Okay. You’re home, you’re almost unpacked, you had a good night’s sleep in your own bed and the critical moment has arrived. You have to step on the scale.
And then, inevitably, the thought or the declaration to the spouse: “I’m starting my diet today.”
Weight-gain happens on vacation. Duh. You can’t spend two weeks saying “It’s okay, I’m on vacation” eating whatever you want, and then expect to get off scot free. In fact, there have been countless articles written on just how much vacationers pack on over the course of a week. The scariest number of all is that the average cruise ship passenger gains between 5-10 pounds for a 7-day cruise.
Truth is “Those numbers are exaggerated,” explains Paula Meyer, a registered dietitian and our go-to person for health- and nutrition-related questions. “The actual weight gain on a vacation is more like 1-3 pounds.”
But before you go ordering another Sacher torte, Paula cautions that “It’s not what you gain, it’s what you keep once back home. Otherwise, a pound here, a pound there…over time, it adds up.”
So just how do we ward off the weight gain? Below, Paula shares some of her recommendations.
• Carry your own supply of healthy snacks. By now every one knows that you’re not going to be fed well on planes. Keep this in mind when packing your carry-on. Take a sandwich, some fruit, maybe those little individually-wrapped hummus containers, nuts. Even if it’s a short flight, always anticipate that there will be delays and you’ll get hungry.
• Avoid airport indulgences. Travelers often see the airport as a segue into vacation and allow themselves to get into the frame of mind of anything goes—indulging in candy or fast food. I see this in my practice, in food diaries all the time. It’s important not to let the airport set the stage for the trip.
• Plan ahead to fit in fitness. While you may see your vacation as an opportunity to relax and get refreshed, it’s not an excuse to take a break from exercise. I am not suggesting you lock yourself away in a hermetically sealed gym. Just make sure you get in some regular exercise whether it be renting bikes, playing tennis or taking hikes.
• Stop thinking that every meal has to be a celebration. Just because you are on vacation and eating out all the time, doesn’t mean you can order whatever you want meal after meal. Just because there’s a buffet doesn’t mean you need to try everything.
• Don’t deny yourselves, but choose carefully. If you’re in a restaurant that’s famous for its decadent desserts, certainly plan on enjoying one. But think twice about what your order for your main dish—pick something that’s baked, broiled or grilled. It’s all about indulging in moderation.
• Beware of the umbrella drinks and other alcohol. While you may normally enjoy a glass of wine that has about 120 calories, it’s quite a jump to margaritas (500 calories) or pina coladas (400-450). Treat yourselves to these every day of vacation and it’ll add up fast.
• With alcohol, restraint and judgement can go out the window. It’s not just the calories in alcohol itself that can add up. The more a person drinks, the more he/she seems to indulge.
• Be aware of portion sizes. Just because you can go back for seconds, even thirds, doesn’t mean you should. Try not to deviate from the portions you normally have at home. Remind yourself that tomorrow is another day. If you don’t take the chocolate mousse from the buffet one day, it’s likely to be there the next.
• Eat slowly. Enjoy it. Taste it. Keep this in mind at every meal.
In general, Paula explains, “Don’t go overboard with indulgence and don’t go overboard with restraint. It’s your vacation. You want to feel happy, rested and good. You want to come back and feel better than when you left. “
Paula Meyer is a registered dietitian and can be reached by e-mail here.
Photos: By Susan Farewell, from top to bottom, ice cream dessert at a traditional mountain hut near Gastein, Austria; hiking near Kitzbühel, Austria; river cruise in Luxor, Egypt.