“Stay fit” is a very broad, generic term. But for all intents and purposes, it suits this article. Better than saying How to Not Lose Your Results and Prevent Fat Gain When on Vacation.
It should come as no surprise that I do things differently. Be it with how this website looks (no pop-ups or ads), the guides and books in the store (some are pay-what-you-think-is-fair and all are about achieving your goals by becoming the best version of yourself, not dieting or working out to total exhaustion), or the Lift Like a Girl manifesto.
The same applies to how I approach nutrition and fitness when traveling – it should be as relaxed and stress-free as possible. My goal is to enjoy every moment of the vacation, and that means not obsessing over what I eat, but I don’t throw caution to the wind and intentionally avoid making good choices either. It’s about finding a simple balance that combines maintaining good food choices but still enjoying amazing foods that may contain good amounts of sugar (hello, ice cream) or be oh-so-delicious calorie bombs (hello, cheeseburger with pork belly).
If you too want to stay on track with your fitness but not obsess over working out or eating well on vacation, apply these five simple principles.
1. Don’t do scheduled workouts. Once upon a time, many years ago, I would find a local gym to train at on vacation because “being on vacation” was not an excuse to not stick to my routine.
Those days are, thankfully, long gone.
Scheduled workouts are the last thing on my mind during vacation. My main priority during that time is having as much fun as possible and thinking as little as possible, at least about health and fitness.
Instead of going to a gym or using the hotel facility, I play. And I play hard. Our idea of a good time is doing anything physically active. Some of our favorite things to do are visit state and national parks, go hiking, biking, kayaking, snorkeling, or even try activities like tree-top canopy tours or flying trapeze classes.
The video is terrible, but you get the idea!
The rule of thumb when on vacation – don’t work out. Play and have fun. Explore the parks or other well-known activities in the area.
Note: the exception to this rule is if I’m going traveling for an extended period of time in which case I’ll bring my favorite workout tool: a suspension trainer (that’s an affiliate link). This way I can strength train with bodyweight workouts in my hotel room or outside in the sunshine.
2. Don’t abandon basic nutrition principles, but don’t obsess either. I love food. I love trying new foods. I love trying new foods that are local to where I’m visiting. Eating tasty meals is a high priority when I travel, and you can bet your beautiful badass bottom that I’ll find places making the best ice cream or doughnuts, and I’ll enjoy the heck of out them.
But the important thing to note is that I don’t eat this way for every meal.
I make it a priority to eat mostly real, minimally processed foods. Something like an omelet with veggies for breakfast or a breakfast sandwich is typical. But when there’s something I really want to try available, I’ll enjoy it guilt-free, but I keep the portions in check.
In the past I’d eat gigantic amounts of ice cream or other not-super-healthy foods, but I’ve since realized that I don’t need to eat that much. Just because I was on vacation I didn’t need the large ice cream; a small was plenty. Shocking epiphany, I know.
Moderation. Balance. These things are key.
Eat real foods most of the time, but enjoy your favorite things on occasion, and keep the portion in control. Want a doughnut for an afternoon snack? Go ahead. Want to indulge in a couple scoops of the area’s best gelato? Do it.
And keep in mind, just because you decide to eat a homemade, freshly baked croissant doesn’t mean you “messed up” and that you should make less-than-healthy decisions the rest of the day. Enjoy it, move on, and eat real foods at the other meals of the day.
This way you’re not depriving yourself, but you’re still eating well to support your health and fitness goals.
Remember: it’s the habits you maintain over a long period of time, not a single doughnut or cup of gelato that will impact your physique or health. Don’t allow yourself to drift into the “I’m eating well all the time” or “I’m eating nothing but fried and heavily processed foods all the time” scenario. Just because you have a doughnut does not mean you “blew it” and should eat seven more.
Another good rule of thumb is to keep portion sizes in check. Get the small gelato or get a single doughnut. Enjoy every damn delicious bite.
3. Focus on the most important thing – having a great time and making memories. It’s easy to get too focused on our food choices or wondering if we were active enough during the day, but do not lose sight of what really matters when you’re on vacation, and that’s having fun and making memories.
Make the most of every moment.
4. Visit farmers markets for yummy-goodness. You can enjoy the freshest, local produce in the area, and there’s plenty of veggies and fruits to choose from. We enjoy things like homemade jerky, pickled eggs, or other protein-rich snacks they have available and keep these on hand if we get hungry during the day. This is also a great money-saving tip.
5. Walk. It never fails, we walk a lot on vacation. Way more than I do in my everyday life. We explore cities, see the sights, and definitely go hiking. Plus, it’s actually fun because we’re not walking just to walk – we’re exploring and having fun.
To recap, the main points to stay fit on vacation:
- Forget about working out and searching for a gym – be active in fun, physical ways and try new activities
- Stick to the basic nutrition principles, but do NOT deprive yourself. Enjoy your favorite foods while keeping portion control in check
- Walk often
- Make the most of every day – after all, that’s why you’re on vacation
I’ll end this with saying I’ve been practicing these principles when traveling the past couple of years. One time a couple of years ago, out of curiosity, I weighed myself before vacation and again when I got home. We always joked that we would lose weight on vacation, and I wanted to see if that was true.
To my surprise I did lose a couple of pounds when we returned from a trip that included a good amount of hiking, and we didn’t deprive ourselves and enjoyed our favorite foods. Now, I’m not saying it was two pounds of fat, but the point is that you definitely don’t have to fear gaining weight when you travel, if you follow a few principles.
Health and fitness should be a lifestyle that you can maintain no matter where you are, and should have enough flexibility to allow you to stay on track with your goals, but also enjoy the awesome things in life like a beautiful, fluffy, sticky doughnut that tastes so good it’ll make your tongue slap your forehead.