Going on Spring Break Vacation? Bring Back Souvenirs . . .
Not Extra Weight!
Parents and students of all ages are in countdown mode for spring break . . . and with that of course comes the anticipated family vacations. (And the end of school and summer vacations are not far behind.) Now is the time that many clients start telling me that, as much as they are looking forward to getting away from the usual grind, they also have anxiety about how they will manage their weight loss or maintenance efforts while away from home. They fear having a difficult time sticking to the healthy habits they’ve cultivated since the start of the new year. So let me share with you the advice I give them; perhaps this will be helpful to you as well as you get ready for your own spring break and summer vacations.
1. If you’re heading to your vacation spot via airplane, bring your usual, favorite healthy snacks on the plane: some fruit and a few snack-pack sizes of raw veggies; or some whole wheat crackers and a few mini-Babybel cheese rounds or Laughing Cow spreadable cheese triangles; low-sodium rice cakes.
2. If you’re heading to your vacation destination via car, you have the additional option of packing a cooler which you can stock with healthy sandwiches, chopped vegetable salad, fruits, yogurt, etc., virtually anything you would eat at home. If you do this, you won’t be at the mercy of roadside fast food stops.
3. If you’ll be staying in a hotel or motel, request in advance and confirm that you’ll have a fridge in the room (and most do) to house some of the items you may bring from home or those you may buy locally and want to keep in your room for snacks. Also, ask whether you’ll have access to a microwave, either in your room or on your hotel floor. If so, you can bring healthier options (lower-fat, low-sodium) of microwave mini-bags of popcorn, another good in-room snack or for poolside.
4. If you’re going out to a restaurant, you can make healthy choices, you can ask your server how foods are prepared, and you can ask to have an entree prepared the way you want it. Don’t be shy; you’re paying for it and you should get it the way you want it.
- Broiled, baked or grilled instead of fried;
- Seasoned with herbs and spices and a twist of lemon instead of breaded;
- Steamed with fresh garlic and ginger instead of sauteed in butter, wokked in soy sauce, or served in a cream sauce.
- Double-up on veggies or salad instead of high-fat and fried sides.
- Dressings on the side.
5. To the best of your ability, avoid “bubonic buffets” like the plague. They’re toxic; a dieter’s nightmare. But, if you absolutely must, don’t just grab a plate and get on line. First, walk the length of the buffet, identify what you know you can eat and, from that selection, know what you will put on your plate. Then, fill one plate, making sure to first serve yourself salad and/or veggies and then the protein. Proteins that are fresh-carved or sliced are always better than a protein that’s sitting in a burner, marinating in sauces and creams and oils.
6. Drink plenty of water . . . and more. Flying on an airplane is dehydrating. Lounging about on the beach or poolside is dehydrating. Walking for miles at an amusement park or on a city tour is dehydrating. Playing tennis or golf or doing any fitness/exercise activities is dehydrating. If you don’t give your body the fluid it needs—not only the usual 8-10 cups it needs for normal body function, but more than that to replace the fluid you lose by doing all those activities—you will become bloated as the cells in your body grab-and-store any fluid it can find (to be stored it in extra-cellular spaces) to prevent you from becoming completely dehydrated, light-headed and passing out. No one likes feeling puffy and bloated, and no one likes when their clothes start getting tight because of it.
7. If you’re having your meals and snacks every few hours, there’s no reason for you to be hungry. If you are, remember: Your first pang of hunger is almost always thirst so drink water first. If you must eat in between your planned meals and snacks, have more fruits and veggies. Because of their density, you’ll get fuller faster on fewer of these items than snacking on pretzels and chips.
8. Most people don’t do a full-on supermarket run in the same week they’ll be heading out for a week’s or more vacation because no one wants to come home to a fridge full of expired or wilted groceries or produce. Therefore, most people come home to an empty fridge. They’re tired from the day’s traveling, having to unpack, do laundry, etc., so running out to the supermarket to do a week’s grocery shopping on the same day or evening is not going to happen. . . and calling in for pizza or Chinese is too easy. However, you definitely should think about the kitchen you’ll come to before you go on vacation. You can prepare in advance to have a few healthier options on-hand for your return. A day or so before you leave for vacation:
- Make a healthy casserole and freeze it.
- Prepare some fish fillets, chicken cutlets, hamburgers and freeze them.
- Buy a few steam-fresh frozen bags of veggies.
- Make a healthy broth-based veggie/chicken soup, and freeze it.
These are just some of the many items that can be waiting for you. All can be cooked or re-heated in the microwave or, depending on the time you arrive back at home, can be taken out of the freezer and thawed a little before putting in the oven.
The goal over vacation should not be to show a weight loss upon your return home. It should be to come home the same weight as when you left, in which case you’re in a very good place, and can pick up right where you left off. If, on the other hand, your mindset is “I’m on vacation, and I’m going to throw caution to the wind and just let it rip”, you will certainly come home with significant weight gain. In that event, you’ll have to work a couple weeks or more to dig yourself out of a weight gain hole in order to catch up to where you were before vacation. And although you might try to convince yourself otherwise at the time you’re letting it rip—using every excuse and rationale as to why “it’s OK because I’m on vacation”—I can almost guarantee that you will regret it when you return home, if not before.
Try to remember the three-legged stool rule of weight loss and maintenance: the WHAT, the WHEN and the HOW MUCH you eat.
Barring unusual circumstances, you can control what you eat (you can choose to make good choices, just as you would in your home environment, or not). You can control when you eat (you can make sure, just as you do at home, that you start your day right by eating a good breakfast, and then pace yourself every 2-3 hours with a healthy snack or meal). The how much might be the only element that will be a little over or under because outside of your own kitchen, weighing/measuring is less do-able; there’s more guesstimating. But if two legs of the stool remain the same size, and it’s only the third leg that’s just a bit shorter, the stool might be a little wobbly but it’ll hold you. You won’t fall off. So focus on controlling what you can (the what, the when) and do that 100%. Then, if you choose your splurges wisely and indulgence a couple times, the chances are that while you are focusing on doing your best to return home at the same weight, you will come home with a weight loss.
Vacations are meant to take you away from regular routines of household errands and chores, of work-related commuting, paperwork, phone calls and emails. It’s a time to rest, relax, repair, rejuvenate and reinvigorate, with focus on family, friends and fun. This is all so important not only for good physical health but mental wellness too. And you can’t be in a good state of mind when you return home if, while on vacation:
- You let yourself go with no dietary restrictions or boundaries;
- You repeatedly lose sight of what you want most for what you may want in the moment;
- You incur a huge weight gain and lots of regrets.
It’s hard to get back on track when you’re in a state of mental un-wellness or funk.
While it might be true that “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas,” it’s also true that what you eat and drink on vacation . . . comes home with you!