With the official start of summer last weekend and school finished this week it’s time for summer vacation to begin.  Many of us will head out camping, go on road trips, jet off to exotic locations or simply take time off to welcome family and friends who are visiting the Okanagan.  Most people think of vacationing as fun and exciting but for some, these otherwise fun, exciting experiences can cause stress, anxiety and weight gain as meal planning and balanced food choices take a back seat to dining out, indulging randomly and even skipping meals due to altered sleep schedules.  Ask almost anyone who has ever been on a vacation and most will say that they have gained weight, usually anywhere from five to ten pounds.  The “holiday 10” can be annoying at best but it can be especially devastating for those who already struggle with their weight.  The most effective way to minimize vacation carnage and avoid gaining (or re-gaining) any extra weight is through stabilizing blood sugar.  Set yourself up to win by staying on plan.  The truth of the matter is that no one actually plans to fail, they simply fail to plan.

Typically, there is a ton of planning that occurs prior to a vacation.  The problem is, very little of the planning is around balancing food. Now in case you all think I go on vacation and never indulge, think again.  My husband and I are leaving for New York this week and I have actually planned to go “off plan”.  Confused?  It's simple really.  By now, most of you have read my column enough to know that when I talk about balancing meals, that means each meal is made up of a good quality protein, a healthy fat and a good carb (PFCs). As well, when each meal is consumed every three hours throughout the day blood sugar is stabilized (homeostasis) and our bodies can function efficiently, releasing stored fat to be burned as energy.  Enter the “off-plan” meal. 

An “off-plan” meal is a meal where anything goes.  The meal is planned for ahead of time, rather than indulging in something on a spur-of-the-moment.  Planning ahead provides something to look forward to and makes it easier to stay on plan in between.  For example, when in New York, we are planning to take our host out for dinner so I am planning that meal as my off-plan.  Even those people who pull out all the stops when eating their off-plan meal are less likely to gain weight than those who don't schedule one but are randomly indulging off-plan food and drink over the course of their vacation. People that fail to plan find that they did not enjoy their indulgences as much as they thought they would and some even felt guilty. The “off-plan” is a meal to eat, drink and enjoy without feeling guilty.....and three hours later get back on plan and have a balanced PFC meal to get the metabolism fired up again. 

A big part of what makes it difficult to remain on plan when schedules change, especially with regards to holidays and vacations, is the attitude surrounding what a vacation truly is for some people.  Let’s face it, we’ve all gone on a holiday and indulged in foods and amounts we normally wouldn’t even think of touching when we are at home, it just happens.  Food is an important part of every culture, special occasion and celebration worldwide.  It's just something we humans do to connect and built community and relationship with our family, friends, neighbours and other cultures.  So why not plan ahead and schedule one or two into your trip and maintain control over your health and weight? 

Off-plan meals should ideally be enjoyed after the desired amount of weight is lost.  That being said, when on vacation I advise my clients to focus on not gaining weight rather than losing any more.  Continuing to lose weight on a vacation is extremely difficult and although some people are successful, simply focusing on balancing meals as much as possible, eating every three to four hours and staying active will ensure that very little, if any, weight is gained.  It's like pressing the pause button and when the vacation is done, you simply resume where you left off rather than starting over.

The other part of staying on plan when travelling is knowing to bring food with you.  For some vacations such as camping, this is just standard and you control what goes into your body by what you fill your cooler with.  Other vacations that require air travel, hotel stays, staying with friends or relatives etc., can be a bit trickier. In these instances, I always travel with meal replacement shakes and protein bars.  I always take a shaker bottle and portion out my shakes into small ziplocs, put them into the dry bottle, along with the bars and a water bottle and I'm good to go.  In this way, no matter where I am when it's time for me to eat, I have access to a healthy balanced meal that.  Let's face it, finding water to add to the shake powder is pretty easy.  Fueling your body consistently no matter where you are will allow you to arrive at your destination feeling energized and in a good mood rather than tired and grumpy from missing a meal or having to eat fast food. 

So before you head off on vacation this summer, make sure before you go to schedule in those off-plan meals and pack food for the journey because happy travellers + no weight gain = a healthy, happy vacation! 

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