I’m pretty sure I’ve made this clear, but who doesn’t love a little bit of self-deprecation? I got fat abroad. If you’re a reader of this blog, I don’t want you to get fat abroad. It doesn’t look good for me, and it really won’t look good for you. Use these tips (and my exercise advice) to stop the cycle before it starts, or at least do some damage control on the pounds you’ve already accumulated while galavanting about the big world.

1. Plan ahead as much as possible. I often found myself reaching the point of starvation before I’d finally sit down to a meal either at home in Barcelona or while traveling. This inevitably led to me eating way, way more than I should have. If you’re in your hometown, avoid this by keeping a healthy, filling snack on you at all times. A single serving bag of nuts or a fiber bar is an easy way to go. If you’re traveling, take charge of part of your trip by planning the restaurants. That way, you’re sure not to be the leech of the group and you’ll be making moves toward slenderhood!

2. Eat at home whenever you can. When you make your own food, you have control of the stuff you put in it. And if you’re the smart and slender girl/boy that I know you are, you’ll put good stuff in your food. Just one tablespoon of olive oil has 120 calories and I promise you, Chef Jacques is not using that weapon of mass destruction with very much discretion. He doesn’t care about your waistline. But, if you do, you’ll eat at home.

So I probably wouldn’t have covered my own salad with fries…

3. The breadbasket is your enemy. The average dinner roll has upwards of 150 calories. Grab a couple of these dipped in a few spoonfuls of olive oil, and you’ve already eaten a meal’s worth of calories. If you’re a bread lover, go ahead and eat a piece, but just have one. Don’t eat the stuff mindlessly. If you don’t need it or appreciate it, don’t even bother getting the basket. Ask the waiter not to bring it out. If you’re in Europe, you’ll save yourself a couple pounds and a couple Euros by forgoing el pan.

4. Eat tapas style. Tapas are small plates that are shared with the entire table. Sharing your food is a great way to try everything without stuffing yourself in the process. Order the tapas in phases so you’ll be forced to eat more slowly. You’ll be shocked by how little food you need volume-wise to feel satisfied.

Una pequeña ensalada con un montadito

5. Make your meals coordinate. Many people complain that everything in Europe is full of carbs, but I think it’s that what we’re drawn to choose is full of carbs. What I mean by making your meals coordinate is that you should alternate what makes up the bulk of your meals. If you have cereal or toast for breakfast, have a salad with a protein for lunch, and a protein with a starchy side (corn, potatoes) for dinner. If you have eggs for breakfast, go ahead and have that sandwich for lunch. This way of thinking doesn’t take much effort but can completely change the way you eat. And the way you bash on the delicious food available to you.

If you still feel like you’re failing miserably and packing on the pounds, don’t let it get you down. When, at the tail end of my trip, I’d finally come to terms with how much weight I had gained, I couldn’t get it out of my head. My self confidence plummeted, I wasn’t as outgoing and I wasn’t having as much fun. I’ve been home for a little over a month now and, after working really hard, I’m back to my normal weight. I think if I’d known how quickly I’d get back to normal, I would’ve been able to focus on the experience instead of my muffin top. So, above all else, enjoy yourself. But, hey, if my tips save you some grief and a couple pounds, why not?

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