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Finding Balance: Eating & Drinking on Vacation

Updated: Mar 21

Here's why your enjoyment phase is so critical & how to balance eating & drinking when on vacation!

You may be asking me, “Vanessa, what do you mean I am going to workout & eat healthy on vacation, isn't that what my vacation is for is to be relaxing & carefree?”

Now I would say back to you, “that is totally right, you are not wrong, however, is your body taking a vacation from fulfilling all the daily tasks that allow you to be able to do the things you want to do on vacation?”


enjoyment vs. indulgence

Your body doesn’t just shut down and say, ‘alright I am going on vacation this week so I’m going to just turn off for the next 7 days and I’ll wake up when I’m back!’ - said no-body ever. Our bodies don't really get a vacation, they are always working for us, even when we are sleeping, sitting watching tv and even just breathing; there are thousands of actions happening in our body when we don't even realize it. Vacations can be relaxing and carefree…and they can also be time off from our normal routines to have a mental, physical and emotional reset so that when we are back from vacation, we can pick up where we left off stronger than when we left. Vacations are intended to be breaks, providing us a rejuvenating feeling for when we return.

Now, I can just about guarantee that you reading this right now would agree that when you (typically) come home from a vacation, it takes you days, maybe even weeks, to get back in the groove of things or for your workout and nutrition regimen to feel like something you can actually keep up with. What if we flipped the script & got ahead of our post-vacation slump by simply making different choices while on our vacation?

For example, I was recently in Cancun for 5 days for my joint-bachelorette/bachelor party with my husband-to-be and our wedding party (not to mention it was also my birthday over this trip & I was celebrating becoming a nutrition coach and graduating from a 60 day program for fitness pros) so a lot of celebrations here! On this trip, we stayed at an all inclusive resort- yes we are talking buffets on buffets of all the dreamy foods you can think of, open bar, snacks around the clock; you name it, we had it. On this trip, I had to make several decisions. I said to myself, ‘okay, I am here for 5 days, this is going to be a long time (essentially a week worth) of totally binging out on all the food and drinks I don’t typically indulge in while at home. Therefore, I need to set some boundaries for myself, so that when I do get home & even while still on vacation, I don’t feel like a pile of poop putting my body into an utter state of shock, leaving my stomach and liver saying to me ‘excuse me, who do you think you are?” So, I set some boundaries, healthy boundaries.

Brief intermission: Let’s treat food & drinks for what they are. Yes, you paid to be here, ‘you paid for the all-inclusive, so you better get your money’s worth,’ however this does not need to be at the owner's expense. By this I am referring to sluggish mornings, stuffed lunches you can barely mosey over back to the pool to play games & overloaded dinners clearing off 2 full buffet plates and 2-3 desserts because you couldn't choose that you end up passing out before the night even begins.

So let’s go back to those boundaries, back to the let’s treat food and drinks for what they are; necessities. Food and drinks (you know which drinks are necessities and which aren’t) are necessities in life, we need them to survive. Our bodies know & try to signal us when they have had enough in one sitting & it remains our conscious decision to listen (mental) to our body (physical) cues when it’s telling us no more. Pushing past the limit of enjoyment (satisfaction at a particular point in time) beyond what is necessary is indulgence. How often do you find yourself in this state of indulgence vs. enjoyment, especially while on vacation? We have all been there; reaching that phase maybe even after Thanksgiving where you look to your cousin and say ‘I am so stuffed beyond belief, this isn't even fun anymore.’

This is the enjoy vs. indulge mentality vs. the “you better get your money’s worth” mentality. When we enjoy an experience, food or drink, we are getting our money’s worth in memories and moments shared where we felt good physically & mentally. When we pass the enjoyment phase and reach indulgence, this is where we hit the Thanksgiving turkey wall of now forcing ourselves to not eat for 4 days because of how much we consumed in that one dinner alone.

"Balancing the enjoyment and indulgence scales is key to any vacation, holiday or even a work trip. Learning and listening to your body to continue enjoying without reaching indulgence, will reward us much more in the long run."

So we come back to the setting of boundaries, health boundaries. These are ones that we can set ahead of an event, vacation or holiday, either mental within ourselves or by physically writing it out. A few items to consider when setting these are knowing what to expect on your trip, being realistic and honest with yourself, and allowing yourself flexibility in your plan.

When you are planning for a trip or vacation, you know where you are going (for the most part), so you check the weather & plan accordingly based on the activities you will be partaking in while on that trip. Do the same thing when it comes to your health and wellness. Think about what options will be available to you when it comes to food and drink. Think about your consumption on a 24 hour basis vs. chastising yourself for eating terribly the entire trip. You deserve to enjoy that trip and 'splurge' a time or two, but real yourself back in and listen to those cues to know when too much of a good thing doesn't turn out so great.

Second, be realistic and honest with yourself when it comes to what you can and will do while on the trip. If you know that zesty Italian pasta is your weakness, don’t limit yourself to having pasta on on your trip to Florence simply because it’s high in carbs– this doesn’t help you. This is an example of too restrictive of a limitation that leads to more frustration, headache and ultimately one that you won't adhere to. Be realistic with your desires and the pleasures you may find through food and drink while on a trip. The key is remaining in the enjoyment phase & not forcing yourself into overindulgence or binging on food and drink simply because you're having things you have deemed you "can't have".

Lastly, allow yourself a plan that is flexible and open to changes along the way. We all know and have experienced events, travel plans, and holidays go haywire and not at all as planned. We must keep our composure and know that at the end of the day, our eating and exercise regimen may not go as we intended on a trip. Not dwelling on what didn’t happen and focusing on celebrating what you did accomplish or what you learned from the experience that will set you up for the next go around, is key to creating a sustainable regimen that is realistic and flexible to meet your lifestyle needs. This starts with your mindset; being understanding and okay with being agile in your plan.

All in all, if you take one thought with you as you go about your day, let it be this: “enjoy vs. indulge.” Find the meaning of this for you and reflect upon what we just discussed. I dive deeper into this topic and several others that support a sustainable lifestyle nutrition regimen in my 60 day nutrition program, BITES. BITES is a comprehensive group and self paced program with 1:1 & community support, progress tracking & accountability, as well as step by step guidance to support cultivating a lifestyle nutritional regimen. Learn more and how to apply above & subscribe below to stay in the know of more weekly newsletters, just like this!

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