Question: I’m going on holiday for two weeks soon- YAY! How do I stick to my diet and fitness plan during this time?
Answer: Your question shows me that you’re taking a proactive approach by preparing to pack a plan as you’re packing your suitcase! Here are my eight tips for diet and exercise success while you’re on vacation:
1. Carry a copy of your diet and fitness guidelines, as well as a checklist for the time you’re away. What holds you to your plan while you’re at home? Do you put your workouts on your calendar or set an exercise reminder on your phone? Do you have a food list taped to your refrigerator? Do you count calories using an app like MyFitnessPal or FitBit? Be sure to continue using systems that work for you while you’re on vacation. I like to carry a short checklist with me using the Evernote app. Don’t put your systems “on hold” until you return- these tools are important for success and may be challenging to reincorporate into your life if you let them go for a week or two.
2. Prepare ahead by packing some healthy snacks and meals. Almonds, hummus, buffalo mozzarella, Greek yogurt, fresh fruit and protein powder are just a few items you can have on hand at the airport and in the hotel. Pack a few snacks in your day bag as well; popular tourist destinations are often surrounded by fast food joints and healthier choices can be tough to find. Invest in a cooler bag and some Tupperware and bring a few pre-prepared lunches with you for the days when you’ll be out and about. Most hotels have refrigerators in the room now, so there's less worry about spoilage.
3. Do a little research before your holiday. What are some healthy food options that are native to your destination? That way, you’ll still be able to enjoy the cultural experience of dining out while sticking to your plan. Heading to Greece? You can’t go wrong with souvlaki, briam, dakos, and grilled fish! Vacationing in Japan? That’s an easy one- head over to Tsukiji fish market for a sashimi breakfast with free flow green tea. Bouncing over to Malaysia for the weekend? That can be a bit trickier, due to the amount of coconut milk, sugar and butter in many of the dishes. In this case, focus instead on portion control. Don’t deprive yourself, but definitely skip the full portion of char kway teow.
4. If you’ve got the budget for it, book a hotel with a fabulous gym! Make the gym one of the most important factors in choosing where to stay. Is the equipment shiny and new? Are there many machines to choose from? Are classes offered? Is there a pool or a sauna? How about a yoga and pilates studio? Hotels know that fitness services are increasingly important to travelers, especially in Asia! Drool-worthy gyms include the Park Hyatt in Tokyo, the Ritz-Carlton in Hong Kong, the Westin in Beijing, and the Conrad in Bali. Be sure to book a nice massage as well!
5. Get your travel partners involved. Unfortunately, one of the biggest barriers to success in sticking with new habits can be the people you love the most. Maybe your spouse is always pushing homemade cupcakes your way. Perhaps your best friend is constantly asking you to get a drink with her. Or, maybe your kids regularly leave food on their plates and you feel guilty letting it go to waste. Whatever the case, be sure to have this worked out BEFORE your travel. Usually that means sticking with a new habit or behavior on your own for at least a few months. At this point, the important people in your life will have come to some level of acceptance about the new you.
Sit down with your travel partners before you head on vacation and tell them about your diet and fitness plan. Highlight why it’s so important to you to stick with it and outline a few ways that they can help you while enjoying a vacation together.
6. Tap into an online network of supportive buddies. Before you leave, build a network of online friends who understand the journey you’re on, be it losing weight or quitting smoking or training for an athletic event. Social networking sites like Fitocracy, Bodybuilding.com, Runkeeper and MyFitnessPal are great for discovering like-minded people who are working toward bettering their lives. Nearly all hotels have WiFi these days, so don’t be afraid to take twenty minutes out of your itinerary to connect with a few of your online cheerleaders.
7. Reward yourself for sticking to your plan. Speaking of massages, schedule a few hours at the end of your trip to pamper yourself as a reward for adhering to your diet and exercise plan while you’re away. Maybe a two-hour Ayurvedic massage tickles your fancy, or perhaps you’d like a half day alone to wander around a fabric market or get a tailored suit made. Maybe a poolside mani/pedi is more your speed. Whatever it is, make the reward special- it’s your treat for being being a determined and fabulous traveler!
8. Enjoy life! Give yourself a little wiggle room while you’re on vacation- don’t be so tough on yourself. It’s a vacation, after all! If you usually exercise five days a week for an hour, aim for five days a week for 40 minutes instead while you’re on vacation- you’ll likely be doing a lot of walking anyway. Consider building in a “cheat meal” every 4-5 days to eat what you want within reason. If you’re in Italy, for instance, enjoy a plate of pasta and a gelato. Don’t you dare feel guilty about it!
Be well, and happy travels!