Taking a vacation and properly unplugging is important for too many reasons to list here, but why is it that so many of us return several pounds heavier? Why should a vacation from work also be a vacation from our health and fitness goals?
Here's my theory: Food is pleasure. So is booze. Vacations are pleasure-seeking missions. So if we're looking for a quick hit of "ahhhhh," or a way to accelerate the feel-goods, food and alcohol do the trick. And with plenty of pleasure-seeking free-time and an unending variety of salty, fatty, sugary food plus alcohol at all hours, it's easy to see how those few pounds pack on so quickly.
But I have great news: We can enjoy vacation without getting fat.
In May, I took a seven-day (seven-day!) vacation on the peninsula of western Costa Rica with John (Mr. Live Full) and his folks. We stayed in a suite in a beach house with the back door a short walk from the beach, and the front door a short walk into the jungle. I ate delicious food including my share of treats. We took a surf lesson. Despite being as flexible as a wooden post, I dragged John and his mom to a yoga class in a serene studio on a hill overlooking the jungle. We walked on the beach every day. We visited a monkey refuge! The locals carved out a trail system through the jungle for runners, and John and I explored it on slow slogging steamy runs, listening to monkey and bird calls (and ducking in mortal fear of being peed or pooped on by monkeys). And it was awesome in the literal sense of the world.
I actually made progress toward my fitness goals! Here's the secret formula:
1. Begin your vacation with an intention.
The intention you set as you enter vacation mode is the most important factor in whether you will gain or lose traction toward your health and fitness goals. People who say "I'm going to blow it out and put on a few pounds on this trip," do. People who say, "I'm going to come back from vacation no worse for wear," or even better, "I'm coming back from my vacation in better health, maybe even down a pound or two," do. Above and beyond that, set other intentions, like logging some miles if you're training for a race, walking daily, or checking your phone only once per day during designated times (oh, the horror!). Unless you're actually taking some kind of themed trip, like visiting a bratwurst festival or a city made of chocolate, the purpose of your vacation is not to eat food and drink booze, so set a positive intention!
2. Seek out new pleasurable experiences that are not food.
Lying around in a hotel room watching TV emptying out the minibar is fun. Eating giant meals is fun. Eating pizza and drinking beer? Yep, also fun. But trying new experiences with people you love is much more powerful and creates memories you'll have forever. Seek out non-food-or-booze-related fun.
3. Be active.
You can see more on foot than you can from a car, so use those legs when you can. Find some active adventures (see #2). .
4. Treat treats as treats--even on vacation.
Every eating experience doesn't have to be a total blow out. If you're going for a decadent dinner, make breakfast and lunch more healthful choices. If you're working toward a weight loss or fitness goal, be a food snob. Enjoy the really good stuff, like beautifully-crafted desserts as opposed to mass-produced sweets; local brews vs crappy watered down beer; or freshly baked bread vs crappy white rolls.
5. Have a buffet strategy.
This is a hard-and-fast rule I give to all of my clients: Before you pick up a plate, walk the entire buffet line at least once, and choose with your eyes first. Then pick up your plate, and fill it once, starting by filling at least half the plate with vegetables. Then enjoy a bite or two of the decadent stuff. (More on the blessing-slash-curse of buffets and sensory-specific satiety HERE.)
Have a great summer vacation!
Need support setting your vacation intention? Let's talk!