Wrapping up a diet, getting ready to travel and feeling like sharing a bit with you all today. In 9 days I fly to Vietnam to meet up with Olivia who’s now been gone for 13 days. Entering this new phase of parenting where we are slowly transitioning into empty nesters. It’s been quite the ride for us this past year, but I digress.
Right now, I cannot wait for Vietnam. South-East Asia was never even on my radar growing up, I am so proud of how independent and adventurous and confident our girl is. I am grateful for her giving me the opportunity to visit Vietnam with her. A few years back as a family we watched “Parts unknown” with Anthony Bourdain, hearing him rave about the food was all the endorsement I needed. Because yes, to me it always comes back to good food. I pretty much won’t go anywhere unless I know the food is going to rock my world. It will be hard to top Italy last fall, but I am ready for Vietnam to wow me.
So with that said as a nutrition coach, when you ask me how to track your macros on holidays, the first thing that comes to mind is the easiest way to ruin a vacation is to try to diet on your vacation!
Okay – to be fair two things come to mind.While I don’t encourage dieting while traveling. The second easiest way to ruin a good vacation is to come home feeling like crap and 10 pounds heavier.
Seems like if you have learned to build a lifestyle you could sustain, instead of going from one fad diet to another you wouldn’t be in this predicament over and over. 🤔
Sorry I can’t help myself sometimes… I know I may sound like a broken record, but it’s the truth. Flexible eating is about a lot more than counting your macros and tracking your food in MyFitnessPal. Yes, this is a big part of it, but if it is the only thing you’ve learned here you are missing the point.
We count macros and weigh and measure our food to learn how best to eat and fuel our bodies. This allows us to understand the impact of our food choices a lot better. Matching up our lifestyle and daily habits to look, perform and feel the way we want. Along the way you learn what is in your food. Do you feel better with more or less carbs. Do you feel better with more or less fat. How about what to eat to ensure you get enough protein in your day. What fuels your workout best. Learn how to guesstimate calories and macros of a meal eaten out after building up that knowledge from doing it at home. You learn some ways to save calories and trim fat by making easy swaps in your day. You learn how good sleep is actually super important for you to control your hunger and the choices you make. You learn that when you exercise you tend to care about your diet more. You end up building a lifestyle that you can sustain to achieve and maintain your goals with or without using a food scale. It’s a set of skills I can always return too, but it’s not something I aspire to do all the time forever.
So yes, vacation is a time to have a break from our routine, enjoy new experiences, new foods and have a good time. I want you to have all of this, I want to have all of this myself too. But I know that by keeping some of the daily habits that keep me successful in my day to day life, I am much more likely to come home full of amazing memories vs full of regrets. You can’t treat your holidays like an all-inclusive resort and eat and drink recklessly everyday.
Personally I follow my routine on the road, albeit more loosely, but there are a few things I know that if I do them I will come home feeling great.
- I prioritize good sleep. Heck it’s a holiday, you have nowhere to rush to, and want to come home feeling re-freshed. Jet lag and big time zone changes may make this difficult, but nothing says you can’t have after-noon siesta. And for me I need a dark room to sleep, so I pack my eye mask and melatonin to help with the time change.
- I seek out something physical everyday. Whether it’s a lot of walking while sightseeing, finding a Crossfit gym to drop-in, using the hotel gyms or doing pushups on deck by the pool I try to move daily. I know from experience when I keep my body moving I feel better. I also know for me eating well and exercising is closely tied together, one habit feeds the other, if I drop one, I am much more likely to drop the other.
- I pack snacks from home! I almost always bring protein powder, a shaker cup and a few protein bars. Eating out, it is very easy to find carbs and fat, but getting all my protein on the road can be harder. I sometimes pack a few oatmeal packets because the fibre keeps me regular and you know I LOVE my oats.
- When eating out I prioritize lean protein, fruits and veggies. Especially over breakfast and lunch. I like to save my bigger meals and indulgences for dinner. This allows me to control my calories a bit and not feel like I am missing out.
- I decide ahead of time what to enjoy and what I can live without. Either wine or dessert. Rarely both on same meal.
- I set my intentions clearly before my trip. Define what success is to me. It’s not about making promises I can’t keep like saying you will never drink on your vacation. You would most likely break that promise or come home miserable feeling like you missed out. But maybe it’s saying I will stop at 2 drinks per day and wake up and go to the gym every morning. Whatever success is to you, you get to define it.
These are not rules, they are habits. If I break one, I don’t sweat it, but I get back to my habits. If a meal is outstanding I will enjoy the heck out of it and cherish the experience and move on the next day knowing I am where I am because I am consistent, not because I am perfect. Mindset is everything. The way you eat should help you live your best life, not make you feel miserable. Being mindful of your choices does not mean you are restricting.
The biggest thing for me now is I no longer live my life under-eating and restricting myself. Something magical happens when you stop restricting, you suddenly just stop feeling out of control around food. Every holiday or big night out I used to eat to the point of regret. I hated myself the next day and immediately vowed to make it up by eating less that day or over-exercising. And guess what the cycle just kept going and going.
