The final curtain may have closed on the summer season, but that doesn’t mean your days of vacationing beneath a warm sun and blue skies are over. In fact, the thought of tanking temperatures in the months to come may have you already booking your winter flights to someplace tropical. However, if you’ve been focused on a healthier and better-body version of you, the one thing potentially standing between you and a Caribbean beach is fear of the all-inclusive resort.
The All-Inclusive Setback
All-you-can-eat buffets, bottomless cocktails, and lazily lounging on the beach? For some, it sounds like heaven, but not so if you’re dialed in on achieving health goals. Instead of the approach some all-inclusive guests take of eating and drinking without a care in the word, your vacation is spent battling your inner willpower. And there’s absolutely nothing relaxing or stress-free about that!
I Stayed Fit at an All-Inclusive, and So Can You!
I recently encountered this exact scenario while traveling to Negril, Jamaica. Prior to my trip, I’d been happy with my current eating and fitness regime. But I worried from past experience that getting off my routine by traveling–and to an all-inclusive resort, no less–was bound to throw off my good habits (yes, even health and fitness journalists struggle with making good choices).
I was immediately put to the test stepping off the plane as I was escorted to Club Mobay, a VIP service offered courtesy of my resort, which fast-tracks you through customs and escorts you to a lounge where rum punch and other Jamaican delights await free of charge. I went the route of bottled water, knowing that the more I hydrated now, the better I would feel during the rest of trip. The adult beverages could wait.
Curb the Check-In Cocktail
When I arrived at Sunset at the Palms, my tropical treehouse-style home away from home for the next week, not only was I greeted by smiling staff and lemongrass-scented wet towel to refresh after traveling but also an ice-cold rum cocktail adorned with fresh fruit. I could’ve declined, but honestly I’d been craving fresh pineapple since the trip was booked, so while I took a few sips of the drink, it was the fruit that was my focus.
Surviving the All-Inclusive Buffet
All-inclusive resorts may feel a literal glutton for punishment. After all, you’re surrounded by what seems like endless food options and limitless food portions. The Sunset at the Palms was no different. Each chafing dish lid I lifted exposed something new to tempt the taste buds. But instead of trying a little bit of everything, I focused on cuisines unique to Jamaica or just new to me. Why fill up on rice, dinner rolls, and potatoes, when I can be treated to recipes and ingredients not common in my Midwestern home.
Another way to avoid the buffet from becoming a bully is to fill your plate up with produce. Steamed vegetables, leafy green salads, and fresh fruit are a mainstay on most all-inclusive buffets menus. Start your meal with the good stuff, and you’re more likely to better manage your portions of more indulgent fare.
You could try to abstain from liquor when on vacation, but instead of depriving yourself choose to drink smarter, not harder. One way to do so is to keep bottled water with you at all time. I didn’t go far without an H2O-filled Camelbak bottle. Basically, if a cocktail was in one hand, water was in the other. Part of the reason is because it’s hot–like flop-sweat hot–in Jamaica. Cocktails can go down pretty quickly if you’re not careful, solely because you’re dehydrated from so much sweating. By drinking water with your cocktails, you ensure you’re not overdoing it on the booze simply because you’re thirsty.
Oceanside beach chairs beneath shady palm trees are aplenty at Sunset at the Palms, as they are at many all-inclusive resorts. You could practically lie down from sunup to sundown, only moving to reapply sunscreen or refresh your drink. While sloth-like ways are strongly encouraged for ultimate relaxation, consider sacrificing 60 minutes of sun bathing and lazing to sneak in a sweat session (one not naturally caused by the Caribbean climate).
A no-brainer is the resort’s fitness area, which means an air-conditioned workout in a space you’ll probably have to yourself. Unlike the gym you frequent in town, a nearly empty space means you can hog all the machines and use every dumbbell without others throwing you shade. But beyond the obvious workout room, all-inclusives offer lots of great ways to shed some unwanted fat, including:
- Watersports: I love using stand-up paddle boards on lakes near my home, so I definitely wasn’t going to miss an opportunity to take one out on a clear aqua ocean. Kayaks, pedal boats, windsurfing boards, and small catamarans were also available.
- Excursions: I did a half-day on a boat that included time for snorkeling. When you’re focused on all of the beautiful sea life beneath you, swimming in the ocean doesn’t even feel like exercise. On another day was an excursion to YA Falls where you could do an easy hike up to see the gorgeous natural waterfalls, rope swing into the water, or just swim in the refreshing spring-fed pool on the property. Check in with the all-inclusive activities staff to see what fun options await you.
- Water exercise: Choose from the pool or the ocean to get your body moving. There are all kinds of exercises you can do beyond swimming laps.
- Steps: Most all-inclusive resorts offer plenty of space to move around. At Sunset on the Palms, I took a nature tour where I learned about Jamaican foliage while also getting in my steps. When you’re solo or with a partner, the paths make the perfect backdrop to any morning walk or run.
All-inclusive resorts are full of cost-effective and carefree benefits, so don’t skip them for fear they’ll derail your fat loss achievements. Instead, eat, drink, and move wisely, and your vacation will be enjoyable without any regret when you get home.