UK and Europe 2018 Pt 1 -

Stop over number two on our way to Edinburgh has me writing this in the Amsterdam airport.  Unfortunately the only tulips I saw were from a flower cart vendor in the airport as we didn't have enough time to get out and explore. The real exploring will begin in Edinburgh and will include 12 cities throughout the UK and Europe with Madrid being our last stop before heading home. At five weeks, it does indeed qualify as an extended vacation. And with extended vacations there are always the chance of coming home with extra weight around the middle along with the extra luggage filled with souvenirs. With a little thought however, food can be enjoyed and treats can be had without having to undo the top button of your jeans on the fight home.

If you've been following my column for a while, you may remember me touching on this topic before as it's one that many can relate too. We've all taken short or average-length vacations without a second thought to our food, water, alcohol, sugar, etc., intake.  And in all honesty, for most people throwing caution to the wind for a short time and then coming right back on track doesn't usually cause any long-term damage or ill effects.  Extended vacations however are a whole new ball game

The problem arises when people keep the same mindset for long vacations as they have for short ones.  The “I'm-on-holiday-so-I-get-to-eat-whatever-I-want” attitude becomes problematic when the vacation is no longer a week to 10 days, but extends past two weeks and for some even into several months. Anyone fortunate enough to be able to get away for these extended lengths of time, needs to  switch from the “vacation” mindset to thoughts of “lifestyle”.  

A vacation mindset says it's ok to eat out frequently, order extravagantly, have a few drinks (or a few more than usual), skip meals during the day to “save it for dinner”, etc., I'm sure you get the idea. Having a lifestyle mindset however, prompts us to try and maintain what we are currently doing at home.  And even though some people's lifestyle thoughts when it comes to balancing food could use a good fridge clean, it's still much better than completely throwing caution to the wind and letting everything go. 

This is the first extended vacation for my husband and I in a very long while.  The last “long” vacation we took was 11 years ago when our kids were small.  We piled everyone into the van, hitched up our tent trailer and took a 19 day road trip down to Disneyland, San Diego and back up through the Oregon Coast.  Because our trailer had a stove and fridge, we had 3 meals per day at the trailer and took snacks for the in-between times.  Those with kids can relate I'm sure.  As our kids grow up, so do our holidays which often means staying out of the country for several months at a time. And as we accept this as a wonderful new addition to our lifestyle and incorporate into it the healthy habits we already have, these fun and exciting times add fun and happy memories to your life rather than weight around the middle and increasing cholesterol numbers.

Think about it. Those who take even a one-month vacation each year can still be eating poorly up to about 25 percent of the time or even more.  Let's break it down.  I think it's fair to say that most people eat out at least once per week. Not including the yearly one-month getaway that adds up to 48 occasions.  Add in another once per month to account for holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, etc., and that brings the total to 60. That equates to two months' worth of days where the average person is not eating as they think they should. Factor back in that yearly one-month vacation and you're now consuming a whopping three months' worth of off-plan days or cheat meals. Just think how these numbers can increase exponentially for snowbirds who head south for three, four or even six months. 

So what can you do to enjoy your vacation and minimize any weight gain and negative impacts on health the vacation mindset can bring about? Here are three tips I'm using on my trip. 1. Know where you're going, what's available and where you can find it.  For example if you're heading to a place you've never been before, plan to enjoy your off-plan meal(s) around an ethnic dish or trying a food famous to the region you're going to rather than just indulging in all the extras that seem to present themselves daily.  Chances are, as you're looking forward to trying something new you'll be more likely to remain on-plan for the days leading up to it. 2.  Cook when you can.  I know, for some the entire idea of a vacation is to get away from that sort of thing but buying fresh, local fare and preparing it together can actually add to your overall experience. Throwing caution to the wind in favour of ordering and eating whatever you want can actually mitigate your relaxed mood and make it seem as if the somehow your vacation was less satisfying when you arrive home with a those extra pounds around your middle. 3. Take protein bars, a good protein shake powder and shaker bottles with you.  Having an option for a quick, healthy meal while in airports or on tours prevents “hangry” travellers and will keep you from spending extra money on unhealthy fast-grab option.

Wherever you go and however long you choose to stay, building health and nutrition into your holiday ultimately makes them more enjoyable in the long run. More energy, save a little money and the only souvenirs you'll bring back will be in your suitcase, not around your waist.  Next time watch for my tips on how to keep on track with fitness while you travel.

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