Until you stop restricting you can’t let go of the all or nothing mindset. Until you stop chasing unhealthy goals you can’t move forward. I can finally eat until I am satisfied, not stuffed. If I want it again tomorrow, I can just go back. It’s not my last meal on earth, I don’t need to act like it is.
Resist the urge to crash diet before your next trip. I get it we all want to look great and feel great on holidays. The problem is if you go on holidays at the end of a very strict diet, you will arrive there hungry and ready to let loose! Depending how long you have dieted, you may also have a slower metabolism. So now you are let loose at the buffet eating all the food, having all the drinks! Of course the weight will come right back and then some.
The only way to break the cycle is to start building a lifestyle you can sustain. Again, broken record, I am sorry, I will say it until it sinks in. Start longterm thinking as opposed to being unsustainably shredded on the beach in Mexico for 10 days, how you can you find the happy place you can maintain all year.
So as you sit here thinking of Spring Break and better yet, summer vacation and abs on the beach, start thinking how can I get there in a sustainable way? Now didn’t I just finish a cut when I said not to crash diet before a vacation?
I know I just said no crash diet before a holiday and here I was dieting before a holiday. Timing was right for me, I haven’t been in a deficit in a 2 years, following my back injury I just wanted to feel little more like myself. My cut started January 13th and I stayed in it for 6 weeks where I lost about 4lbs, Not exactly a crash diet. I only adjusted my macros 2x, And never cut more than 300 calories away from maintenance. Timing was right after the holidays, having not done a cut in a long while, and being in a place right now where I could pull back on training a bit and not focus on performance at all while I did this. Not training nearly as much is actually a good thing while trying to lose weight (contrary to popular belief) but that is a post for another day. At no point was hunger, energy and performance too low. Although if I did notice in the last 2 weeks as my training volume increased so did my hunger and I started to really need my re-feed days. 6 weeks later, I didn’t quite make my 5 lbs goal, but I am happy with where I am. This isn’t the leanest I’ve been by a long shot, but it is the most aligned I have been in a while between how I feel + perform and being happy in my skin. I know what it takes for me to maintain this weight and it aligns with a lifestyle I enjoy. I also know for me what it would take to be leaner and I am not ready to make the lifestyle changes necessary for that right now. I know to me right now, the trade off for me are no longer worth it. For what? Bigger abs? A smaller number on the scale? These things didn’t bring me happiness in the past, and I don’t expect them to anymore. There is nothing wrong with wanting these things, but I think you can only find peace when you align your goals and your life. I feel good. I feel good in the gym. I am not feeling like I am restricted. I can have a normal social life. Even while going through this cut, I was able to fit a few nights out and celebrations.
Do I love my body every moment of every day? No. I still have my days like everyone, but more and more I am able to see myself as a whole person. I am more than the fat on my stomach or whatever I am obsessing about. When these feelings creep up I am able to see them for what they are, feelings that will pass.
It is okay to have goals, it’s not a bad thing to want to lose weight, I want everyone to feel good in their skin but self-love and acceptance will not come to you from a number on the scale. Happiness comes from within not from a reflection in the mirror. Understand why you want something, understand what you are willing to do for it or your goals will constantly be at odds with your lifestyle.
So in preparation for this trip, I will bring my calories back up to maintenance. During my trip I will most likely not track at all. Or if I do it will be really loosely. Being realistic I know I will not have access to wifi all the time, I will be eating very different food, so any tracking would be just me guesstimating. I have been at this for some time now, I can eat intuitively and can ballpark around the calories I want. After my trip and long ass flight I plan on staying off the scale and off MyFitnessPal for 3 days minimum. Just getting myself back on some kind of normal sleep/eat schedule. Seriously don’t hop on the scale after a long flight, you will give yourself a heart attack for no reasons!
I plan on giving myself a week at maintenance when I return. If for some reason I find myself coming home with a few pounds on me, I can make adjustments after. Long flights, eating out, the poor sleep and jet lag, that all plays a big role in our body comp, you want to give your body time to adjust back. Give yourself time to just be on your routine and recover before getting too excited and cutting calories again. 9 times out of 10, after a solid week and good sleep you will be back to where you were.
Sometimes on holidays I keep tab on my protein on MyFitnessPal to make sure I hit my minimum. I have been known to fully track on certain holidays. It’s a personal choice and it is something you get to decide for yourself at the time. On this trip I choose not to track. In Italy I chose not to track. But there are some instance where I do track on holidays and that works too. You just need to ask yourself, what are my goals right now? Do I have a strict timeline? What kind of holidays is this? I am not going to Vietnam again anytime soon, to me it’s a once in a lifetime experience I want to enjoy. But a week in Arizona with my girls or family vacation in Whistler and it might make sense to me to continue to track. On those occasions I would likely have my own kitchen and be making many of my meals. Bottom line, once you learn how to eat to feel your best it shouldn’t be completely dependent on being précised to the gram. Nutrition is not either or, all or nothing, real life is having flexibility and making decisions aligned with your goals most of the time.
If you were hoping this would be filled with more practical tips of tracking on holidays you may enjoy re-visiting this past post. https://powerupnutrition.ca/our-best-travel-tips/
If you are ready to take on a more sustainable approach before summer, reach out, now is the time to start!