The Two Mindsets of Fitting Fitness Into Your Vacation
Vacations are times of rest, relaxation, and freedom from our regular activities, which often leads to changes in our eating habits throughout the vacation. When faced with trying to figure out how to enjoy vacation and still be faithful to the new eating habits, it is not uncommon for people to have some minor anxiety over vacations in relation to their new eating habits. There can be an overwhelming feeling that taking a vacation from those new eating habits is going to have a lasting effect by erasing their hard earned progress.
I felt that way for a long time. I struggled, bouncing back and forth between using vacations as an excuse to eat all of the things and trying to ignore the fact that I was on vacation all together in regard to my food choices. I would either eat all of the food I had been previously denying myself in quantities that my former 400 lb self would have enjoyed, or I would try to make the healthiest possible choices for every single vacation meal, agonizing over the menu often hours in advance of heading to the restaurant. I also once brought my scale with me on vacation so I could monitor my weight throughout the week. I can say with hindsight that neither approach made me happy, and that I was doing myself and my long term happiness a disservice.
As with most things, a middle ground approach results in the best of both worlds. For the most part, I now don’t obsessively track things, I enjoy alcohol and desserts every day while on vacation, and I take a break from the scale. What’s most important is what you do the day you come back after vacation. Sure, you might step on the scale that day (I don’t actually recommend it), but what I mean is that regardless of what the scale shows, or how much you ate and drank on vacation, as long as your eating and exercise habits return to their new normals, then so will your scale weight. What you ate on vacation should have no lasting impact. People (formerly me!) get into trouble when they continue the vacation style eating and possibly lack of exercise long after the vacation has ended.
Back to Back Vacations: A plan is needed!
This summer for my family has been awesome so far.
As soon as school ended, we took a trip to Disney World. I took the approach of not caring how much I ate, and due to the hectic schedule, I wasn’t able to keep up with going to the gym (Despite being at the only Disney hotel with a gym!). I was easily walking/pushing a double-stroller 10+ miles a day though! There were also lots of impromptu light saber fights, and the kids got to become Padawans at the Jedi Training Academy (I’m jealous).
Fueled by the knowledge that I was being extremely active and had already paid for the Disney meal plan which included desserts at every meal, I ate like a king, and the result was a 12 lb gain on the scale after I returned. Normally, I wouldn’t have let this bother me, but I was pretty beat up from how active a vacation it was and how bloated and sluggish I felt. I was quite uncomfortable in my clothes for more than a week, and by the time I was getting back to my pre-vacation weight, I was also heading into another vacation, this time at the beach!
I didn’t want to repeat that experience of gaining and having to lose a bunch of water weight again given how bad it made me feel! So I set out toward this beach vacation with a plan in mind! That plan was fitting fitness into my vacation. What follows is a quick recap on a per day basis of how I managed to not go overboard as I usually do, then my afterthoughts for the trip as a whole. I’m hoping that some of the ideas and concepts can help you with your own vacations! I am a big fan of just enjoying yourself on your vacation and immediately getting back on your fitness plan, but sometimes you want to not deal with the bloat and tight clothes after your vacation. This is particularly relevant to me since my wife is a teacher, and we tend to travel so often in the summer that it can be a challenge to feel like my progress isn’t being erased!
Just as a reference for the remainder of the article, my maintenance calories with a 180g+ protein intake are around 2700 calories.
The Vacation Journal
Day 1 – Travel Day – Monday, June 29th 2015
This was a travel day. I had some coffee in the morning, but I fasted until lunch time. I chose to do this because I know that I get easily bored in the car, so if I ate, I’d be more likely to snack in the during the drive. Rather than rely on willpower to not snack, I just chose to not eat until we arrived at our destination. We packed a picnic lunch, which was lots of protein and veggies, with a large portion of watermelon and pineapple for dessert. From there, I shared an Amish made soft pretzel for a snack, pancakes for dinner, and a 2 scoop ice cream cone for dessert. I came in under my maintenance at around ~2200 calories. I didn’t feel deprived, and I enjoyed myself!
Day 2 – Travel Day – Tuesday, June 30th 2015
We stayed overnight at a working dairy farm and part of that was a farm breakfast. I wasn’t about to skip such a delicious breakfast that included recently laid eggs, grass fed beef sausage, freshly milked raw milk, cream, local yogurt, berries grown on the farm, and homemade Amish shoo-fly cake! Because of such a large breakfast and another ~4 hours of car travel, I skipped lunch and instead had a protein shake. Dinner was homemade meatloaf and mashed potatoes with lots of veggies. I skipped having dessert, and I ended up around ~2300 calories. I was actually incredibly full when I went to bed!
