So if you really want to know how I lost weight on vacation (4 pounds), my answer is pretty simple...just get the flu at the end of it and rid your body of everything bad you ate over the course of 3 weeks. I honestly don't think I would have lost anything, were it not for that little hiccup at the end of my time away - HOWEVER, I DID at least maintain my weight for 3 weeks, and that in and of itself is a pretty awesome feat in the land of pig fat and carbs.
I wrote a blog before I left detailing my fear of gaining a lot of weight while I was away and my plan for keeping on track deep in the heart of Bavaria. I was honestly afraid that my old habits of throwing caution to the wind and eating like I had never seen food before would follow me across the ocean, despite my hard work and efforts over the last 7 months here. I am a self-confessed food addict after all, and not only that, I am also a foodie (two things which I consider to actually be very different - I both appreciate and love food, and abuse food by eating too much of it). So how could I go to a new country and not try a little bit of everything? Especially given that a good friend of mine and fellow foodie who had just returned from Germany not a couple of weeks before I left gave me one simple instruction before my departure: Eat Everything!
So with those two words echoing in my ears as I ventured into the unknown territories of delicious game meats and fresh baked breads, I was apprehensive at best about how successful I was going to be at keeping the vacation pounds at bay for 3 full weeks.
Challenge #1 - The Food Scale
True to word, I DID bring my food scale with me...and I used it! While at The Scientist's apartment in Berlin I weighed bread, cheese, muesli and a couple of other items and added them to my food tracker! The problem with the scale was that it stayed in Berlin while we went on to Munich, Rothenberg & Heidelberg. Whoops. But at least I stayed on track for the first week of the trip!
Challenge #2 - Stick To What I Know
I also did well with this one in Berlin. We went to a grocery store and purchased bread, eggs, cheese, bananas and yogurt for breakfasts so that I could start with something healthy and within my calorie range so indulging a bit at dinner wouldn't hurt my day as much. I won't say that this plan fell apart completely while we were on the road, since a traditional German breakfast consists of exactly those items listed above, but when put in a buffet form, it becomes ever so tempting to just have "one more roll" or "one more taste of jam" (something I NEVER eat anyway) or "one more nibble of cheese". Though the health value of the items consumed remained the same, my portion control did get out of whack towards the end of the trip for sure.
Challenge #3 - Fruits & Veggies
This one WAS hard. Though Europeans DO eat vegetables (I'm sure of it), there were none to be found but cabbage on the standard German menu. In many cases I ordered a side salad if I was feeling particularly deprived for the day, and endured strange looks from the wait staff. They would often then return with something that looked like it came out of a bag and that was drenched in oil and vinegar - not exactly the most appetizing thing in the world, unlike the rest of the meal which looked delicious. The breakfast table tended to have a bowl of seasonal fruit, which I helped myself to greedily and even, in some cases, stuck an extra piece in my purse for later in the day. Besides that, I feel that I was woefully undernourished in my greens for most of the trip. I was so happy the one night we gave up on the potato dumplings and found a Chinese food restaurant to order a vegetable stir-fry. Though overly greasy and covered in sauce, they were still vegetables, and I scarfed down most of the plate myself, leaving the meat for The Scientist. Since getting back, this is the one area I'm still struggling with getting back up to again. I'm short on groceries until after Christmas break since I don't want to fill the fridge only to leave again, so getting that daily fill of fruits and vegetables on the go is still hard, though considerably easier than in Deutschland!
Challenge #4 - WATER!
Believe it or not, this was almost harder than getting in fruits & veggies! Water is NOT served on the table in German restaurants. You have to ask for it. And when you do ask - they bring you expensive bottled sparkling water (Germans have a love affair with their carbonated bubbles). I did finally figure out how to say tap water, but that didn't always work as quite a few servers actually "forgot" to bring it over after I asked, or brought it in such a tiny glass it was barely 4 ounces and I didn't want to be a pain and ask for multiple refills. SO - I brought my water bottle from home, and I used it. When I'd finish a beer, I'd pull my bottle out of my purse and refill my glass myself! I think The Scientist thought I was going to get us kicked out of the restaurant for doing this - he was so embarrassed, but a girl's gotta get in her liquid kids! The only problem with this plan was that my bottle only holds 16oz, so required refills itself all day which I didn't always get around to. By the end of the trip I had worked out a system of guzzling 4 glasses of water before leaving our hotel room in the morning, drinking my 2 glasses from my bottle every day, attempting to get 2 more glasses at dinner, and in a worst case scenario, drinking 2-4 more glasses before bed every night. My poor bladder! But I did it! There were only 2 days that I didn't consume a full 8 glasses of water - the first day when I figured out that getting in 8 glasses was going to be tough, and the day I got sick since I wasn't consuming much of ANYTHING that day.
Challenge #5 - Exercise!
This is truly how I maintained my weight in Germany. While on the road we walked an average of 3-4 miles a day, sometimes covering up to 8 miles in a day. The day we saw the castles, we walked uphill about 2.5 miles, then back down hill, and then decided we weren't done yet and hiked back up the hill again on a steeper incline this time and in the snow. As most of you know, I ran in Berlin! And in between all of that walking and hiking, we stood for long periods of time talking in the architecture on our tours. I lost almost an inch off my calves this month - due fully, I'm sure, to the amount of pavement pounding & leg exercising I was doing the whole time. Since my calories in were somewhere around 3000-4000 a day, I know that it was only by burning about 1000-1500 calories a day that I was staying in a maintenance range for my weight.
