‘Tis the Season for Travel!
There are those among my readers who will think this topic is inane. Who wants to diet on vacation?! What kind of life is that?!
Well, you know how people always say that to lose weight permanently, you can’t just go on a diet, rather you have to ‘change your lifestyle’? So this post right here is what that Lifestyle Change looks like.
If like most of my clients, (and myself), you have worked really hard to whittle off weight and even harder to keep it off, then the prospect of going on a trip and not being in 100% control of your food and fitness regime can be really scary. You fear not just losing balance during the trip, but also having a difficult time getting back on track when you get home. No one wants to watch all their months of hard work be undone in one gelato-ravioli-pizza infused weekend.
I am at an age and hormonal stage where I am honestly capable of gaining 5 lbs in 15 minutes – and I mean 5 real pounds, like the ones that take another 6 months to take off again! So for me, as much as I look forward to traveling, going on a trip can be a real cause for concern.
But aren’t some of the reasons we travel to enjoy local cuisine, to drink more than usual, to rest and relax? If you want it to be those things, then yes, by all means! Eat, drink, travel, enjoy, and stop reading this post.
However, if you are searching for a way to be able to travel the world, eat maybe slightly off-plan, enjoy yourself, and not come home to that discouraging thud of “ugh, how can I possibly gain weight that easily?! I wish I hadn’t eaten so much!” then these are my time-worn techniques for doing just that.
#1 Decide What You Want, What You Really, Really Want
Decide if you WANT to stay on track or not. It is totally fine if you want to let go and eat your body weight in vegan nachos and do nada except lie in the sun on your Caribbean cruise. But if you are going to cut lose, then just enjoy it and don’t reprimand yourself later when you have to deal with the fall-out. Decide that this is your game plan and enjoy without guilt.
But, if you have decided that you DO want to stay at least somewhat on track, decide how on track you need to stay. I have clients who are determined to continue their weight loss journeys while on vacation and they put in the exact same effort while traveling as they do at home. So yes Virginia, if you focus and work at it, you can actually lose weight on vacation!
Most other folks would just be happy just to maintain their weight, or not gain more than a pound of two.
Your desired outcome should guide your actions. Get clear on what you want and decide how you will do it.
#2 Change your Perspective
I like to think of vacations as “health spa getaways”even when I’m not going to any health spa. I mean, I don’t have to cook meals, pack lunches, do laundry, or any of the other chores that make up my days at home. So I try to luxuriate in the experience of eating healthy meals cooked by someone else, rather than gorging on junk or fast food. Try a mindset shift like that and see if it doesn’t reduce any feelings of deprivation you might be prone to feel.
Nothing tastes quite as good as a salad you didn’t have to make – am I right?
Many people treat eating as the number one pleasure to top all pleasures. Again, if you want food to have that role in your life and you are happy with your body and health, then rock on with your super foodie self. But if you are struggling with over-eating and don’t feel well or don’t like how your body looks, it’s high time to find OTHER pleasures in life – things that feed your soul, your mind, and your heart – not just your mouth and stomach.
We are so out of balance when it comes to pleasure. I hear from clients all the time “eating is the best part of my day.” Eating is nice, but if it’s the best part of your day, maybe it’s time to examine your life a bit.
When traveling, do the things you absolutely love doing – see shows, swim, snorkel, enjoy the beach, play games or sports, make love, see great works of art, architecture and history – whatever floats your boat. Food is just one pleasure of many. Don’t let it take over everything else.
#3 Choose where you will splurge
If you don’t want to gain weight, you have to keep your caloric intake similar to what it is back home. You just can’t eat everything you want and expect to get away with it. If alcohol is important to you, then choose to enjoy your favorite drinks, instead of dessert at dinner and ice cream in the afternoon. To fit that gelato in, maybe skip the bread basket or go easy on the brewski. You are going to have to make choices.
Whether you are staying in an apartment with a kitchen, or a standard hotel room, try to at least prepare a healthy breakfast with fruits, veggies and protein. Stop at a market when you arrive and stock up on fruits and veggies you can eat with minimal prep, such as bananas, cherries, grapes, apples, peaches, plums, tomatoes, avocado, cucumbers, carrots etc. You can also buy a knife, cheap plastic cutting board, a few Tupperware type containers, and even a cheap cooler and cold pack at your destination if you want to save space in your packed luggage. Pack some healthy snacks in your day bag if you are going to be out all day.
One thing I do when staying in hotels where a Continental Breakfast is served, is to bring my own “proats” (oats with protein powder mixed in). Before leaving home, I measure out individual servings of dry oats, vegan protein powder and cinnamon into baggies, one for each day of my trip. When I come down to breakfast, I empty one baggie into a bowl and cover with boiling water from the tea service. Cover the bowl with a plate and let it sit for a few minutes while you cut up some fruit, and make your coffee. Your oats will “cook” and you can eat them topped with fresh fruit or jam that is provided. You can see pictures of my whole proats set-up in my post about Eating Vegan in Italy. (You can also cook oats in a microwave for 2-3 minutes if your hotel is so equipped).
Starting the day with complex carbs and protein fuels me up and makes me less likely to binge later, as I probably would if I just had pastry or bread and jam.
Here’s a sample of some Protein-Oats (proats) breakfasts of mine on the road. One is topped with jam and fruit, the other with a soy yogurt I found in a local market. As you can imagine, eating this kind of breakfast keeps me fueled up and full of energy for hours of touring!
#4 Fill Up on Protein and Vegetables
This is pretty much the same advice I’d give to a client at home. Whenever possible, make sure your snacks and meals all include protein and veggies. Carbs are easy to come by, super tasty, and generally high in calories. There is nothing wrong with carbs and I am not saying you should limit them, I am just saying that when trying to lose weight, it can really help to prioritize protein and vegetables and then fill in with carbs after you have covered the protein-veg component.
If you are a vegan, protein on the road isn’t so easy. Depending on where you are, it might be hard to find things like tofu and seitan. If I am staying somewhere with a kitchen, I bring several boxes of shelf-stable tofu with me. If you can’t find those, or you don’t eat gluten or soy, you will need to get your protein from beans, whole grains, raw nuts, and dark green leafy vegetables.
Bringing some vegan protein powder and a shaker bottle with you from home, can help you get enough protein that you feel full and are not as tempted to binge on carbs and sweets.
#5 Fitness on the Road
If it’s super important to you to workout daily, then plan ahead of time, book accommodations with a gym and/or pool or call ahead and see if you can get a temporary membership to a local fitness center. Bring your running shoes and map-out safe areas to run. Look realistically at your vacation schedule and make a commitment to getting your workouts in.
If you will be in one town, you can probably get a guest pass to a local gym, spinning or yoga studio. Run outside as long as the weather is good and the locals tell you it is a safe area to do so. Just a general tip: Do not wear your headphones when running in an unfamiliar area. You need to be able to use your sense of hearing to detect any danger.
Search for “Hotel Room Workouts” on Pinterest and You Tube. You can get in an amazing body weight workout right in your room. If you have wifi you can even exercise along to a video! An active vacation, walking around, hiking, snorkeling, swimming, even shopping, can take the place of your usual formal exercise.
Here’s Erin Stern demonstrating how she gets in a full-body workout with minimum equipment at a hotel gym:
Staying on track and healthy while on vacation can be a challenge, but with some willingness and creativity, you can enjoy your trip and only have to pay overweight charges on your luggage. Bon Voyage and safe travels!