The breakfast buffet: The secret to avoiding weight gain on holidays

Breakfast buffets are not your friend.

I mean, 99 per cent of the time they are most definitely your friend. They're a thing of beauty, a cornucopia of sweet, savoury, fried, baked and toasted goodies, a never-ending supply of all of the stuff you want to treat yourself to at the beginning of the day when you're on holidays. 

But that's also the problem. Because what if you're not treating yourself when you're on holidays? What if you're trying to watch what you eat? What if you're attempting to keep control of a post-Christmas waistline that's lately been threatening to break free of your pants and bust out from under your shirt? 

Then breakfast buffets are not your friend.

In fact, travel in general is not your friend. There are many things that travel can do for you, so many ways in which it can enrich your life, but it's not going to help you lose weight. Or even maintain it.

To travel is to eat. Or more specifically, to enjoy travel is to eat. Such a huge part of the experience is sampling local food – often, if you're anything like me, as much of it as you can. Trying food is like going to a museum, or visiting a historical site. It's cultural; it's essential.

But there will come a time, especially for anyone who's frequently on the road, when you need to rein things in. That time, for me, is now. And I have no idea how I'm going to do it.

It's the worst thing in the world, attempting to maintain a steady, healthy diet when you're travelling. Trying to combine that with exercise is almost impossible. 

If you're travelling to England it's called the "Heathrow injection" – the weight you inevitably gain pretty much as soon as you've left the airport. But you could just as easily experience the "LAX injection", or the "Fiumicino injection", or even the "BKK injection". It all happens.

For starters, you're eating out all the time when you travel. You're going to restaurants and cafes. You're sampling local delights. And you know that all of that food doesn't taste good just because it's being created by talented chefs. It tastes that good because it's swimming in delicious oil, salt and butter. 

And not every place you visit is going to offer a kale and quinoa power breakfast as an alternative option. Say you're in the USA. The healthy option on the local menu is probably going to be a burger with only one patty instead of the regulation three. You could limit yourself to just eating half a burger, but that's going to take some serious self-control that I don't possess. 

No one wants to be the annoying travel buddy who insists on going to look for a health food shop instead of going to the local taco stand either. You're doing travel wrong if that's your norm.

And exercise? Who has time for that? I once stayed at a resort in Thailand, a place over near Krabi, and I watched every morning with scorn as two health-nut fellow guests would get up and, instead of make their way towards the breakfast buffet, would make their way towards a grassy clearing by the pool, where they'd do sit-ups and crunches together for about an hour.

What sort of holiday is this, I'd wonder in between mouthfuls of porky, eggy breakfast goodness, while these two nutters, shirts off and his-and-hers matching six-packs rippling, would pump out sets in the hot sun.

That, for me, is not travel. That's what you travel to get away from. And yet here am I, deciding I need to join their ranks. I might not be doing crunches down by the pool, but I have to do some sort of exercise, and I have to be mindful of what I'm eating. How do you do that?

If you're staying at a hotel with a gym, you make time to visit it. You get up half an hour earlier that you really have to. You run on the treadmill. You swim in the pool. You lift a few weights if you're really desperate.

No gym? Then you put your shoes on and start pounding the surrounding pavements. Even if it's just at walking pace, it's better than nothing.

And then there's the food. Unless you're some sort of iron-willed or masochistic food-denier, you're going to be eating plenty of fatty, delicious local fare while you travel. It's unavoidable.

What you need to concentrate on is not having so much of it. Limit yourself to one restaurant meal a day. Shop at supermarkets – make your own lunches so you know exactly what's going into it. 

And, if possible, avoid your hotel's breakfast buffet. It is not your friend.

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