Vacation time, whether it’s a “stay-cation”, “sailing the seas”, or lakeside fishing, willpower and motivation can vanish as soon as we hit the road or step into the airport. We have proof that vacations are the second most frequent time of the year to experience weight creep due to calorie creep.
A study published in 2016 looked at 122 adults between the ages of 18 and 65 – average age 32 – who went on vacations ranging from one to three weeks in length the months of March and August.
Their findings included that participants experienced a nearly 1 pound gain during vacations of one to three weeks, with as much as 7 pounds!
This study supports the concept of “creeping obesity”; the common pattern of adults gaining small amounts of weight over long periods of time, leading to increased health problems later in mid-life. While previous studies have analyzed and confirmed significant weight gain during the holiday season, no data previously existed on weight gain during short-term vacations.
The goal of staying “weight neutral” while on vacation is possible but it takes success planning strategies to make it happen.
Let’s start with the departure point …
Airport Ala Carte
For destinations that include a plane, be prepared for crowds, delayed or canceled flights, and other scenarios that can make the airport food look like valium to soothe your over taxed patience. Always anticipate airport delays. Whether flying domestic or international flights, we now spend several hours at the airport before we even step into the plane.
Most airports have become the hub of national food chains. This is actually a good thing. Now we have more choices than just burgers and fries.
Many outlets have grab n’ go salads. The best choices contain lean protein, like white meat chicken or turkey, plenty of dark greens, legumes, like chick peas or grains, like quinoa, and a vinegar-based dressing. Avoid salads with dried fruit sugar bombs can cause a boomerang effect with blood sugar.
Visit several food vendors to ala carte your meal. Find a place with fresh fruit to round out your meal. Avoid juices, even those made with greens, as the volume of sugar will leave you feeling empty and hungry within 1 hour.
Success Planning: Be on the defensive, eat before you leave your home. Select ample protein with slow absorbing carbs (i.e. Greek Vanilla Yogurt with raspberries and flax seeds).
Two things you need when you go to any airport: picture ID and your “goodie-grazer” bag (see below).
Contingency plan for those with food sensitivities or allergies: bring your own grub. Stash into your carry-on sealed, ready-to-eat foods like single serve hummus with crackers; tuna fish mini cans; or purchase a Bento Box lunch and fill it with your favorites.
Think about what you drink
The rush of getting to the airport, commuting to and from vacation lodgings, increased physical activities like hiking, and even increased walking for site seeing, all this takes us out of our usual routine. This means we often forget to satisfy our body’s needs for fluids, specifically water.
Our body’s warning sign of impending dehydration begins with as little as a 2% decrease in total body water. Dehydration causes fatigue and can be a killer to the fun during your vacation.
Success Planning: BYOB – Bring your own Beverages. Even though you can’t take bottled water pass security gates. Take advantage of the time before you enter that area and take sips from a disposable water container.
The confines of a plane means lack of humidity in the air. Add to this the pressurized cabins our bodies experience during the flight, we often depart the plane feeling “bloated.”
It sounds counter intuitive, but the best defense against bloat is to stay hydrated. Water is the best choice to help fight body bloat.
If you’re vacation includes a road trip, keep a 6-pack of small water bottles in your back seat plus your personal bottle (preferably BPA/BPS free) next to you while you enjoy the highway scenery.
No need to state the obvious – sugar sweetened beverages such as, teas, cola’s, energy drinks, coffee shop specialties have no place in any diet no matter where you are.
Goodie Grazer Bag
A “goodie grazer” bag can be the show stopper to your urges which helps you overcome indulgences. The goodie bag provides a bridge from one meal to the next while preventing swings in the hormone insulin.
Success Planning: Select real foods vs. nutrition bars to avoid high sugar loads, unnecessary fillers, and a low protein to sugar ratio. Customize your bag by selecting a sweet, savory, or heat produced spices to the bag.
