Stay Fit Overseas: Beat the “Abroad Fifteen”

By Emily Carrello

Studying abroad will be one of the most exciting and rewarding experiences of your life. However, it’s easy to fall into a vacation mindset when it comes to health and fitness. Our eating habits change for numerous reasons (ahem, Gatto dinners & Pino’s.) Other reasons include the reluctance to try new foods, availability of foods that we are used to, and of course, the increased consumption of alcohol and Secret Bakery croissants (shhhh).

So, how can we avoid letting “Freshman 15” history repeat itself while still experiencing everything life abroad has to offer? The key is not to deprive yourself completely, but to make small changes in your daily life.

Here are three simple steps to help you reinvent your thought process towards food: Macros, cheat meals, interval training. It all may sound like a bunch of jibberish, but these three diet and workout techniques are going to be your key to success this semester. The good news is, all of this is actually a lot simpler than it sounds. You don’t have to be a gym rat and you don’t have to give up what you love. Win-win. Here’s the Sparknotes version of everything you need to know:

  1. Macronutrients: Proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. Let’s be honest, it’s easy to fill up on pasta and bread, especially in Italy. Carbs satiate hunger quickly, but they don’t keep you full for an extended period of time, which causes you to eat more in the long run. Proteins and fats take longer for the body to absorb, keeping you fuller longer, which helps us to avoid the urge to snack shortly after a meal. Your best bet is to skip the calorie counting (because no one has time for that while traveling the world). Instead, go for a good balance of macros. Just make sure you’ve got enough protein and healthy fats on your plate to balance the carbs. Perhaps you can swap the endless bread basket for a vegetable side dish. Remember, don’t get caught up in numbers, you’ll just drive yourself crazy.
  2. Cheat meals: Give yourself one day per week where you don’t worry about diet. Not saying you should binge on gelato and wine, just saying give yourself a break once in awhile. The best way to control cravings is not to restrict yourself too much. Each weekend when you are exploring a brand new city, give yourself a free day. Try the food, experience the culture, enjoy the lifestyle. It’s your holiday.
  1. Interval Training: Maybe you don’t have a gym membership (if you want one, check out Swan Gym) and you don’t have time to run 5 miles every morning. No big deal. You can add a 15 minute program into your daily routine and burn more calories than you would running on the treadmill for an hour. No it’s not a scam, it’s science! All you really need is a good set of stairs or an open space. If you do have access to a gym, you can use an elliptical or bike to get the same results. All you need to do is get your heart rate up and then bring it back down again. 30 seconds hard work: 30 seconds rest for each minute. This type of training is easy to work into a busy schedule and can be done just about anywhere. Bonus: a high intensity interval workout keeps your metabolism burning longer and stronger. So you’ll be burning more calories throughout your day without any extra effort. Can’t beat that!

Your main focus when you’re trying to sustain a healthy lifestyle abroad, is to be realistic. You’re here for the experience of a lifetime, to make new friends, and to explore the world. Keep trying all those crazy gelato flavors, just don’t forget to balance it all out!

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