Mr B and I are chilling with a few pre-lunch mojitos. That is right, mojitos before lunch. Not a habit I would typically divulge in, but hey- when in Cuba.

If you chose to be virtuous on holiday and stick vigorously to your healthy eating and exercise then good on you, but be sure you won’t regret missing out the pleasures of a few holiday treats when you get home. For me a holiday should be about relaxing, no worries, no stress, just relax. Go with the flow, let loose, enjoy yourself, live with no regrets. And the choices you make in regards to your diet and exercise whilst on holiday should reflect that. Whether you chose to be good or bad, just be sure you won’t regret it when you get home.

No regrets

I swam with dolphins here in Cuba. It was an amazing experience and nice not worrying I would look like a whale in the photos!

I swam with dolphins here in Cuba. It was nice not worrying about the photos!

If you chose to throw out all the rules, eat foods you would usually avoid and drown yourself in cocktails, then embrace it, have fun, but accept you will probably come a little heavier on the scales. There is nothing wrong with enjoying yourself on holiday, and a few extra pounds on the scales is a small price to pay if you really did have fun. I think the problem comes when you stop enjoying it and just go all out for the sake of it. A few weeks ago I experimented with taking a conscious diet break, and a holiday is a perfect time for choosing to ease off your usual routine. But as I found out in just a weekend break, it’s easy to lose control, and that is when we start regretting our choices.

Looking back on past holidays I can see now where I have gone wrong. I went to Las Vegas in 2007, at the time I was about half way through my weight loss journey. America is well known for its huge portions, and I wasn’t going to miss out. I enjoyed all you can eat buffets, extra-large servings of fast food, and abused limitless free alcohol in the casinos. I came home from that holiday 11lbs heavier (yes you read that right- 11lbs!) I was no longer able to fit into the smaller size clothes I had worked so hard to get in to before my jetting off. I was mortified and disappointed when I was carrying the extra pounds long after the tan faded. Looking back I didn’t even enjoy it. I know damn well what McDonalds fries taste like, there was really no need to have a super-size portion for the sake of it!

It has been 7 years since I achieved my goal weight, and since then I have managed to find a nice system for holidays. I have worked out how to enjoy myself, have no regrets, but still able to fit in the clothes I set off in. For me it is about working out the things I really enjoy and not missing out on those treats, a bit of sensible moderation, and a secret pleasure I am almost reluctant to share.

My top holiday treats

One thing I love about holidays is getting to experience different cultures, and that includes the different cuisines. Whenever possible I will enjoy the local delicacies and flavours. In Spain I love paella, in Italy its proper pizza and pasta. I will never regret choosing to enjoy local cuisines, no matter how far from my usual healthy eating routine. Here in Cuba there is one thing that tops all menus: rum. It would be almost rude not to divulge in some of the wonderful rum based concoctions the Cubans have created. Cubans take the same satisfaction and care in making the perfect mojito as the British do a proper brew. And I am not sure if it is just our resort, but Pina Coladas seem to be on tap. So yes, here in our all-inclusive resort, I have enjoyed a few cocktails.

I would normally avoid creamy cocktails like Pina Colada's as they are packed full of sugar and fat. But hey, if you cant enjoy one on holiday then what's the point?!

I would normally avoid creamy cocktails like Pina Colada’s as they are packed full of sugar and fat. But hey, if you cant enjoy one on holiday then what’s the point?!

And on top of these obligatory cocktails have been a few ‘medicinal gins’. Like many tropical countries there are a lot of mosquitos here in Cuba, and urban legend assures me drinking gin and tonic helps repel mosquitoes and limit bites. Maybe my infamous love of gin makes me bias, but I am sure it works. I am convinced that a few gin and tonics a day keeps the mosquitos at bay. True or not I have enjoyed a few medicinal gins just to be safe.

Sensible moderation

So yes, there’s been a steady stream of alcohol underlying much of the holiday, but at no point have I actually been drunk. The last thing I want is to feel groggy and hungover in the blistering heat. Also I am conscious of the health risks associated with dehydration, and I am well aware that too much alcohol will not help. Earlier in the week it was touching 40 degrees, in that kind of heat you don’t need to add a skin full of booze to risk dehydration. So, all beverages have been preceded with a glass of water. Mr B and I nicknamed it a ‘water chaser’. We have become pretty good at quickly throwing back a glass of water in prep of another rum and lime. It’s helped to both slow down the rate of drinking and keep us hydrated.

Example of my mammoth hotel breakfast! Boiled eggs, pinto beans, bacon, a few small slices of sausage, cooked onion and tomatoes, a strawberry yoghurt drink, a plate of fresh fruit and a black coffee or three.

Example of my mammoth hotel breakfast! Boiled eggs, pinto beans, bacon, a few small slices of sausage, cooked onion and tomatoes, a strawberry yoghurt drink, a plate of fresh fruit and a black coffee or three.

When it comes to food on holiday there is one thing that I can’t help but divulge in: hotel breakfasts! This is a pleasure Mr B and I share, and we have been known to enjoy an hour long leisurely breakfast. I am always hungriest in the morning, and the huge selection of wonderful foods is just too good to resist. Do you go savoury with a cooked breakfast? Or divulge in the sweet treat of croissants and pancakes? Most mornings I can’t chose and will often enjoy a bit of both. But I have found that a good breakfast will keep me going most the day and I don’t want to eat much in the heat of the day anyway. So I enjoy a hearty breakfast, a lighter lunch of salad with fish or chicken, and then a smaller evening meal.

My secret pleasure

Now this is the bit I am almost reluctant to share, as I fear if too many people discover and take up this pleasure then it will be ruined. A few years ago I discovered a pleasure in running on the beach that has not only surprised myself, helped me say in shape on holiday and come to be one of my favourite things about going abroad. Back home in the UK I neither love nor hate running. Various knee and ankle injuries have taught me I am not built to be a runner, but that doesn’t stop me enjoying the occasional jog when the mood takes me on a nice Sunday morning.

Here are some videos of my workouts on holiday as posted on Facebook.

But running on holiday is something different. The joy of running on the beach as the sun rises is almost

The beautiful sunrise over the sea during my morning run on the beach

The beautiful sunrise over the sea during my morning run on the beach

unmeasured. It is more than exercise, it is almost spiritual how wonderful it feels. I have run along some of the most beautiful beaches in the world and had them all to myself: from Ibiza to Australia, and from Cornwall to now Cuba. I love getting to soak in the beauty of these places without the hustle and bustle of people; taking it in before it gets too hot, too busy, too loud. Just me, the waves, the soft sand, nobody or nothing in my way. The views are often breath taking and there is something indescribable about selfishly enjoying the moment alone.

Back home

So I finish here back home in the UK. I have weighed in, having gained 3 pounds, but not regretting a single one of them, and confident they will all be gone before the tan fades. I would love to know your strategies for enjoying your holiday without regrets.

Jennie x


I am Jennie, founder of set U free fitness. I lost 7 stone with Weight watchers, and then transformed my body trough exercise. This blog is my ongoing journey to stay healthy and happy. It is written from the heart based on my own real life experiences, including the mistakes I make, and the lessons I learn. I love to hear from people undergoing their own transformations. So please comment below, or get in touch. 

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