Holiday in Orlando with the family.
Why? My husband and I hate roller coasters and ‘thrills’ but it obviously isn’t inherited genetically as our son loves them. In terms of being ‘out of my comfort zone’ I’ve really done well! Yes I accompanied Joe on all the Harry Potter rides including the ‘dragon challenge’, a monstrosity that secures your torso and has your feet dangling free while it takes you at speed through some loop the loops or whatever. I coped by closing my eyes and meditating, focusing on slow deep breaths. It works, but not enough for me to agree to do the rocket;
Sometimes you just have to do your own thing and say no! And I think it does the boy good to feel that he has the upper hand in terms of bravery! Despite the fact that I don’t generally enjoy roller coasters I was impressed by some of the rides, with their use of a mixture of movement, virtual reality surround film, 3D and other effects. You really can live the dream of flying on a broomstick, or battling aliens! As well as the rides themselves I loved all the creativity and humour that had gone into designing the park and the environs for queueing for the rides. Gringot’s bank was amazing ! The virtual reality roller coaster in ‘krustyland’ ( for Simpsons’ fans) was hilarious and enough like the real thing for me😄😄
So cutting to the chase what was the effect of this on my exercise programme? I took my running kit and I made it to the gym for a treadmill run only once. It was hot and sweaty!! I didn’t run outdoors, all those multi lane highways and lack of sidewalks was off putting. On the bright side though, my Fitbit tells me that I walked 47 miles in 5 days, more than I normally do both walking and running! That made me feel less guilty.
One thing that did concern me was what to eat. We ate mainly at mid price restaurants where I would expect the food to be of reasonable quality. However, most things tasted of sugar. So a burger at Hard Rock the bread bun was sweet, the relish was sweet and the cheese wasn’t very cheesy, but to be fair burger in the UK would taste the same,I just don’t eat them very often. We went to a Mexican restaurant -recommended for its authentic food- where I had burritos, they had a tomato sauce on which I had to scrape off it was so sweet, and ditto when I had jambalaya in a creole place, the tomato sauce was sugary with no sign of a fresh ( or canned) tomato. Bacon is sweet, bread for toast is sweet, yoghurt and breakfast cereals are packed with sugar. Even ordering a steak and salad you need to avoid any dressing on your salad or any glaze or sauce on your steak if you want to avoid sugar. I even lost my appetite a bit because the sweetness was nauseating.
One of the best meals we had was at an Italian restaurant on the city walk (vivo). Imagine my joy when they brought bread to the table and it was a lovely, crusty, unsweetened ciabatta. We had a plate of antipasto with fresh home made mozzarella ( no sugar, light and creamy – delicious) and pickles that were sharp and tangy, again no sugar. Sadly this was near the end of our stay otherwise I think we would have gone back there fairly regularly, especially as this meal didn’t cost more than others we had had.
By the end of our stay though we had worked out how to survive there are healthier options available!
My top tips for healthy tourist eating in the US
- Oatmeal for breakfast. We had that in a couple of places, it’s made with water and was served with the sugar, fruit etc on the side. ( Starbucks give you a sachet of sugar – 50g/2oz!!!)
- many places do a fresh fruit option for breakfast, just fill up a bowl and ignore all the other stuff.
- we replaced lunch with a freshly made juice/smoothie. No added sugar and the juice bar was the only place where I saw any leafy green veg!
- portions are large. Don’t expect to clear your plate if you are having more than one course!
- Be aware that if you order anything that contains bread, cheese, bacon, tomato sauce or any kind of relish or dressing that it’s probably going to be sugary.
- if you ask for hot tea at Starbucks they put the teabag in before the hot water and you will get milk to go in it. They even offer to put 2 teabags in if you order a medium size. Also you can have milk in your coffee instead of cream of that disgusting half and half stuff. My husband is anti Starbucks because of their tax dodging in the UK but he had to suck it up for the duration of the hols.
To be fair, I’ve never spent 3 weeks in the UK living on restaurant food/ takeaway, so I don’t know if it would be just as bad here but I think that going out for a pizza, bowl of pasta, a curry or a kebab may not be 100% healthy but generally wouldn’t contain as much sugar. I think that if you lived with it all the time you would just get used to it, like the lobster in the heating water.
There’s a saying, never judge a man until you have walked a mile in his moccasins. In the UK I think that it’s fair to say that we judge the USA because of its ‘obesity problem’. I can see though how in certain areas the deck must be stacked against you from birth. No incentive to walk around – it wouldn’t be safe you have to drive to somewhere like a park . Food packed with sugar, and not just fast food but the regular everyday stuff you buy in the supermarket like the yoghurt, bread, breakfast cereal. Even in the UK these products contain added sugars and I try to seek out the ‘no added sugar’ muesli, the natural yoghurt etc but how hard must it be to get your children to have the sugar free version when the contrast between that and the normal sugary version is so great?
Overall it’s really brought it home to me about the dangers of excess sugar consumption. There’s a lot in the medical press about it, but to see first hand all those people (not necessarily American, they just happened to be at universal studios theme parks) who look like they have a football under their t-shirt (that high up protruding abdomen is probably due to an enlarged fatty liver. It’s a bit like fois gras, except that generally it’s considered cruel to force feed geese to produce this condition) and to eat the local food really tied it together for me. I’m determined to have less refined sugar in my diet and to have less processed food for the family.
So that was a bit of a rant about food. Despite my whinging I was quite pleased ( surprised!!) to see that when I got back home I hadn’t gained any weight.
Otherwise we had a lovely time. Americans are generally really friendly nice people. There was a shuttle bus from the hotel to the theme parks and people would quite happily chat to strangers on the bus in a friendly way, so not like home! When we got back to the UK the first person we encountered was the man on passport control. He was nice and polite in a British kind of way, he said good morning, then he silently checked out passports and handed them back with a ‘thank you’. I quite missed the American way! going into the theme park took all of a minute to scan your ticket ( which had your name on) and youf fingerprint, but in that short time you could have a full conversation ‘ hello Julie how are you today?’ ‘ good thanks how are you?’ ‘I’m great , thank you for asking, you have a lovely day now’. I know that us Brits tend to refer to this as being superficial, which I suppose the content of the conversation is, but there is something about the willingness to engage with another person rather than just ‘process’ them that is quite pleasant. How strange we must seem to others visiting! I might just try chatting to people a bit more day to day.
So take home message? Less sugar in my food, more sugar in my conversation!