Summer means warm weather, beaches, and oftentimes, weekend getaways. I often hear clients express nervousness surrounding vacations because many people feel that they will be out of their routine, with little holding them back from inactive days, large portions and foods that are not typically part of their day. I'm about to take a little vacay myself, and I'm here to tell you that it's okay if your routine changes (or gets completely lost). Keep reading for some tips on how to reach your health goals, maintain your progress and finally feel relaxed and excited about your vacation - you deserve it!
1. I choose a lifestyle, not a diet with an expiration date
Diets have an expiration date, and typically involve some form of restriction during a specified time period. I completely understand how a vacation planned in the middle of a diet could be stressful - what if the restaurant doesn't offer something that's suitable with your diet? However, I do not restrict myself in my typical routine, and I will not restrict myself while on vacation. Over-restriction typically leads to giving food power, labeling food as 'bad' or 'good' and ultimately, feelings of guilt and resentment when that food is finally consumed. Instead, if you look at the overall picture (including the foods you consume, the activity you partake in, the sleep you get, the relationships you cultivate, the thoughts you have) and aim to make positive changes as part of an overall, healthy lifestyle (such as eating more fruits and vegetables, finding activities you enjoy, aiming for adequate shut-eye at night), these changes will slowly become habits and you will take them with you on your vacation without even realizing it. If you have a few days during which you do not consume as many veggies or you stay up later than usual, it's okay.
2. I choose activities that I enjoy, so I look forward to doing these activities while on vacation
I often get asked "what is the best exercise?" and the truth is, there is no single, "best" exercise for everyone. Instead, answer the question "what do I like to do?" and with that, you will find activities that you genuinely enjoy (and therefore are more likely to stick with)! In my typical routine, I love to take long walks and I also enjoy yoga, barre and spinning classes. So, when I'm on vacation, you can usually find me walking around and exploring, or trying some local studios. However, the great thing about vacation is you get the opportunity to do things you don't normally do. So, if we get the opportunity to kayak, SUP (stand-up paddle board), play tennis, or ride bikes on a bike trail, we take it! Sometimes, I never step foot in a gym on vacation, but it doesn't mean I'm sedentary. Being open to new experiences while exploring and taking the time to engage in some activities that you know you enjoy are great ways to move around without letting exercise dictate your entire vacation.
3. I get to learn about another culture (including the food)
While traveling, I love learning about the culture, whether I'm traveling to another state or another country. Each area has its own history and with that history, its own cuisine (or twist on cuisine) and my husband and I love learning about the area we're visiting. Our favorite way to immerse ourselves in the culture? The food! Whether I'm eating shrimp and grits in the south, lobster rolls in Maine, or a special cuisine in a different country, focusing on the calories would take the enjoyment out of these foods - and that's a big part of eating them in the first place!
4. I know potentially indulging during these few days are unlikely to derail my overall health
While I do genuinely love most fruits and veggies, I also love warm, crusty bread, ice cream, fried seafood and many other foods. *Gasp* - yes, I'm a dietitian and I know that these foods are delicious (and I eat them)! While I do not typically consume these foods everyday, I know that these foods are available whenever I do want to eat them and just knowing that makes me feel less enamored by them. And when I do decide I want something that, perhaps is less nutrient-dense, I have it - and I enjoy it. And then I move on. Because I am not only defined by the food I eat. And if I'm in area that has a great ice cream place, I am definitely going to try it (and probably go back if it really is amazing)!
5. I know that health encompasses both physical and mental health
This is a big one - health is not defined by 'organic' or 'clean eating' or even weight. Health encompasses both physical and mental health and the way we think about food, activity, our relationships with others and our relationship with ourselves. If someone eats all organic, 'clean, healthy' food and dreams of consuming a particular food, but never lets themselves actually eat it, I do not think that is healthy. I also do not think it is healthy to be preoccupied with negative thoughts surrounding food, activity or body image. And, I definitely do not think it is healthy to be preoccupied with nervous thoughts surrounding an upcoming vacation - it is a vacation, after all. I truly encourage you to search within yourself and find what truly excites you. If you hate running, don't run. That doesn't mean don't do any activity - but maybe you find you love swimming, walking or biking, and that's okay. Conversely, if you love running, that's great too! But love it for the sake of the activity - the way it makes you feel, the camaraderie you get from running with your friend, spouse or running group or the connection you feel when running with yourself - not just to burn more calories. Our attitude and mindset is an often missed component of overall health and wellness and it's unfortunate. Instead of holding on to feelings of nervousness, guilt and regret, let go and just enjoy your vacation - and bring that attitude back home with you so that you can continue your journey to an overall healthy, unrestricted lifestyle.