You can picture it now. You’ve looked forward to time away from the hustle and bustle of reality, and your vacation has finally arrived! Maybe your destination is a gorgeous beach (my recent one was, and inspired this post), or it’s simply time at home with family over the Holidays. The question always comes up: Will you be staying on plan for vacation? Here’s my take.
I’ve had this debate numerous times with family, friends and clients. It always hits a few key elements, so I’ve broken down my position on each in this post – hope you enjoy!
- Re-Integration ie: post-vacation life
How can I “restrict” myself from all the sweet desserts, savory carbs etc. during my long-awaited break? Bang, there’s the whole argument in one question. If vacation was my opportunity to enjoy all of the things I’d been craving but restricting over the last few months then… I need to re-evaluate the 95% of life I’m not on vacation and find something that works better.
In the past, I demonstrated that it was not sustainable for me to restrict constantly (through daily yo-yo dieting ) and so felt entitled to reward myself by breaking that restriction when on holiday / vacation (more on reward below).
My answer to those asking me how can I restrict even on vacation is now very simple: If I don’t feel restricted day to day, I won’t on vacation either! My food choices on vacation capitalize on diverse, local cuisine. Keeping it keto by avoiding carbs is often very easy especially if outside of North America where carbs are ubiquitous. If I’m uncertain about where I’ll get my fat or salt, I’ll pack some of my own to be prepared.
Focusing on fat and protein is always delicious and above all, exciting because of the cultural ingredients and traditional preparation methods usually different from what I am used to at home.
As an added bonus, the ability to skip meals and fast for long periods eliminates the need to consume awful quality foods in airports, on the road, or getting hangry waiting in the long customs lineups!
Now… don’t get me wrong,if I really want some ice cream, or a higher carb local beer, I’ll enjoy it! Vacation is still a special time, and I’ve noticed that with being fat-adapted and holding this mindset, I am able to enjoy a smaller quantity of these treats and be satisfied than I had in the past. I’m not going on vacation for the express purpose of binge-eating (or drinking) carbs.
Don’t I want to reward myself for “being good” all these months? Again, this is a question of mindset that I simply push back on the entire premise. For me, the results of my daily work is the reward.
Feeling amazing on vacation is the reward. I will not compromise what I’ve built. My habits, my health, my body are what I am proud of. That is the reward, and I strive to continue improving it daily.
Recognizing the rewards I give myself daily through eating keto and staying active is my way of not requiring the proverbial carrot dangling in front of me to do the hard work. The goal is not a week of unbridled over-consumption of processed carbohydrates measured against months of restriction. This is a vicious cycle repeating to the end of time that I am happy to now be broken away from.
Have you ever slaved in the gym leading up to a big event or vacation to shed that excess weight (largely unsuccessfully, in my past experience at least)?
When the big day comes, don’t you just want to let loose and have a break? Sure, I have. But what happens after? We all know that answer. We fall off track until the next big event looms on the calendar (oh no, summer beach season is 6 weeks away!)
Or perhaps you are tired of slogging through your routine, and just want to be lazy for a week – fine if that’s what you want, but what have your results been with that approach? I know for me, they have not helped me towards achieving my goals.
If I know there is no gym where I’ll be headed, I throw in my luggage some resistance bands and can get in a great workout – check out this set on Amazon.
The elephant in the room of this debate – what happens when that event or vacation is over? You are ‘back to the grind’ and I’ve found it unlikely to pick right back up where I left off. It has taken me weeks or months to recover from a big break. So why even take it? Let’s talk about mindset for a bit because as vacations come and go, life is always there.
Mindset is Everything
I’ve written much about Enjoying the Process, and the philosophy holds true when debating whether to stay on plan during vacation or not.
It boils down to this: There is no finish line. You really don’t ever get a break, so the secret sauce is enjoying it all. The work, the grind, the rewards are entwined. So much so that I now choose activity, reflection, and a low carb whole foods keto diet whether on vacation or not. For me, the benefits of keto are vastly more valuable than short term pleasure from consuming sugar or refined carbs. I feel great when I get in a workout, so I make that a priority whenever I can.
On vacation, we all have extra time for ourselves – why squander it and set ourselves back?
The (Calorie) “Counter”-Argument
The question of whether to stay on plan or take a break during vacation takes a different shape when I reflect on my previous vacations, and what my lifestyle was during those times. Coming from a place of constant calorie counting, restriction, and calorie in vs calorie out mathematical rewards (burn 300 calories in 1 hour to eat a muffin in 5 minutes!) then yes, of course, the mental break from it all is relevant and worthwhile. My argument is, going keto has removed these restrictions from my daily life so there is no mounting pressure to take a break from anything at all.
Calorie counting (in vs out), portion control, etc is something I would hate to do day to day. I’ve done it. Dealing with hunger constantly to achieve goals is not sustainable. I would definitely not stay on that plan during vacation, it would ruin the whole trip. So ask yourself, if that’s you, why am I sabotaging my daily life in the same way I would not sabotage a vacation?
Wrapping up The Debate
I love my diet, how it makes me feel, and the results it provides. So finding what keeps me on plan during vacation is easy, fun and rewarding.
Also, I don’t workout to burn calories trading time on a treadmill for time with a cupcake. Instead, I forego sugary desserts and lift weights to build muscle, feel and look my best, and be strong for vacation (carrying the kids / luggage takes real strength!).
I can understand wanting to take a break if one is not enjoying the process… but then vacation means something very different. Vacation becomes that golden carrot – an excuse to slack off, let our old habits trickle back in to our lives and sabotage progress.
If this sounds like you, don’t despair. I encourage you to take it as signal to look more closely at one’s day to day, and see what small changes can me made to daily life. To create something more enjoyable, sustainable, and something you wouldn’t ‘take a break’ from.
Many backslide hard on their best habits (I did) like working out, eating clean and being mindful as soon as they board that airplane for their destination vacation. I recognize now that dropping my guard in the past allowed my “old self” which I’d been trying to improve upon have its bad habits take root again. It was always many times harder to start over after vacation. So instead, I’ve combined the keto diet with this mindset of enjoying the process to find what I can sustain in my day to day, enjoy it, and keep it as a proud part of myself even during vacation. I hope you can find something like this as well!
What are your thoughts on this? Do you let loose totally on vacation? Do you enjoy a lifestyle that allows some flexibility without totally derailing from your goals? I’d love to read your comments below!
Until next time, ciao.