I’ve been involved in a writing and editing project for long-haul specialist Kuoni Travel and healthcare charity Nuffield Health the last few months. It’s called the Holiday Health Experiment and was based on a series of medical and psychological tests of a group of people to see if a holiday had any measurable physical or psychological benefits. We all know we feel better after a holiday, but where’s the proof?
Faced with mountains of raw data on 12 people (six travellers v six non travellers) and working together with Nuffield Health’s chief physiologist Jay Brewer and leading psychotherapist Christine Webber, the story unfolded.
Journalists at the press launch expressed interest in the findings, but not surprise that holidays make your blood pressure go down, help you sleep better and help you recover from stress, with the benefits still being visible weeks after getting home.
The bit some were more surprised at was that some holidaymakers had lost weight around the middle of their bodies during the course of the study, although their body mass index had remained static.
Yes, their stomach circumferences went down. Hard to imagine hey? After all those leisurely lunches how did that happen?
This is where hormones come into play. Your waist is a very good measure of how your stress levels are. When we are stressed, we produce a hormone called cortisol. It is known as the fat-storage hormone. It makes us cling on to weight around the middle of our bodies and on our face. Therefore when you are under chronic stress it is common for people’s waist size to increase. On holiday, when you are having lots of quality sleep and are relaxing, you may produce less cortisol and therefore your waist measurement may go down.
Have you ever been on a diet and despite starving yourself, you still have that tyre around the waist? Ever fuelled yourself up on coffee and been so busy you didn’t eat much, yet that tummy still lingered, or even increased? Ever gone on a low-fat diet and eaten lots of yoghurts and cereal bars (not knowing they are full of hidden sugar) and still looked like a barrel? This is because stress and stimulants such as coffee, sugar, alcohol or skipping meals can result in high cortisol the dreaded fat-storage hormone.
As a nutritional therapist I thoroughly recommend taking your full annual leave and peppering it throughout the year. Think of it as a thoroughly-enjoyable form of weight management.
To see the whole report go to: http://www.kuoni.co.uk/holiday-health-experiment