Avoid the vacation rut and return home with renewed energy

By Carly Pollack, CCN, MS – August 1, 2014
Illustration by Emily Parsons

We all look forward to going on vacation. For most, it is the highlight of the year. It is a time to refuel, reflect, spend quality time with the people we love, and make new memories. The goal is to return home with renewed energy and motivation for those everyday tasks.

Stemming from the pressure to look good on vacation, people tend to restrict themselves beforehand, which usually leads to binging once they have left the normal routine. The results? Coming home feeling sluggish, bloated, and low in energy—and needing a vacation from vacation.

Society has created a vicious pendulum swing between “food prison” and “reckless abandonment.” The root of this back and forth is the restriction itself. There is a stark difference in how we think we should eat and how we actually do eat day to day, leaving no option but to use diets, 30-day challenges, detoxes, and cleanses to get in shape before that next possible time we will be seen half naked in public.

However, this behavioral pendulum swing is not where the problem originates. The root of this chaos is in the thinking. We fool ourselves into believing that taking a break from the normal routine and work schedule also means taking a break from the “diet.” The problem isn’t taking a break from a diet; it’s in believing that there’s a diet in the first place. What begins as diet rules should slowly morph into a set of foundational eating principles that continue to gently guide nutrition for the rest of our lives. This loving discipline manifests as ultimate respect for our bodies and health. Avoiding dairy, limiting processed foods, and saving dessert for special occasions (for example) start as rules and become a belief system through which we find our vitality, happiness, confidence, and peace of mind. There is a tremendous shift that occurs when we realize that conscious eating is a practice that is impossible to master. It is the highest form of our self-care practice, and treating our bodies with respect is a 24/7 lifelong commitment.

The goal is to go on vacation and relax discipline without straying too far from foundational principles. Follow these simple tips and let them guide you into creating a foundation from which you never completely falter. Remember, we are all a work in progress.

The morning is the most important time of the day

Your intentions are most powerful in the morning—make an intention for what you want the day to be (adventure and relaxation vs. eat fest). Exercise first thing in the morning but don’t go to the gym; you are on vacation! Do something relative to the trip that is active (walk/run on the beach, go for a hike, etc.). Eat a healthy breakfast to set yourself up for the rest of the day. Among the buffet, there are always eggs and fresh fruit. Hardboiled eggs are the best choice because there is no added oil for the omelets.

Choose one: alcohol or sugar or NONE

If you want to drink, don’t do the dessert; it’s just too much sugar. Sugar will weaken the immune system, making it easier to acquire travel related “bugs.” It also feeds the bugs, bacteria, and parasites, making traveler’s diarrhea much worse than it needs to be. Sugar also causes fatigue and moodiness, two of which have no place on a well-spent vacation.

Press the reset button, not the tap out button

We tend to look at things as black or white. Once we start eating off the wagon, the thought crosses our mind, “I’m on vacation, and I already messed up, I might as well enjoy myself and I’ll just diet when I get back home.” This is an example of a mental “tap out.” Instead, press the “reset” button for the next meal, start anew, and commit to eat in a loving way to your body. You stay tapped in (to mind-body consciousness) and have a better experience while you are away.

Cook a few meals before you leave and freeze them for when you return

We get back from vacation and the fridge is empty. The last thing anyone wants to do is go food shopping, and the task alone can encourage eating out for the entirety of the first week back. Make sure there are healthy options that are frozen and ready to eat upon return so you can immediately get back into the groove. Even making a shopping list right before the trip helps to ease the transition back into everyday life. Don’t feel like cooking? Buy some healthy pre-made meals and freeze them before you leave.


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