I spent the past 9 days chaperoning a school trip in Costa Rica. It's an absolutely amazing country with beautiful rain forests and beaches and warm, welcoming people. It was such a wonderful experience for my students to have the opportunity to practice the Spanish they had been studying all year (or 2 or 3 years), and to open up to a new culture.
When it comes to vacationing, many people (myself included) struggle with finding the right balance between enjoying every moment (yolo!) and also making decisions that are still health focused. There is a battle between the fear of lost progress or "falling off track" and the fear of missing out on special treats or memories while experiencing a new destination.
I think that it is absolutely impossible to say that you will stick 100% to your normal plan/program when you are on vacation. And that's ok. It's so so so so so important to truly experience new places and to enjoy time with friends and family.
I also think that is absolutely possible to still make decisions that are health and wellness focused- to eat for nourishment, move to feel good, breathe, and enjoy- while on vacation.
As with everything involved with a healthy lifestyle, it's about weighing your options and making conscious decisions that are the best for your priorities. Here are some examples of some of the thought processes I used when making my decisions on this trip:
Don't track calories! Vacation is a break, and your mind probably needs it. The added stress of fitting foods into your calorie range when on vacation is completely unnecessary. Because you have been tracking consistently, and are learning how foods play into a day of eating, you can make good choices. Just pick the best option available and let the rest go.
Ordering at restaurants
Choose things that are nutrient dense. Everyone feels different when traveling. Whether that's time changes, digestive discomfort, of dehydration, eating foods that are truly nutritions will help. Lots of veggies and fruits, and lots of water!
Choose things that are special. It is totally fine to order something high-calorie on vacation. No need to miss out on the famous dishes from an area. Experience those things. But, make it count. There is no need to go overboard on things like French fries or pizza. You can get those things all the time at home. They aren't unique. But that special dish of the region that you absolutely MUST try? Do it! Enjoy the crap out of it, and have a side salad instead of the fries. Maybe even split it with the group. A rich dessert will be satisfying after a few bites, and you'll have the experience without going into a sugar coma.
On this trip, out meals were provided by the tour company, leaving not much personal control of meals. Luckily, traditional Costa Rican cuisine is made up of healthy staples- rice, beans, veggies, fruits, plantains. I was totally happy eating these meals, because those are some whole food staples that I eat regularly anyways. I requested vegan meals everywhere we went, which meant that I was given an extra serving of veggies in place of the meat, which helped me to keep the veg intake high on this trip. It's ok to ask for what you would prefer at the given meal. The worst they can say is "no".
Eat healthy snacks
If you know that meal times are going to be heavy, keep snacks lighter. Choose one indulgence a day, and balance it out with better choices throughout the day.
In Costa Rica, I was able to find some rice cakes and a big bag of nuts and raisins to snack on on the bus. My meals were actually pretty low in fat, so having the whole, unprocessed source in the nuts helped to balance that out. However, Costa Rica is also known for delicious dark chocolate, and I definitely treated myself to some of that while I was there! Balance, yo.
DRINK TONS OF WATER
It helps with literally everything. Just do it.
Move your body
Keeping your body moving on vacation will help to keep your blood pumping, your calories burning, and your systems running smoothly. This doesn't mean that you need to find a gym and pay a visitor's fee to keep on your training program the whole time (unless you want to and it's available to you). A long walk on the beach, a hike through the mountains, hours of outlet shopping, or a quick morning workout in the hotel exercise room all count. Heck, getting yourself moving will help you see more of that new destination.
In Costa Rica, we walked miles everyday on various tours and hiking through the rain forest. That is definitely some intentional movement. Good enough for me!
Let go of the control (this is the most difficult for me)
Sometimes you just have no say in the day's schedule or the options on the menu. Just roll with it. Choose the least shitty option, and don't think about it again. It's vacation... let yourself enjoy!
When you get back in town
Sure, you may feel bloated or tired or like you completely fell off the wagon. When you get back in town, do NOT do anything drastic. It's tempting to buy into some sort of cleanse, detox, or 7 day starvation diet to get back to where you were before vacation. DON'T DO IT! That will only start the restrict/feel like crap/binge cycle that you always want to avoid. Just go back to whatever you were doing before you left. Eat and exercise the same way you were. Right back to your regular scheduled programming. Give yourself a week to readjust, and you will fine that your body will fall right back into the swing of things.
The past couple of days, I have been drinking tons of water and eating tons of vegetables. It's what I have been craving. My body is definitely telling me it missed my Big A$$ Salads. I have also gotten back into my exercise routine. The first few workouts back were rough! That's to be expected, but I'm feeling better already.
The trip was an absolutely wonderful experience, and I am so glad I had it. I learned about a new culture, met amazing new people, bonded with students, tried new foods, hiked through the rainforest, and zip lined above the trees- I didn't miss out on any of the experiences. All while continuing to live with health and wellness as my priority.
It is possible, and once this lifestyle becomes a habit, it is really second nature. Just adapting the healthy decisions you are already making into a new environment. Eat for nourishment, move to feel good, breathe, and be... and leave room for some treats on vacation!