But, unfortunately, many people worry about gaining weight over the holiday. The good news is, vacation weight gain is not inevitable. In fact, using these three tips, you might keep the weight off more easily than ever -- without resorting to carrots and other boring "diet foods."
Want to know an interesting fact about childhood weight gain and obesity?
Kids are most likely to become overweight or obese during summer vacation. Check it out:
But here's the thing:
This isn't happening because the kids are having so much fun on family vacation. It's because during the summer, their days aren't structured, so they basically have unlimited access to snacks.
During the school year, kids stay busy. They eat at breakfast, snack time, lunch and dinner.
During the summer, their day isn't so structured, and they can snack pretty much continuously if they want to.
Think about how this could apply to you on your vacation.
It's tempting to want to relax -- and you absolutely should. Go hang out at the beach -- and pack a cooler with one reasonably-sized lunch for each person in your party. Just... maybe not a cooler with enough food for everyone to snack continuously.
Pick morning and afternoon activities that keep you busy (even if you're just busy relaxing), so that you eat on a schedule and avoid eating out of boredom.
2. Go gourmet!
I told you this post was going to be delicious!
You're on vacation, and you have every right to indulge. In fact, you probably should indulge, and here's why:
How hungry (and how full) we feel is highly psychological. It isn't always determined by how much food we've eaten -- it's often determined by how many nutrients we've eaten.
Case in point: you can eat a whole huge bag of chips without feeling "full" -- but when you order a fancy entree that looks like it'll be gone in five bites, you end up asking for a carry-out box for your leftovers.
"There was a time when scientists believed that, due to evolution, humans are calorie zombies. We want to eat as much high-fat, high-calorie food as possible. But that is definitely not true."
And! As Mark Schatzker wrote in The Dorito Effect: The Surprising New Truth About Food and Flavor:
Fine restaurants feature trim diners, a good deal of whom do not seem to be in it just for the calories. They order small pieces of raw oily fish that, it just so happens, feature brain-healthy omega-3s. They relish just-picked asparagus, say, or sauteed langoustine next to pearly drops of emulsified oyster sprinkled with crumbled seaweed. As they eat these expensive small portions, they do not sit there silently fending off cravings for stuffed-crust pizza and bottomless Dr. Pepper.
To learn more about this, I highly recommend reading Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Live, by Thich Nhat Hahn and Dr. Lilian Cheung.
Research is piling up to support Dr. James Levine's finding that burning calories during exercise isn't nearly as important as NEAT, or non-exercise calorie burn.
Levine's early research showed that some people, in spite of visiting the gym multiple times per week, were still obese or overweight. Other people never went to the gym, and remained slender.
The difference wasn't how much exercise these people got, but how much non-exercise activity they got. Which, from an evolutionary perspective, makes sense: we weren't designed to work out for an hour at the gym every day and spend the rest of our time sitting. We were designed to expend smaller amounts of calories throughout the day.
Levine also showed that if you walk -- not as in power walk, but as in stroll at about one mile an hour -- for fifteen minutes after each meal, you're doing as much to fight weight gain as you would if you set aside an hour to work out at the gym.
And! You're effectively halving the spike in blood sugar that everyone gets after eating -- meaning you're reducing your risk of diabetes.
Plus! It's a great way to explore your destination in a way you otherwise wouldn't.
Go for a walk after each meal. Trust me -- it will leave you feeling energized and alert.
To learn more about this -- and to read about an incredibly inspirational, perseverant and totally out-there scientist -- check out Levine's amazing book, Get Up! Why Your Chair is Killing You, and What You Can Do About It.
Add it to your summer reading list ASAP. Whoever you are, and whatever your fitness or health or body goals, it will change your life.
4. Watch your alcohol intake -- and enjoy this tasty beverage instead!
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news... but alcohol is sugar. Sugar is a carb. Lots of people consume a lot more calories than they realize because of alcohol.
I know how wonderful it is to enjoy a pina colada by the beach or a beer by the lake...
But you know what tasty beverage I've been pretty obsessed with this year?
Sparkling water with lemon.
Seriously, it is the most amazing thing ever. I drink an entire Pellegrino every day. My whole life, I thought water with bubbles was gross and un-refreshing. But now I know the secret: add an ice cube and some lemon -- and savor!
Worth noting: yes, it's more expensive than tap water -- but it's way cheaper than beer or wine. I order mine on Google Shopping Express, and it's less than $1 for each of those huge glass bottles. (And if you use my link they'll give you $15 off your first order :D) Costco and Amazon also have some decently good deals.
5. Beware of stress eating.
Carbs and valium have a strange trait in common: they both calm us down.
It makes sense: stress triggers the fight or flight response, and fighting and flighting both require energy. So when you feel stressed, one of the things your brain tells your body to do is eat carbs. Read more.
Vacations are supposed to be fun and relaxing -- but they can definitely be stressful. Things can go wrong.
There's not a lot I can do to change that. Just, you know, suggest that you go easy on yourself. Plan the things you can ahead of time so you won't be stressed in the moment. But leave room for flexibility in case someone gets sick or something comes up.
When you start to feel your heart rate increasing, take three long, deep breaths. Count. Breathe. Close your eyes for a second and imagine the cutest little baby or puppy or kitty you've ever seen, and let that feeling wash over you.
Remember that you are awesome, and you can do this.
Want to know more? Check out The Biggest Stress Eaters (no pun intended)... Are Dieters.
Readers: how do you stay healthy and fit when you travel in the summer? Let me know in the comments.