Summer is nearly upon us, in terms of Post Vacation Nutrition, but in many respects it’s already here. Kids are getting out of school for break, college students graduating and families leaving out for vacations.
Vacation is a time to regenerate and recoup from the stresses of everyday life. Being able to unwind under an umbrella at a beach or hiking your favorite mountain range is very beneficial in lowering chronic stressors imposed by life. Vacation is also usually accompanied by tasty eats. It’s part of the experience, and I partake in the festivities whole heartedly.
You may also be like me in the fact that you track your food intake daily, for the purposes of body composition, health and or performance goals. So what are you to do when going on vacation where you may not have control over what types of food you eat or how they’re prepared, i.e. a cruise or all expenses paid retreat? And maybe even more important, how to get back on track if you did fall off?
The last thing you want to do is crunch every number and be obsessive-compulsive about your food while you’re on vacation. It’s vacation for a reason. Now, this advice is obviously dependent on specifics of each individual. If you’re super strict year round and always hit your numbers with your food, then you can probably give yourself a free pass for a few days to a week. On the flip side, if you’re new to tracking or are still trying to find your groove with the process, you may need to keep a few guidelines in place to help you continue to build good habits for a lifetime. So basically, if you just started your “diet” 2 weeks ago to get ready for the beach, you waited too late for one and you’re not a master at the process yet, so you would essentially reset any habits you may have started to build by going off the deep end. No beuno. For someone still trying to find their way, I would recommend trying to at least hit their protein number and total calorie each day. This will help to cement some of the habits that you’ll need to make your diet sustainable for a lifetime. After all, isn’t the plan to look better each year you go to the beach, not be in mediocre shape year after year?
Many people see a slump in their physical progress after vacation because they subconsciously break all good habits and set bad habits while on vacation. And they don’t get back on track afterward because the immediate desire to “be beach ready” is no longer present. This results in a quick return to baseline (your body’s starting point of the diet) and then subsequent fat mass gain year after year. This is why we observe people who lose weight and then gain it back, plus some, because they aren’t holding onto the beneficial habits for long periods of time. Add aging to this equation and you have a slower metabolism and other physiological factors playing against you. In other words, the longer you wait to make these positive lifestyle and behavioral changes the slower the process tends to be. Having said that, it’s never too late to start being a healthier you. Anyways, I digress.
When coming back from vacation, there could be a few strategies to assist you on getting back on track. If you were cold turkey on not tracking for your stent in paradise, you can start with tracking overall calories and or protein on your first day back, then add in fats on day two. Finally, bringing carbs back in on day three. Then anything else you were tracking can be reintroduced on day four and beyond. If you were being somewhat careful to count a metric or two, then implement the same plan as above, but it will just be streamlined a little for you because you were already tracking a few things.
All in all, dietary adherence while on vacation needs to be individual. For anyone who is stress to the max I would say don’t worry too much about the specifics of your diet. Just get 3 square meals a day and eat to fill. Allow yourself a couple of overfeed days that week and then get back on your regimented tracking once back from vacation.
If you love to weigh and measure your food and are undying to your goals, or prepping for a show, then knock yourself out and stick with it through your vacation. This is the category I currently fall under because of my desire to reach my goals, which happen to be fairly lofty, is insatiable. However, once I’m done pursuing my current goals and shift gears in life, you best believe I’ll allow myself some extravagant meals to devour. By that time, I will have had years of solid groundwork laid to support that. My habits are already second nature and I think this will carry me through the long haul.
Now, go enjoy vacation with your family and friends.