How Not To Gain Weight On Vacation
Trusted Therapy, Inc
Tonya McFarland, PsyD
Licensed Clinical Psychologist
1030 Johnson Rd, Suite # 280
Golden, CO 80401
Its summer time and many of us are looking forward to being able to get out of town for our summer vacations and enjoy some down time. Do you tend to go to the same place every year? Or explore new places each year? Either way, the challenges about where and what to eat while away from home, still exist. For most of us when we go on vacation we tend to eat out significantly more often than we do when we are at home. I imagine this is for several reasons. We may be staying in a hotel and not have access to a kitchen or we may want to explore new food choices that are available where we are vacationing, and the obvious reason is that most of us don’t want to cook on vacation! It can also be difficult to find healthy food options when you are traveling. So where does this leave us? Likely we are going to be eating foods that we don’t necessarily eat when we are at home. This is okay! We can still eat differently and follow a healthy meal plan. This does not mean staying on your “diet”, as diets don’t work and you will likely end the vacation feeling deprived and angry that you weren’t able to enjoy some of the same things your friends/family were able to because you refused to “allow” yourself to eat what you wanted.
I was recently working with a client who presented for treatment feeling frustrated and angry that she had “allowed” herself to go off of her strict diet while she was on vacation and now is having difficult “getting back on track”. Likely by now you have figured out that I’m not a fan or supporter of diets, so this was my first clue we had a lot of work to do! She described how she had been following this diet for months and had been losing weight, but that when she went on vacation with her family she had eaten out often and didn’t make “good choices” while she was gone. Upon further assessment this was yet another client who reported gaining and losing the same 20 lbs multiple times. She quickly described all of the fun and new places she had been able to eat at while she was on vacation. She admitted that if she hadn’t allowed herself to do this with her family she would have felt deprived, but the guilt she had about eating all of these foods was very apparent. I tried to praise her for “allowing” herself to explore new food options and enjoy eating at new places with her family. She seemed confused by my positive feedback regarding her “out of control” behavior. It took awhile for her to see that her behavior wasn’t “out of control” but normal!
So if this sounds like something you have done in the past, I recommend you read the rest of this because you may also be feeling confused about the feedback I provided my client. It is always okay to try new foods! Our bodies work the best when we feed it variety. It allows us to take in different nutrients that we may be missing when we eat different things. One reason diets don’t work is because they are restrictive and this always leads to a binge. So if we haven’t been allowing ourselves to eat what sounds good or what we want, we will likely eat more of these foods when we do give ourselves permission to eat them. So the first step I recommend is to stop dieting before you go on vacation!
The second step involves being able to listen to your body. For many of us we may be a lot more active while we are on vacation. We may be walking around the town, going water skiing, wake boarding, hiking, or walking on the beach. At any rate, these activities are likely more physical than your typical day at work, which may be sitting behind a computer all day. When we are able to listen to our bodies it will tell us (if we learn how to do this!) when it’s hungry! Our bodies may be hungrier when we are on vacation because we are being more active, so we need to feed it when it’s telling us it’s hungry! When you are hungry, think about what you would like to eat. Put all of the options out there and eat what you want!
Now this is where some of the negative/irrational thoughts can play with our head! Are you telling yourself that this is the only time you will ever get this food? If so you may be setting yourself up to overeat/binge. When you think about it, is that really true? Could you go back to that place to visit again in the future? Could you find something really similar to the food you are eating? If you answered yes to these questions then you know now that the thought “I’ll never get to eat this again!” is a lie. But on that rare occasion when you do answer no to these questions, there are still some things that you can think about. For example, if you overeat/binge on the food will you really be able to enjoy it? Will you still want to have fun after eating? Instead of overeating on the food, enjoy it! Savor each bite and eat it mindfully. This means, paying attention to the smell, the taste, the looks of the food, and stay in the moment. Enjoy the new scenery around you while you are eating.
Now, for some helpful hints about eating while traveling. If you are going to be on the road or in the air for most of a day or several days, it can be difficult to eat nutritious foods. In these instances we tend to eat fast food which if you like eating fast food that is okay, eat it! But if you are traveling for several days or don’t enjoy eating fast food, what are your other options? For some people they are fine with being able to stop at a restaurant between flights on while driving to their location. But for some of the rest of us, this may not be an option. I always travel with my dogs, so being able to stop and spend an hour or so eating at a restaurant in the middle of summer while the dogs are in the car, isn’t a choice. This may also be true for some people who travel with children and don’t want to spend the time eating at a restaurant. Something that I will do at times is to bring along some nutritious, easy to eat, foods for when I will be in the car all day. Most of us travel with a cooler so I may pack some turkey, cheese, carrots, bread, peanut butter, etc. These foods are easy to make and can be fun to stop at a rest area or park and have a picnic, rather than spending the time at a restaurant. So think about your options and what you want to do before you leave for your vacation. Having a plan or a general idea of how you want to go about eating can be very helpful.
By following some of these tips I hope you are able to have a fun vacation and be able to enjoy all parts of being away from home!