One of the side effects of this trip has been the weekend layover. This happens a few times a year, and it is a necessary part of undertaking lots of overseas travel. I try to make the best of it by spending a weekend exploring whatever city is hosting me. The plan this trip was to spend the weekend in London, so I called an old friend. He informed me that he and his family were getting ready to head down to Switzerland to spend their school break skiing. Why don’t I join them for the weekend he asked? It’s not wise to gaze too long at a gift horse such as this, so I jumped at the opportunity before he could take it back.
I arrived Friday night, and I got connected with a Swiss ski guide who proceeded to beat me senseless on the slopes from 9:30 to 4:30 on Saturday. I suspected that my experience skiing with the guide would be somewhat like my experiences with other types of exercise performed under the supervision of a professional: I would work about 10 times as hard. I was not disappointed as he was somewhat merciless in a very nice Swiss way.
We pulled into a late lunch at a quaint mountainside restaurant, and I collapsed in a heap at one of the outdoor picnic tables. I glanced through the menu and did not see a single item sanctioned by the healthy living police. Instead, my friendly guide encouraged me to try one of the Alp specialties, called Croûte.
Back to the Croûte. How is it that the relatively thin Swiss can regularly eat this stuff? My guide wolfed his down, and he was a trim dude. The guy who ran the restaurant was skinny as a rail. Everybody there seemed to be in great shape despite diving into delicacies such as this. What could explain such a towering mystery? What is this Swiss paradox?
It’s hardly complicated. Five to six hours of skiing burns a ton of calories. In fact, according to my handy Weight Watchers Activity Points calculator, skiing burns about 10 POINTS value per hour. Assume an effective four hours of skiing (taking out time on lifts, lunch tables, etc.), and I burned about 40 POINTS. The Croûte surely was no match for this? Well, actually it was probably close to break-even, but I chose to give the exercise side of the ledger the benefit of the doubt.
I do not find it to be a surprise that places where people are outside ALL the time, like Switzerland, Colorado, etc., tend to have lower obesity rates. It is amazing how useful couch extraction is to helping to fix the calorie deficit equation. It doesn’t have to be skiing, as people in these two locales undertake a myriad of outdoor physical activities. Being active in mountainous regions seems to be a way of life. There is lesson in this for all of us.
The other helpful concept in here is that of the active vacation. Spend a week where you are doing something active for four to six hours a day, and you can just about eat whatever you want (within reason). This applies to skiing, biking, hiking, surfing, walking tours, etc., etc. Sadly, it does not apply to lying on the beach. Oh well.
Moral of the story: know your vacation calorie deficit math.