Sunday, April 18, 2010

My spring break vacation healthy habit post-game show. Give that man a "B"!

What is it about the last day of a vacation that it always marks the moment in time where I say:  "I'm finally starting to relax!"?  Yet all good vacations must end.  In this case it was a very good vacation:

  • I got loads of time with my family.  My girls were largely forced to spend time with me, and they curiously seemed to enjoy it.  
  • I was able to see a lot of great stuff.  Costa Rica really is an amazing country, particularly its tremendous biodiversity despite its relatively small size.  We spent quality time with a host of monkeys, birds and butterflies while the country's many poisonous snakes kindly kept their distance.  Beyond its natural denizens, Costa Rica is also a crazy beautiful country, almost a curious mix of Ireland meets Caribbean.  
  • I was out of cell phone coverage for four days (!)
  • I was able to slightly alter the pigmentation of my skin to something less blinding than the translucent white with which I entered the week.    

So how was vacation on the healthy lifestyle dimension?  Not perfect, but not bad.  I pretty much hewed to to the broad strokes of my plan.  On the exercise dimension:

  • Our first four days were in wilderness-like conditions, first in the mountains in the center of the country and then in the mountains not too far from the coast on a river.  In these environs, two of the days were very active/busy with hiking, ziplining, horseback riding and river rafting.  The other two days were a bit more sedate due to drive times between locations.
  • The last three days were at a resorty place on the northern Pacific coast.  That could have made for a lethargic experience, but I was able to get access to a decent gym each of the three days.  Further, I tried to burn off some additional nervous energy on sea kayaks and paddle boats.  
  • On an unexpected note, paddle boats actually give a really good workout if you pedal at a decent clip.  My impression of them was that of a parasol on the Thames River, but I was clearly selling the giant, plastic pedal-powered detergent bottles short.  I guess I shouldn't judge a watercraft by its cover.  
  • Overall, I would say that while it was not a hard core vacation, the activity quotient was respectable.   

And what the food?:

  • I stuck with my breakfast plan and mostly avoided the pastry/egg/sausage/bacon options when such options were even available.  
  • Had normal lunches, gravitating toward traditional beans/rice and chicken/seafood (ceviche is hugely popular in Costa Rica).  
  • Dinners were pretty sane as well.  
  • I did not do much snacking, primarily due to the fact that snacking options were not particularly plentiful.  Funny how that works.  
I have a couple of interesting observations about food in Costa Rica:

(Rafiki Safari Lodge on the Savegre River -- highly recommended!!!)
  1. The more rustic/outdoorsy the location, the more normal the portion sizes.  One place we stayed, Rafiki Lodge, was a hybrid camping/cabin place that put a heavy emphasis on outdoor activity (rafting and riding).  It was a terrific place with great service.  When they served dinner, they gave you a choice between two simple meals each night.  In every meal, the portion sizes were actually normal, and they didn't seem to want to treat you like Hansel and Gretel.  It was almost quaint!  
  2. The more resortish the location, the more it tended toward typical American fare with typical American portions.  Suddenly, buffets became the standard, and gorging became the norm.  
  3. On this trip, one of the resort nights featured a traditional Brazilian Churrasco (never mind that we weren't in Brazil).  If you haven't gone to one, a Churrasco is basically a meat orgy gone horribly wrong.  They have servers come by your table every 3-5 minutes with a new meat until you are so stuffed that you finally surrender and turn your green table card to its flip red side until you recover your Nero-esque appetite and flip it back to green.  Why is this necessary?  
  4. The traditional Costa Rican fare seemed much more sane.  They lean toward simple dishes such as beans/rice (gallo pinto), fruits, seafood, etc.  More importantly, they eat normal/modest portions.  
  5. Basically:  local = healthy/sane, resort = scary/temptation ridden.  
This represents about 25% of what is presented at a typical Churrasco bonanza, even putting aside the all-you-can-eat salad and desert bars.  

This represents 100% of what is served in a typical Casado lunch.  No, this plate is not three feet in diameter.

I'm really not trying to get judgmental about what people do at resorts.   I'm merely ranting about buffets which do bad things to nice people.

In summary, this vacation proved that a little bit of planning goes a long way in helping me keep it together.  I mentally planned exercise, and therefore I did it.  I mentally planned better meal choices, and I mostly stuck to those.  However, it seems that my pre-vacation checklist was not completely exhaustive.  I forgot to pack underwear. Yikes.  [BTW, you might not be surprised to know that it is not easy to shop for fashion forward clothing of any type in the rain forest -- just look at what Tarzan had to make do with.]    [I will spare you the loin cloth photos.]




  1. I mentally prepared for the trip I'm on this week too, and I definitely think it works. I've also noticed (on resort vacations as well as the type I'm on this week) that I'm much more active than I would have been before making an effort to live my healthiest life. It's so awesome.

    I'm glad to know that you won't be spooking anyone walking down the street. I was so tan after Aruba last week, but it's fading fast...I'm looking forward to having a little color again as the summer months approach. ;)

    Glad you had such a great time..

  2. "I'm really not trying to get judgmental about what people do at resorts. I'm merely ranting about buffets which do bad things to nice people."

    I actually laughed out loud in front of a bunch of quiet strangers as I read this...funny and kind of true, I suppose...

  3. Wow!!!!!! I was just in Costa Rica too!!!!! How crazy is that. And I loved it. I looooooooove gallo pinto so much. Love love love. I stayed in a super-rustic place with very simple but healthy food, lots of beautiful fruit, did a lot of hiking, sweated BUCKETS and ended up negative-two when I came home. Yay!

  4. My daughter and I went on a service trip to CR and stayed with host families. Both of our homes served excellent food, but since we were both on WW and both vegetarians our choices were a bit limited. I had rice and beans for almost EVERY meal; breakfast, lunch AND dinner. Occasionally there was something else of interest... like FRIED plantains. I figured I was eating so little I could enjoy a bit of fried food. ANYWAY, some mangos and bits and pieces of other stuff made for diversity. It was fine since we loved the country and THAT is what we were there to enjoy!

    BOTTOM LINE... with running around so much (including a two mile hike into the mountains to go to a magnificent waterfall and two miles back out) and my beans and rice diet... I LOST SEVEN POUNDS THAT WEEK!!!!!

  5. I so want to go to Costa Rica! That looks fun. Honestly, I take vacations off - I generally gravitate to healthy things anyway and try to listen to my full-o-meter a little more closely, but if it's 2am and I want tacos, it's going to happen. Or if desert looks good, bring it on. In general, I take 3-4 day vacations and it takes me no more than 2 weeks after to be back at my normal weight, which is a tradeoff I'm willing to give into.

  6. just came back from a week vacation to Victoria - first of all, I made sure I went to a WW meeting while I was there - made sure I brought a good pair of walking shoes and we had a workout room in the condo development where we stayed. Could never have done this trip had I not lost 59 pounds before and I am not at my goal yet. Weight loss for vacation was just over a pound - ate healthy (for the most part) and kept active........and felt great - now that's the way to vacation. Thank-you, WW!!

  7. Costa Rica is a great vacation when on Weight Watchers, if you stick to the local fare. You are so right about the resorts trying to serve 'American'. It didn't translate in taste but it did in volume! Their traditional food is simple and pure. You know the saying - PURA VIDA!