How To Stay Healthy On An All-Inclusive Vacation

This year I decided to make a change in the way I was living.  Having traveled to many all-inclusive resorts in the past few years, I was starting to feel the weight of those trips-- literally.  I was always in the mindset that "When in Rome...".  So I'd overeat and go to bed feeling gross, just because I knew the food was there and free.   I told myself I had to try it all so I could know what to recommend to my clients.  

Growing up, my grandfather used to tell us "Take what you want, but eat what you take" which ironically was followed by "Big eyes, little stomach" when he'd see us sitting there with our plates still half full, hands on our bellies, and our eyes glazed over.  But his "Papa-isms" as we called them, were a reminder that wasting our food was just unacceptable.  To this day, it still pains me to walk away from a plate that is half full, for whatever the reason.  However, adopting this healthier lifestyle has forced me to accept that just because you're somewhere where the food is free and available 24/7 doesn't mean you need to fill up your plate at every meal.

This was our first trip of the year since my husband and I adopted the healthier lifestyle, so naturally I was a little concerned about how it would go.  My husband and I had been walking 4+ miles every day; eating healthy by cutting sugar, carbs and sodium; and counting calories.  The idea of continuing that on our trip at first seemed impossible, but then we decided to make it a goal.  Kind of like "let's see if we can do this...".  So we set some goals and made some plans and these are the tips we followed:

Tip 1)  Pack your gym gear first.  Our workout gear was the first thing to go into the suitcase.  That way there was no way we'd be able to say "Oops, we forgot our sneakers, guess we can't go to the gym!" or "Sorry, ran out of room in the suitcase."

Oh and a cool tip I learned somewhere along the way-- put your sneakers in a shower cap to keep them from getting your clothes dirty!  I also read somewhere that you can put your delicates in a bag and then stuff them in your shoes to save room too! :)

Tip 2-- Plan properly to prep yourself.   Make sure you engrain it in your mind that you WILL be working out on your trip.  Research the gym or the places to walk/run/jog in the area.  For example, when spending a night at the airport Hyatt before our trip, I researched what the gym looked like.  Before we checked in I knew what floor it was on, what equipment it had, and that there was also a running track on the top of the parking deck.  When we checked in, I asked for a room near the gym so I couldn't avoid it.  If you plan it out in advance and work the gym into your schedule each day, you won't break your routine.

Besides, some gyms are really worth spending a few hours in during your week....
The view from my treadmill at Sandals Royal Bahamian.

Also look into the programs that the resort has.  If they have classes like yoga or pilates, you can sign up for those (usually free of charge).   If not, then consider doing your own yoga on the beach or on your balcony-- wherever you can be comfortable and have privacy.

Tip 3-- Be mindful of what you eat, but it's okay to splurge a little once in a while.  

One of the first things I did when we arrived was take out the paper room service menu and circle all the things that I could have.  The fresh fruit plate, the house salad, the cheese and cracker plate, etc.  That way when I looked at the menu late at night, I'd focus on the healthier items.

At the restaurants, I tried to ignore the unhealthier options, and customize my meal.  For example, the chicken I ordered came with mashed potatoes.  Instead of wasting them, I requested extra veggies and no mashed potatoes.  Or simply say "no thank you" when the waiter asked if I wanted bread.   In fact, on the first dining night they had already put a bread roll down, and I remember eyeing it up thinking "Oh but I can't let them throw out this perfectly good piece of bread!"  But I had to remind myself of my new motto: "Let it go to waste, or it will end up going to your waist"!

You can also meet with the chef when you arrive to plan out a menu if you have food allergies or want to stick to a very strict diet.
Notice the calories marked on the menu (order it sans the fries!)
The first morning was trying.  At breakfast, the smell of waffles and bacon were driving me insane!  But I had to remind myself it took me a month to lose 10 pounds and I wasn't going to let myself gain it all back in a week.  So instead, I took advantage of the fact that there was unlimited amounts of fresh fruit available throughout the resort-- something I wished I had at home.

But the most important thing to keep an eye on was the portion control.  At the buffet-- which I tried to avoid as much as possible since the restaurants always served smaller portions-- I would always reach for the smallest plate.  There was no need for me to fill up a dinner plate with greasy breakfast or lunch foods.
My morning breakfast consisted of a small plate of fruit and yogurt, 
and some coconut shavings just because...

But it's also okay to splurge a little too.  I mean you are on vacation, so you may as well take advantage of some of the things you don't get to eat every day...  Like filet mignon and lobster. ;)

Tip 4-- Get out of your room!

Sure the room is the majority of what you're paying for, but these resorts are designed to keep you active, if you want to stay active.  There are tennis courts, volleyball courts, and tons of other land and water sports to take advantage of, all free of charge.  So burn some calories the fun way!

Tennis courts 
Volleyball court

Shuffle board and croquet
Lawn chess (more of a workout than you think).

Plus, there is water all around you.  You can swim, do water aerobics, or take advantage of the water sports available.  The resort we went to had paddle boarding and kayaking, both great options for working out your arms.   They also had water bikes, which are way more fun that the bike machines in the gym!   The best part is, you can still work on your tan while doing these activities, and it's less boring and sloth-like than laying around on a beach all afternoon.  ;)

Tip 5-- Stick to water.

Yes these resorts include liquor, but that doesn't mean you have to drink it.  In my opinion, liquor adds just as many problems as calories.  After my fourth drink and hours of sun exposure I'd normally be sick as a dog, and that isn't worth it.   Besides, water keeps you hydrated and in the heat and under the direct sunlight, hydration is important-- especially if you plan to remain active.

Now that doesn't mean that a glass of wine or champagne at dinner isn't a good idea.  Like I said, splurge a little.  Heck, I'll order a non-alcoholic pina colada once in a while too, just to get into the vacation mode.  But I stay away from the hard liquor and soft drinks.  They aren't worth the calories.

The only other non-water drink I'll have would be an all fruit smoothie at breakfast.  Don't skip out on having one of those because they are delicious!  There is nothing like a fresh fruit smoothie made from locally grown tropical fruits.  Or freshly squeezed orange juice or pineapple juice.

Delicious all-fruit breakfast smoothie at Sandals. 

Tip 6- If you're going to indulge, do it at the SPA!

After a month of exercise and eating healthy, I promised myself that I'd treat myself to something special.  Not food.  Not more exercise.  But something healthy and good for my body, yet relaxing.  So I got a massage.     The spa is a perfect way to relax and take care of your body while on vacation.  Try a soothing mud bath, or a facial, or a full body massage.  Or maybe you're a runner and want a reflexology foot massage.  Those 60 minutes of pure relaxation were worth every penny and were a great way to remind myself that hard work pays off.
Photo from our couple's massage on the beach

So how did it go?
Well, I'm happy to report that after following all of these tips I am sharing with you, I came home without having gained a single pound!  I had an amazing trip and never went to bed feeling full, or sick, or wishing I hadn't eaten that last bite of dessert.  

I feel that I've successfully gotten out of the mind set that all-inclusive resorts are made for over indulging with food and drinks, and I now consider them more as a vacation from buying groceries, planning and cooking our own meals, and having a much bigger variety of healthy meats, fish, fruits and vegetables at my fingertips.  :)

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