School is out, the kids are on vacation and our routines are disrupted. Even though we are in official “bathing suit season”, at this time of the year many of us worry about weight gain, from extra calories that we may be eating and the lack of following normal workout routines. In South Florida we also have to worry about excessive heat and daily rain showers that may prevent us from getting our planned exercise.
Moreover, many of our Holiday traditions and other celebrations and gatherings center on food and drinks. Of course we want to enjoy all the festivities with our families and friends, but unfortunately, some of the habits we pick up during the lazier summer months can translate into added pounds in the fall. How can we prevent the dreaded “vacation 5 lbs.” that many of us gain each summer? You can do this by a dual effort, namely adding in some extra exercise AND making better food choices. Here is what I recommend:
Stick to your workouts, no matter what! Even if it means getting up earlier in the morning to fit in some extra cardio, before getting on with the day’s activities, get it done. These are busy times, so it’s easy to find excuses to skip your exercise. Instead, prioritize your workouts just like you would any other important appointment. If you have kids at home to care for, take them for a bike ride or involve them in some physical activity that you can all enjoy together. Plan your outdoor workouts for early morning or later in the afternoon when it is cooler outside.
Plan your meals. Make sure not to let your blood sugar levels drop too low. Never skip breakfast! Instead start your day with a healthy first meal and plan to eat every three hours after that. To learn more about the importance of eating on a schedule, get my Eat More To Lose More Diet Book, which explains in detail the importance of nutrition and how it affects the way you look and feel more than anything else that you can do.
Eat enough protein. Protein is the best macronutrient to stabilize your blood sugar, prevent hunger pangs and avoid fat storage. Protein makes you feel fuller, longer and ensures that you don’t fall into the “I am so hungry, I’ll eat anything” trap, towards the end of the day. Many of us do great all day, only to fall apart and eat anything in sight in the evening. This is partially due to the severe fluctuations in your blood sugar levels, which can be prevented by eating the proper ratios of macronutrients throughout the day.
Limit alcohol. Alcohol contains empty calories and even more importantly, slows down fat burning. When we attend our family gatherings or enjoy your vacation time, many of us want to enjoy a few drinks. Enjoy in moderation and make sure to drink a full glass of water after any alcoholic drink. As I explain in my book; Eat More To Lose More, alcohol must be metabolized by the liver, immediately. While your liver is busy dealing with the alcohol, other metabolic processes are halted. Fat burning can be reduced by as much as 30% while the liver is busy dealing with the alcohol. This means that you are not only adding the empty calories from the alcohol, but you are also adding the calories that you DO NOT burn as a result of reduced fat burning. At parties, limit yourself to one or two drinks and sip slowly. Wine is the best choice. Hard liquor, no matter which one and mixed drinks made with sugary mixers or fruit juices are the worst.
Plan your food intake and keep a food diary. Today, there are so many “apps” that you can download to help you keep track of what you eat and how much you exercise. These can be an invaluable tool in keeping you on track and hold you accountable for everything you put in your mouth. If you know you will be having an ice cream treat with the kids, include it in your calorie count, and keep the serving size reasonable. Don’t kid yourself! Instead, plan for the occasional treat by working out a little extra or eating super clean the next day.
Don’t go to parties or family gatherings hungry. Eat a small, healthy snack at home before going out to avoid over-eating later. Never, ever starve yourself all day because you think you will be over eating later. Instead, make sure to eat light, small meals throughout the day to prevent overeating unhealthy food later.
Carry a snack in your carry on when traveling. This can be a low sugar protein bar, some snack sized zip lock baggies, pre-filled at home with a handful of natural nuts, or pretzels and some peanut butter. Plan ahead, to avoid having to buy something you don’t want to eat, or worse yet, not eat at all, thereby stimulating fat storage.
While on vacation, don’t adopt the “all or nothing” mentality. Some of us give up all our healthy habits, while vacationing, and eat everything we can get our hands on and skip exercise all together. We figure we deserve to relax and enjoy. While this is certainly true, find other ways to relax rather than through food and drink. Get a massage, or a spa treatment. Visit a museum, go for a long hike or do other enjoyable tings that relax you. When we blow all our healthy habits for even a short period of time, we pay for it later. And as many of us already know, the pounds quickly pile on, and getting back in “pre-vacation” shape becomes harder and harder as we age. It is better for your health and your wellbeing to enjoy treats in moderation and relax while incorporating at least some physical activity.
When travelling find a local gym or park. Prepare ahead of your trip by locating the closest gym or park where you can do a workout or go for a jog, while travelling.
When eating out, make healthy choices. The secret is to be very specific when you order. If you tell servers in a nice way that you have special dietary restrictions, they are usually more than happy to accommodate you. In addition to ordering what you would normally eat at home, there are a few more tips that will help you stay clear of unwanted calories and fat.
Drink water as your beverage. Skip the bread basket and order a small salad to start your meal.
If you order salad, get the dressing on the side and make sure it is vinaigrette.
If you order soup, skip the creamy one and get a vegetable-based soup.
Skip dessert or order just one to share with the rest of your group.
Don’t go to the restaurant starving. Plan ahead and eat normally up to three hours before your restaurant meal.
By following these tips and sticking to good habits even while vacationing or traveling, you will avoid the scramble to get back in shape in the fall.
Unni Greene is an accomplished author, as well as a Certified Master Trainer (CMT) and a Certified Sports Nutrition Specialist. She may be reached at SoMiFitness.com or go online at www.EatMoreToLoseMore.com.