A while back, I polled Facebook friends about weight loss vs weight gain on vacation and the vast majority of responses were maintenance or loss. Every time I go on vacation, I either maintain or lose weight, something I have constantly struggled to do at home. Yet it never fails that I feel I’m overeating on vacation only to find that I come back the same or less weight. I’ve been paying attention to this for a while now.
Let’s compare home me to vacation me:
Home: Food is favorable to tackling “hard” tasks and lack of energy at the end of the day contributes to going for second’s rather than moving on. I find it hard to stop when I’m satisfied because I don’t want to deal with my to-do list afterwards. Basically, my stress level is higher.
Vacation: Food is fun and all, but when I’m satisfied, I’m ready to move on and do something fun. I feel light and unburdened with a lower stress level.
The Fix: Work in small things that get you excited and focused without feeling guilty that you’re not getting something more pressing or productive done. In other words, allow planned de-stress time. My type A self likes to find something that’s still productive, but that I enjoy a lot, such as searching for cool future vacation ideas or organizing my clothes. Maybe those things sound daunting to others and maybe your type of relaxation is some TV, reading a magazine, or playing a mindless game on your phone (which I occasionally do too). Then do those things! Particularly when you’re feeling anxious and overwhelmed by your to do list, but you keep finding yourself procrastinating in front of the fridge instead. After deliberate rest and mental check-out time – even just 15-20 minutes, it’s usually easier to find the energy to get something more pressing done.
2. Shoveling It In With No Plan
Home: Less planned out meals leave me randomly grabbing food when I’m hungry, when my kids are hungry, and when I feel bored or low energy. Food is in front of me more often.
Vacation: We all eat somewhere together at the same time, automatically making things more planned. There’s a designated time to eat so there’s thought put into where and what to eat.
Paying attention to your physical hunger and taking the time to think through balanced meals really makes a tremendous difference. This has been a big goal of this challenge; building the habit of taking the time to get veggies along with fats and protein, and add whole grains at times too. An added bonus for me has been stopping to create the whole meal before taking a picture. The mental satisfaction of seeing a satisfying, multi-colored, varied meal in front of me (kind of like you get at a restaurant) has been amazing! I may continue to take pictures of my meals and share them with someone after this challenge to keep me accountable to planning out a meal rather than shoveling randomness in. Before this challenge, I wasn’t paying attention to making sure meals were balanced. I now keep a container in the fridge for all my cut up veggies so it’s easy to grab (and then replace from the veggie drawer when things run out). Going to the store to stock up on veggies feels better too because I know I’m going to eat them instead of throw them away rotten. More veggies have made me more regular, more satisfied, and actually wanting and enjoying them more often.
3. No Time To Enjoy Food
Home: I often eat standing up, in a rush, due to crazy schedules (a.k.a. running late)
Vacation: I mostly eat in a relaxed state, seated at a table with other non-stressed companions, while discussing fun things.
The Fix: Think of food as the medicine that it is and feel good about taking time to make it satisfying (as per above). Eating in a relaxed state can offer you some of that mental check-out time you need during your day so that other tasks don’t feel as daunting.
4. Junk Food Guilt
Home: I’m more likely to feel guilty for eating too much dessert.
Vacation: I feel dessert is a deserved treat and enjoy it. (and remember, I come back from vacations the same or less weight.)
The Fix: Stop the guilt. Decide to enjoy some indulgences on purpose and feel good and in control of your decision. It keeps you satisfied and sane.
5. Sitting Duck
Home: I do more scheduled workouts, but I otherwise sit a lot (at my computer, like right now writing this blog post).
Vacation: I do less scheduled workouts, but I otherwise move a lot without it feeling like effort or something I need to find time for (walking as a form of transportation and just recreating more; biking, paddling, swimming, skiing, hiking, dancing, etc, not to mention loading and unloading suitcases to/from cars and hotel rooms)
Look for ways that movement can fit into your life on top of planned workouts. It really does add up. Vacation-me proves it. Plan one activity or place to walk to each week and make that a habit first. As far as planned workouts go, find a buddy if doing it on your own isn’t happening. Accountability, which leads to more consistency, is THE biggest factor to success.. far, far bigger than finding the perfect workout plan (hint: there’s no one perfect workout plan!). Getting an activity tracker so that you can see how much movement you’re working into your day can really help.
