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Vacation Time: How to Stay on Track

Vacation - we look forward to the chance for travel and rest, but our plans may throw our healthy routines for a loop.

Whether it's eating on the road or fitting in exercise, we're challenged to transfer our good intentions to new places, schedules and circumstances.

How can we maximize the advantages of our time away without forgoing our healthy momentum? Read on for eight ideas that can help you maintain your program while making the most of your R&R.


Let’s start with the obvious. You’re on vacation for Pete’s sake - take advantage! This is the time you’ve specifically dedicated to unplugging from work and de-stressing from the daily grind. Allow yourself to do just that!

Getting in some solid R & R will do your body ample good. The benefits of 7-8 hours of uninterrupted, quality sleep are endless - one of the greatest benefits being their positive effects on your metabolism. In addition to taking advantage of the extra Z’s, enjoying the time to relax and unwind can significantly help decrease stress levels and the amount of cortisol running through your system. 

Make a pledge to yourself during vacation to not check emails or other media sources. Set your mobile device(s) aside, and be present in the here and now. Doing just this can actually be one of the best ways to help yourself stay on track in other areas of overall health, too.

Stay strong - mentally.

Having just completed a period of time in which I vowed to stay on track for 30+ days, I can personally say that keeping a solid mindset is what got me through it. The family functions, weddings, birthday parties, and even laid back get-togethers with friends all had their own challenges, but staying true to my plan really came from the mental decision to do so. Being confident in my healthy habits and decision-making choices not only kept me on track, but it also radiated to others around me. 

Sure, I would get questions about my food choices, and instead of giving into the temptation to take the “easy” way out, I used those opportunities to strengthen the healthy choice I had made while also using it as a modeling moment for others. 

Suddenly, going from feeling like the odd person out while everyone else was overindulging, I instead felt empowered to stick with my healthy decisions. Likewise, it was apparent others around me were reconsidering theirs as well.

Be prepared.

Think of yourself as you would your child. You’d never dream of leaving the house without some necessities and back-up items. Do the same for yourself. Try to get a game plan for what the vacation is going to entail.

What are the meals? How are they prepared? How active are you going to be? What opportunities and resources will be available for exercise? Packing a cooler with some deli meats, fresh fruits and veggies (e.g. apples, sliced peppers, carrots, cherries, etc.), trail mix, mixed nuts, water bottles, etc. can really go a long way and be great additions to your day. This is when many of my clients like to utilize a protein powder or meal replacement shake, as they travel well, are fast and convenient, and can be added to water for a satisfying and filling healthy meal or snack. 

If you bank on having healthy options appear along the way, you may find yourself with limited choices in many places/situations. Taking a minute to prep some items ahead of time can be a life-saver. I’ve never once regretted being overly prepared!

Practice 80/20.

If you haven’t heard of and practiced the 80/20 rule yet, make this a part of your regimen ASAP. 

This concept revolves around sticking to your healthy way of eating 80% of the time. This means really making your plan a priority, having the majority of your meals and snacks include quality and adequate protein sources and amounts, ample veggie intake for nutrients and fiber (to keep you fuller longer and assist your gut and digestion), and complex carbohydrates in moderation (typically dependent on your activity duration and intensity). 

If you are true to your plan 80% of the time, the other 20% can give you enough leeway to adapt when circumstances dictate.

Remember the why.

When times get tough, think back to why you chose to make a lifestyle change in the first place. You have goals that you focus on and daily habits that you’ve been making a priority because ____ (fill in your reason for living a healthier lifestyle). 

I’ve had clients who keep pictures of themselves tucked in their wallets or purses as a reminder of either where they don’t want to slip back to or where they want to be. Maybe it’s a rubber wristband with a motivational saying that serves as a reminder. 

Whatever the reminder may be, bring it with you even on vacation as it will be a powerful message keeping you strong during moments of weakness.

Enlist support.

The ideal situation in any lifestyle change is to round up a person (or 5) to join you! The more people you have going through the same challenges and similar situations, the more you can turn to each other for support and guidance

Going at it alone? Have no fear! Try reaching out to a significant other or close friend for moral support. It’s important to have someone in your corner to offer words of encouragement or helpful suggestions. 

If you inform other people around you about your new healthy lifestyle choices, more often than not they’ll respect your decisions and become cheerleaders for you.

Remember the basics.

Being on vacation will inevitably present difficulties at some point. Maybe it’s the temptation to grab a soda rather than a sparkling water or a second helping of the pasta salad rather than more veggies and dip. Before you know it, your mind is racing, wondering“How the heck do I get back on track now?” 

It’s not rocket-science, and everyone can do it. The key is to keep it simple. 

Remember the basics of your plan. If your goal is nutrition-focused (which it should be primarily, if you’re looking to lose body fat), think of helpful tips during meals and snacks such as ensuring adequate protein intake (e.g. meats, nuts, seeds, protein shakes, etc.). So, step 1 = protein. 

Step 2—choose your vegetable (fiber). Start with veggies that you enjoy, and if it helps to increase vegetable consumption to pair it with a serving (not a whole container) of hummus, guacamole or full-fat dip, go for it! Those two steps will get you a long way and are easy to remember each time you eat (or are tempted to eat).

Keep on keepin’ on.

If/when you “slip up” or stray from the plan, don’t consider your hard work thus far a wash. We all have hiccups and bumps in the road, and that is all they need to be. Don’t make that one instance a crater in your route to success. 

People go wrong in thinking that every move has to be perfect in their paths to health and fitness. Aim for healthy choices the majority of the time, and keep your sanity by being mindful of the selections you make outside of that 80% as well as the way you feel (physically) when you do make a not-so-healthy choice. 

Are you looking for more support for incorporating healthy living into your lifestyle? Talk with one of our weight loss coaches today. Thanks for reading.

In health, Becca Hurt, MS, RD, Assistant Program Manager of Life Time Weight Loss

This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader.

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