First comes the vacation diet. Then the vacation food. And inevitably, the post-vacation diet.
If you are restricting your food intake before, during, or after vacation, this post is for you. Vacation eating is always a tough thing, especially for those that aren’t happy with their current size. I want to help, by explaining why your current mindset about vacation food is not helping you, and giving you three mental shifts you can enjoy vacation food to the fullest and feel great before, during, and after travel.
If you are anything like I was, you probably have one of these mindsets going into vacation:
I’m going to go completely off my diet and eat whatever the heck I want for the whole week! #YOLO
This vacation, I’m going to eat clean. I’m bringing my blender so I can make smoothies every morning, I’ll order salads when we go out, and I’ll drink maximum 1 glass of wine per day.
I’ve had both, and let me tell you, both mindsets suck the fun right out of vacation.
Let’s dissect these mindsets and see why they aren’t working.
Mindset #1 seems like it should be super fun right?
Sure, it’s fun for 2 days, enjoying all the treats, all the drinks, and all the chips. But then, reality rears its ugly head. You feel disgusting. Eating all the treats, drinking all the drinks, and eating a Costco-size bag of nacho cheesier Doritos makes you tired and bloated, and overall not feeling like your best self. This is when the moodiness sets in, and you want to feel good again, but you feel like you have to fully enjoy all the food because a diet awaits you when you get back home. So you keep on eating…
Mindset #2 is too idealistic. Nobody should have to be that strict, especially on vacation.
Vacation is a time to get out of your everyday routine, try new foods, let yourself enjoy some treats you might not normally eat. Being too strict with yourself can end in two ways:
a) You feel like you missed out on some of the fun because you always had to say no to the ice cream cones and the second glass of wine.
b) You fell off the healthy bandwagon and ended up with the “screw it” mentality…which led you to overeat, which led to restriction after vacation.
See how both of these mindsets don’t really work?!
So how can you enjoy vacation food to the fullest?
I believe it lies somewhere in between the two mindsets…
Eat what you want, without restriction.
I fully believe you should eat what you want without restriction all of the time, so this one shouldn’t be a surprise. When ice cream is available to you any time of the year, you will most likely eat it on vacation when you actually want it. You won’t have to eat it every single day of vacation, because it’s available to you every single day of the year.
Stop the restriction now, so vacation food isn’t placed on a pedestal, leading you to eat it for the wrong reasons while on vacation.
Get excited to try new foods.
One of the best parts of vacation (IMO) is trying the local cuisine. Trying new foods is actually a good thing for your health. It adds excitement, which can help in food satisfaction, which in turn helps reduce overeating. It also adds nutritional variety – maybe your current diet is lacking some nutrients and changing it up might help replenish your body. Lastly, it can be inspiring! I always end up writing down the ingredients of a dish in hopes I can recreate it at home, which in turn recreates good vacation memories while enjoying a home-cooked meal.
Eat based on how you want to feel.
This is the most important one. Last year on our lake vacation, I bought a blender for our family lake house so I could make my smoothies and some fruit popsicles. I did this because I know that a healthy breakfast helps me feel good for the rest of the day, not because I was trying to stick to a healthy diet. It allowed me to feel good, while still enjoying the less nutritional choices that a lake vacation includes. And sometimes at a restaurant while traveling, I’ll order a salad because it sounds good to my body in the moment, not because I “should” eat it to compensate for the bad foods. I choose foods based on how I want to feel afterwards.
Most of the time, we should try to choose foods based on how we want to physically feel, but we should also leave room to choose foods based on how we want to mentally feel. Often times on vacation, we will choose a few more “fun” foods than normal because we like the feeling they give us, like eating an ice cream sundae at the old fashioned ice cream parlor, or sharing a bottle of rosé on the balcony overlooking the ocean. Food is fun, especially with good company, so we should be able to enjoy those moments too.
In summary, I’m here to tell you that you CAN enjoy whatever vacation foods you want without going overboard (and without guilt!), and you can eat your favorite healthy foods without feeling like a stick in the mud. Just work on finding the right balance of eating the right foods for your body, along with the right “fun” foods for your mind and soul.
If you haven’t already downloaded it, my 7-Step Guide to Kick Dieting to the Curb is a great start to get in the right mindset to enjoy your vacation food to the fullest.