Another amazing vacation in the books, and I can’t help but feel a little nostalgic. Last year the boyfriend and I went to Puerto Rico and I didn’t think it could get any better than that trip, but I was wrong… in the best way possible. And during our time in Santorini, Greece, I learned a lot along the way about my body, food anxieties that I still can’t shake, and how to start eating intuitively. Hopefully you find my revelations helpful if you currently struggle with any digestive issues or food intolerances/allergies.
This was my first major international trip. I’d been to The Dominican Republic/Punta Cana and visited Jamaica, Mexico and a few other Caribbean islands on family vacations and cruises, but never to Europe.
I was stoked. But not for the 15+ hour plane rides. Traveling is not my friend because it raises my anxiety levels, and the IBS really acts up. So that leads to lots of bloating, uncomfortableness and weird eating hours/habits.
Not exactly what I need while on a path to gut healing. I was not, under any circumstance, going to eat airplane food. Nope. Wouldn’t touch it with a 10 foot pole. They didn’t have any options that would really appeal to my eating style, anyway.
I came prepared for battle. I had an entire backpack full of my favorite snacks, including fruits (apples/bananas), raw almonds, Flackers (super low carb, high fiber flaxseed crackers), Primal Kitchen collagen protein bars, Epic bison bars, Biena chickpeas, collagen powder from Vital Proteins, protein powder from Ancient Nutrition, almond butter to-go packs from Artisana Organics, ALLL the dark chocolate (I absolutely love Green & Black’s 85 percent dark chocolate bars…bonus is that it’s ethically sourced), paleo/grain-free Granola from the most amazing local SF company, Nana Joe’s (which you can order online from anywhere in the U.S.). It’s the best granola I’ve ever had. So light because it’s baked, and they hardly use any sweetener, and if they do it’s honey or maple syrup. (A quick note: these opinions are my own, I am not working in collaboration with any of the above companies, collecting royalties or any of that jazz… just my personal favorites.)
I also knew that I would need to stay hydrated in the Santorini heat, so I came armed with a tube of Nuun hydration. Nuun is a low carb, low sugar electrolyte tab (sort of like Alka-Seltzer, but not gross or medicinal), that dissolves in water for on-the-go hydration. I love the grapefruit orange one, but it’s the only one I’ve ever had so can’t comment on other flavors.
Speaking of medicinal, I also stocked up on some of my CBD favorites to help manage my anxiety and inflammation. Shhh, it’ll be our secret 😉
Despite my travel preparations, I had already decided ahead of time that I would spend our time in Greece not worrying about what I ate or when (within certain limitations). For those of you that follow my blog or my Instagram fitfoodistsf, you might already know that I did the whole Keto thing for a while and was just getting into carb cycling before my vacation, and that I also practice intermittent fasting.
During this trip, I would forget all of that, and ate what I wanted when I wanted because, guys and gals, let me tell you, the food in Greece was capital A, Amazing. Everything was so fresh and flavorful and portions were generous.
I typically don’t eat any kind of dairy or gluten, but I could not pass up an opportunity to have some fresh homemade bread or some of the local cheeses. I did tend to stay away from dairy most days, but if there was a dish that had feta or some other kind of Greek cheese, and I wanted it, I got it and enjoyed it, guilt free.
I did stay away from eggplants, which was unfortunate, because I love eggplant so much. But, I developed an allergy to nightshade vegetables because of my leaky gut/IBS/SIBO, and although I can eat tomatoes in moderation and some potatoes without the skin, peppers and eggplant are still off the table.
I actually did indulge one evening and tried some eggplant, and it upset my stomach. But, I didn’t let it bring me down like I normally might at home. When you’re in a place as stunningly beautiful as Santorini, you can’t be sad for long anyway.
Our days were packed full of adventures, like sunset kayaking, hiking and cliff jumping, volcano touring, to name a few, so I made sure to eat a little something in the morning even if I wasn’t hungry. The one thing about intermittent fasting is that I’ve lost my appetite in the morning, but I knew I needed some fuel for our active days.
I also brought snacks and TONS of water with me to stay hydrated in the 90+ degree heat of the day.
The place where we stayed, Lotza Studios, was tucked away in the quaint village of Finikia, which was just outside of one of the top tourist destinations on the Santorini island, Oia.
Oia is known for watching the famous Santorini sunsets, and it can get pretty crowded during the day and evenings.
Every morning, our very hospitable friends at Lotza hand delivered fresh breakfast with traditional Greek yogurt, granola, just-made hard boiled eggs, sliced fruit, toast and a slice of ham and cheese with coffee and orange juice.
We had a small breakfast, and sometimes a small lunch, but boy did we GRUB at dinner. We did a ton of walking, swimming, kayaking, and stair climbing (280 stairs to get to the bottom of Oia where we had to go to swim and to catch most of our tours).
If you go to Greece, you have to get the famous Santorini Fava, which is a local dish of pureed fava beans, topped with capers and caramelized onions. Heavenly. We also couldn’t pass up the lamb, and of course Baklava!
I ate. I savored. I didn’t let myself feel guilty. I didn’t stress or engage in self-loathing.
Any you know what? I survived, and I actually think I came back looking leaner. No bloating whatsoever.
And this whole experience really changed my outlook on eating. Granted, my gut is definitely healing which means all of my IBS and other gut-related symptoms are going away slowly, but even still, I found that the more I stress about food, the more that’s going to mess with my actual digestion.
I ate when I was hungry, stopped when I was full, and I actually feel more satiated than I ever have after meals.
In fact, after returning from Greece, I am still being less strict about carb intake. I am still primarily eating healthy fats and veggies, with moderate protein, but I am not worrying about being in ketosis or about eating fruits and good starches like sweet potatoes or quinoa.
If I want sweet potatoes for dinner, then I’ll have them. If I want to load up on a salad and greens, and keep carbs light one day, then I will, but if I want an acai bowl, then why not have it?
I’ve found that I am having less cravings, I am fuller, faster and eating smaller portions naturally because I am fueling my body and not leaving it in any state of deprivation.
It’s awesome. I thought I would hit Keto hard when I got back from Greece because I was going to indulge on vacation, and naturally gain a few pounds. But nope. Not even any water weight from bloating. And I am going to the bathroom more regularly than I have in the past five years. I am not belching or feeling “overly full” in the evenings after dinner like usual.
If this is going to be my new normal, I can dig it.
Not to mention, I came back engaged. Gasp, I know! I won’t go into all of the details, but I will share a few pictures because the landscape is too surreal. You couldn’t stage something this picturesque.
This is how the entire island looks. Amazing views of the bright blue waters, orange sunsets, white cavernous houses carved into the hillside, flowers and wildlife everywhere.
For anyone considering a trip to Greece, I highly recommend Santorini. We decided not to island hop to any of the others (Athens, Mykonos, Crete, etc.) because we only had six days total in Greece and we wanted to spend them in one place. The island of Santorini is big enough anyway to do and see all of the things you want.