Gesundheit! Fitness, Weightloss, Wine and Dessert in Europe

While we borrowed “gesundheit” to mean good health when someone sneezes, it translates into health and fitness.

Why am I worried about gesundheit? Well because I barely made it to London, England on April 17th, before I had to jump on a plane to Vienna, Austria. Day one in Vienna I found myself in the gym at the Le Meridien dancing with my eyes closed to Tony Braxton and Loon’s “Hit the Freeway”. I had just finished weights and a bunch of other exercises and dancing was my reward to self for working out while on vacation in Europe. What was I thinking? I should be drunk off cheap wine or gin spritzers and stuffing my face with schnitzel!

Instead… Ich habe mich auf Reisen der Gesundheit verschrieben. (I was committed to health while traveling.)

When I missed my flight to London, I thought for sure my vacation started and stopped in that one moment. It was 4,000USD to change my premium economy ticket! That didn’t even include the change fee, smh.

I had carefully planned everything. I knew exactly what snacks I was bringing for Curry puppy and I packed all his food and snacks two days in advance and placed in the back of the X5. I checked with my nephew to see if the Trader Joe’s is still in West Hartford, Connecticut so I could buy his extras and I crossed him off my list. I was headed to CT so I can leave Curry while I chased clarity in Europe.

I woke up super early and packed my suitcase, Curry’s toys and bed in the car. As soon as I was about to leave, I let him outside to pee and he ran off to Charles’ house. Okay, I can dig. At 4am I didn’t want him running over to Trenton Place to Higgins’s house (his bestie), so him running next door was cool. Curry puppy was always trying to run off somewhere, it’s his little game he likes to play with mommy. A dangerous one at 4am. I got him back. Packed him in the car and I checked off him, my luggage, water, healthy bars for me to eat on the ride so I wouldn’t stop on the New Jersey Turnpike and buy junk. Check! Check! Check! It was the perfect pack.

I drove 6 hours to my sister’s house. I galivant for a few days. Played electronic Uno with the kids ‘til late at night. Even decided since I had time on my hands I might as well get my hair done. Check!

Now, it’s super hard not to eat unhealthy at my sister’s house. Real Jamaican food being cooked here. Curry chicken. Rice and peas. Oxtail. Jeez. I feel like I’m in Jamaica for the first leg of my trip. Just pure yummy Michelle food. Resistance is low in Bloomfield, Connecticut. I went to Trader Joe’s and bought 4 cases of water to counteract any craziness. Check! It’s important to know I don’t practice deprivation. I eat. Weight loss happens regardless. Mainly because when I’m home I’m strict. I’m on vacation. Live a little. Check!

I was so relaxed. Then comes departure day. Or night. It was dark out. I woke up at 2am. Exhausted I just went to bed at 1am. Why won’t I sleep? Ugh. I woke my nephew up. We had to drive to JFK for my 7:55am flight. But as soon as I got up to leave, I knew. I knew I had forgotten my passport at my home in the safe 6 hours away in DC. I looked at the time and I looked at my nephew and I wanted to cry. I had the whole weekend. I could have driven to DC and back, or even had my passport FedExed. Man, oh man. Alright. No point fussing. Let’s figure this out. How? Passport is required. I was screwed.

British airways didn’t open until 7am!!! Wtf. I’m definitely panicking now. Okay. Okay. Doesn’t matter. Life goes on. Two days of stress eating crap, I was sure I put back the 10lbs I had lost at my weigh-in at the weight loss center. All day and I barely drank any of the water I bought. I finally sorted it out and I got on a plane two days later and made a commitment to get my shit together. My weight loss shit together that is.

The point of the back story is nothing ever goes as planned. Life happens. You have to be prepared. I actually thought that in October when I jumped on this weight loss journey that being conscious of my emotional eating and my triggers would always make me prepared. Stress eating? No problem. I had it under control is what I thought to myself. I keep watching the weight drop because I was focused. First it was only diet and mind games for 3 months with light walking. Me and my trainer agreed to delay starting so I could ease my body of some of the weight so I am not discouraged by the workouts. I already hate the gym. The idea was, if I felt too much pain then I would associate it with the gym and get discouraged, or plain whole STOP. Like I had done in the past. I was playing so much psychological mind games with myself. Shit I didn’t even need to do that when I was eating the food that put the weight on in the first place. Crazy, right? But clearly forgetting my passport and dealing with that stress and being in a trigger environment in Connecticut was too much to handle and I realized we are never fully prepared. It’s what we do next that matters. I was stressed because I needed this vacation – this thought trip. My soul yearned for it. And I had carefully and thoughtfully planned it. I had to go.

