Health, nutrition and eating on vacation
This is 100% not a “how to stick to your diet” or “stay on track” on vacation post. It’s sort of the opposite, in that I want to share some tips on how not to fall back into diet culture-influenced or disordered eating behaviors while away from home. I often find with clients, even those who have done a lot of work on their relationship with food, vacations can be tough when it comes to eating. Schedules are atypical, as are foods, and it’s common to have the “good” vs “bad” food thoughts creep back in. But dammit, we all deserve a vacation to relax these days, not one that adds more stress (around food or otherwise!).
With vacation often comes irregular schedules and a lack of routine, and while that is part of what makes vacation so great, it can be tricky when it comes to regular meals and snacks. Skipping meals, whether it’s purposeful restriction or forgetfulness, and not having adequate snacks is something I see often with clients. It can lead to a bunch of challenging situations, from overeating, bloating, constipation, lack of energy and crankiness. I usually encourage going no longer than 3-4 hours without eating, and having snacks on hand when necessary, vacations included. Take a look at your itinerary and map out some restaurants or fast casual spots you can eat at when you’re out and about to avoid getting into a sticky (and hungry!) situation. Stocking up on portable snacks like squeezable nut butter packets, granola bars, and trail mix before you leave for a trip can also be super helpful and keep the “hanger” at bay. Stopping by a grocery store for things like fresh fruit, yogurt and cheese sticks can also be a game changer if you have a refrigerator available.
Know that you have permission to eat all foods
Vacation is a great time to try new cuisines or local specialties, and you have full permission to do that without restricting or depriving yourself of other meals before or afterwards. Similar to holidays, sometimes I find clients “saving up” for vacation meals by not eating all day leading up to a dinner, or having a huge breakfast at the buffet and not eating for the rest of the day. The key here is consistently fueling your body on a regular basis, so you don’t arrive at any one meal absolutely starving, and knowing you can have any food at any time, so you don’t leave any meal feeling totally stuffed.
Hydrate on the regular
With schedule and routine changes also comes some forgetfulness to drink (water! lol). Dehydration can happen fast, especially in warmer climates, and having a hydration plan is a top priority. Not only can dehydration lead to headaches and sluggishness, but it can also back up the digestive system and lead to GI discomfort and constipation. Get a big bottle of water before boarding your flight and drink often, since flying can also be dehydrating, and do the same thing once you get to your destination so your hotel room or rental is stocked with fluids. When out and about, bring a reusable water bottle to refill as you explore and play tourist. If you’re imbibing, try alternating glasses of water with your cocktail of choice as alcohol is dehydrating.
Try some enjoyable movement
Vacation is a great time to move in a way that’s enjoyable to you. Taking advantage of what’s available in your vacation spot, like stand up paddle boarding, new hiking trails or running routes (one of the best ways to see a new city!), kayaking, beach yoga or swimming pools, can be fun and a great way to experience the area. If none of the above sound exciting to you, parking yourself on the beach is also a fantastic use of vacation time.
Remember to rest and relax
Wanting to do all the things while on vacation can be tempting, but don’t forget one of the best parts about being away: rest and relaxation! The body and the mind recharge during sleep, and making time for an extra hour or two when you have no other commitments can work wonders. Resting the body in other ways, like not exercising if you’ve been going hard on the workouts at home, can help your muscles recover and feel fresh for when you pick things back up again.
Be the example
If you’re traveling with friends or family who are still entrenched in diet culture and whose behaviors may be triggering to you, try to turn things around and be the example for them. Nourishing your body on a regular basis, not labeling foods as “good” or “bad”, eating and existing without self judgement or criticism is often contagious.
Now please excuse me while I go on vacation for a few days :)
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