Stepping onto the scale the day after we got back from vacation was an act of courage second only to storming the Normandy beaches. But I did it, and the results weren't a disaster. In fact I didn't gain any weight and my waist size did not budge. HA! Another bullet dodged.
Did I call it or what? My vacations tend to be full of hiking, land management chores of the hauling brush type (George Bush has nothing on me) and wrestling bears (kidding!). Did I stick to my don't-eat-unless-you're-hungry strategy? No. I had my share of french fries (They came with the turkey wrap!) and ice cream, not to mention a beer or two after the lumberjack stuff. If I had been a bit more disciplined I could have lost weight. But who wants to be disciplined while on vacation? That's just not American!
It was enough to be cognizant of how I ate, just enough to keep portions smallish, not feel obligated to eat everything on my plate, and not eat after eight or so in the evening. The only reason I could do that much was because I had developed those habits over the last few months. I'm kinda proud of that.
Now that I'm home the challenge is to replace the mountain living activity with flatlander exercise and get back to fewer treats. Meanwhile I googled 'vacation weight gain' and got linked to this really helpful article, Avoid Vacation Weight Gain: 5 Simple Rules, by Kathleen Zelman. Here are some excerpts:
Tip #1: Plan Ahead to Fit in Fitness
Vacations should be an opportunity to re-energize, refresh, and relax -- not an excuse to take a break from health. When planning your vacation, opt for locations that will allow you to engage in physical activities you enjoy. Keep in mind that physical activity is the ticket to enjoying extra calories without weight gain.
Tip #2: Be Prepared
When you travel, whether by plane, train, or automobile, be prepared with healthy food so you won't have to eat whatever is available. Start the day with a nutritious breakfast, then pack easy and satisfying snacks or a small meal, such as a turkey sandwich with lettuce and tomato on whole-grain bread, a piece of fruit, and some cut-up veggies with hummus.
[Plus bringing your own is less expensive. When traveling we packed our own lunches and snacks not because of health reasons but because we're cheap! Airlines literally feed you peanuts even for cross continental flights and everything is a fortune at the airports and highway rest stops. Even a healthy choice like a lettuce and tomato salad is ten bucks minimum.]
Tip #3: Avoid Dining-Out Disasters
Eating out may pose the biggest challenge for avoiding vacation weight gain... The key is to order simply prepared foods, such as baked, broiled. or grilled meats and fish.
Another strategy is to rent a house equipped with a kitchen (or at least a barbeque grill) and access to a grocery store so you can prepare your own healthy foods and snacks.
[We were lucky to be in a house with a full kitchen and grill. That helped a lot calorie-wise and financially because we are cheap (see above).]
Tip #4: Indulge in Moderation
Deprivation is no fun when you're on vacation. Instead, "the name of the game is moderation when it comes to controlling calories from treats and alcohol," says Dawn Jackson-Blatner, RD, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.
Tip #5: Pare Down Portions
Even when you're on vacation, portions count if you want to avoid weight gain.
"Enjoy small portions of whatever you like, [and] eat slowly so you taste the food and feel a sense of satisfaction, enjoyment, and relaxation of the vacation," suggests American Dietetic Association president-elect Connie Diekman.
Bonus Tip #6: Eat Mindfully
Especially when eating ice cream! Visiting the local tourist village I couldn't help but notice a lot of not so healthy specimens walking around slurping up waffle sized cones stuffed with ice cream. It wasn't pretty. They didn't appear to be enjoying their super-sized chunky chocolate chip. How could they? There was just too much going on to distract. Shop windows, street performers, whining kids all competed with the ice cream.
Please, if you have ice cream, honor it. Sit down, focus your attention. Be one with the ice cream (or whatever your treat of choice is). Make each sweet caloric bite a memory worth keeping. That way you will know you had the ice cream and not have to go back for more because you can't remember the first.
Photo courtesy of Tania Ho via Flickr