Staying Healthy on Vacation: More Possible than Bigfoot

Happy Independence Day!

Today I just feel so thankful.   I simply feel grateful to live in a country where I can pursue my own goals, and that I can travel freely around the country to visit friends and family at any time.  Hope you’re enjoying some pursuits and travels of your own this summer!

This week I am super excited to be visiting the family in law out in Pennsylvania.  I love it – it’s an absolutely gorgeous place, so green in the summer.  It’s always nice to get out of town for a little while to see new things and eat different foods… especially when it’s great home cooking!

Whenever I’m on vacation though, I do notice it becomes a challenge to eat or exercise like I normally do.  Holidays are… pretty much the same.

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So what’s a girl to do when vacation week coincides with a holiday that involves lots of good food, time to sleep in, and her cycling classes being hundreds of miles away?

I decided to start by finding out how well (or how horribly) I eat and how much exercise I get on a trip like this.  I began tracking my calories burned and eaten throughout the day on the My Fitness Pal iPhone app.  And, honestly, I was a little surprised by what I found the last three days.

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I found that the calories I got from food were only a little bit higher than what I normally ate during the day, and any additional ones I took in came from drinks – by normally avoiding drinking any calories I save about 500 calories/day at home.  Okay, it did feel like a treat to get a fun coffee drink after breakfast and have wine with dinner!  Such excuses come with vacation, no?

At the same time, I was pleasantly surprised that I ended up being able to burn most of the extra calories with all the walking I was doing!  The neighborhood we’re staying in right now has some great hills to walk up and down, and I occasionally dare myself to run up the steepest ones.  Challenge. Accepted.

 

Found this sign on a walk around town the other day - talk about motivation to-go!  How great is that?

Found this sign on a walk around town the other day - talk about motivation to-go!  How great is that?

No, I am not about to start losing weight in the next couple days, but I am happy to say I am fighting a winning battle against holiday-belly!  The secret weapon?  Let’s discuss.

I think the first thing that helped me this week was the very decision to track my habits.  Even while out and about, when the coffee shops and ice creameries started looking inviting, the thought of having to plug in the calories helped keep me in check.  Smaller portions and extra staircases climbed seemed to suddenly mean more bonus points, as if my app was a game.  (I wonder what would happen if they combined My Fitness Pal with Angry Birds…)

So start with your own tracking method.  This was a big one for me.  I do recommend the app though; if I need extra motivation, I can always allow my friends to see my diary and progress, too!  Yikes!

Knowing myself and my weakness for “vacation food” – aka food I never get to eat at home – I have to find a balance.  It’s a real tightrope walk between joining the party and making it a free-for-all, especially when every meal can be a temptation.

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To give an example, if I’m at a buffet or potluck type event with all the best food in one place, I make myself an allowance of a small amount (like 5 french fries, a ¼ c. serving of a cheesy side dish, etc.) of any one food.  I also pick the foods I want the most out of all the options and stick with those (ie., if I decide I want meat, and there’s sliced turkey and ham, I’ll probably pick just turkey, and only take a bit of it.  And then there’s green bean casserole and cole slaw, but I’m feelin’ the slaw more at the moment… well, that helps make the call.)

Another time I make better decisions is actually when we go out to eat, since I can choose all my own food, rather than what the group is eating/serving.  If we go to a pizza place, they often serve salads as well.  I’m a huge chopped salad fan.  Did you know this about me already?  That makes an easy choice for me, and all I have to do is ask for the salad dressing on the side.

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There are ways to have everything, too. 

Yeah, sometimes I just really want pizza.  Or a sandwich or something.  So… I go for it.  But I have to be prepared.

Having a lot of delicious food drizzled in sauce or cheese right in front of me can be a dangerous thing on an empty stomach, so I have to choose my portion size ahead of time. 

I say, I’ll have two slices of pizza, and I’ll save the rest.  Or, I’ll get a hotdog and split it with the husband.  Or, we can share fries with the table, and I’ll eat the veggie burger without the bun.

Tricks like this are usually the most effective at keeping this girl on track.

Baseball games are not the go-to place for health food, but with the right thinking you can survive them without going overboard!

Baseball games are not the go-to place for health food, but with the right thinking you can survive them without going overboard!

As for keeping up with my cardio and strength training, I try to make sure every day is as active as possible in whatever way I can.  Sightseeing is a perfect opportunity if you go on foot or on a bike.  (Hey, that’s another bonus to log in the app!)  You’ll see that you can get a lot of activity in on vacation without even realizing it.

On my trip to see Fallingwater, an amazing feat of architectural genius by Frank Lloyd Wright, we climbed lots of stairs and hiked around the beautiful property!

On my trip to see Fallingwater, an amazing feat of architectural genius by Frank Lloyd Wright, we climbed lots of stairs and hiked around the beautiful property!

Also, contrary to popular belief, strength training on vacation can actually be more of a reality than having Bigfoot come to dinner, especially if you know a few exercises you can do in your room or a hotel gym!  I did pushups and crunches to start my day today, and the day before, I hit the local gym for a more full body toning session.

I’ll leave you with a few condensed tips for the road:

Track your calorie intake + expenditure

Pick the healthiest options while out and about

If you want to eat the fun foods, get smaller sizes or share with a friend

Get exercise while walking around, do exercises you don’t need weights for in your hotel/guest room

(Don’t make me tell you to wear sunscreen.  If you’re over the age of 8, you should be doing this on your own for peas’ sake.)

Finally, whether you’re grilling out or toasting to the fireworks later on, happy Fourth of July!

  

Courtney Nielsen

I'm Courtney, your friendly fitness + healthy recipe blogger. I am a certified fitness professional who loves bringing tasty food to the table and sharing my recipes with the world.