As I’ve recently mentioned in Issue #1, summers can be particularly troublesome for me. My wife is a teacher, and as such, we try to cram all of our traveling/vacation for the year (not including business travel) into a short 3 month window.
I also mentioned that I’m not a fan of being strict on your vacation, and I advocate “relaxing the constraints” to enjoy the vacation as long as you return to your pre vacation eating immediately upon returning. What you do when you return from vacation is more important than what you do ON vacation.
This recent trip was our family’s one big vacation (with 8 of us including my adult brothers) going to the Bahamas for a week. I didn’t intend on training at ALL, nor did I have any particular dietary constraints. I set the expectation that I would IMMEDIATELY return to my normal habits on Monday June 20th.
In fact, since I’d been making such great progress, my coach and I discussed “pre-gaming” and “post-gaming” in regard to my dietary and nutrition plans. I’d ramp up the protein, ramp down the calories, and up the intensity in my training by reducing my rest periods, upping the volume by adding some extra sets and reps, and adding some post workout cardio. So I did this to the week prior, and the week after.
So, here’s a quick look into how someone that used to be morbidly obese at ~410lbs , and has kept off a 200lb weight loss for 8 years, eats on vacation without constraints, and without training…and the repercussions of doing so. Spoilers: Not everything is peachy keen.
“I was a victim of a series of accidents, as are we all.”
― Kurt Vonnegut, The Sirens of Titan
- 1 The Deal
- 2 The Setup
- 3 Day 1-Day 6 (June 11th – June 16th, 2016)
- 4 Day 7 – Day 10 (June 17th – June 20th, 2016)
- 5 The Post Vacation Reflection
- 6 Bite Sized Tips
Pre vacation weight: 206.8lbs.
I estimate my maintenance somewhere near 2800 calories when I’m averaging 5-6k steps. This is usually around 3500 calories when I’m hitting 12k steps, so I considering 3500 calories my break even point, and I’m OK with going over that point a few times. I didn’t care about protein during this trip, and I had decided that I would eat what I want, when I want it.
With that said, my intended strategy was to continue to skip breakfast most of the time, eat a smaller/lighter lunch, and at dinner, split meals most of the time with my wife.
Yes, this means I’ll be tracking my food intake through pictures and MyFitnessPal this entire trip. DON’T do that. I’m doing it to continue my streak on MFP (907 days of writing this), and because I want to share with you.
Day 1-Day 6 (June 11th – June 16th, 2016)
Saturday, Day 1
Travel day. I ate breakfast with my family in the airport. I opted for an egg white omelette with toast, fruit, and I then polished off my mom’s leftovers. While on the plane, I ate the biscuits, pretzels, some crackers, and a fiber bar. Dinner was 3-4 beers, half of a panini, fries, fried conch fritter, half a salad, and a single piece of chocolate.
Sunday, Day 2
I had a light lunch of 2 apples, some yogurt, and baby carrots. Dinner was splitting a fish taco meal, a Caesar salad, an egg roll, some french fries, and eating some of my son’s leftovers. I had an ice cream, some wine, and some Fiber One later in the evening.
Monday, Day 3
I had another lighter lunch of an apple, baby carrots, Fiber One, yogurt, and some mixed nuts. We didn’t split dinner this day since I wanted more fish and no one else did. I ordered fried grouper, a daiquiri, and two sides (plus some left over sides). This was probably a 2,000 calorie dinner. I ended up having some wine and some tortilla chips and salsa later in the evening.
Tuesday, Day 4
Another light lunch of baby carrots, 2 apples, 2 rice cakes, and a fancy mixed drink at the beach (Blue Lagoon Long Island Iced Tea or something). More fish tacos (grilled this time) with fries and extra fries, and another mixed drink. I was super hungry by bed time and ended up eating a few bowls of cereal, some rice cakes, some chocolate, and some wine. No, I didn’t put the wine on the cereal. 😉
Wednesday, Day 5
After walking around all morning at a bird park, lunch consisted of some ice cream, and lots of beer and popcorn during a Pirate Brewery tour. Due to the drinking, I found myself snacking before dinner on more mixed nuts and pretzels. Dinner was a meal where we split pizza, soup, and a small amount of nachos. My snack later in the evening was more reasonable (yogurt topped with cereal and some chocolate), but still ended up close to my personally set limit due to the huge lunch+snacks (exceeding 2000 calories alone).
