For some inexplicable reason, maybe a weird bit of good karma, or maybe God’s intervention, I went on vacation this summer and did not gain weight. Yes, I ate pasta and bread, drank wine ( I ate salads every day too!) and had dessert and still did not gain weight. I don’t really know why. I am speculating that I actually had a higher activity level than I believed I could get while on a 380 foot tall ship, so this may have helped keep my energy expenditure up a bit. But I also think that eating freshly made food, no fast food, no processed food and small portions played a role too. Or was it that I was less stressed than usual? Or, all of it?
At any rate, I was surprised and pleased. Typically, my “modus operandi” is to really buckle down for several months before vacation and lose a few pounds so I can feel “good” on vacation. It takes a lot of effort for me to lose body fat, so significant sacrifices are made ahead of vacation. But, then….. I lose my mindfulness, and go away on vacation and allow myself to overindulge without consciousness. Without mindful intention. That’s why this vacation surprised me. Although, I should give myself a bit of credit; there were several things I did on a daily basis that helped along this mysterious gift. Here’s what I learned from years of vacationing while attempting to ride that thin line between enjoyment and healthy diligence.
Know what you’re getting into
Is your vacation a hiking or walking vacation, or a lay on the beach vacation? There is a huge difference in energy expenditure between these examples. Most concerning for weight gain- the kind of vacation we all want and need at some point- a lazy, lie on the beach and drink pina coladas kinda vacation. Don’t deny yourself this need, but be realistic. If you choose this kind of vacation, weight gain is much more likely. So, accept it, have fun with it, be mindful, and buckle down right away when you get home. Right away…… my next important point.
Don’t let overindulgence continue when you get home
Have you ever noticed that, while you may not gain weight on vacation, the weeks following the vacation create weight gain? I have. Drives me crazy. This may just be a delayed effect from over indulging on vacation, but I believe, more than likely, it’s because we have fooled ourselves into thinking we can continue without repercussions. “Oh! I didn’t gain weight on vacation….I guess I can eat oreos and drink beer without gaining weight”. No, no you can’t. Instead, come back from vacation, feeling grateful for the opportunity to enjoy treats or more extravagant delicious foods while on vacation. Be mindful and move ahead to your usual “ my health comes first” eating. This requires awareness. It’s our #1 tool for eating well.
Choose to exercise on vacation
Choose to exercise. This is very different from the compulsion to exercise some may feel prior to vacation. Enjoy the exercise! You have the time to enjoy it. Do it first thing in the morning and then move on with your day. The notion that you can’t exercise while on vacation is just denial. You can do body weight strength work, jump rope, tubing exercises, walking, swimming, yoga, and on and on. I bring my jump rope and tubing with me on vacations, and it takes up little or no room in my suitcase. Take the tubing and jump rope out of your suitcase and leave it where you can see it every day. It will serve as a structure and reminder of your commitment to yourself.
Be mindful with your eating
There are many people who go on vacation and use it as a license to pig out. If this is you, that’s fine. It’s your choice. But maybe you might want to explore why you are choosing this? Have you been starving or depriving yourself to get ready for vacation? Are you feeling emotionally and spiritually depleted from work and real life? If the answers to those questions are yes, you could explore trying other less destructive ways of enjoying vacation. Pigging out always makes us feel worse. Choosing an occasional treat does not. You could also get a massage, buy a new outfit, go on an excursion or visit a museum. All of these things are nurturing and emotionally satisfying as well. IF you are mindful. Being mindful means you are aware of your present needs in the moment, and try to make the best choice possible that makes you happy. We can indulge well and healthfully without overindulging. Make choices. You want champagne? Have it! Just don’t have the dessert and bread, or, skip the appetizers. Choose what you want. If you need a gentle reminder for this promise you’ve made to yourself, keep a sticky note where you can see it that says “Choose 1” or “Be Mindful”. Anything to keep that promise front and center.
Use common sense when planning meals
We all know that a dinner of fried clams, onion rings and ice cream will wreak havoc with body and spirit. And yet, we still think we can manage it. Really? Is this what you really want, a tummy ache and heartburn? Or, could you choose to enjoy just one of those treats at one time, and balance out the rest of the meal with healthier options? This is often how I run with it. I’ll have a nice piece of broiled fish, but I’ll have a few onion rings. Or, I’ll have a salad with ice cream for dessert. Moderation in everything. I’m positive you can still enjoy your vacation meals without eating everything all at once.
Use a fitbit or pedometer to track overall daily activity
If a daily exercise session is not doable, then be aware of your total activity for the day. If you are on a vacation where you are sightseeing, you very well may be getting enough walking and stair climbing to manage your weight. But, if you are on a “lay on the beach and vegetate” vacation, you are going to have to make an extra effort to move. Think about it…… when on a beach vacation, you may be lying down 14 hours out of 24. This may be 8 hours of sleep, 6 hours on the beach, plus sitting for meals and travel. That’s a 100% sedentary day. And it’s this kind of vacation with massive over drinking and eating, that is the real killer. Yes, you can have several days of this, but not 7, not 10, unless you want to gain weight. You have choices.
What did I do?
During my recent vacation, I traveled on board a tall ship- only 380 feet long- for 11 days- with no weight gain. What did I do? Nothing heroic. I ate a breakfast filled with protein and no processed carbs. I ate a huge delicious salad for lunch ( most days) again, with lots of protein. On days I overindulged, I also walked quite a bit. A good energy in= energy out scenario. The portions on the ship, for dinner at least, were small. I chose to have wine at dinner, but not wine and dessert. I did not drink alcohol during the day, as often, I was teaching yoga at night. I also did body weight strength work 3x while on board. Nothing killer, no deprivation, no over exercising. I relaxed. I de-stressed. Lots of little things which I believe made a difference……this time.
Who knows next time? But at least I can try…….