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Is it possible to eat well, drink less and still have a good time at a festival? One man tries to have his (carrot) cake and eat it

There’s no better place to indulge your appetite for debauchery than at a music festival. Ever since my first tame outings to the insipid V Festival as a wide-eyed 16-year-old, not one summer has passed without me trekking out to the countryside with tent and comedy wigs to inflict untold harm upon my liver. This year, though, an impending 250-mile charity bike ride and its demanding training forced a dramatic rethink on how to go about my festival experience. I didn’t want to wipe out my body and mind, yet neither was I prepared to give up my annual jaunt. There was only one thing for it: I was going to try and have a healthy festival experience. Would it be possible to do that and still have a good time? Could I really have my (carrot) cake and eat it?

I chose to head to Bestival, a festival renowned for fun, fancy dress and late night parties. Yet I was determined to set off for a weekend of sobriety, healthy food and exercise. I felt assured that between cycling to and from the site, the walking between stages and constant dancing, I was going to burn calories aplenty to achieve my health-orientated goal. I had no idea, however, how I was going to cope with my newly assumed sobriety among such an eccentric, up-for-it crowd.

Arriving by bike felt amazing. Not only did it make the picturesque journey from the ferry terminal to the festival site quick and easy, but the 30-mile trip, 25 miles of which were covered on the way to Portsmouth Harbour, renewed my optimism about the task at hand. The sun was out on my arrival, and Bestival was already under way, with nearly all of the crowd diving head-first into the nautical fancy dress theme.

My first stop involved refuelling with an epic falafel from a vegetarian food stand. Making my way past anthropomorphic jellyfish,I arrived at the main stage. With an attitude more akin to laidback acceptance than resolved stoicism, I was keeping on the straight and narrow. After all, I was just lying in the sun with my friends, taking in one of the most exceptional festivals in the UK. I was in my element. On top of the fantastic lineup, there is so much else to do at Bestival, a lot of it healthy: stumbling around the lush green landscape we came across dancing lessons led by an endearing Brian Potter type and David Lynch-associated transcendental meditation sessions.

You are undeniably active at a music festival. Using my Nike+ Fuelband, I tracked my Bestival activity and recorded its findings as tangible evidence of a decent workout. Over the three days I took an average of 32,990 steps per day, equating to a daily average of 16.1 miles. That’s a lot of walking, sober or sauced. I was also burning an average of 4,104 calories on each of the three days, approaching twice the suggested daily intake for a man my age.

That said, the real sticking point was not being able to get on it with my friends. Chilling on the grass and watching a band in the daytime is one thing – but resisting temptation during a driving DJ set late at night was a whole new ball game. It was the excellent Daniel Avery‘s blistering set that finally broke me. His heady selection of machine-funk finally swung the internal battle. I reached over and took a long swig from my pal’s flask to taste the first sips of warm, red wine. I felt my body relax. It was over. As we headed to Maceo’s Crew Bar to watch Greg Wilson‘s warm-up set, I was now doing the festival the way the good Lord intended.

Although it’s clearly possible to make a festival a healthy experience while having fun, it requires the kind of restraint that has no place at a music festival. If there is one time you should be able to escape the real world and abide solely by the “if it feels good, do it” doctrine, then a festival should surely be it. © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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