Thursday, Day 6
Ate breakfast as I was starving this day. It was an egg/bacon casserole and I ended up having some mixed nuts with it. Lunch was out at a Greek restaurant (and my wife and kids split it with me) and was moussaka, a gyro, a sangria, a greek salad, and a tiny bite of baklava cheesecake. There was also some ice cream later in the day. Dinner was back at our vacation house and was a turkey burger with some carrots. Despite having already eclipsed 2400 calories, I ended up having a huge snack of more tortilla chips with salsa, more cereal, and lots more wine.
Day 7 – Day 10 (June 17th – June 20th, 2016)
Friday, Day 7 – One of the worst days of 2016 for me
So, I didn’t mention it earlier, but this vacation had lots of things going wrong from the get go, which I think had lots to do with my excessive snacking and night time eating. But on the evening of June 16th, the vacation turned to horrible.
The basics are that the initial place we rented was awful, in disrepair, the pool was disgusting, there was barbed wire on some windows and warning not to open others, etc. Despite a money back guarantee, the owner didn’t want to refund us. This set things off on a stressful footing, and with 8 people, this lead to some conflicts. We ended up moving to a more acceptable place on Day 2. Also, my daughter ended up getting sick in the middle of the night. But on the evening of Day 6, someone broke into the rental house while we were IN the house and stole both of my kids’ tablets, my iPad, all of the cash out of my wallet, some book bags to carry all our stuff… and my brother’s passport.
So the entirety of day 7 was spent being tired (we were up with the police until 2 am), stressed, worried, dealing with the police in a foreign country, dealing with the US Embassy to ensure that my brother could return home with us…and it fucking broke me.
The vacation had become the very opposite of it’s intention. I hadn’t taken a single day off from work in 2016…and my expectation that this would be extremely relaxing was being turned upside down. As far as stress goes, the gas was being pushed to the floor while the brake lines were being cut.
I ended being entirely drunk by mid afternoon and probably ate a 4500 calorie lunch. It started out OK with a turkey burger and a hot dog (I think I only eat hot dogs while drinking?), but combined with the stress, the drinking, and group think mentality of “we need to finish all of this food before we leave tomorrow,” I ate a bunch of cheese, peanut butter, crackers, and mixed nuts.
I fell asleep in the middle of the day, woke up for dinner feeling awful. Despite that, and not even being hungry, I found myself drinking more, and continuing to overeat.
Thankfully, I reached the point of being uncomfortably full despite the stress and alcohol consumption and stopped somewhere around 6000 calories or so for the day.
I stopped taking pictures once my lunch became a binge. We split the nachos between 4 of us and couldn’t finish it.
Saturday, Day 8
This was a travel day, and we had breakfast together in the airport while waiting for our flight. It was also my mom’s birthday. I really wanted pancakes, and stupidly assumed that they would have sugar free syrup, but they didn’t. I was still struggling to regain control. My lunch consisted of the airline snacks, and a TCBY yogurt sundae during our layover. To add the cherry on top of this heck of a vacation, my mom’s luggage didn’t follow us (on her birthday!). As planned, we drove straight to an amusement park from the airport for a company picnic. We shared some chicken fingers, fries, popcorn and ice cream. It was another high calorie day, but not anywhere near 6000 calories.
Sunday, Day 9 Father’s Day
I had a late lunch to celebrate my mom’s birthday that consisted of chicken breast and coleslaw, and then a huge slice of ice cream cake. That was planned and intentional. Dinner was at a local diner with a salad bar, and I did well by getting lots of veggies and fruit. I had my normal snack, and would have been RIGHT on target, except that I fell back into the habit of wanting to keep eating while watching Game of Thrones, so had a bunch of popcorn AFTER my normal snack despite being not hungry.
