I believe we should enjoy our vacations and all the delicious delights that come with them – the food, drinks, treats, people, places and activities.
With that mindset, I indulged, imbibed and embraced the pleasures of summer during my vacation.
But on my first day back when I stepped on the scale, I was honestly a little disappointed in myself. My immediate thoughts were of regret. Did I really need to indulge that much? Were those almond croissants necessary? Did I have a few too many cocktails? Maybe that ice cream wasn’t such a great idea.
Have you ever had similar thoughts, questions or regrets after a vacation, holiday or special occasion?
I’ve been talking to clients this summer about how they deal with similar temptations while travelling and emotions afterward. And as I reflect upon my vacation, I’m thinking more and more about the stress we put on ourselves around food and drinking and how emotionally challenging that can be. The stress can actually have a greater health impact than the food we eat!
To help minimize some of your stress around vacation indulgences so that you are able to be in the moment and enjoy your holiday, I offer these tips and suggestions for dealing with the temptations and coping with the emotional and physical aftermath:
Be realistic. One of my core beliefs is to be realistic about your healthy habits. It’s not realistic to think you’ll be able to stick to them 100% of the time. There will be times when you’re doing well, on track, eating cleanly and exercising regularly. And then there will be interruptions to this flow. Times when life gets in the way and you are unable to keep this focus. And vacations are one of these times. Vacations are all about relaxing, rewarding yourself for all that hard work and taking your foot off the gas pedal. It’s not realistic to think you’re going to stick to your healthy habits while on vacation. So ease that rigid thinking, cut yourself some slack and enjoy. This realistic attitude will help to ease some of that post-vacation regret.
Have a plan. With your realistic mindset in place, you may also want to have a plan or a strategy going into your vacation. Decide what foods, alcohol, treats you want to enjoy. Where is that happy point between restriction and debauchery that feels right for you? The place that allows for some indulgence but doesn’t completely blow all your hard work. For me it is usually allowing in some carbs and sweets which I don’t eat on a regular basis. You also want to think ahead. If you’re on a road trip why not pack a cooler of healthy food to eat instead of resorting to unhealthy fast foods at road stops. Bring a healthy dish to the potluck. Eat a healthy snack before you go to the barbecue. Opt for a lower carb beverage versus the sweet mixed alcoholic drinks. Check out the restaurant menu in advance. Having a plan in place and thinking ahead will help you make some more mindful decisions around food and drink while travelling.
Focus on the primary foods. Instead of focusing so much on the food you’re eating, while on vacation I invite you to shift your focus to the other things that nourish you. This is what I call primary food. The stuff that feeds your soul and nourishes you at a deep level. Things like spending time with the people who matter most. Seeing new places and having new experiences. Doing activities that thrill and excite you. Spending time in nature. Feeling connected to something greater. Taking time to rest, sleep, relax and decompress. Primary foods are the people, places, things and experiences that bring meaning and purpose into your life. Focus on these types of “foods” during vacation and I promise you’ll come back feeling well-fed, satisfied and deeply nourished.
Enjoy with gusto. This is one of my favourite food tips from Geneen Roth. She’s developed a list of seven guidelines to eating more consciously. The last one is “Eat with enjoyment, gusto and pleasure.” When you’ve made a decision on what you’re going to indulge in, she advises to fully enjoy the experience. Don’t beat yourself up, stress-out or feel guilty about it. Taste and savour every bite. Be fully present to the experience and embrace it with all of your senses. I employed this guideline a few (let’s be real, many) times on my vacation. One of the most memorable was an ice cream. When someone mentioned Dusty’s Dairy Bar in Rhode Island that had a peanut butter flavoured soft serve dip, I just knew I had to have it. So I did. I didn’t have the biggest one available. I had a small with no cone and enjoyed every single lick and drip. I was present for every spoonful. I didn’t go back for more. I allowed myself the treat, soothed the craving, ate it with enjoyment, gusto and pleasure and I moved on.
Get back on track. We’ve already established we all have times during the course of the year where we aren’t eating that well. Vacations, busy work times, stressful life events, loss and grief can all cause us to stray from our healthy eating habits. The success factor here is not about giving in to those times (because we know we will) the key to success is how quickly can we get back on track after them. These times will happen. This is life. We’ve agreed to be realistic about it, right? The question is, will you let these interruptions spiral out of control and lead you into weeks and months of binge eating and debauchery, or will you accept the meal, one or two days, or the vacation, and get back on track as soon as possible? As soon as life settles down, or vacation is over you get back on track. Once you get back to healthy eating, regular exercise and routine, and any repercussions from the vacation will be remedied pretty quickly. Those few extra pounds will drop, the cravings will cease and you’ll be back to your healthy self in no time.
I hope these 5 tips are helpful as you return to life after vacation or plan an upcoming one. And I’d love to hear from you in the comments…what are the strategies or tips you implement during vacation to deal with temptations, indulgences and post-vacation regret?
If you’re looking for some support and guidance before of after your summer vacation, my Summer Action Plan Package is still available. We’ll connect for 90 minutes to develop your action steps and accountabilities and then we’ll touch base two more times to check-in, tweak, refine and re-commit. Review the full package and register here.