Ariella has been a long time client who is always watching her weight very carefully. Even during the Chagim, she holds her own and barely gains weight. But Ariella has one time of year that is truly her downfall when it comes to keeping her weight in a normal range, and that is the summer vacation time. Every year, her family goes away for two and a half weeks and by the time their vacation is over, her clothes are very tight and the scale is up. Perhaps the worst part is that she gets depressed about it and it takes her an additional week to regain her focus and get back to her otherwise great habits regarding food and exercise. This summer, we have implemented some new strategies to try to head off problems before they happen.
Although summer vacations provide us with a much needed get-away from the daily routine, there are also some potential hazards involved in regard to our health. Being out of our usual environment can mean many wild cards that we don’t anticipate. Are we staying in a hotel where we don’t have a lot of choices as far as the variety of food? Are we relying on eating in restaurants most days? Have we built in a lot of activity each day, such as hiking and swimming, or are we going to be sedentary? How much traveling time will there be and how do we prepare for that?
At the airport: Eat before you leave or pack food for the airport and journey. Although you can find dietetic options at the airport, there is still nothing better than home-made food. Some airlines don’t even let you board with drinks so find out in advance what you can and cannot take on the plane.
On the plane: The food served on planes is high in fats (even trans fats) and sugars. It is usually very processed and generally not at all healthy. Think about bringing your own food and pre count portions. Sandwiches, rice cakes, unsalted nuts, raw cut up veggies, string cheese, fruit, dried fruit, yogurt, dried cereal in bag are all good options. Don’t forget water as it is THE best aid for minimizing jet lag.
Hotel or Family
Whether you are staying in a hotel or with family, you have to be extremely vigilant. In a different environment, people may be sleep deprived, might be stressed, and usually someone else is doing the cooking. It is easy to see why you have to have your survival plan and a realistic goal vis-a-vis your weight loss. I advise most of my client to just try to maintain their weight while you they away as that is a more realistic goal. Follow all the regular guidelines one follows when eating out. In particular watch your portion sizes and avoiding fried, battered and pastry foods, creamy sauces or heavy dressings. Start each day with a nutritious breakfast, don’t skip meals, stay hydrated and try and keep active.
As you will undoubtedly be busy each day, keep in mind that you can include activities that will give you enough exercise and activity while still enjoying your vacation experience. For instance:
- Choose water workouts and make a splash as you get fit and strong.
- When you visit museums, the zoo, or an aquarium, you end up walking for hours without realizing it.
- When it’s just TOO hot and uncomfortable outside, get moving indoors with a fun fitness DVD.
- Plan a hike through a park, a family softball game, or an evening walk around your neighborhood.
- Drink plenty of water before, during, and after exercise, especially when the temperature soars.
- Strengthen your muscles at least twice a week with push-ups, pull-ups, or lifting weights
- Beat the heat with an early morning activity. Go for a walk or bike ride while watching the sun come up.
There is no question that one of the fun aspects of summer is barbequing. It is a great opportunity to be outdoors and to get together with your family and friends while doing something different in the way you prepare your food. It can be a big treat for your kids too. Not only can grilling be fun, it can be a very healthy and relatively low calorie experience also. Grill breast of chicken or fish for a good lean protein. Grill vegetables with anything else you are preparing. But at the same time, be careful how you grill.
While there is no firm evidence that grilling causes cancer, cooking meat at the high temperatures you use to grill—as well as broil and fry—creates heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), compounds linked with some cancers. Grilling fish, vegetables, or fruits doesn’t create substantial HCAs. For healthier meat and poultry grilling, cook small, lean pieces of meat, which take less time on the grill and produce less smoke from dripping fat. If you use a charcoal grill, center the food on the grate but push the coals to one side. Remove visible fat to prevent flare-ups.
Exercise—even on vacation!
This is probably where most people have a downfall when away for the summer. Granted, it takes a lot of discipline but we need to look at it just like eating. You aren’t trying to advance in anyway, you just want to exercise enough to maintain your strength and endurance, enough to help you not gain too much weight, and be content with doing a more minimal workout than you would at home. Make your 30-35 minute brisk walk mandatory on a daily basis, and try to just get in some pushups and abs every other day. The gym will be waiting for you when you get back from your vacation—and it won’t take you very long to be back to your normal level of exercise if you don’t get into the all or nothing routine. Something is ALWAYS a lot better than nothing!
Taking a holiday is important for your mental health and if is a good way to reduce your stress. It is important to enjoy yourself and at the same time, not let it all go as far as your health goes. One piece of advice I gave Ariella and I give to all of my travelers is this: you usually aren’t in charge of your daily schedule when you are away visiting people or on an organized tour. Don’t make any grand plans. Take everything one day at a time. Plan the next day, the prior night before you go to sleep. By that time, you know what the next day looks like and you can plan your meals, your snacks, and your exercise based on that days schedule. Remember to make the best of any situation and try to make good choices. This year, Ariella went away as usual, but when she came back, her weight gain was limited to one kilogram and she stayed active enough and exercised just enough, to stay in good shape.
Vacations don’t have to be hazardous to your health—the opposite is true. If you manage it properly, it can enhance your state of both physical and mental well-being. Taking care to plan your vacations is another way to “add hours to your day, days to your year, and years to your life.”