There’s no place like home. There’s also no place like sitting with your toes in the sand while the sun shines on your face and the waves are crashing on the shore around you. But, home is nice, too.
No matter where our typical geographical location may be, I think we all can agree that it’s nice to get away from time to time. See someplace new, sleep in, ignore a few responsibilities, and just allow some time for soaking up some R&R. But, it never fails – the topic of “vacation” can often bring about some worries and insecurities in those who are working on a body composition goal (aka: those who are trying to lose weight, build muscle, etc.) WHAT on earth are you supposed to do with your nutrition and training routine when you’re on vacation?
There’s no one right answer when it comes to this, and truthfully, a lot of times, the answer is going to depend on you: what your goals are, what the deadline for those goals may be, and how comfortable you feel with making a decision one way vs. the other.
One thing is true for all of us, though. If you’re on vacation, you should be enjoying yourself. This doesn’t necessarily mean stuffing your face and drinking margaritas into oblivion, but it should involve being able to enjoy some of your favorite things guilt-free. The amount of such, depends upon you.
How to Eat Healthy on Vacation
Should You Diet On Vacation?
The first question in trying to determine what your plan will be often lies in – should you diet on vacation? If your travel involves your typical daily routine; like a business trip, for example – then it’s often a bit easier to prep and plan how you will eat, when you will workout, and how you may have to modify to accommodate your travel plans.
But, if your travel is due to a scheduled vacation, it may be a different scenario altogether. If you are the type of person that is going to struggle mentally with trying to stick to a rigid training or diet schedule while you’re on vacation, to the point of not being able to enjoy your time away, then the answer is probably no – you shouldn’t try to diet while on vacation.
But, if you’re working on a goal that you’re pretty passionate about, if you’ve found your rhythm and you don’t want to break your strides, and you know you’ll be able to still enjoy your time awhile while still paying attention to those things you’re working on, then yes, maybe you should still diet while you’re on vacation.
See? There’s no clear cut, “right” answer.
How to Not Overeat on Vacation
Maybe if you’re stuck between dieting vs. not dieting, you can rephrase your question (and maybe your mindset while you’re at it). Maybe instead of focusing on the diet, you could reframe your mind to focus on how to still enjoy vacation without necessarily overeating while you’re away.
Start Your Day with a Healthy Breakfast
One of the easiest ways to overeat happens when we allow ourselves to go for too long of periods without food. It goes back to that saying – you should never grocery shop on an empty stomach, right? Because you’re more likely to grab all the things you don’t really need, aka the things you’re craving, vs. healthier options.
Start out each morning with a healthy breakfast, and at least 8 ounces of water. Not only are you regulating your blood sugar levels first thing, but you’re initiating your metabolism to start working, and you’re starting out the day with a healthier choice. Doing so will help you make good choices as the day continues to progress.
Is It Worth It?
When trying to find the balance between “treat yo-self” and still trying to stick to your goals, it helps to reference your internal Worth it Meter. This is knowing and fully understanding the difference between having a treat because it will be 100% worth it, and having a treat just because it’s there and everyone else is doing it.
I always give this example:
Around the holidays, my grandma’s house is FULL OF SWEETS. And let’s be real.. I like my sugar. So if I’m not careful, it’s really easy to load up my plate with all sorts of desserts that I really don’t need, and will most likely feel bad (physically) about afterwards.
So what I do is this: I survey the table. I make mental notes of the desserts that look absolutely breathtaking, and the ones that are just your normal everyday sweets. For example: my grandma makes the world’s most delicious cheesecake. Don’t even try to fight me on that. If that cheesecake is on the table, it’s going to rank pretty dang high on my Worth It Meter. Because I don’t get that cheesecake often (like, once a year if I’m lucky), and also – I just told you it’s the best in the world.
So if that cheesecake is next to a box of store bought sugar cookies, and if I could only choose one – I’m going to choose the cheesecake and pass on the cookies. Because they don’t even compare, and I know that every single bite of that cheesecake will feel “worth it” as I’m eating it, whereas the sugar cookies, while they may taste good, aren’t going to give me that same burst of food-related pleasure.
Look for opportunities to practice this on your trip. What would you consider “worth it” vs. something that doesn’t really sound all the great, you could technically eat any time, and you may just be eating because everyone else is. Grow in those moments and really get comfortable with finding the balance and knowing when you feel okay splurging, and when you’d rather stay on track.
Fill Your Plate With Protein
When selecting your meals, choose a protein first. Then try and fill your plate with vegetables, and then your starchier carbs last. By being able to stick to a higher daily protein goal, you’ll be able to fuel your muscles and fill up on the healthier foods vs. more water-filled starches and carbs.
You can also look at this by limiting your carbs – not that I’m a fan of low carb diets, actually, far from it. But instead of filling your breakfast plate with eggs, a bagel, fresh fruit, AND a breakfast pastry – choose one. Maybe opt for eggs and fresh fruit, and save the bread for lunch. And then at dinner, you can fill your plate with protein and veggies and opt for dessert as your carb.
Don’t neglect your water intake! It’s a pretty unknown fact that our bodies actually can’t tell the difference between thirst and hunger. So a lot of times, when we feel we’re hungry even though we know maybe we shouldn’t be, it’s our brain’s way of trying to let us know we’re dehydrated.
When you’re traveling and you’re feeling those snack-attacks coming on, reach for cold water first, and wait about fifteen minutes. If you’re still hungry after that, grab a healthy snack.
How to Avoid Weight Gain on Vacation
You have to accept the fact that if you’re going off routine; eating different types or amounts of food, drinking more alcohol, and working out less than you normally do, then the scale is probably going to reflect that when you get back home. But this is where strengthening your mindset comes into play: it’s key to realize that a good chunk of that potential “weight gain” is just water weight.
Once you’re back into a normal routine you should see those numbers start to go down again – so do not stress!
Some of the best ways you can avoid excess weight gain while you’re traveling is to stick to the tips above: starting each day with a healthy breakfast, filling your plate with protein and veggies first, staying hydrated, and determining when it’s worth it to “cheat” vs when it’s not.
Drink in Moderation
Drinking alcohol, of any kind, can cause your body to stop burning fat for up to 48 hours. Drinking can also cause you to lower your inhibitions, and can also lead to unhealthy food choices.
Try and stick to a two drink max if you’re going out, and be sure to stay hydrated with water before, during, and after the event, dinner, or meal.
If you are still tracking calories or macros while on your vacation, you can plan ahead and work your favorite cocktail into your day ahead of time.
Vacation or no vacation, still make time to get up and move that beautiful body of yours! Go for a walk (or run) on the beach, check out the hotel weight room, do some yoga or light stretching. Anything to get your blood flowing and your endorphins rejoicing.
Find activities in your area that get you out and exploring; hiking, canoeing, paddle boarding – those are all great ways to still enjoy your vacation, try something new, and do something that allows you to move in a way that’s fun, challenging, and rewarding.