Monday, Day 10
Back to work and normal habits. I was debating stepping on the scale, but decided that I should, if only to shows others that it’s OK to have fucked up and keep moving forward. It showed a 17lb gain. Previously, this would have absolutely crushed me, but this is to be expected, and it is temporary. It’s mostly water weight and undigested food, and it will come off rather quickly. I expect to be using the bathroom more frequently. Glad I have that Squatty Potty though.
The Post Vacation Reflection
I didn’t list activity levels on a per day basis as I rarely wore my FitBit due to being in the pool, the ocean, etc. I essentially and easily hit 10-12k steps every day (estimated) though!
The bad is that with the amount of drinking I was doing (which didn’t seem like much at the time, especially in comparison to everyone else), was letting my old habits seep back in. I found myself eating right before bed to an extreme degree, and I likely would have been OK if I would have reigned in the night time snacks. The lack of protein and higher volume food was really driving my food choices as I honestly wasn’t eating beyond being full except when that line became blurry due to the more than moderate alcohol consumption.
I think that in this case (no training, and the lack of high volume, high protein food, hardly any veggies or fruit in comparison), my usual meal right before bed was working against me and is something I’m going to have to re-considering during future trips.
I was sleep deprived the entire week due to the stress, which upped cravings and hunger big time. Also my mom loves to bring snacks, many of which are apparent binge triggers for me, especially when combined with alcohol: mixed nuts, peanut butter, kids cereal.
Despite a high activity level, and not being that high over my maintenance level, the scale still shot up ~17lbs in a week. I’d say that’s about normal for me when not working out and eating what I want, and as much as I want. This makes it clear that a high protein, high volume dietary approach is the foundation of keeping off those 200lbs for so long, as it seems to be a primary reason for keeping my hunger and cravings at bay.
Having been morbidly obese, my body still retains lots of extra fat cells and skin that can hold much more water than someone who has never been morbidly obese. It is a hard truth to accept, but when eating at maintenance or higher without exercising always results in a huge weight swing for me.
While I know that a week or two of eating at my new, healthful habits will return me to my prevaction weight, adding 17lbs (even if mostly water weight + undigested food) doesn’t feel great.
Writing this all out has helped me to process what happened, to overcome it, to learn from it, and to move forward.
Good news though, I didn’t get sunburned AT ALL, which is a rare thing for me!
206.8 to 223.6 = ~17lbs
After 6 days of normal habits, the scale is back down to ~216.
Thankfully, we embarking on two weeks of travel to visit family and friends. I’m going to be an eternal optimist and believe that it can’t be worse than the Bahamas trip. Even so, I am going to either not drink alcohol, or severely cut back. And I’m also going to use this opportunity to reign in or stop completely my meal right before bed even if it works for me when not on vacation. I will be writing those trips up as well, although I am going to try to make things a little bit more terse.
Calorie Summary By Day
Average calories for the 10 days: 3440
Bite Sized Tips
- Tracking is a means to an end, and that’s to cultivate awareness of our choices around food. It’s not the end all, be all way to do so, but simply one of many tools available to you.
- If you take 1 big vacation in a year, enjoy it guilt free. That is not to say undo ALL of your habits like mindfulness, slow eating, and making better choices, but there is no need to worry, stress, or feel guilt over food or not having scheduled exercise during your vacation.
- If you find yourself overdoing it on your vacation, review your habits and see if any of them are hurting rather than helping.
- Be aware of your binge triggers!
- Be prepared as not every vacation can or will be stress free.
- Consider avoiding the scale when you first return from a vacation.
- Conversely, if you aren’t as greatly affected by the scale, jump on right away and use it as momentum to return to your habits immediately.
- Either way, it’s important that you return to your new “normal” and not punish yourself for taking a vacation.
- I don’t recommend undercutting your calories and upping your activity both prior to and after the vacation unless under the direction and supervision of a coach like in my case. This can have the opposite effect!
- If you were looking for some guidance on how to work on being stress and guilt free about taking time off from healthy habits, considering working with me as your coach.