It was a photo from my family reunion that encouraged me to get moving. I’ve never battled too much with self-esteem so I never once looked in the mirror and saw an ugly face, but I definitely wrestled with what fat I would cut off and, where, if I could just take a knife and do it. I took one look at me in that pink dress in that photo and I realized that night I had to put on flip flops because my ankles were swollen from the 6-hour drive to Connecticut from DC. I also looked at the dress and my belly filled out so much of it I couldn’t wait around to have that heart attack most black people have in their 50s. While my face looked super young and people think I’m anywhere between 28 and 35, I was turning 43 that coming January and I needed to finally make a change.

In October 2018, I became super focused and I went to a weight loss center and lost 30lbs quickly. My joints felt good. I went to the trainer and we decided on one day a week. It seems like nothing but it has been so effective. I started to build a relationship with fitness that I hadn’t have in a long time. We are now at two to three days a week.

Bill Walker at Balance Gym in DC and I do weight training with kettle bells and resistance weights. He is the best trainer I’ve ever had. And I’ve had several. Sometimes I get through the time and I’m like that’s it? And he’s like well done. Now don’t get me wrong, Bill makes me feel like I’m going to die with every workout lol. But I say “that’s it” because for the first time I’m actually enjoying my workouts. I want to show up. I can only attribute that to Bill and his style of training. Never the seller, more focused on my care and my outcome. I have a left knee injury, a back injury and carpal tunnel in my left hand along with a strained right ankle from surgery. But Bill is so knowledgeable in joint and muscle pain that we would shift the workouts depending on what ailment I was having. It was a no brainer when I decided to sign up for a full 6 months of training.

I found my way out of Connecticut on an American Airlines flight and my first stop was London. I got to Heathrow late. I ate something light when I got to Misha’s. I slept the next day. Sleep is so important when you’re trying to lose weight and I don’t get enough of it so when I can, I do. I am naturally an insomniac. My thoughts and ideas flow better at night. This is either true or we insomniacs think so and have fully convinced ourselves of it :-).

I ate one boiled egg and a toast and salami for breakfast. The salami wasn’t the best option but I drank lots of water. Have to keep my ankles skinny especially after flying. My ankles always swell. Ugh. I watched a movie. Lounged and took another nap. Apparently I was exhausted. So much drama with the airline and flight. I finally got up put on my gym clothes and decided to walk the streets of London and people watch. This is how I get my exercise when there is no gym. Getting my steps in. I actually love that about UK and Europe. Walking is so easy. And people are funny to watch. The pubs were already packed. It was a holiday weekend and they started early on that pint of Guinness.

The thing is, vacations and weight loss are not synonymous because we want to cheat. We have garnered this idea that being on vacation means we have to binge eat and stuff our faces with the worse foods. My goal was to taste everything. But I wasn’t planning on being stuffed. If I was stuffed, I couldn’t walk and I couldn’t people watch. What’s the point of being on vacation in a food coma? I actually like to see and explore the places I visit.

I made soup and festival for dinner and had a beer. I drank more water. The next day I was on a plane to Vienna. After getting sick on schnitzel I knew I had to be careful with foods in Vienna. Everything seems fried or processed into sausages. So, I made sure there was a salad or something light at every restaurant we dined, so I can have a healthy option. I drank plenty of water. I never shy away from desserts or alcohol but I’m not naturally a dessert eater so I don’t always indulge. But alcohol – definitely. Wine was cheap in Vienna and though not as cheap, gin spritzers were a “thing” and very delicious.

I told myself I had to work out at least once in every city I traveled to. With Misha I was going to walk more than the average person anyway. We did over 12000 steps a day. But I craved my Bill exercises. I went into the basement of the Le Meridien and got elated when I saw kettle bells. Great gym. I had my Bose headphones and I blasted some hip hop and rap and got to it. After my Bill reps I stretched. I was amped. Feeling good about myself I put on some hip hop and danced my ass off. I danced for another 20 minutes. I drank more and more water. In case you haven’t noticed, besides alcohol, I only drink water.

Misha and I walked so much I could hear the weight say, “I give” and got off the next train stop before I could. We rode the train and walked everywhere. We went to Schöenbrunn Palace and got lost in the maze and even took unforbidden photos inside the palace. We visited the Jewish Museum and saw some amazing exhibits including that of Arik Brauer. We saw a horse show at the Spanische Hofreitschule Riding School and watched an opera, which left me singing “Nichola” the whole night. It was the only word I could remember since the language eludes me. We ate Art on a plate at the Pramerl and the Wolf in Roseau, Vienna. We took photos by the Hofberg Imperial Palace and we ate dinner at one of Vienna’s oldest restaurants. We had wine and downed calamari and mussels at Naschmarkt. We ate street food in Vienna City Centre. We did so much I can barely remember most of it. Like I said, I was with Misha and we did 12000 steps or more a day.

