2 August 11 Do You Track on Vacation?

Sometimes I track food and exercise during vacation, and sometimes I don't. It depends upon how long I am gone for, the type of food environment I will be exposed to, and whether or not I will be able to exercise regularly.

Portion Control

I recently went on vacation to participate in a family reunion and to celebrate my dad's 75th birthday party. For the entire eight days of vacation, I didn't track my food intake. I was curious to see what would happen to my body weight if I simply practiced portion control. However, I did continue to log exercise. And guess what? I did not gain weight – I simply maintained. That was a pleasant reminder that portion control does work, even in the absence of calories tracking. But I also think that tracking exercise kept me more mindful of my overall food intake and portion sizes. It helped keep the "night light on" in terms of calories awareness.

Enjoy Vacation

I think some of you feel like you have to track at all times to prevent the sky from falling. You don't. The skills you have learned from tracking will carry over to times when you do not track. If you have been tracking for a while, then you have learned what reasonable meals look like – the types of foods and their portion sizes. You have probably become a pretty good guesser as to what a 500-calories meal vs. 1000-calories meal looks and feels like. So, although you might choose not to track on vacation, don't turn your brain off either. Use your skills to enjoy good food and beverages but do so in moderation.

Of course, most of us splurge a bit on vacation. I certainly do. If you splurge every day during a vacation that lasts a week or longer, then you will likely gain weight. If you only splurge a few times a week, then you probably won't gain weight, especially if you have been more active.

Increased Activity

Many of us are MORE active during vacation than during our normal daily routine. For those of you who hate structured exercise, you might find vacation a real boost to your calories burning. All of a sudden, you are burning more calories from activities that you might not even perceive as exercise: biking to vineyards, walking to historical landmarks, swimming in the ocean, canoeing to your favorite campground, or dancing your tush off at a fun bar much later than your usual bedtime. So go with it and have fun. You'll find that daily activity is a real boost to preventing weight gain during vacation.

Maintain Don't Gain

I typically recommend that people adjust their weight loss plan to account for vacation. Having a goal to maintain your weight (rather than losing) during vacation removes a lot of pressure and tension regarding eating in new food environments. Practice portion control and stop eating BEFORE you are stuffed. Try new foods. Take advantage of your leisure time to do activities that you normally never have time for or have access to. And most importantly, enjoy your free time with family, friends, and good company. Experiencing joy and reducing stress is important to your health too – it isn't always about food and weight.
Katherine Isacks, MPS, RD
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Travel/Maintain Don't Gain

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