Select a few items from the following: unsalted nuts, preferably walnuts, almonds, or pistachios; sunflower seeds, 100% whole grain cereal nuggets like “Kashi Go Lean Crunch Cereal; 1 ounce dark chocolate bar cut into small pieces; whole wheat thin Triscuit crackers; air-popped popcorn; rice-flaked cereal with nori strips, wasabi peas; roasted edamame. Don’t forget adding spices like cinnamon, ginger, smoked paprika, onion, or garlic to give it that store-bought feel.
Count your Cocktails
The results of the noted 2016 vacation study showed that the weight gain occurred despite a trend for slightly increased physical activity during the vacation. The study also showed a decrease in physical activity in the weeks following vacation.
One of the factors that likely contributed to weight gain for study participants was increased caloric intake, especially from alcohol consumption.
The average consumption prior to vacation was eight drinks a week. That number went up to an average of 16 per week for study participants, which accounts for a significant increase in calories.
Don’t rationalize having one more drink with dreams of burning those calories the next day. Chances are slim (no pun) you won’t!
Success Planning: KISS this one … Keep it simple silly! Stick with stingy calorie containing alcoholic drinks like Wine Spritzer, Sangria, Bloody Mary, even a Chardonnay wine will leave less for your belly to turn into fat than a Long Island Iced Tea (which can pack up to 500 calories!)
Avoid drinks that come with a cute umbrella. These drinks are made up mostly from sugar which is why they go down so easily. It’s also why they clog your liver so easy too – double whammy, alcohol and sugar!
Choose your indulgences wisely!
Just because you’re on vacation mean you have a green light to eat everything available. Choosing your indulgences wisely will not only help to avoid weight creep but prevent the nightmare of upset stomachs that force you to the sidelines.
For vacations that take you to new destinations, of course you want to taste the local foods. From Lau Lau in Hawaii to cedar-planked maple syrup salmon in Vancouver to a Cheese Steak in Philly, these are the foods you only get to taste while on a vacation. The key is to plan for it!
Success Planning: Save your bites for the local foods of your vacation-land by forgoing your usual daily food fair. For example, avoid mindless munching of crunchy foods like chips, pretzels, tortilla dippers, etc. The calories saved will be well used as you taste the local cuisine.
Dining out doesn’t have to mean pigging out!
We look forward to restaurant dining to give us a much needed break from the day-to-day routine of food shopping and clean up. Vacation excitement can make us absent minded as we forget that we are looking forward to fitting in our clothes when we return home. What are some ways to navigate daily restaurant dining scenarios?
Success Planning: Rent a condo or a hotel suite with a kitchenette. This offers the best of both worlds. You can avoid a daily fare of carb-rich breakfast meals offered by hotels and local restaurants.
Conduct a “recon mission” – check the restaurant menu on the internet before you leave your room. This can also help you make the decision of where to eat.
Also note that chains can vary in their caloric content of the very same food from state- to-state. For example, a Smash burger in Iowa has over 200 more calories for the exact same burger in Arizona – regional taste differences often mean more ingredients that add up in calories.
Success Planning starts here!
One of the challenges we face is that usually you’re not going to notice a pound of weight gain. We don’t realize it’s happened and so there’s no plan to lose it.
Unless, you’re diligent about weighing yourself before and after vacation, it goes unnoticed. This means, there is no plan in place to lose it either.
The goal for post-vacation weigh-ins is weight maintenance. However, if your scale has moved north use the next week or two to mindfully select your foods and portions. If not, that new pound or two may be a permanent reminder of this year’s vacation for many years to come.
Bonnie Roill, RDN, CWC, Hormone Support Coach is a nutritionist for women looking for a seasoned dietitian that uses foods, plant supplements, and lifestyle tweaks to re-balance hormones to create a healthier weight, increased vitality, restorative sleep, and a happier tummy. Click here to schedule your Free “3 Steps to Reclaim your Health Immediately!” phone session.