Here's how not to lose weight when you travel. Go to Switzerland and exist purely on a diet of fried potatoes and melted cheese. Eat rosti, raclette and fondue every day. Top yourself up, occasionally, with chocolate. And drink a lot of beer.
And then head south to Rome, where you can ditch the potatoes and cheese and replace them with pasta. All of the pasta. Oh and bakery treats, and pizza, and maybe some wine instead of beer.
That's one delicious holiday, but it's certainly not going to result in loose-fitting clothing. It's also the exact trip that I've just come home from, which is what got me thinking about holidays that are actually good for you, holidays that will have you coming home fitter and healthier than when you left.
Hint: they don't involve rosti and raclette.
Trek the Salkantay in Peru
The Salkantay, Peru. Photo: Alamy
The Salkantay Trek is the perfect alternative to the busy Inca Trail, a five-day journey that takes hikers through the spectacular Peruvian Andes and finishes up at Machu Picchu, but avoids the bulk of the crowds. It's also a great way to get fit. This is five days of high-altitude trekking we're talking about, as you wander up to 4600 metres above sea level, which is bound to whip you into shape – in fact, even the training you should do for a journey like this will get the heart pumping.
Head to a detox retreat in Thailand
Kamalaya, Koh Samui
I should start by admitting that this is definitely not my idea of a good time. However, if you're feeling like the excesses of Western life are getting a little out of control, it might be time to spend a week or two at a place like Kamalaya in Koh Samui, a detox retreat where guests undertake structured rejuvenation programs that include such delights as colon hydrotherapy and infrared saunas. Best of luck with that.
Do a digital detox in Mongolia
If colon hydrotherapy sounds a little extreme, you could always try simply detoxing from technology. It won't make you fitter, but ditching your phone and camera and laptop and anything else with a screen for a few weeks will definitely benefit your mental well-being. Intrepid Travel runs a few "Digital Detox" itineraries, including a 15-day trip to see the Naadam Festival in Mongolia. No need to consciously detach from the digital world when you're living in traditional felt gers and driving 4WDs through the middle of nowhere.
Go skiing in Japan
Hakuba ski resort in Japan.
There's potential for a ski trip anywhere to result in improved health and fitness. However, as I've ably demonstrated in Switzerland recently (and, in the past, in the US and Canada), if you go snowboarding for a few hours and then smash a huge bowl of melted cheese and bread, you're probably not going to lose too many pounds. However, Japan has you covered. The snow here is amazing, the lift tickets are cheap, and the on-mountain food is relatively healthy. Steer clear of the katsu curries every day and you'll be fine.
Hit the trail running
Maybe hiking just isn't enough for you. Maybe walking from place to place doesn't raise the heartrate sufficiently. Maybe it's all just too pedestrian. The answer? Trail running holidays. Yes, these are a thing. There are several specialist companies that are now running – ahem – niche trips for those fitness freaks who want to take their exercise regimens somewhere beautiful and interesting around the world. Stay fit, explore, and meet like-minded people. Sounds like a pretty good idea.
Relax in Okinawa
Five times as many Okinawans live to be 100 as their compatriots in the rest of Japan – and even your average Japanese person lives a long time. Okinawans' longevity is often put down to their vegetable-and-seafood-heavy diet, so why not get over there and soak up some of the goodness for yourself? These sunny isles provide the perfect opportunity to get a little vitamin D on the beach, before feasting on healthy, delicious food in the restaurants.
Get on your bike in south-east Asia
I once cycled from Hanoi to Luang Prabang in monsoonal humidity and heat, and I'd never felt fitter afterwards. I also swore I would never do a trip like that again, because it wasn't much fun. The thing is though, you don't have to slog it out in the heat through the "Lao Alps" to see south-east Asia by bike, and to get fitter while doing it. Plenty of tour companies offer much gentler itineraries, at much better times of year, in the likes of Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. Give one a shot.
Go to a yoga retreat in India
Dedicated yoginis are probably way ahead of me here, but yoga holidays are a thing – a fact I find kind of surprising, but hey, whatever bakes your crumpets. Though there are yoga retreats offered everywhere from Bali to Byron, it makes sense to go to India, to the source, for an experience that's physical, spiritual and cultural. There are retreats in India that cater to every yoga-related desire, from traditional, no-frills outfits to those with detox juices and fast wifi.
Walk the Camino de Santiago
If walking 800 kilometres doesn't help you keep the waistline in check, nothing will. The Camino de Santiago, a traditional pilgrims route through northern Spain to the city of Santiago del Compostela, is becoming increasingly popular with non-secular tourists simply looking for a way to slow their travel down, to take in a beautiful part of the world at walking pace.
Have you been on a healthy holiday? Where did you go? Or do you prefer out-and-out gluttony when you're away from home?