How to Succeed on Vacation
The Vacation Mindset
How often do you go on vacation with every intention of being reasonable with your food selections only to find yourself throwing total caution to the wind by the end of your trip, and eating everything in sight? Or maybe you’re the opposite, and you intentionally view your vacation as a time to stuff yourself and binge on the foods that you don’t eat while you’re at home.
What does a lifestyle truly mean?
I had a client say to me once, “It’s funny, I actually find it easier to be ‘good’ on vacations because the expectation is usually the opposite.” That struck me as quite odd. Is that really the expectation for most? To straight “yolo” it on vacation? Why is that? If this was truly a lifestyle for someone, they would not eat much differently during a vacation than they do when they’re home.
This is not to say that trips to new or different places aren’t opportune times to experience new foods. There are different local cuisines that are always delicious to try and traveling abroad is the perfect time to sample the food of a different culture. Expand your horizons. I’m here for it. I’m a foodie too, so it’s not like I’m sitting in a hotel eating microwaved chicken and rice from Tupperware. Come on.
This is the problem with diet culture – there are 2 extremes with no moderation in between. We have the zealot “clean eaters” and then we have those who eat whatever, whenever, with no regard for caloric intake or nutritional value. This is exactly why we have an obesity epidemic: people think you must be eating fish and a rice cake, or macaroni and cheese and ice cream. Heaven forbid we try to find some sort of balance in the middle.
In an ideal scenario, every person would go away on vacation, eat until satisfied (not full), try new foods, moderate their alcohol intake (4 drinks in one sitting is not moderating calories, you aren’t in college anymore), stay hydrated, choose authentic, mostly unprocessed food, and make lots of memories. Why? Because this creates a balanced relationship with food and health.
If you were to go on vacation tomorrow and you knew you’d be gone an entire week with access to a grocery store, what would you buy? Your grocery list will tell you everything you need to know about whether or not you really have changed your habits. Is your cart full of pop tarts, candy bars, regular soda, chips, and ice cream? Or is it full of fruits, veggies, lean meats and cheeses, whole breads, nuts, olives, hummus, oatmeal, and Greek yogurt…with maybe a small treat or 2 (such as local saltwater taffy)?
If your cart is the former, this is not yet a lifestyle. We still have work to do. At Maui Athletics® we believe there is no Plan B. This isn’t a 3-month crash diet where you return to your old ways and immediately gain back what you’ve lost. The reason so many regain their weight is because people don’t focus on changing the underlying cause of their weight gain, which is counterproductive dietary habits. This includes binge eating on vacation (or the weekends). How many times have you returned from a trip only to step on the scale and find 5lbs more than when you left? How many times have you come home and said, “Man, I can’t wait to get back on plan! I feel terrible.”?
Personally, these are the “rules” I adopt when I’m on vacation, and these are not a struggle for me to adhere to because I’ve been living this way for 15 years. If you are not there yet, that is okay. This is part of the learning process. People will often need to make incremental steps to get here. The point is, there is no vacation Beth vs at home Beth. We are the same feisty, sarcastic person, whether at home or on the road.
- I never eat to the point of feeling disgusted with myself. Ever.
- I moderate alcohol. I will have 1-2 drinks a day at maximum, often none at all even when on vacation. This is a big deal for many people. Sorry.
- We go to the grocery store if we’re staying somewhere for a few days or longer and we buy the following, depending on whether or not we have access to a fridge:
- Greek yogurt
- Pre-cooked chicken breast
- Salad greens
- Skim milk
- Deli turkey meat
- Low fat cheese/string cheese
- Whole grain bread, tortillas, or English muffins
- Hummus and pita chips
- Pre-packaged oatmeal
- Protein bars if we can find ones with decent macros
- Protein powder (we usually bring this with us)
- We choose one meal a day that we want to eat out (usually dinner), the rest we eat at home.
- We go to a gym at least 3-4 days per week, if we can, even if these are abbreviated workouts. And we stay active with outdoor activities daily, when possible.
- We don’t always get dessert at dinner. Almost never, in fact. Again, sorry.
Maui Athletics® clients have an advantage because you have an entire Lifestyle Nutrition Guide that walks you, literally, step by step through the vacation process. All one needs to do is take advantage of the resources provided. You have a set of personal guidelines you can implement to stay on track while you’re on vacation. When you come back, we check in and discuss how you did. Where do you feel you succeeded? Where could you have done better? What would you do differently if you could repeat your vacation? (a great excuse to take another vacation…”it’s for practice purposes, I swear”).
All of the above tips and more can be found in your Client Portal, plus a list of foods you can order at restaurants to help keep you on track. There is no need to order anything ridiculous when you go out to dinner, like plain-grilled chicken on some lettuce. That’s absurd, and unless you’re a figure competitor who will be taking the stage in 2 weeks, there’s absolutely no need if you stick to rule #1. Similarly, you don’t need 4 drinks and dessert all in one day. Balance. I eat foods I don’t ever cook for myself at home, I’ll order dessert occasionally if I really want it, depending on how full I am, and I have no regrets. It all comes back to rule #1, folks. I don’t ever eat until I’m absolutely stuffed, and neither should you. That’s a control problem, and that implies some deeper issues.
My hope is that no client of ours would have anxiety about vacations or even just the occasional meal out with friends, but I hear it all the time. “I’m so afraid to go off-plan,” or “I’m so nervous about my upcoming vacation”. Contact us, let’s come up with a plan together. That’s what we’re here for. Read your guide, and then physically write down your personal rules you’ll adhere to while you’re gone. Make a plan. Write it down. Talk it out. And I promise you, you will not fail if you stick to it. You’ve got this.