That’ll motivate you to park the car farther away, get up and pace while you’re thinking, get up to grab water more often, maybe throw in an extra walk after dinner to get to your goal. Other options include a surf-shelf (attach a little “desk” to your exercise machine so that you can walk slowly while working on your laptop) or a Desk Cycle (little pedals under your desk to keep you moving while you work). These things might seem like they’d make work hard to concentrate on, but find a speed that allows you to concentrate (super slow is still more movement and better for your brain, blood flow, joints, and metabolism than sitting totally still!). If even super slow doesn’t work, give it some time and you’d likely adapt (as you do to anything new with practice) and come to even need the movement to concentrate better.
6. Tied To The Scale Number
Home: I weigh myself almost every day.
Vacation: I never look at a scale.
The Fix: There’s 2 sides to this coin. Studies have shown that weighing yourself daily is a nice way to check that you’re not going in the wrong direction and overall helps people maintain weight. You have to know how to ignore the noise, however. Weight is going to jump around and you can’t look at what you did yesterday and what your weight is today and determine whether you’re doing the right thing. If you’re able to use it as an added, separate general gage and not let it discourage you, weighing daily can work. Either way, focusing on how you feel, look, how your clothes fit, whether your digestive system is regular and healthy, and wether you feel energetic or lethargic are all way more important measures. I do notice on vacation that I tend to pay more attention to all of these things, because it’s what I’ve got without the scale reading. And it works. Though I still have my habit of weighing daily (and using Beeminder to track my weight), I’ve gotten better at paying more attention to all those other things and it makes the varying weights affect me less mentally. When I’m up a little, I just think, “no biggie, just focus on feeling great and keeping away from the over-full feeling when you eat. And hey, my “up a little” is less than it use to be so if that’s my new high point, I’m making progress!” Positive, positive, positive!
7. Busy By Day, Guilty Failure By Night (this is not me, but it’s the opposite of #1 and likely effects of lot of people with long work days away from home.)
Home: You get so busy at work that you don’t (or barely) eat all day, only to find yourself ravenous and wiped out mentally and physically when you get home, leading to strong drives to overeat junk and move as little as possible.
Vacation: The complete opposite of all that!
The Fix: Prepare snacks and/or lunch ahead of time so that you have the food ready to grab at work. This is easier said than done, but start small with one thing you know you can succeed at. Remember, consistency with one habit by far beats out a “perfect” plan that overwhelms you and you won’t stick to. Think of one snack you can put together easily and start with that. Put alarms in your phone to remind you to prepare it around dinner time for the next day and to remind you to grab it on your way out the door in the morning. Here’s an idea: get a container and pre-cut a bunch of veggies over the weekend. Each work day, throw a big handful of veggies in a container and hummus in another (I just discovered that the tub of hummus from Costco tastes awesome). Boom, perfect snack. Want a little more? Quickly slice up some cheese (or get cheese sticks) and throw that in too. Let me know if you try it!
Here’s some anecdotal evidence that these fixes can make a difference. Other than a few concerted efforts over the past two years where I lost some weight and mostly kept it off, I’ve struggled to continue to see progress or maintain easily enough. However, since the start of 2017, I’ve found it significantly easier to maintain and even drop some more weight. I was another pound down at the start of this challenge and am another 3 pounds down from there. I feel more confident about continuing to go in the right direction as well. By incorporating the mental and physical changes above, it has been easier to maintain and lose weight.
I know I just threw a lot of ideas at you. Find just one you don’t already do that gets you excited (because you feel like it’d be easy to incorporate) and practice it for a couple weeks. Then come back to this post when you feel like you’ve got that one under your belt, and try another!
For the M.E. Challenge: One new bonus point starting Wednesday, April 26th – the Non-Zero Bonus. It’s another simple incentive-style bonus. Any day with no zeros earns a bonus point. In other words, get at least one workout and at least one veggie-full meal and you earn a bonus point that day.