Challenge #6 - Beer
Well...beer happened. A LOT. Beer definitely happened more than I expected or wanted it to happen initially, but it was SO DARN GOOD! Germans drink beer for breakfast. I did not drink beer for breakfast. I consider that an accomplishment - quite seriously. Haha. The most common size for beer in Germany is 0.5L which is definitely more than a bottle. The most common size for beer in Bavaria is a whopping 1L. And if you don't finish your litre, they throw pretzels at you. So I finished my litre. I couldn't handle being pelted with more carbs! Towards the end of the trip though, I cut back again. Not only because I was sick, but because I had actually had enough. I honestly didn't even feel like drinking it anymore. And that is REALLY an accomplishment.
Challenge #7 - The Bread Basket
Again - didn't fair so well with this one. I mean - European bread is unlike ANYTHING we have over here. It's all fresh baked, like THAT DAY. It's crusty and warm and I think laced with a little bit of crack. I already have a mad addiction to rye bread as well, and that was available in abundance! (They won't put water on the table, but you don't even have to ask for refills of rye!) Don't even get me started on pretzels... So all in, I will venture that I consumed the majority of my daily calories, every day, in bread. Thankfully, since it was not highly processed bread, like they have here in America, I would like to have faith that I was able to burn off those calories quickly with all of my exercise... (BAH! Wishful thinking I'm sure.)
Challenge #8 - Keep Current With Spark
As most of you know - I TRIED! I really did. While in Berlin I logged on frequently, posted blogs AND logged my food for a good 8 days of my vacation. But once we got on the road, signing in every day became too difficult, and seeing the sights was honestly more important in this situation, so I don't regret my decision to stop tracking. I didn't go totally crazy once I stopped tracking, but I did recognize that my portion sizes got a little out of control and I stopped eating regularly. My body paid for it, I know. It got to the point where I think I became physically ill from ingesting too much food, and specifically too much pork, so I recognized that as well and cut back again significantly. Usually daily meals consisted of a larger breakfast, small afternoon snack and a large dinner. It worked for the most part until I got so sick of eating pork and potatoes that I begged for some different cuisine. We sampled Chinese (as I mentioned earlier), Italian, Middle Eastern, and even found an American-Style bar in Heidelberg when all I really wanted was a hamburger. But for the most part, we ate Bavarian, which involves a lot of sausages, a lot of game meats (LOVE venison, rabbit and duck, but wasn't so crazy about wild boar), potatoes, potatoes, potatoes, and cabbage. May I never see sauerkraut again for at least 3 months!
My biggest problem for the whole trip was the Christmas Markets, which were WONDERFUL, but laced with so many goodies my eyes popped out of their sockets at each stall. Candied nuts, gingerbread so soft and chewy it made me cry, chocolate and candies, mousse kisses (oh my god those things were the most decadent thing I have ever eaten), waffles, meat on sticks, meat off sticks, meat in buns, pretzels, dumplings, and gluewein, gluewein, gluwein. Plan as you might to eat only at meal time - the Christmas Markets would trip you up at EVERY pass. Each one had something yummy that you've never seen at any other one, and you just had to sample one or two small goodies. Many a night we decided to forgo our dinner plans in lieu of just eating at the stalls since we had already managed to ruin our dinner at that point anyway by constantly snacking. It was because of the Christmas Markets that I ended up consuming far more desserts in Germany than I ever intended to, and FAR more alcohol than I ever intended to. Just something about being in the midst of one signaled the need for a mug of hot, mulled wine...well that and the fact that I started collecting the darn mugs themselves every time we went to a new market. Bad idea since when I finally got a full set of 6 of them (one from each city we went to on the trip), the one trip casualty on the return voyage to Berlin was the mug I got in Rothenburg. Sad face.
I also recognize that I didn't go very well equipped with another journalling solution when my ability to log on to my computer every day failed. I think had I been committed to writing everything I ate down in even just a notebook, I would have been more responsible and accountable with my choices. However, I am proud of the fact that for the most part, I ate when I was hungry and stopped when I was full. Sometimes I ate too much, but I don't enjoy the feeling of being over stuffed anymore at all, so I avoided that whenever possible. I indulged in wine and beer, but only had too much of that once (and paid for it dearly the next morning so didn't do it again). I realized when I had consumed too much rich food and pulled back accordingly, returning to what I knew I could eat that didn't make my stomach turn. Overall, I think I was responsible enough in my choices to still have an amazing time on my vacation, sample the best possible assortment of the local cuisine, ENJOY every last bite that I put in my mouth, and exercise just enough to negate any damage that the food may have done otherwise.
And as a warm-up to Christmas and the endless treats and savories that await me at home, I now believe that I have faith in my abilities to do well there too. Since I feel that I indulged in Germany, I really don't think I'm going to indulge as much at home. I don't need to. For now, my palate has been satiated!