By Rose McAvoy
Over the past five years, I have lost, gained and maintained weight while on vacation. Each time, the key to success or a weighty surprise has been in the planning.
Before you put so much as a sandal in your suitcase, ask yourself: “Do I want to gain, lose or maintain my weight during this vacation?” Be honest. Recommit to your goal every day you are away. This preparation can be the difference between bringing home extra bulk in your saddlebags or just a goofy t-shirt.
Ten tips for maintaining or losing weight during a vacation:
1. Say what you want
Share your goal with another person. This is a conversation for the glass-half-full folks in your life. If possible, pick someone who already supports your health goals, especially if you will be traveling with that person.
2. Stay hydrated
Pack a water bottle (or two) and top it off every chance you get. It can be very easy to confuse our body’s need for water with hunger. Be especially aware of your need to get in those sips if you are visiting a warm destination or are more active than a typical day at home.
3. Pack sturdy shoes
Planning to be active is planning to keep your weight in check. If your suitcase features only “cute” footwear, you are cheating yourself out of the option of enjoying some serious activity.
4. Keep moving
Find an active way to enjoy your vacation spot every day. Rent bicycles, take a break from laying by the pool and start splashing around or plan a hike. Many popular vacation spots offer walking or bike tours. Do a little pre-trip internet scouting to learn what is available around your destination and make advance reservations if needed.
5. Food is fuel
Sorry to break it to you but the calories consumed on vacation absolutely count. To help me choose healthier options for my meals, I adopt the mantra, “food is fuel.” I repeat this phrase over and over before choosing a snack, entering a restaurant, looking at a menu or placing an order. A salad with grilled fish and the dressing on the side will go a long way toward fueling your body until the next eating opportunity.
6. Pick a “fun” meal
A healthy vacation does not need to be an exercise in austerity. You’ve got three meals a day to play with, designate one to splash out a little. You may be visiting places known for their specialty foods, don’t miss out on those experiences, instead plan for them. If you visit a famous barbecue joint, treat yourself to the specialty of the house. Maintain a balance by keeping your other meals light and simple. Chances are if you are eating mindfully most of the time you will be less likely to go overboard with your “fun” meal.
7. Plan a daily splurge
This may or may not be in place of your “fun” meal. I’m a big fan of frozen desserts. When we are on vacation I really like to have a cup or cone of gelato, frozen yogurt or ice cream most days. Knowing ahead of time where and when this treat will happen makes it easier to turn down baked goods, chocolate shops or fancy blended coffee drinks that are not part of my plan.
8. Pack a picnic
Stop in at a local grocery store or super market and pick up some easy to eat options. Fruit, whole or cut, and vegetables are portable and refreshing on hot days. Rinse them before leaving the store so you can grab a bite whenever you are feeling peckish. Many stores (and even coffee shops) offer hard boiled eggs, yogurt and small packages of cheese for an on-the-go protein. Throw in a box of multi-grain crackers or some whole wheat rolls and you’ve got yourself a balanced, portable, meal to fuel your next adventure.
9. Skip happy hour
Don’t sabotage eating in balance by drinking your calories. To avoid overindulgence, I suggest holding out until late in the day before adding alcohol. A glass of soda water with a lime wedge and a sprig of mint looks just as pretty as a vodka tonic. Plan to have your one drink with dinner or dessert and sip other things the rest of the day. Additionally, waking to a hangover-free morning is another way to keep your health goal on track.
10. Bottom line: It’s not about the food
Before heading out the door, take a bit of time to honestly consider your primary vacation goals. Do you want to connect with family, see new scenery, explore an unfamiliar city, visit museums or sit in peace and read a paperback a day? When you focus your vacation around these immediate goals you may find it easier to stick to your long term health goals. Will eating a cinnamon roll with breakfast everyday give you a better sense of your surroundings? I am going to say no. Sure, people take foodie vacations but even those can be enjoyed in a healthy way if you are truly committed to coming home without the extra personal baggage.
Honorable mention tips:
- Bring a cooler, paper plates, napkins, a cutting board and knife to expand your picnic options.
- Wear sunscreen. I don’t care what color you are, please slather on some SPF.
- Book a room with a refrigerator. It’s great for snacks or breakfast foods.
- Book accommodation with a kitchen. A self-catering vacation is the ultimate way to keep track of your eating.