Sunday, January 22, 2012

Don't Take A Vacation from Your Health: How to Stay Fit While You're Away

Well, the reason I haven't posted anything in a week is because I was in Arizona on a fantastic getaway.  And what made it even more fantastic is that I was able to maintain my healthy eating habits and active exercise regimen.  Doing this is not easy, but it's well worth it.  Many of you know (and trust me, I've experienced it) the feeling of coming home from vacation feeling like "Okay, time to get back to eating right again" or worse "Guess I should start my diet now."  But there are SO many things wrong with that mindset!!  What's more, most of us start "dieting" a month before going away, only to gain any lost weight back during vacation.  This is another yo-yo diet pitfall.  It messes up your metabolism and leaves you with a hopeless, what-did-I-do? feeling.  The trick is to make health a non-negotiable part of your life no matter where you are or what you're doing.  Without some of these tips I'm about to give you, it may seem impossible, but I assure you it's not only easy but it's also well worth it.  You'll have more energy to do all the fun things you want to do while you're away, and you will come home feeling energized--with no regrets.

Here are some tips:

  1. Pack healthful foods.  Do not assume that you will always be able to find healthful places to eat, even though 90% of the time you can.  Furthermore, packing healthy snacks (dried fruits, nuts, oatmeal, etc) will allow you to keep eating the recommended 5-6 meals a day, since to prevent cravings--you should eat every 2-3 hours.  Skipping meals slows down your metabolism--you do NOT want that!  Stopping to buy something every few hours is not only expensive on vacation but it's not going to be how you want to spend your time.  You can pack food (just not liquids) on your carry-on, so reserve that for the fresh foods.  Tosca Reno, author of The Eat Clean Diet, recommends that you portion out some rolled oats, wheat germ, bee pollen, raisins (and whatever else you like in your oatmeal) into plastic baggies and as long as there is a place where you can get a cup of boiling water, which is just about anywhere including in an airplane, you can have a hot cup of oatmeal.
  2. Go grocery shopping when you get there.  If possible, take a cab or the rental car to the grocery store.  Stock up on almond/soy milk, fresh fruit, veggies, and other healthful foods that need to be refrigerated and couldn't be packed.  This will save you money and keep you well-fed on foods you know and trust.
  3. Never leave the hotel without your healthy snacks.  Even if you think you're just running to the gift shop for a half-hour, have a little something in your bag.  You never know when the pool will call your name or you'll get side tracked.  
  4. Set a timer to remind you to eat.  It sounds silly, especially if you're already used to eating every few hours and your stomach usually tells you when it's time to eat, but on vacation you're often distracted and sometimes even busier than when you are home.  If you set a timer that reminds you it's time to take out those dried dates in your backpack, you'll never skip a meal.  This also prevents you from arriving to lunch absolutely starving and then overeating.
  5. Bring a liter-sized water bottle with you.  Another thing we often overlook when we're away is our need to drink water.  Health and fitness expert, Chalene Johnson, claims that slim, fit people always have a bottle of water in their hands at all times.  Many people confuse the feeling of thirst with hunger, and eat when they are actually just thirsty.  Prevent unnecessary calories by drinking water all day long.
  6. Seek out healthy restaurants.  Before you go, research the local cafes and restaurants that are the healthiest.  When you arrive, ask around about healthy places to eat.  I found that telling people I was a vegetarian made it more likely that someone would recommend a truly healthful eatery.  Even if you're not a vegetarian, this might be a good idea since very few places are completely vegetarian anyway.  When I mentioned to my manicurist that I was vegetarian, she informed me of the BEST restaurant of the entire trip!  She directed me to Dr. Andrew Wiel's Phoenix restaurant, True Food Kitchen, which consists entirely of his popular "anti-inflammatory" diet.  The food was unique, fresh, and delicious.  I left feeling really good about what I'd eaten, and seriously wishing one of these places would open up in my town.
  7. Avoid the words: "I'm on vacation; I deserve to eat things I don't usually eat."  You deserve what?  Feeling sluggish and bloated?  Undoing all your healthy eating habits prior to the trip?  No, you deserve much better!  You deserve to feel satisfied, yes, but you do NOT deserve to feel guilty, depressed, fatigued, and hungry (because as you know, less healthful foods actually leave you feeling hungrier sooner).  Stick with the words: "I'm on vacation; I deserve to feel my absolute best."
  8. Workout every day.  And no, "walking more" is not "working out."  I hear so many people say, "I walked so much on my vacation that I didn't need to workout."  Or they think they can eat more because they feel they are walking more.  Maybe I covered more mileage than usual walking from the pool to the hotel room to the spa, but I also spent a good deal of time sitting in the rental car driving to various attractions or relaxing in a lounge chair by the pool.  I also slept a little later than I usually do.  Assume that it all evens out.  Find the gym.  Learn about fitness classes at your resort.  See if there are any interesting things to do that involve physical activity such as hiking, skiing, mountain climbing, bike riding, rollerblading, etc.  I went to the gym most days for an hour.  During the trip I took a total of four fitness classes (a yoga class, a "total body physique" class, a gyrokinesis class, and a Bollywood class), and I went on one fairly strenuous hike.  Yes, I did a lot of walking, but I also did a lot of sitting, so by working out I ensured that I maintained my normal activity level and didn't lose any strength or stamina.
  9. Choose the lesser of the evils.  On my last day of vacation, we were stuck at the airport for dinner. There was literally nothing at the Chicago airport for a healthy-eating vegetarian.  I had to go with a "pizza sandwich" that was a little less than 700 calories (I ordered it without the pepperoni, so it was less than it said on the menu).  Some days this will happen.  In fact, this can happen even when you aren't on vacation.  Do NOT skip the meal altogether.  Find something that you can both enjoy and not feel guilty about.  If you've been eating healthy the majority of the time, this one meal will not break you--you can afford the treat!  Don't harp on it or feel guilty about it afterward; instead, feel proud that you still made the best choice possible, when others would have thrown up their hands and ordered a burger and fries.
  10. Keep track of what you're eating.  Because your schedule is so different, you may not realize you are eating more than usual or believe it or not, you might actually find you're eating less than usual.  You don't want to overeat or slow down your metabolism by not eating enough.  If you have a smart phone, there is a great app that I use even when I'm not on vacation called "My Fitness Pal."  It is fantastic!  Practically every food you could think of is available with full nutritional information.  You tell it your stats and goals, and it tells you how much you should eat in a day.  You just have to enter every little morsel you eat.  You can also enter in any exercise that you've done, and it will allow you the additional calories.

