Traveling is pretty amazing, especially for those of us who don’t often get away on vacation. But, let’s face it, being thrown out of your usual routine can be stressful, especially if you’re working on building new habits to enhance your health.
My vacation and traveling strategies, in terms of exercise and nutrition, have totally changed over the last few years. As I write this, I’m on the plane heading to Vegas. Wahoo! We booked our trip Monday night and left Tuesday morning about 12 hours later – ha! A quick 3 days, which I’m guessing should be juuuust enough 😉
On this trip, I didn’t pack my running shoes. I’m not stressing about squeezing in a strength workout. I’m planning on walking, resting, and pool lying (Update: did this and Vegas sun is no joke). I actually find it EASIER to eat effortlessly on vacation, because there’s just not as many opportunities to eat, usually. I go for my typical fare (protein, fat, fiber), splurge on wine and chocolate, and that’s that. I do the best I can with and move on.
Thinking back to a cruise I went on five years ago with my university girlfriends, I was training for a half-marathon (I KNOW – I’ll tell you that story another time) and ran the crappy track on the cruise ship most mornings. We were gone for one week. I hadn’t been on an actual vacation in years.
I limited myself, cut down on the fun, just so I could exercise (in a way that I didn’t even really enjoy), because I HAD to stick to my plan. This was my mindset. It’s interesting because although my behaviours may have appeared HEALTHY to an outsider, the obsession in my head definitely wasn’t.
I promise you though, the food and exercise part of vacation doesn’t need to be stressful at all. It’s 100% possible to fully enjoy yourself, eat fabulous meals, enjoy a few (or more) adult beverages, rest and relax, without returning home feeling like you’ve gained 10 pounds in a week. Because, that just doesn’t FEEL that good physically or mentally, does it?
I’ve been chatting with my coaching clients about eating while traveling this week because it can be a journey to gel into your routine. Below are suggestions I gave them AND that they gave each other (and me!):
1). Prioritize Protein, Fat, and Veggies: Easiest way to feel satisfied, “good” full, and keep your energy up when sleep is low. Wherever you are in the world, this is typically pretty easy to do even if you have to ask your server to make adjustments for you. Couple of my faves: Grilled meat + a BAS (Jill Coleman’s Big. Ass. Salad) with some cheese, bacon, and/or avocado; Burger with cheese/bacon, no bun, lots of veggie toppings, side salad.
2). Group Dinners: If dinner is going to be a social event that you know will have alcohol that you want to engage in, you can eat a bit less at your meals throughout the day, and/or space your meals out a bit longer than you normally would (if you eat every 3 hours at home, maybe you’ll eat every 4-5 on vacation, which could happen naturally with your schedule and hunger level).
3). Eat Less, Exercise Less: If you’re not exercising as much, you’ll naturally be less hungry as your caloric expenditure will be reduced. If you don’t eat as often or as many meals as usual, that’s ok. Be aware of hunger cues, and watch them adapt as you’re further into vacation.
4). SOB: Sugar/starch OR booze at most meals. Of course, you can do all 3, BUT, if I was a betting woman, that combination probably won’t make you feel so fantastic. For example, at dinner you could do a steak, salad + a oil and vinegar based dressing, mixed veggies cooked in butter and seasoned, plus wine. OR you could do the same meal with dessert. OR you could do a rice or pasta based dish, but leave the wine and/or dessert.
5). Rating System: This is from one of my clients and I think it’s SO smart. Ask yourself, is this meal/treat a 10/10 or could I eat the same damn thing at home? Could you leave it if it’s not absolutely awesome?
6). Eat Local: If you don’t travel often or if you’re in incredible countries – have the delicacies of the location. If you come home holding some water weight, it’s OK. Two or three days with your usual routine and you’ll be back to normal.
7). Snack Packs: Not the pudding (I used to LOVE those!). Jerky, pepperoni, low sugar protein bars (Vega, Go Macro, Quest, BioTrust), fruits, veggies.
8). B.Y.O.D: Bring your own dessert. Pack your own sweets, I’m serious. One of my faves to bring or find when I’m on location is a dark chocolate bar + sea salt. You’re not scrambling for dessert when you get back to the hotel room after a great dinner where you’ve mastered the SOB. For me, this usually turns into something more than a few pieces of chocolate if I don’t have my options right there.
9). Short and Sweet Workouts: Do metabolic resistance training based workouts if you’re pressed for time. Working strength training + interval cardiovascular work = biggest bang for buck with limited time, high heart rate, high caloric expenditure. Higher reps (10-15), little rest, major exercises (squats, lunges, pullups, etc), circuit style or supersets.
10). Relaaaaaaax: Do the best you can and let the chips fall where they may. I love this reminder: don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. If the veggies are cooked in butter and salted, it’s all good. You’re eating veggies and they’re going to taste delicious. If your salad dressing is creamy, no problem. Get it on the side and use 1/2-3/4 of the amount.