I just got back from a weeklong trip to Alaska – what a whirlwind! I feel like we were there a lot longer than a week. We were all over the place—Anchorage, Denali, Whittier, the Kenai River—and we saw moose, bears, caribou, Dall sheep, otters, salmon, glaciers, giant mountains, epic clouds and the greenest trees I've ever seen.

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When I got home, I was reflecting on my evolution with vacation eating. It got me thinking about the old me versus my relationship to dieting and food today.

How I Used to “Do Vacation”

Throughout my years of dieting, vacation meant game on when it came to food, especially forbidden foods. From the minute I stepped into the airport, I’d go nuts!

I’d eat giant meals, cookies and desserts as snacks, lots of sugary cocktails, and usually spent much of my vacation with a tummy ache or at the least, feeling really full.

Most people stop working out on vacation, but for me it was the opposite. Workouts were always a must! I would get up at the crack of dawn (way before everyone else) to fit one in, or hit the gym or get in a long run midday.

Then, I would spend much of the vacation feeling guilty about how I was eating and wondering how I could get in more activity to work off even more calories.

How I “Do Vacation” Now

Healthy food wasn’t prevalent on our Alaskan vacation. I brought my greens powder, protein bars, and even my Nutribullet for making smoothies (oh yes, I did) but I also ate things I normally choose not to eat (Chex Mix and white English muffins—gasp!), indulged in a new version of smores that rocked my world (smores with Reese’s peanut butter cups in place of the chocolate bar!!) and had my share of drinks too.

I did my best to eat as healthy as I could and got in some form of movement or workout every day, but coming home I still felt a little bloaty and “off.”

In the past, this would have put me into full-on freak-out super-low-calorie-diet plus sweaty-workout-to-the-max mode.

But I wasn’t worried about it. I even took a couple days off from working out because I felt like my body needed a rest. And you know what, the bloat is pretty much gone. A few days after we got home, I was back to how I usually look and feel.

Comparing how I used to treat vacation eating to how I treat it now, I can see a few key things that I think make it so easy for me to bounce back afterward.

3 Tips for Getting Over Post-Vacation Freak Out

1. I don’t binge or eat until I’m stuffed.

Like I said, I do the best that I can to eat healthy—get in my greens powder, take my Vitamin C (to keep my immune system rockin’), keep my protein intake up (which keeps me from feeling super snacky) and… I am conscious about what I will and won’t eat.

If I want to eat some Chex Mix, I do, but only because I want to. I eat a couple handfuls (picking out only the rice squares and pumpernickel wafer thingies, because I like those most) and then I am done.

If we go out to dinner and have a rich appetizer like Escargot Stuffed Mushrooms, baked in a garlic butter and white wine sauce, served with jalapeno cheese bread, then I eat some but pay attention to not overdoing it.

In fact, I did end up feeling full (to the right level) midway through my dinner. So, I stopped eating. This is a big deal because in the past I would have kept on eating, and probably ordered dessert too!

2. Two meals plus snacks = full to the right level.

While on vacation I’ll eat two meals and then supplement with snacks. If I had 3 sit down meals on vacation, I know I would overeat and feel uncomfortable all day. This is just the way I am.

So, now that I know this, I plan for it and make sure I have lots of healthy snacks packed to keep me satisfied and not cranky if/when I do get hungry during the day—snacks that are just enough to take the edge off like an apple, protein bar (for when my sweet tooth kicks in), pre-portioned bags of nuts, and maybe I’ll grab a latte too.

3. Sweat and/or move every day.

This is one habit that I still keep from “the old days,” but there’s a big difference. I don’t workout because I feel guilty anymore, I do it because working out makes me feel good—it’s refreshing, it loosens up tight muscles, and I just feel good all day knowing I moved my body.

I’m also less drill sergeant with myself about it. Some days an 18-minute circuit or a long walk is good enough. Other days, if I am feeling inspired (or if I get lost… ahem), I’ll go for a 5-mile run.

Plus, it really does help to sweat out any extra water (or alcohol) that may be hanging on from the day prior. :)

The Ebb & Flow Of Life: Learning To Be Okay With It

I have another vacation weekend coming up—we’re headed to Vegas for my birthday—and I’ll instill the same tactics there. Granted, I’ll have access to more healthy food options than I did in Alaska, but I am still going to have some cocktails and you better believe I’m having dessert!

These are the ebbs and flows of how I live my life now.

And as a side note, another thing I noticed about not eating many veggies this past week is that upon coming home, I’ve had a renewed zest for them! I can’t get enough. Salad for lunch? Yes, please! Steamed mixed veggies with dinner? Yum!

It’s funny how taking a break from your normal healthy eating routine can make you all the more in love with it. It reminds me how much I truly like eating healthy.

I eat healthy because I WANT to, not because I HAVE to.

This year I’ve been doing a lot more traveling than I ever have before and with each trip, I am getting better and better at finding my balance of enjoyment, splurges, and staying true to my commitment to my health.

I’ve come a long way and I’m proud of myself for that. I’m not “perfect” but who is?

Perfection is a myth!

I just keep tweaking my formula and each time I travel, I learn something new about myself—my likes/dislikes, what I need to be comfortable, satisfied, and feeling my best. Then I take note and plan even better for the next trip.

My commitment to my health and fitness has been the greatest teacher for me. Eating healthy and working out is no longer a chore but instead it’s an opportunity for me to love and honor myself at greater and greater levels.

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