Staying on Track During your Summer Vacation
Your swimsuit and summer wardrobe may have served as motivation until your summer vacation begins, but what happens when you get to your destination? Do you surrender to the lack of choices available or become enticed by all of the tasty and tempting options? Do you forget why you even set out on a healthy eating plan prior to your vacation? Below I have highlighted some tips and tricks to not only help you avoid rigidity and have fun on vacation, but also to ensure you return from vacation feeling refreshed instead of sick or disappointed.
1. Find something to motivate you outside of the number on the scale.
Though the number on the scale can be a nice piece of data and a marker of success for some, it likely will not help keep you motivated in the long run. Try to focus on non scale improvements to keep you motivated. For instance, you might chose to focus on how much energy you have or how great your digestive system feels when you chose to eat better. Will eating a certain way help ensure that you continue to feel good and have energy on your vacation? If so use this as a reminder to stay on track! Choosing to look at your diet plan from this perspective will help prevent you from feeling deprived and instead help you feel as though you have made a health conscious choice and the choice is not solely to maintain a goal weight, but it is instead much more.
On a side note; also consider the fact that you are ultimately still the same person 5 pounds up or down on the scale- see tip no. 4 "Be kind to yourself".
2. Pack snacks and food essentials to take with you.
I have a theory that airports prey on the weak and weary traveler! Tired, hungry and stressed out travelers are looking for something to reduce anxiety, improve their mood and relax after and before a flight. Unfortunately for us, airports know this and thus fill their stores with sugary and chemical laden snacks. Not to mention the airport bars are practically open 24 hrs for a pre or post flight cocktail for that "instant" dopamine or serotonin fix! Avoid having to search the airport or a gas station on a road trip for a nutritious snack by bringing a few essentials with you. Not only will this ensure you have healthy snacks for the voyage to your destination, but you can also pack enough snacks and items to have during your trip as well.
When packing a travel friendly snack, ensure to pick something that is either high in protein or high in fat or both. Also aim to avoid added sugar and chemicals that can promote anxiety and increase levels of cortisol and thus promote inflammation. Those M&M'S might give you a quick burst of dopamine and other "feel good" responses, but the feeling is very short lived and you will likely have stronger cravings to eat even more of the same types of foods to get that same initial "feel good" effect. By eating snacks/meals with adequate protein and fat you are giving your body the building blocks it needs to build serotonin, dopamaine, gaba and other hormones to naturally reduce anxiety and reduce stress levels.
Here are a few of my favorite food items to travel with:
3. Pick your dining out "Absolute choice" & practice mindful eating.
If possible, pick out your "absolute choice" before sitting down to eat meals, especially when dining out. What I mean by this is you should ideally pick 1-2 items that you are truly looking forward to and that will make your dining experience memorable and more enjoyable. It is easy to go into this type of situation blind and instead of picking one or two items that you are looking forward to, you instead indulge in everything on the menu until you feel overstuffed and unsatisfied! If you are looking forward to the chips and guacamole at the Mexican restaurant, then possibly this might effect what you order as your main dish. If you know you are mainly looking forward to the chips then you likely will not feel deprived if you skip the rice, beans and tortillas and your meal will still be just as enjoyable. So perhaps you ask the waitstaff to substitute vegetables for those items or ask that they don't bring them out or you can box them up. Most importantly, use mindful eating to truly savor and enjoy your "absolute choice". You are on vacation and it might not be realistic to completely avoid all temptations. Now is as good a time to enjoy yourself as any. That indulgent treat that you had been avoiding up until your vacation will taste that much better if enjoyed in a "mindful" manner. Stop to notice, smell and savor your food. How is the food presented? How does it smell? How does the first bite taste? These are all questions you can internally ask youself when utilizing mindful eating. The entire experience of savoring the food on your plate is much more satisfying and will likely leave you eating less than had you eaten without stopping to notice the smells, textures and tastes associated with the food item!
4. Be kind to yourself and recognize it is never to late to start again.
You had one cookie so you might as well eat the entire dessert buffet and go back for another cookie after... right? Because one cookie is basically the same thing as eating 4 cookies, 2 slices of cake and 3 brownies...right? Though this is NOT logical at all, we have all has this "all or nothing" mindset before. Don't forget just how hard you have worked to get to where you are now! Results do not happen over night and you are living proof of that. Even if you had intended on keeping said indulgent food item out during your vacation, trust that this one small indulgence is not going to derail all of your hard work and progress. Instead, try to enjoy the experience rather than resorting to guilt as guilt is never constructive. Avoid any feelings of guilt or backsliding by focusing on all the positive changes you have made that have led to where you are now. It is easy to get into the "all or nothing" mindset when something does not go as planned but it is so hard to get back on track when you let one small incident consume you! Remember that you only "fail" if you do not get back up and start again. You can ALWAYS pick up where you left off and start again!
5. Know your limits and trigger foods.
For many, over restriction leads to overcompensation. On the other hand, certain foods like say sugar, are well known triggers that lead to strong cravings. While rigidity with food can be frustrating and boring, setting some limits or rules around food intake can create a safety net while your travel. Perhaps you set a rule that all meals need to be eaten at a table free from distractions or maybe you practice mindful eating when eating certain sweets or indulgent foods. If you are aware of certain triggers like alcohol or sugar, you might also considering severely limiting or avoiding those specific food items particularly while traveling and instead coming up with other options that are just as exciting or satisfying. Ensure you are enjoying the entire dining experience in order to promote satisfaction and satiety and reduce feelings of deprivation. Be sure to space out and limit alcoholic beverages and always have 8 oz of water in between each alcoholic beverage. This will not only slow your rate of intoxication and thus loss of inhibitions; but will also reduce the burden on the liver and reduce symptoms of a hangover.