Healthy Holiday Habits

Louise is a ski, golf and travel writer who has also co-authored three books all available from Goodfellow UK. You can see more of her journalism at www.onetwoski.blogspot.com and www.tourismgurus.com.  

Sunset salutationsDecades ago when I went to live in the USA for a year I was faced with two alternatives. Either 12 months of overindulgence, gorging on gargantuan gourmet grub, lazing around on spectacular beaches and lapping up the LA nightlife. Or, become super-fit, calorie-focused, a hiker, biker and jogger, and share every super-sized meal.

Now at 52, mired in menopause and on the verge of empty-nesting, I am at a similar culinary crossroads as I plan to fill my calendar with travel.

As in my California days, I tend towards the slim-line option but with menopausal midriff impending I now need a helping hand when it comes to healthy holiday habits. I have always avoided fat farms and weightwatcher set-ups due to never being more than around 10 pounds overweight. And I have never been the spa type - but where else to find a guilt-free game-plan?

With its high rates of obesity and a fried-fish focus, South Carolina doesn’t initially sound like the perfect place. Most British travelers – especially those with golf inclinations - will have heard of Charleston, Myrtle Beach and also Hilton Head Island, thanks to the internationally-televised Heritage Classic PGA tournament held there every April. But those TV glimpses of the sea-to-tee resort life and the temptations of the 19th hole don’t necessary correlate with diet or fitness aspirations.

Main facilityHowever, hidden among Spanish-moss swathed oaks and towering pines is a health resort which has been changing people’s eating and exercise habits for the past 35 years. At the forefront of the movement to counteract obesity, Hilton Head Health was used as the location for A&E’s weight-loss docu-drama, Heavy, in 2011.

Lured by the multi-disciplinary scope of its slimming schedule – including lots of yoga, Pilates and beach walks for my aging physique - I decided to give Hilton Head Health a try to set me on the straight and narrow for my new travel timetable. 

The rustic buildings which house the extensive workout facilities, state-of-the-art teaching kitchen, reception, dining and lecture rooms are set around a year-round heated swimming pool. Originally a health institute, it offers a holistic regime of fitness, nutrition, calorie control, healthy mindset and outdoor appreciation. For the pampering-prone, there are also spa treatments and massages.

Bike rideBased in a former plantation, the whole enclave is submerged in sub-tropical foliage with gigantic trees shading the low-rise buildings. Bike paths meander quietly through the adjacent residential villas, crossing tributaries of the Intracoastal Waterway which intersects the Low Country island. Watch out for sizeable alligators sunning themselves on the river banks! You can continue biking right onto the seemingly endless beach as the sand is flat and compact –a great surface for the daily sunrise beach walks. The Atlantic is also surprisingly warm for all-year swimming with bottlenose dolphins to keep you company.

Staying at Hilton Head Health for a week of workouts and low-calorie gourmet food – with no cocktails - isn’t as punitive as it sounds. It’s a health-infused holiday with plenty of off-campus trips available such as golf clinics, cardio tennis, zip-lining, kayaking and other water sports. 

water fitnessAlways an exercise junkie, I loved the diversity of the day-long fitness schedule. There’s nothing more tedious than pounding away at the same old machines or weight routines week after week. Here I was able to come away with lots of new ideas to spice up my gym regimen as well as try different concepts for pool, aerobics and dance. My favourite cardio class was “treading” which, led by a tough taskmaster, added team spirit and interval training to the treadmill and elliptical. 

Although I was doing three or four times as much exercise as I would normally do in a day, I didn’t get too hungry due to the pacing of calorie intake. The three main meals were interspersed by three “Metabo Meals” – each 100 calorie apiece and enough to keep me going to the next trough time. Check out this link for sample menus. Aimed at 1200-1500 calories per day, these recipes provide the quality rather than quantity that we need as we lose muscle and metabolism through the aging process.

Healthy cookingHaving been traumatized by group home economics classes as a schoolgirl, I don’t usually allow voyeurs when I’m in the kitchen. But, inspired by the inventive low-cal recipes, I went out of my cooking comfort zone to try one of the series of healthy cookery courses available. Although my turkey burgers stuffed with cream cheese and jalapenos stuck to the grill, they must have tasted okay as someone swiped the whole plate full before I could get a look in. Coming away with a dozen low-fat barbecue recipes, I now feel well equipped for this summer’s outdoor eating without the usual calorie overload.

