Dear JJ: I saw on your social media you recently returned from Italy. I'm actually traveling to Rome in February and wanted to stay on track with my diet. How did you navigate the numerous temptations without surrendering?
While most of my travel involves business, I made a blissful sightseeing escape last month to Italy. You can't visit this fabulous country without sampling pasta, tiramisu, Chianti, and a few other delights that most definitely weren't low-sugar impact.
I sampled them all and actually lost weight during the trip. Here's how.
1. Go for the healthy stuff first. Even in linguine-loving Italy, most menus had grilled wild-caught salmon with steamed veggies or another healthy protein dish. Optimize fat burning and crush cravings by making every meal lean protein, healthy fats, loads of non-starchy veggies, and a little bit of slow-release, high-fiber starch. Bonus points for something you wouldn't normally try at home like buridda.
2. Upgrade your exercise. Sightseeing probably demands copious walking, which is awesome, but also upgrade your workout and blast fat fast by adding burst training. No gym or special equipment required: A park hill or stairs make the perfect place to do burst training. FYI: When in Rome, the Stairs to the Dome of St. Peter's Basilica makes a fabulous place to do burst training.
3. Start correctly. Blowing off breakfast with a triple espresso or having a croissant and amaretto-biscotti-accompanied cappuccino becomes all too easy when you don't have a fast, no-brainer plan. A protein shake removes guesswork and vacillation, which is why I always travel with protein powder and my small portable blender. In less time than it takes for your barista to whip up a caffe con schiuma, you get a fast, filling, fat blasting breakfast that crushes cravings and hunger for hours.
4. Keep my three-bite rule. Indulging responsibly means knowing when to put your fork or spoon down and not nose-diving into a second dish of zabaglione with berries. Do your meals correctly (see number one) and then enjoy three polite bites -- we're talking what you would eat on national TV, not an 11 p.m. gelato-stand raid -- of your favorite concoction and step away from the dessert. Be aware even a few bites of gluten, dairy, or other food intolerances can backfire, and proceed accordingly.
5. Get good sleep. Visiting abroad, you quickly discover dinner runs late (sometimes very late), often fueled by antipasto platters and giant Chianti carafes. Just because the party spills over past midnight doesn't mean you need to. Studies show insufficient sleep stalls fat loss, partly by knocking numerous fat-regulating hormones out of balance, plus it just makes you a miserable mess. Remedy that over-caffeinated morning-after aftermath with seven to nine hours of quality, uninterrupted sleep every night. Earplugs, an eye mask, and a melatonin supplement can become your best sleep friends on vacation!
6. Try this "birth control for carbs" formula. (Shout out to Lisa Sasevich for coining this term!) My secret pasta-indulging-without-gaining-weight weapon (other than restraint)? Starch blockers, a supplement researchers found create "significant decrements in body weight and suggest decrements in fat mass in the face of maintained lean body mass." Another found starch blockers could aid weight loss and reduce post-meal glucose levels. Every little bit helps, and even gluten-free Linguine Carbonara with cauliflower and pancetta didn't stand a chance with starch blockers.
7. Relax! Taper down that rigorous itinerary and faster-more mentality or your vacation can quickly become as stressful as a 10-hour workday, jacking up your fat-storing hormone cortisol in the bargain. Remind yourself you're there to relax, not maintain an uber-hectic schedule. Put down electronics (you've put your away notification on email, right?) and grab a book or maybe just an espresso and people watch. You're on vacation; don't forget it.
What one strategy would you add here to stay lean and healthy on vacation? Share yours below, and keep those fab questions coming at AskJJ@jjvirgin.com.