Here is a typical vacation day for me:

  • Rolled oats with almonds, dried fruit, and one tablespoon of honey
  • Coffee with soy milk and one packet of sugar in the raw
  • One protein shake mixed with almond milk (I packed several portions of my spirulina protein powder in my suitcase)
  • Sea salt pita chips with red pepper hummus (when sharing appetizers, I recommend putting the portion you intend to eat on your plate, and not going back for more)
  • Veggie burger with lettuce, tomato and onion on a whole wheat bun--hold the mayo (my gut told me to make sure that I ordered the bun dry--I just knew this restaurant, like many others, would slather it with butter, but of course I didn't ask--lesson learned)
  • Mixed baby green salad with balsamic vinaigrette on the side (I substituted this for french fries).
  • Banana
  • 1/4 cup of pistachios
  • Guacamole with gluten-free tortilla chips
  • 2 grilled vegetable fajitas
  • 2 mini churros (remember, this was calculated into my day--I knew I could afford the calories/fat because I kept track of my intake and exercise.  I only ate half of what was served on this plate, and I enjoyed every bite.  The next day, I passed on dessert)
  • 5 miles on the eliptical for 45 minutes, average heart rate at 152bpm (I set the trainer to "cross country" to vary the pace/resistance)
  • 20 minutes of upper body weight training

Final verdict: 
When I got on the scale this morning, I was exactly the same weight as when I left!

1 comment:

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