One of the things that struck me at Hilton Head Health was the friendliness of the inmates. As soon as I arrived I was greeted and welcomed into the fold by regulars and repeaters who come back annually for refreshers. With everyone together for a common purpose, there seemed none of the usual barriers to conversation or connection. Some were there for the long-haul – three months or more to shed up to 80 pounds.

Although mine was a brief stay with more moderate goals, I feel confident now to face my travels with a body-conscious attitude to help me navigate through foreign supermarkets and vacation menus. And whenever I waver I can check www.h3daily.com for inspiration.

Hilton Head Island Travel Tips:

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  • canoe
    about 8 hours ago
  • canoe
    about 8 hours ago
  • yorkie1902
    over 1 year ago
    Any excuse to go to Spain
  • brianwaldie
    over 1 year ago
    Wow fab break, wouldn't mind winning this. Fingers crossed.
  • canoe
    over 1 year ago
    A cruise to Spain, wonderful
  • over 1 year ago
    Lovely prize!
  • over 1 year ago
    I can never enter for many holiday competitions as i cant fly, so this little break would be perfect, and hopefully give me a bit of light relief from my fybromyalgia.
  • Elizzie
    over 1 year ago
    After the cold winter that is being forecast, (especially in the North of Scotland), a little heat would be a treat!
  • Jenny
    over 1 year ago
    I haven't had a holiday this year as I have just moved home, this would be a fantastic break.
  • Rob Steele
    over 1 year ago
    My favorite food is fish and the Port of Santander is so famous for its sea food, but not so famous for its tourism. The people of Cantabria prefer to keep it as their special secret, but once there they are a most hospitable people. I have never been here, but watched this on Rick Steins Spain and would love to try a dish of straight form the Ocean Anchovies. What an amazing prize.
  • EMC
    over 1 year ago
    Sounds a lovely holiday - just what is needed to get away from the awful continual rain we have been having here!
  • dave
    over 1 year ago
    Have not had a holiday this year, a 3 day break would do nicely.
  • over 1 year ago
    sounds wonderful
  • Itchy Feet
    over 1 year ago
    This would be wonderful
  • ameliapitt
    over 1 year ago
    What a great prize!
  • Hantslady
    over 1 year ago
    Nice prize
  • Greyfriars
    over 1 year ago
    Sounds like a lovely trip. something to look forward to.
  • brianwaldie
    over 1 year ago
    It would be interesting to visit northern Spain for a change, would love to win this fab prize.
  • Jackiedee
    over 1 year ago
    WOW!!! This sounds so brilliant. I saw Michael Sheen do the film walking to Santiago, and it looked so beautiful, and a friends has just gone to do the walk, buy as I am a Stroke victim I cannot do that, but this sounds fabulous, and I am sure I can find a friend to come with me!!! It sounds superb - here's hoping!
  • chrismse1
    over 1 year ago
    Sounds like a very nice trip and a lovely prize to brighten the dark days of winter.
  • dee
    over 1 year ago
    Have never been to this area and having missed our summer holiday due to my husband being ill this spring break would be extra special for both of us!
  • Cassam101
    over 1 year ago
    Last time I was on a ferry it was to Amsterdam and I really enjoyed it. The photos above look lovely,so inviting.
  • Dot
    over 1 year ago
    What a super prize! Even if our winter isn't as bad as the previous two the thought of this trip would keep me going. Mountains, beaches, sunshine, luxury hotels, cruising - what more could you wish for?!
  • Travelling Singer
    over 1 year ago
    I've not visited this part of Spain or done the ferry trip to Santander. Would be brilliant if I was lucky enough to win this prize.
  • JoanySmoo
    over 1 year ago
    Having already travelled by ferry to Santander, I can confirm the journey up the river to the port is delightful. The surrounding countryside is equally lovely. This prize is a super chance to stay in the region instead of merely travelling through it.