10 Tips to Have a Healthy and Awesome Vacation

So often, vacations become calorie-laden bombs. Individuals think that like them, their goals and habits are also on vacation. Soon, this becomes a justification to drink every night and eat heavy foods until the point of extreme fullness. And upon return, your body feels greasy, groggy, bloated, uncomfortable. Ever feel like you need a vacation "detox?"

I used to travel like this all the time. I would take that vacation time as an excuse to stuff myself with all the foods I deprived myself of during my regular life. I also stopped exercising. There was also a time that I was so afraid of other foods and calories, that I would eat very particular things and make sure to bring all of my own snacks. The latter mindset would not let me fully enjoy the experience. 

I traveled at one of two extremes...I had no middle ground. No balance. 

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Now, I allow myself to indulge in treats, but only as they sound good. I only eat something I truly want...and I eat until I'm satisfied. (That may mean just a few bites.) I do something active everyday--a morning run, a bodyweight workout, walking, bike tour. I drink alcohol sparingly and instead drink plenty of water. I put emphasis on vegetables but still seek out local delicacies. I also still bring snacks--especially for the airplane. And as a vegetarian who eats fish occasionally, I don't let my preferences stop me from enjoying the local foods. If I want something with meat, then I'll eat something with meat.

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My mindset on travel has drastically changed. It's because I allow myself to enjoy the vacation, but I also keep my long-term goals in the back of my mind. I don't like the idea of coming home bloated and uncomfortable. I don't like the idea of needing a "detox." I put emphasis on daily movement, I eat until satisfied and I know that all foods are on the table. I put memories over calories...but I do it within reason. And when I'm home in my normal life, I allow myself to have a few treats so stop me from feeling deprived. 

You can truly enjoy your vacation without guilt and without extreme restriction. Here are my top 10 tips to have a vacation you love without sacrificing the experience. 
  1. Pack plenty of snacks. Depending on where you're traveling, you may not have immediate access to something to eat--especially when the hunger beast comes. And for long plane rides, having snacks at the ready not only decreases cost, but stops you from eating poor-quality airline food. Apples, oranges, avocados and veggie sticks travel well. Protein bars, jerky and hard-boiled eggs are great protein options. You can even pack a whole meal salad!
  2. Put emphasis on daily movement. You don't have to continue your strict exercise regimen while on vacation, but some kind of daily movement can go a long way. It can also help ease jet lag. And daily movement, doesn't have to be structured exercise. You could go for a long walking tour or rent a bike. Of course, you can still carve out some time to do a sweat session. There are many pieces of equipment like resistance loops or bands that can travel well. 
  3. Seek out vegetables. Often during vacation, we put sweets and other delacies over veggies. If possible, aim for a vegetable at every meal. You can also challenge yourself to eat a salad every day.
  4. Eat until satisfied, not full. It can be really, really easy to eat an entire piece of chocolate cake for example, well past the point of feeling satisfied. There comes a point where eating that cake no longer becomes enjoyable. Sometimes eating until satisfied does not mean finishing the entire piece of cake, plate of food or ice cream cone. Eat until you're satisfied. 
  5. Put memories over calories. Put down your calorie counter and don't fret about all that you're eating. Enjoy yourself, but again, listen to the cues your body is sending and don't eat until you're overly uncomfortable.
  6. Lay off alcohol. I know...I know. Alcohol always seems an integral part of vacations, but it does inhibit our functioning. And as we get older, our bodies just can't bounce back quite as fast as they did. Enjoy a glass of wine at dinner every now and then, but try not to go overboard.
  7. Do something educational. While you're in a new place, do everything that you can to learn about the local culture and customs. Immerse yourself in the goings-on. Visit a museum, take a tour or talk to the locals. Feed your soul with information.
  8. Disconnect from your phone. Do you really need me to expand on this?
  9. Prioritize sleep. You may be in a new place, but that doesn't mean you can't get a good night's sleep. Stick to a reasonable bed time and wake up time. If you're struggling from jet lag, do your best to get yourself on the country's time table. This will make it easier for you to adjust.
  10. Choose local eats over creature comforts. You're in a new region, state or country--I hope you're sampling the local cuisine! But, I do understand how a few days away from your own routine and favorite foods can be overwhelming. As tempting as it may be to indulge in something form your home, remind yourself this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. That burger, peanut butter blob or fried chicken will still be there when you get home. 
Beth Sandwich
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