I just returned back home to Manila after spending two months in the US visiting family and taking my daughter to see some prospective colleges. Vacations often spell disaster for weight loss or maintenance. In the past, regardless of how hard I had tried to lose or maintain my weight, as soon as I entered vacation mode all bets were off. In fact, I have easily gained seven to ten pounds over a two-month summer visit to the US.
If you have been following any of my weight journey, then you already know that I lost a considerable amount of weight from November to May of this year. This was not my first attempt at losing a sizable amount of weight, but it was the first time for me to approach weight as a lifelong process, rather than a diet with a prescribed start and finish.
I knew that my time in the US would be the real testing ground for my new approach because I would be back in my home country, surrounded by my favorite foods. Not only that, but my “vacation” trips to America are usually filled with restaurants and special dinners with family.
Now safely back on the eastern side of the Pacific, I can honestly report that I only gained one pound over the summer. What’s most impressive about this is that I did not diet AT ALL during my time in the US. In fact, we ate out at least one meal almost every day that I was there and I indulged in a considerable amount of the yummy ice cream that is so prevalent in America.
So, what was the difference from all those other summers when I packed on the pounds eating basically the same things? I think my success boils down to two important factors to avoid gaining weight when away from home. First, I practiced the same moderation techniques that got me to this point. Secondly, I did not resign myself to gaining weight just because I was on vacation.
I know it’s not sexy or provocative, but I am convinced that moderation is the only way to successfully lose weight and keep it off. Moderation does not require sacrifice or a willpower of steel. Instead, it requires you to predetermine what you will eat and how much you will eat before you take the first bite. However, moderation does not place any types of food off limits.
For example, I love Twistee Treat ice cream. Twistee Treat is a little drive-thru joint shaped like an ice cream cone that sells the most deliciously rich ice cream creations. We indulged in Twistee Treat on numerous occasions while I was home, but I restricted myself to a kiddie cone on each visit. I got to eat ice cream every time we went, but I moderated the amount.
We ate out numerous times at Long Horn, Chili’s, Moe’s, Steak and Shake, Zaxby’s and Cracker Barrel to name a few. Each time I would consider the trade-off of certain foods. When I ate steak at Longhorn I would cut off another two ounces from my six ounce portion and give it to someone else to eat. At Steak and Shake, I would eat my burger without mayonnaise and with only one bun. I still got to enjoy eating out, I just adjusted the amounts and proportions.
One night we went to a particularly special ice cream place after a day at the beach. I can honestly say I blew it that evening and I did it knowingly…there was no thought about moderation. So, did that mean that the rest of the summer was a wash?…absolutely not! I just acknowledged that I had gone overboard and cut way back on my intake the following day to balance things out.
We are all familiar with the self-fulfilling prophecy. If you tell yourself that weight gain is inevitable when you are on vacation, then you are likely to eat and act like you have no control. And yes, you will definitely gain weight.
While I knew my time in the US would be a testing ground for my new lifestyle, I did not assume that I would gain a huge amount of weight over the summer. Instead, I approached my time armed with the new tools and techniques I have honed since last November. The primary difference was that I had a lot more entertainment opportunities in the US than I do in my everyday life in the Philippines.
Typically, I separate the times when I eat for fuel from the times I eat for entertainment. However, when every day was filled with entertainment eating, I had to be more careful to consider my portions. I also had to make sure to include exercise as a regular activity throughout the summer. Even though I did not have access to a gym, I made sure to walk most days and I did a serious of planking to keep up some muscle tone.
So yes, you can successfully avoid gaining weight on vacation; even a long one. The keys are moderation and saying “no” to the vacation fat mentality.
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