Mish went back to London and I went off to St. Julian, Malta. The first day was chill. Lazy and lounge. Malta was a breath of fresh air. Beautiful. View outside my balcony was to die for. I could retire here. The Mediterranean Sea looked amazing. Day two was sightseeing and walking. I ate whatever I wanted. No gym. And water was scarce. The water was not drinkable so restaurants don’t offer it up unless you buy. And I hadn’t noticed they didn’t bring any cause me and Kerina were drinking wine and beer.

Amsterdam was my reboot. First day we found a treasure right next to the hotel called Dragons Delight. Oat milk latte and avocado toast with scrambled eggs. This is too easy I thought. Kerina worked out with me first day and we walked around Rembrandt Square that night checking out food, nightlife and coffee shops.

My fake henna tattoo from Malta got five Moroccan boys’ attention and I stopped so they could read the Arik Brauer quote I picked up at the Jewish Museum in Vienna. “There was never a manifesto, it simply” just “happened”. I added just to put my own spin on it. We chatted them up for a little bit. I exchanged numbers with one of them and carried on. He thought I was 24. The next day we did 17700 steps walking from our hotel in the Pijp to Museum quarter and Vondelpark. Once Kerina left I made sure I ate well and kept moving.

While I explored Amsterdam some more, I couldn’t give up my oat milk latte. I went to dragons delight daily. Partly because they serve breakfast all day. Yum! Jade, Luca and Jasom are super sweet. Jasom was always checking what else I needed. Jade and I chatted about her bulldog pups back in England, while I went on about missing Curry puppy. But Luca told me they made sure the freshest ingredients were on hand and had monthly specials. This month, I was lucky it was the smashed spicy avocado toast with scrambled eggs. Good healthy food, good hot drinks with non-lactose options like oat milk and good people. I couldn’t have asked for nothing more in the Pijp.

Malaga, Spain was the final leg of my trip and I got there late. This city was mine to enjoy alone. I wouldn’t have had it any other way. The next morning, I hit the streets and committed to a Misha day filled with at least 12000 steps and more if I could. I was going to forego public transportation and use my Chevy two (feet). It was the home of Pablo Picasso. The history of the Moors. Food and wine were cheap. Museums were free. I was determined to see it all. My clothes felt looser and I knew my weight shifted for the better.

Weight loss is at the forefront, but it wasn’t going to trap me either. Not every person over weight eats unhealthily. My cholesterol levels are great. I started clean eating after doing an amazing program with Emmanuel Galland in NYC. Clean eating means my meals are generally wholesome. Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s have been my rock! My problem was always over indulging and emotionally eating, never eating crappy foods like fast foods or greasy foods.

But with any weight loss program, you have to be ready, and it has to be internal. It’s a quest that must be accomplished by you, and you alone can make it happen. What I’ve learned so far and still learning is that consistency is key. Staying on course no matter how discouraged and feeling defeated or giving up is not an option. Those feelings are crap. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Stay on course. Nothing is easy. Keep at it and DO NOT look purely to others for support. While there are resources out there, they are not for everyone; therefore, encouragement has to come from within. Be your own cheerleader. And celebrate every win. Even if it’s small. I celebrated a big (30lb loss) with a trip to London.

I drank plenty of water in Malaga. The perks of being a Marriot Elite member, whatever you ask for you get. They were nice enough to give me more than the 2 bottles per day and so I told them to keep it coming.

When I got back from Europe, I had lost more weight. I’m not encouraging anyone who is trying to lose weight to eat dessert because if it is a trigger then you have to be careful. However, I encourage consciousness, plenty of water, sleep when you can or just rest, walking everywhere, stop often if that’s what you have to do to reboot and hit the gym if your hotel has one, and if you can. Even if it’s just 15-20 minutes of weight training or on the treadmill or bike. Bike if you’re in Amsterdam. And it is vacation so enjoy it. I never forego any alcohol. I had wine, whiskey and beer. Food sizes are naturally smaller in Europe anyway so for an American traveler, I was already eating less.

I’ll let you in on a little secret, Vienna was the first time I worked out alone in a gym without Bill. It was quite an accomplishment. It’s definitely a “win” to celebrate and I am very proud of the relationship I have been building with fitness. I celebrated this big win by dancing for 20 minutes (big smiles). I start yoga again very soon. Who knows, my next PR article might be a yoga retreat in Bali.

Whether you’re touring Europe or staying at home and trying to lose weight. Don’t let it define you. Carve out how you plan to do it. Take charge and go for it. Don’t be discouraged by any setbacks. Life isn’t perfect. No such thing. Don’t forget to live your best life. Always. And if you’re an insomniac like me – drink lots of water. Oh, by the way, if in one night you down a whole bottle of wine in Malaga, Spain because you thought it was so cheap, drink more water. And make sure your next trip requires passport. It’s less fun if you go domestic. Travel often. Travel well. Until next time – Gesundheit!



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