It’s a common occurrence for many Australians to leave our idyllic sunny climate in exchange for the not-quite-so-sunny British soil to do the Europe thing for a few years. If I had a pound for every time I was asked why I moved I’d be such a rich woman! While there are many perks of living in the UK (hello cheap flights to Europe), there can also be some less than desirable side effects experienced – like the dreaded Heathrow Injection.
A two-year stint working in London is a bit of a rite of passage for many young Aussies. However, many find themselves infected by the infamous ‘Heathrow injection’ shortly after passing through Heathrow airport. Poorly fitting clothes is a typical symptom after rapidly gaining about 6 kilos (or more).
Not even Dietitians are immune. In the first six months after moving to England in 2010 I hardly changed the type or amount of food that I was eating. Despite this, my weight slowly crept up during that first six months by that 6kg! Having survived, here are my top tips to help you avoid being stung if you’re looking to relocate to London (or any other city).
Watch your alcohol intake
I love a good drink as much as the next person, but it constantly surprises me how many people don’t realise how energy dense alcohol is. With 29 kilojoules (7 calories) per gram, energy wise alcohol isn’t far behind fat (37kJ/9kcal) gram for gram.
In the UK, a standard drink or unit of alcohol is defined as 10ml (8g) pure alcohol. Drinks vary considerably in their alcohol and carbohydrate content, but the alcohol component alone contributes 235kJ (56kcal) to every standard drink:
- 25ml single measure spirits (40%)
- 1/3 of a pint beer (5-6%)
- small 175ml glass of red wine (12%)
Wise up to the energy content in your favourite topple. There is a huge drinking culture in the UK – even more so than in Australia dare I say! Drinks after work, watching the soccer (football), meeting your mates at the pub.. It can be easy to drink a few times during the week before the weekend has even arrived. Think of how each drink compares to food. If your average pint is equivalent to about 2 pieces of bread in energy, it’s easy to stack on kilos when drinking frequently.
Be physically active
This is a big one! Keep active – even when the weather is rubbish. I saw an ad somewhere for an outdoor clothing company who said there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing. They make a pretty good point. I can make all the excuses in the world about the weather being rubbish, but if i have decent clothes to keep me warm and dry the only thing stopping me from going for a walk, run or ride is me.
Find indoor activities to stay active if you really can’t handle going outside. I commute to work most days (even in snow), which currently adds about half an hour of incidental activity a day. The past few years I’ve been getting into indoor bouldering which is good fun on your own or with mates as unlike climbing you don’t need someone holding the ropes for you. Other good indoor activities to try include squash, dancing, Zumba, yoga, pilates, cross fit…
If you’re short on cash, check out YouTube for done great online HIIT (high intensity) workouts (or not so HIIT) that can be done within 10-20 minutes in your bedroom. Some of my favourites include:
Beware the pub grub
Pub grub is cheap. You’ll be full and may even be left with some change from a £10 note. But for whatever reason, lots of pub meals seem to come served with chips (hot and cold). Burger and chips, sandwich and chips, steak and chips, curry and chips… Say no to the chips at the pub lunch.
While there’s nothing wrong with eating chips every now and again, letting it become a weekly or daily habit just hurts your waistline. Most places will quite happily serve your meal with seasonal vegetables or a salad instead. Don’t be afraid to ask.
These were £2 lunch deals when I first moved over! The BLT was the UK national favourite sandwich back in 2014. Team that with a bag of crisps, a juice or soft drink and you’ll have easily eaten half your days energy needs. And I’ll bet my bottom dollar you’ll probably still be hungry afterwards as well.
Thankfully there are more healthy options on the shelves these days, with wholegrain breads, wraps, salads and even sushi often included as deal options. Avoiding mayo (seriously it’s almost in everything) on supermarket sandwiches is difficult but it can be done. Leave the chips and chocolates and sweet drinks going for the prepackaged fruit and water instead.