“If I can have just as much fun and get the bonus of a long-term benefit, then that’s the kind of fun I’m going to choose.”
Before planning your trip, it would help to have some vacation goals in mind. I know what you’re thinking: vacations are for getting away from lists and goals. Don’t worry; these goals are fun. After all, if you are going to invest all that money and time on a vacation, why not get the biggest bang for your buck? There are two ways of looking at your vacation—short term and long term. I love having fun for fun’s sake, but I’m the kind of guy that, if I can have just as much fun and get a long-term benefit, then that’s the kind of fun I’m going to choose. Besides, unhealthy fun always steals from the future. A week of drinking and overeating may feel good at the time, but it creates a health debt that you will have to eventually pay for. Do a vacation right, and you can still have fun and come back feeling rested, refreshed, and de-stressed, minus those extra pounds of body fat you would have gained.
The Goal Is To Come Back Feeling:
- a renewed perspective
- spiritually refreshed
- minimal weight gain
If this sounds better than your last vacation, add the following tips to your trip list and I guarantee that when you come back home, people will be noticing more than just your great tan; or your money back!
Vacation Weight Management Tips
Anticipate The Right Vacation Fantasy When anticipating seven nights of Caribbean dancing while sipping on Pina Coladas, do not forget to include the morning hangover and, as the week progresses, an overall growing feeling of sluggishness and maybe even mild depression. Our fantasies see only the fun stuff without consequences. You will be able to plan a better vacation if your fantasy includes a dose of reality, which will mean balancing some of those late dancing nights with getting to bed early and waking refreshed. Or, what I love to do: when the stars come out and everyone is heading to the disco, I wander down to an empty, dark beach to sit, meditate, and pray. With the distant sounds of festivity, I take some God time alone. I can honestly say they have become some of my best late-night vacation memories.
Indulge In Experience Instead of Just Indulging Eating and drinking is all about getting that feel-good buzz on. But what if you could get an equally good or better feeling by doing something instead of consuming something? Most vacations offer a wide variety of excursions, like interruptive tours, scuba diving, or hiking up a local mountain to see an amazing vista. And the good news is they nearly all involve physical activity. My best wow memories are not a plate of food, but an experience, like hiking into the jungle and discovering a spectacular waterfall. The best part is they are all calorie-free. In fact, unless sitting on a tour bus, experiences usually involve exercise, which means calorie burning. So get off the bus.
A Low-Calorie Hotel Fridge For a guy who is anal about reading labels and even has a food scale at home to calculate calories, restaurants can be a caloric nightmare. There are no labels, I’m not doing the cooking, and when inquiring about the calorie content of something on the menu, I’m often greeted with a courteous shrug. After all, dining out is not the time to be thinking about calories. So, being thousands of miles from my precisely-stocked fridge, it’s no wonder the daily intake can effortlessly rise by 1000 calories without even breaking a sweat. That all changed when I made some simple premeditated changes. Now, when going for a road trip or flying, I pack a small cutting board, self-sharpening knife (Wiltshire StaySharp is great), fork and spoon, bowl, and zip-lock bags in my check-in luggage. Never pack a knife in a carry-on bag. When I get to my destination, the first thing I do is head to the local grocery store and buy lots of fruits, veggies and dip, raw nuts, healthy cereal bars, yogurt, bean salad, healthy bread, etc. Once back at the hotel, I request a small fridge (often they will have one already in the room). Sure, I treat myself to dining out, but now it’s a choice and not a necessity. For my full trip list click here
A few Indulgent Meals Unless you are nothing like me, I suggest you do this mostly at the latter part of your trip and not the beginning. I find once I start eating rich, salty foods, it’s harder to go back to raw fruit and veggies. I’m hooked after the first few meals. Also, if you eat most of your naughty meals closer to the end of the vacation, you have something to look forward to, like a reward for good behavior.
Rest and Exercise Unless a jack-hammer operator, it’s not physical exertion but emotional/mental stress we need a vacation from. Visions of lying around and eating and drinking under a palm tree for a week may seem like the perfect antidote to stress, but studies show that exercise balanced with rest is far more effective medicine for relieving stress. Besides, gaining weight is stressful. Balance your tanning time with exercise and you will return the better for it.
More Is Not Better The flip side of lying around all week is attempting to cram in as many excursions into seven days as is humanly possible. Studies have also shown that there are health benefits to getting a little bored once and awhile. Don’t be afraid of doing nothing. It’s a perfect time to journal your thoughts.
Out of Your Comfort Zone This may sound stressful but it’s actually a healthy kind of pressure. Being forced out of familiar surroundings can result in a renewed perspective on the life you just left. I suggest you bring along paper and pen or, even better, a travel laptop to keep a journal of some of the thoughts you are going to have about your life back home. (You can buy used netbooks for under $200). If you’re from North America, the countries you travel to are often less wealthy, less materialistic, and people live simpler lives with a greater emphasis on community and family. When in such surroundings, I always find myself challenged in positive and painful ways about my understanding of personal needs. Within days of coming back home, this renewed perspective can be lost but, during those times of feeling sorry for myself, I can go back and read my travel journal and be reminded of how blessed my life is.
Don’t Overspend One of the greatest stressors people face today is debt. All the benefits of the trip can be lost on the return flight while you nervously calculate the grand credit card total awaiting you at home. Decide on a spending budget before the trip and stick to it so you can enjoy sleeping on your flight home instead of obsessively worrying.
Bring God Along This is the most important weight management tip, and not for the reasons you may think. I’m not suggesting you invite God on your trip to police your behaviour or monitor your food and alcohol intake. It has been my experience that He has no interest in policing anyone into unhappy submission. It’s the other guy pretending to be God who does that, which always results in more indulgence and weight gain. When I forget to include God in my vacation, there is an increasing feeling of emptiness as the week progresses. And guess what happens when I feel empty? I fill it with the wrong things. The higher the caloric intake, the emptier the feeling until finally, I send God a belated and desperate invitation to join me.
God does not want to crash your party, be a buzz kill, or de-fun your vacation. Remember Jesus’ very first miracle? It was at an all-day party; they drank too much and ran out of booze. Lucky for the host and guests, Jesus was invited. Jesus turned water into wine and for 2000 years the Church has been trying to turn it back into water, but with little success.
Bring God along because He loves you and wants to be included in the best parts of your life. Bring Him along because He knows how to party better than you do, resulting in increased fun and lasting joy. If you can get the same buzz with less food and drink, that adds up to a great night without the morning hangover—oh yeah, and less weight gain.
Related Article: How To Eat Healthily While On the Road