Day 3 – The Beach – Wednesday, July 1st 2015
Since I was so full from last night, I again skipped breakfast. After a morning/early afternoon walk on the beach, I went to a local bodybuilding gym and signed up for a 3 day pass, then headed to the grocery store. I bought enough frozen, already cooked chicken breast and tons of veggies to make giant salads for lunch for the remainder of the vacation. With that giant salad, and no breakfast, I was able to fit in 3.5 big slices of pizza, and some ice cream and come in right around ~2100 calories.
Day 4 – Rainy Day, Thursday, July 2nd 2015
Despite having already paid for the gym passes, and lifted consistently for over 7 years now, I had some anxiety over going to the gym. I think part of this was because that this is a vacation town, and that means everyone at this gym must be incredibly serious and dedicated to be going to the gym on their vacation. I sat in my car for awhile, and talked myself into it before going in to have a great workout. A young woman next to me was squatting more than I can.
Lesson: there is always going to be someone stronger, faster, bigger, leaner than you. It is about being the best version of YOU that you can be, and understanding that at the gym, no one cares about what you are doing except YOU.
After the gym, another chicken salad. Dinner was out at a Mexican restaurant, and I ordered nachos with chicken and beans, followed by a peanut butter ice cream cone and came in right around my maintenance calories (~2700)!
Day 5 – Beach and Date night, Friday, July 3rd 2015
Due to all of the food and higher protein intake yesterday (240g), I was again too full to eat in the morning. We went for a beach walk then I again went to the gym (for leg day this time!). There were some mass monsters there, and one guy next to me in the squat cages that was squatting 450+ for reps! I had the same lunch, and then after some swimming, we started our date night. After some exploring of the next island over and climbing their lighthouse, we stopped at a local brewery and tried all of their beers. As we were exploring the quaint downtown area, we realized it was almost 9pm, and we hadn’t eaten yet! We decided to do the smart thing and have ice cream for dinner. Since I was way under on calories, I went for a huge peanut butter sundae. I don’t recommend doing this too often, but sometimes, you just have to eat ice cream for dinner. I still managed to be under maintenance calories, in the area of ~2400!
Day 6, Last day, Saturday, July 4th, 2015
I was again still full from eating so late at night. I went to the gym rather early this time for my regular Saturday workout, and then for an early lunch so that we could spend the rest of the day on another adventure! We took the kids to see the lighthouse we climbed, visited some historical sites, and walked some other beaches in the area so the kids could look for more shells. I was able to fit in a small amount of ice cream in the afternoon, a homecooked meal of breaded, baked chicken and assorted sides (most of which were the left-overs from the previous home-cooked meals), and lots of red wine. Mostly due to the wine, I was slightly over my maintenance calories (~3000), but I’m totally OK with that.
Day 7, Travel day, Sunday, July 5th, 2015
I again skipped breakfast, and when making Saturday’s lunches, we prepared the same lunch for on the road. After a long 7 hours in the car, it was pizza and wine for dinner, followed by some cookies. I ended up a little over on maintenance again, which I am OK with (~3000).
Recap and Lessons Learned
I normally don’t track/count calories on vacations and usually end up 12-20lbs heavier which takes a 1-2 weeks to drop off during which time period I feel bloated and awful. This time I tracked and had a specific strategy/framework in place (no breakfast, lots of protein and veggies for lunch) while still eating anything I wanted in the evenings (which included lots of ice cream, pizza, beer, wine, etc). By being able to mostly stick to my weight lifting routine, I felt that I was able to subconsciously make better food choices all around. This is something that I would like to continue for future vacations when possible, and when not, I’ll likely still try to be as active as possible with lots of walking, and a daily bodyweight routine.
So with that said, the net result of this second vacation where I took the “middle group” was a 5lb gain which is a low weight swing for me and has already dropped off after a few days of returning to my normal habits (which don’t normally include ice cream, beer, and wine ad libitum). Even so, the important thing to note is that I don’t feel bloated at all, and I can honestly say I enjoyed every moment of this vacation without feeling deprived!
And lastly, the net result of two vacations in 4 weeks was a net change of scale weight of zero, and bunch of memories that I and my family will never forget!
What are you doing this summer as far as fitting fitness into your vacation?