How to not gain weight on holiday, aka 16:8 fasting

I’ll be frank with you. I can be a real piglet when I’m travelling. I want to fill myself up with every experience, colour, texture and flavour, so I don’t hold back – especially when it comes to beer, wine and dessert.

However there’s a price to be paid for this life-is-for-living approach to menus, which I prefer to call travel research. As the days click by, the bones in my face disappear and I start avoiding sleeveless clothes. There are no bathroom scales to keep track of the damage, but I can feel what’s happening. I’m gaining excess baggage faster than a girls’ weekend shopping spree.

Until recently, the only remedy I had for this fat state of affairs was getting immediately stuck into calorie counting and gym workouts on my return. But now I have a secret weapon that I can use while we’re on the road…a plan so cunning you could pin a tail on it and call it a skinny little weasel.

1pm is beer o’clock, in my travel book.

16:8 fasting while travelling

In a nutshell (no calories in that), 16:8 fasting means limiting your eating to an eight-hour window.  So if you stop eating at 9pm at night, you don’t start again until 1pm the next day.  During this fasting phase, you can drink water, tea and coffee. No milk or sugar added though.

This isn’t onerous at all when you’re travelling. In fact, it can mean you have more time for sightseeing in the morning because you’re not engaged in the business of finding or making breakfast. Just make sure you pack a water bottle for the morning’s adventures.

When you’re engaged in urban hiking around landmarks, learning about stuff in museums or appreciating creativity in art galleries, time travels quickly.  And strangely, you don’t feel particularly hungry. Overnight your body switches to fat burning, so your morning of playing super-tourist is effectively fuelled by adipose tissue.

Call it brunch or lunch. Either way, you’ll savour every mouthful after 16 hours of fasting.

Does 16:8 fasting really work?

The idea of 16:8 fasting isn’t brand new. It’s been around for long enough for actual research to take place and the conclusions have been pretty pleasing.  The University of Illinois study found that not only does the 16:8 eating strategy work, it also helps to lower blood pressure.

At a personal level I know it works. I did 16:8 fasting for two months before our latest 10-week trip. During that time I dropped two kilos.  Not a huge loss, but it was so easily done that I felt I could keep going forever. I didn’t though. We left NZ and breakfast, in all its French toast glory, was swiftly reinstated (refer to over-indulgence covered off in first paragraph!).

But this time I didn’t feel guilty about getting stuck into Portuguese custard tarts, baklava and all the other gooey sweet things that southern Europe is famous for. I knew that I only had to switch back into 16:8 mode to get things under control.

So here I am, third day into a fasting/eating routine that’s beginning to feel like normal. Already my cheekbones have miraculously reappeared and my upper arms are looking more lithe. I just love the fact that I only have one rule to follow: don’t eat between 9pm and 1pm. There’s a lot to be said for simplicity.

jo with dessert
Me with a caramel brioche pudding in Seville.