Vacation is supposed to be fun and relaxing, but it can be easy to feel stressed if you’re just getting started with a new exercise and weight-loss plan. If you’re away from home, you’re probably going out to eat more, trying more unfamiliar foods and experiencing uncertainty about having time for the gym.
However, vacation can actually help you reach your goals — and “they don’t necessarily mean you’ll gain weight,” says Gabbi Berkow, a registered dietitian and certified personal trainer based in New York City. They do present challenges; namely, you’re probably not going to have complete control of what you eat or access to the gym equipment you’re used to.
That’s OK. “When you go on vacation, let yourself actually go on vacation,” says Ashley Koff, RD, CEO of The Better Nutrition Program. “A vacation is a tremendous opportunity to fully recharge and renew your energy,” she says. That renewed energy can give you the enthusiasm and motivation to jump back into your healthy routine when you get back.”
Here’s how to enjoy a vacation to the fullest while still making good-for-you choices (so long as you get back into your routine once you’re home):
READJUST YOUR EXPECTATIONS
Don’t put too much focus on the number on the scale. “Flying on a plane can cause bloating, so you’re unlikely to see the scale budge,” says Koff. (And that’s not because you gained more fat when you were gone.) Weighing yourself might be mentally tough, so wait until at least 3–4 days after returning home to step on the scale, though a week is best. (That is, if you use a scale.)
SEE THE BIGGER PICTURE
In reality, if you do gain weight, it’s not going to be a significant amount since it will most likely be water weight you will lose when you get back to a normal routine. “As soon as you go back to what you were doing in terms of exercise and healthy eating previously, you’ll be fine,” says Koff. The danger lies in feeling like you’ve failed in some way and then throwing in the towel on your health efforts because you’ve “blown it.” “One week of not having a green smoothie for breakfast won’t matter to your body,” she says.
TRY NEW ACTIVITIES
You probably have a training routine you follow and it might seem uncomfortable to deviate from it. Instead of stressing about getting a formal workout in, look at vacation workouts as an opportunity to try new activities. Focus on movement that feels good and is fun. “A little break from your traditional workouts can help your mind and muscles recover, which enables you to come back stronger,” says Berkow. You can still get in great workouts with activities like stand-up paddleboarding, hiking or logging 10K steps (easy) exploring a new city. Moreover, hotels increasingly have in-room and on-site fitness options available, like roof-top yoga classes and group runs.
EXPERIMENT WITH NEW FOODS
You’ll want to eat the local cuisine, whether that’s a lobster roll in Boston or street noodles in Bangkok, and you shouldn’t miss out on opportunities to enjoy yourself this way without food guilt. At the same time, not all food is going to be delicious. (Looking at you: soggy fries at the pub or free hotel cookie.) Try these two approaches to indulging successfully:
- The 7/10 Rule: “If something doesn’t score a 7/10 (on a scale of 10), don’t eat it,” says Koff. If it’s the best thing you’ve ever had, absolutely eat it; otherwise, don’t waste it on something mediocre.
- The 1-2 Rule: Choose your indulgences, says Berkow. Eat 1–2 of your favorite things guilt-free every day. If you want everything (or, ahem, it feels like you want it all), then focus on smaller portions, she says.
GET RID OF MINDSETS THAT DON’T SERVE YOU
If you’re coming from a place of restriction, a vacation may feel like a hall pass to eat the foods you’re not “allowed” to have on your diet. “I don’t think that mindset is serving you, as it’s likely causing a level of underlying stress that makes digestion harder to handle,” says Koff. Translation: You probably won’t feel great eating this way.
One way to handle this is with some emotional work before you go, she says. Write down how you picture this vacation going. Are you going to be OK getting ice cream if everyone else is? Taking the time to journal before, during and after your vacation can help you stay in a positive mindframe and better able to reach your goals.