I am Afraid of Vacation
I am afraid I will gain weight.
I have been lucky enough to take many wonderful and adventurous trips that have involved beautiful places, joyful connections, new pursuits, as well as dangerous risks to me and people I love. My biggest challenge with vacation is not the risks involved but my neurotic fear that I will gain weight. At home, I exert extreme control over what I eat, when I eat, how much I eat and how active I am. I know exactly what I can eat to maintain my weight. On vacation, I lose that perceived control. I like active vacations because I know that at least I will be able to work off extra calories from restaurant dinners. I also prefer to have some access to a kitchen so that I can make my own breakfast or keep healthy snacks on hand. So, while it is wonderful to have a break from everyday life, I find it very stressful and difficult to fully relax. So difficult, that I usually lose weight on vacation because I over compensate for my fear of gaining weight. Over the years, I have learned a lot about what works for me when it comes to eating and vacation. Some tips:
Do Drink Water. (Isn’t this the first tip on any wellness list?) When traveling, your routine is disrupted and it can be easy to become dehydrated, leading to headaches, fatigue, and constipation. Drinking water will help you feel better, regulating your mood and your appetite.
Don’t drink too much alcohol. When on vacation, it’s like a party every night and easy to drink too much alcohol. Alcohol lowers your resistance to temptation and increases the likelihood that you will overeat. Alcohol disrupts your sleep and impacts your energy level. You will sleep better and be more active if you don’t drink too much.
Do eat. Eat consistently. Try to eat as normally as possible. Keep a few snacks handy. My favorites include yogurt, almonds, and dried fruit. Keeping hunger at bay will help prevent overeating at restaurants.
Do enjoy what you eat. I struggle with allowing myself treats. At the breakfast diner, I choose oatmeal. At the lunch café, I choose grilled chicken. At the dinner restaurant, I choose grilled fish and only one glass of wine. When everyone happily decides to go for ice cream, I am not happy. I don’t like ice cream. I am embarrassed that I can’t join in the fun. And who doesn’t like ice cream? What kind of weirdo am I? The flavor is not intense enough. The fat content makes my stomach gurgle unhappily for hours. (A bit lactose intolerant? or years with a difficult father who inflicted portioned amounts of ice cream regularly?) I tried tried tried to relax and enjoy ice cream on my recent vacation. I did not succeed. The Swiss Chocolate at Spinnaker’s in Jamestown, RI was a big disappointment. Bland and uninspiring. But I ate all of it. Unhappily. When we went to Ben and Jerry’s in Newport another night, I relied on my go-to healthier option. I had a sugar cone with a small scoop of mango sorbet. Under 250 calories and fat free. I was so much happier with this, but really didn’t need it. Perhaps I need to eat ice cream with Alan Richman.
Don’t finish it. The first bite is the most delicious one. Like money, a certain quantity of food is essential for survival. But more money does not yield more happiness. Similarly, more food does not mean more happiness. Indeed, when we overeat, we tend to feel bad physically and emotionally. After satisfying our need for survival and our desire for deliciousness, the enjoyment of food tapers off. Notice that the first bite is where the anticipation and flavor is. And how much more delicious it is when you are hungry. Enjoy that first bite fully! Then, notice how quickly you adapt to the taste. Once your hunger is sated, you are simply ingesting calories. Notice when you stop being hungry and when the delight of the taste fades. It is time to stop eating. Plus, you will be left with a feeling of virtuousness for not overeating!
Do pretend. Pretend to be an active, cheerful, energetic person, game for anything – even if you are not. (I am not.) You will be more active. You will meet more people. You will have more fun. Being active and trying new things will distract you from thinking about food and eating too much. After all, what better time than on vacation to try a new way of being?