by Sheila Kalas, master trainer and owner of Fitness Plus
Although vacations are supposed to be about relaxation, they don’t have to be about laziness and/or decadence. Gaining weight on a vacation is not unusual, but it doesn’t have to be a given.
First, and most important, is your attitude. If your mindset is that you can eat and drink whatever you want because you’re on vacation, then you will probably gain weight when you are on vacation.
I believe that it is important to use your vacation as a release from your normal daily grind. I don’t believe that all of your releases have to be things that will cause you undo stress when you return. Negative things, such as spending too much money or gaining too much weight will undoubtedly cause you stress. This is not a positive outcome: enjoying yourself for a week or two, only to be stressed for several months afterwards.
Instead of looking at your vacation as a time to let loose in ways that may affect your life negatively, try letting loose in more positive ways. For example, think about vacation as a time of exploration through activity. Whether you are planning a trip to a city or to a more rural location, you can spend many hours, and walk many miles, exploring your surroundings. Any trip can be turned into a “moving vacation” filled with exploration.
The best way to ensure that you will be able to explore your surroundings in a safe and effective manner is to do a little planning. Just arriving at a place you have never been before and having no idea what you will have access to could be a recipe for disaster. Take a little time to learn a little about the geography of where you are going. Make sure you know if your accommodations are near or far from main points of interest and if they are in a safe area. It doesn’t matter if you are traveling to New York City, Napa Valley or Budapest, Hungary, a good travel agent can help you find accommodations that will be conducive to walking, running, cycling, etc. If you want special equipment, like bicycles, then make sure you know how and where to rent them.
A mid-point between the specialized touring trip and the self-guided trip is the private guided walking tour. Most major tourist destinations will have private guides available. Hiring a guide for one day will not break the bank and will give you a great insider’s look and education of your surroundings. The private aspect of this is very valuable; you can gain a lot of local knowledge regarding non-tourist eateries, pubs, and sights. One good day of a private guided tour will give you several more days of meaningful self-exploration.
Getting up every day and exploring your surroundings in an active way is a very gratifying way to spend your vacation. You will feel infinitely more connected to your destination seeing it through daily walks and exploration, and it is a way to become much more of a local than you ever could just riding in cabs or on buses.
Don’t just go on a trip, experience it! Getting out of the cab and off the bus and walking or riding through a new place is the way to do this.
Besides increasing your activity on vacation, you can also see it as an opportunity to better control your eating. In reality, most people eat less frequently on vacation than they do at home. Notice I said less frequently, not less quantity. On vacation, most people eat three meals, or even two, a day. On vacation, access to food is less than at home. Without your own kitchen, the ability to sit and snack is less, especially at night. On vacation, when dinner is over and you retire to your room, that’s it. Even if there is a mini bar with a few incredibly expensive snacks, most people do not sit in bed and eat chips or cookies; they go to bed.
On vacation, you are not surrounded with cabinets and refrigerators full of tempting food. It makes sense to try and capitalize on this reality. Since you will not be as tempted to eat in between meals, all you have to do is get in the mindset to make better choices at the meals you do have.
Your activity level will be up, because you are busy exploring your surroundings, and you are not snacking, so you certainly can eat a hearty meal, just make it healthy. Again, vacation is very conducive to this. Most areas that tourists frequent have a higher quality of food and more fresh food choices than chain restaurants. Take advantage of the variety and freshness of foods we find in tourist locations. Try new things, experience new meats, veggies and salads.
Eating healthy portions of good food will not cause you to gain weight on vacation. Eating the same junk food you find at home or bringing your own snacks with you to fill up your hotel room will. Don’t go on vacation just to eat fast food—what a waste. Use vacation as a time to expand your palate and enjoy fresh food at a slow pace. Remember what it is like to enjoy the act of eating again.
Normal healthy eating and moderate regular activity is a springboard to a healthier you, both at home and on vacation.