Tag Archives: vacation

Live it up on vacation without gaining weight.

vacaySummer vacation time – the best time. My online coaching clients are making me jealous with details about all the places they plan to go this summer. It’s a stay-cation summer for my family.

They’re sharing their plans because they want to make sure they stay on track with their fitness and nutrition goals.

First, I give them the talk:

“Chill out. Have some fun, eat the things, enjoy the time away for God’s sake. Real life will be waiting for you.”

And that’s true. You can go on vacation, forget about your plan, and hop right back in. But I also know that some people, including me, feel good by taking a more moderate approach than the “YOLO” option.

I remember one trip I took to  an all-inclusive resort to Mexico 5 years ago. I’d been steadily losing weight but then faced with a 24/7 supply of food and booze I buckled. Seriously, I lost my damn mind. I mean, it’s not hard to say “screw it, I’m on vacation” and go wild.

The waiters seemed to have spidey sense about when my cocktail was nearly empty and out of nowhere they’d appear. On the beach. Asking me if I wanted another drink. After about 2 drinks I would be tipsy enough to say “um, of course” and then it went down hill. Day drunk is not a good thing 99.9% of the time.

So on my next beach vacation in Jamaica, years later, I decided to do things differently. I was in the middle of a very successful, focused training and nutrition plan and I felt really good. Sometimes when you’ve built momentum, you just want to keep it going.

So here’s what a Jamaican resort taught me about finding the middle ground between burying yourself in pina coladas and eating lettuce and chicken for every meal:

Save your calories for the good stuff. Ever notice that many resorts don’t have spectacular food? They just have a lot of choices. And it’s there all the time. It’ll still be there on day 2 and day 3. Yes, I could, in fact, have doughnuts and a cheese plate, tempura bananas, smoothies, and unlimited bacon. I’d never eat that way at home. Except maybe unlimited bacon… holy hell.

But most of us have access to those things everywhere. There was nothing special about any of them. They weren’t even Jamaican specialties. Plus even if there was no additional cost for extra nibbles, I reminded myself that this wasn’t a good reason to eat.

For breakfast, I visited the charming guy who made me an egg white and veggie omelet to order each day. I filled out my plate with the local fruits that I can’t easily get at home. Soursop is now a new favorite treat. On the first day I scoped out the joint like a pro thief from Oceans 11 and could mentally plan for what treats I’d allow myself to have each day.

After tasting a bite of a watery, tasteless dessert that marginally resembled custard, I realized that much of the food there wasn’t all that well made. I stuck to the good stuff and passed on most of their treats in order to save room for a cocktail or two each day.

Photo credit: Caribbean Pot.

Photo credit: Caribbean Pot.

Take advantage of what local food you can find. Each day on the beach the resort offered grilled Jamaican jerk chicken. It was fresh, tasted absolutely incredible, and full of healthy protein. I paired that with salad each day and felt filled up and less likely to wander back into the dining area.

The indulgent items I found weren’t banned; but usually, a few bites of a food was enough to fully enjoy it. Except coconut candy: it’s a local treat and it is completely addictive. But it’s worth the splurge, and thankfully sold in tiny bags. Like drugs. Heh.

No. Because we're not in a frat.

No. Because we’re not in a frat.

Day drinking was off limits in my mental list of “rules”. I felt better without it, and that way I could still look forward to a cocktail at night. Instead, you can order club sodas muddled with mint and a squeeze of lime juice for mock mojitos. Or a a bit of fruit juice with club soda to feel like you’re participating. 

Calorie tracking is tough to do when you don’t know much about how the food was prepped. Instead, when on vacation or on nights out, I focus on the composition of my plate – pile on quite a few vegetables, a moderately large portion of protein, and a small amount of starch. 
Give yourself choices. I made a plan for 3 meals and 2 snacks each day OR 2 cocktails a day instead of snacks. I found that I was hungry enough that I opted for the snack instead of both drinks most days.

You may fall short of your target a few times. So what? We’re human, after all. On night 2 my crew was particularly rowdy and I had major FOMO. That led to having just a bit too much to drink. Okay, a lot too much. Years ago, I would have said “oh well, I messed up. I’m going to now eat and drink it all.” But instead I just woke up the next day and got back at it. It’s one night. It’s no biggie as long as we hop back into our routine.

Photo credit: Filipe Castilhos

Photo credit: Filipe Castilhos

Staying active makes a world of difference. It’s easy to say “forget working out, it’s vacation.” Hell yeah, it is vacation – we should relax. But getting movement into our days helps our overall mindset and lets us feel even better while we’re lounging around. Every night I danced my ass off to live music. I went on walks each day to soak up the sun and get a boost of energy.

And every morning I hit the resort gym for a quickie workout: either strength or a super brief metcon routine. Be flexible when approaching a vacation workout – have a plan that doesn’t require too much equipment. Our resort had a strangely large collection of upper body machines yet nothing except dumbbells available for leg and glute work. Here’s a short workout that I did as a “tweak” of my regular leg-focused session:

1. Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift – 3 x 8
2a. Bulgarian Split Squat – 3 x 8/leg
2b. Single Leg Hip Thrust – 3 x 12/leg
3a. Goblet Step Ups – 3 x 8/leg
3b. Bent Over Dumbbell Rear Delt Raise – 3 x 12
3c. Seated Lateral Dumbbell Raise – 3 x 12

If you’re visiting a warm climate, you will likely find that the gym gets really hot later in the day. Get in there early (and maximize your beach time too!)

Photo credit: Trek Earth.

Photo credit: Trek Earth.

Focus on your spectacular setting. When the point of vacation is to explore a new city or relax on a beach, the food and drink become less of a thing. This is honestly a mindset I’ve had to work on, and my perspective definitely shifts a bit depending on where we’re vacationing. I’m a die-hard lover of well-made food and on trips to places with a rich culinary scene we actually plan our days around restaurants we want to visit. 

If you’re headed to somewhere with a big focus on great cooking, enjoy it. But pick one great meal each day instead of three. Stick to the one-plate strategy and make a plan. You can still stay on track with your nutrition goals!

Aim for weight maintenance, not weight loss. Look, eating at a deficit on vacation really stinks. Being on a diet usually means experiencing some hunger. It requires a much tighter rein on calories too. If you come back from vacation and you didn’t gain weight, consider it a big win. It’s a much more happy approach than trying to actually lose weight while traveling. 

So the next time you vacation, use these tips. Enjoy yourself. You can loosen the reigns without losing your mind (and fun!)