It's real easy to think that we're gaining weight during the holidays & on vacation just because we're eating and drinking too much, but actually there's a lot more to it. I've put together a strategy to help you plan for your next holiday or vacation so that you can "enjoy yourself and not destroy yourself."
I like to say that you can't change what you don't understand. So let's start by learning why vacations & holidays are so disruptive and destructive?
Defining a Vacation
Vacation to me is really a time to celebrate. You’re off work, you get a break from the routine and it's typically a lot longer than a weekend. And that's why a vacation is more of a disruption to your everyday routine. Because if you think about it like you're a kid going to a party like a sleepover, you know, that's where you're ending up just eating the junk food and the candy, and you're staying up really late and you're throwing off your whole normal eating pattern and sleep pattern too. And now imagine what the next morning like.
That's a short term, one night interruption, as an example, when the reality is vacation is more like 4, 7, 10 days, and sometimes even up to two weeks of interruption. And so if you were to party hard every day of your vacation, then it's only normal for you to gain weight and totally sabotage your weight loss goals too.
So that brings us to the first key point as to why we gain weight on vacation. The first contributing factor is time.
The average American is taking on average 17 days, every year for vacations and holidays. And that's why obviously it's a lot longer than a 2 day weekend. And the key point is the longer that you interrupt your established patterns, the more difficult it is for your body to recover.
That brings us nicely to the second contributing factor. It's your age. So the older that we get, the more difficult it is to rebound, recover, and return to baseline. And that's why you hear people come back from vacation and they're saying things like, gosh, I need a vacation from my vacation.
The third contributing factor is physiology and that's the function of how your body works. Your body is basically wanting to work to maintain its normal balance and return to normal. And that's because the human body is a maintenance machine. So no matter what age the body is always going to be constantly working to maintain the consistency in every system that it operates. The body works to maintain consistency, stability, and balance. And that's exactly why the body operates and relies on predictable routines and structured patterns, so it can maintain all of these systems.
Now here's the key point. If you have too much interruption, it becomes disruption. And in the case of our body weight, we know that our body weight depends on the effectiveness and the efficiency and the health of our metabolism and our digestive system. And this entire operation all depends on patterns, timing, and dosage, which is another way of saying amount.
Timing & Dosage
The reason why the duration specifically matters is it doesn't take long for your body to form a new pattern and your body will always start to adjust. And this is because your body is working to stabilize itself and adjust to the new pattern. It's more difficult when you get back home to readjust that routine & schedule. And the reason why the disruption matters is because your body will always work to do three things. It always wants to adapt, acclimate, and adjust.
Our metabolism is influenced by things like age, for example. The older we get, it's not as easy for us to restore the balance. And the second component is time. That's the other influence that can create a disruption of the patterns that the body wants to naturally maintain. So all of this is to say that too much time off on vacation or time away from your normal patterns and routines, all of it can easily get your metabolism and your body weight off track.
So you need to plan in advance, which patterns and routines specifically that you want to interrupt. You plan in advance what you want to maintain, and in the context of weight loss, I'm only referring to the patterns and routines that have a metabolic impact.
For more information on the 7 mechanisms that impact your metabolism, sign up for our free mini course on my website. There I give you more details!
Let's get into the "how to" strategy. The way I look at this is the more that you can maintain what you do, the more likely your body will be able to maintain its weight too.
I broke this down into two parts to make it simple. The first part of the plan is to plan pattern interruptions and the second half is to plan the number of exceptions and indulgences.
The goal is to maintain as many of your established patterns as possible to maintain your body metabolism and its function. So the first priority is to decide which patterns do I want to deliberately interrupt. Now, remember the fewer interruptions, the less disruption to your overall weight loss progress.
I absolutely love to eat on vacation and I plan to explore food on my trip. I don't want to worry or think so much about food. So I plan to interrupt my regular eating pattern. So next, I'm going to pivot and I'm going to look at what patterns can I realistically maintain while I'm on vacation.
What do I want to continue to do? So let's just be clear in the mini course, "how weight loss works", I cover all of the nuances that you need to know about. But here's the general overview of the patterns that I like to keep.
The first one is sleep. I think about this in the category of duration and time. So I'm looking to achieve seven to nine hours of sleep.
So I'll call it a night when I'm tired and I basically will just say, “Hey, I'm going to bed.” You want to make sure you're getting enough sleep because the quality and time asleep really does matter.
The second thing that I plan to keep is hydration. I do this by stocking my room up with water and I'm bringing my own water bottle and I drink water throughout the day. I'm drinking before every meal, I'm drinking water during a meal, along with a nice cocktail or wine.
The third thing that I really focus on is maintaining my overnight fast. So I wait at least 12 hours between my last meal of the day and my first meal of the next day, which essentially means that I'm skipping breakfast, which I typically do at home anyway. So I'm waiting and I indulged for sure in the other two meals of the day. So I have a really nice big lunch or brunch, and certainly I'm having dinner every day.
And the next pattern that I'm focused on is exercise. And exercise isn't just necessarily at a gym because let's face it, you're going to be traveling in all different locations and you're not always going to have access to something like that. So for me, that means I'm just bringing my tennis shoes along and I'm taking a walk. I'm taking the stairs. At the very least I'm planning on moving and getting my metabolism, working by walking at least 10 minutes after every meal and that's a great way to get moving!
I would say the final thing that I do is maintain mindfulness practice (meditation) and that helps me manage stress and emotions, which are other triggers for weight gain. And that's why you want to make sure that you maintain your mindfulness and you manage your stress and emotions. And so for me, that's 10 minutes approximately of, you know, mindful meditation every day.
I have a lot more tips and examples on how to have a successful vacation in my Podcast episode about "Vacations & Holidays", so be sure to give that a listen.
The best strategy for vacation is to minimize your pattern interruptions, and maintain as many patterns as you can like: sleep, exercise, hydration, and mindfulness. And then plan for exceptional indulgences so you can enjoy yourself and not destroy yourself.
It's my goal to help you change what you know about health and wellness, so that you can change what you do and change your body too.