Holidays are something we look forward to and they can often be the catalyst to kick starting health and fitness regimes – whether beforehand to ‘get in shape’ or afterwards to ‘lose that holiday weight’. Whilst anything that prompts you to begin getting fitter is a good thing, holiday diets can also encourage the whole ‘all or nothing’ type behaviour associated with fad diets and short term fixes – all of which don’t work sustainably. Holidays and weekends away are part of life and so we need to learn to deal with them and make things work around them – try taking control with some of my healthy holiday habits so you can still enjoy yourself without the need for punishment before or after…
First things first…
First things first – holiday are there to be enjoyed. Whilst the below are some tactics I use myself and encourage my clients to use, none suggest you should not enjoy yourself, treat yourself and indulge here and there – they are merely healthy habits to build in that allow you the flexibility to do just that.
Prep and plan
Short and long term….
- If you know you have a holiday coming up – smash some extra gym sessions the week before and make sure your nutrition is on point.
- Do your research – find a local gym you can access or some walking / cycling routes to use whilst away. Do your research on restaurants and what’s available.
- When away – think ahead. If you know you have a boozy lunch / afternoon, take it easy at breakfast.
Depending on the type of holiday you are on – quite often your daily activity levels drop off. This doesn’t just mean the gym or going for a run – it also includes your general movement each day. Think about it, you can go from the hustle and bustle of a busy city work environment to the sweltering conditions of a foreign country that leaves you lying on a sunbed all day! Ideally we average at least 10K steps per day – easy if you are commuting, exercising, getting from A to B – not so much if you are lying on a sun lounger and only walking back and forth to the bar! Skip the taxi and walk home or walk to collect the car the next day. Plan an early morning walk or run pre breakfast. Get some lengths in at the pool – whatever it may be, keep those steps and activity levels up and be aware of them using some kind of tracker.
Opt for the fresh stuff
Obviously holiday is time to indulge but that doesn’t always mean with foods that are seen as ‘unhealthy’ foods. Stock up on fresh fish, meat, fruits and veggies and favour protein then use the space left for the bread, ice creams and desserts – not the other way around.
Exercise portion control
If you really don’t want to track calories, that’s fine. But do try and exercise portion control to a point to ensure things balance out over the 2 weeks. One palm of protein, a fist of veggies, a cupped hand of carbs and a thumb of fat per meal. Two of each per meal for guys – generally speaking.
Make conscious decisions
Realistically, you will make choices that you may not in day to day life – this is normal and means you’re not weird! However, just be aware of what you are doing and potential drawbacks or compromises needed elsewhere to compensate. Have that triple scoop ice-cream but maybe consider gin and slimlines later that day versus wine (see my ‘summer sessions‘ article). Skip that morning workout in favour of a lie in but then maybe have a lighter breakfast or skip it. Have two super indulgent days but then maybe claw back on the third. Again, it doesn’t have to take over but just be aware.
Consider a maintenance plan
If you have been operating in a calorie deficit for fat loss or a surplus focussed on protein and protein timings for muscle build – consider a maintenance style plan for the period of your holiday based on your activity levels. It means essentially you take a break from the exact plan you are on but maintain results – sometimes, it is good to take a break and reset – physically and mentally. You will be able to enjoy more calories if you have been restricted or relax on food timings if they just aren’t practical.
Getting back to normality
Hopefully you didn’t go into full ‘f*ck it’ mode but even if you did, your mindset upon return is key to getting back on track. Don’t panic and think that all your progress has gone out the window, the extra weight the scales say you’re carrying is likely to be a lot of water weight that will come down when you get back in good habits. Don’t go overboard and punish yourself for the indulgent time away you have had but ensure you get right back into your healthy habits, routines and workout programmes.
My approach as a personal trainer and nutrition coach is all about balance – you really can have it all and make it work, whether it’s a hectic work schedule, travel schedule, social schedule – whatever. Take a look at how it all works if you think you might be interested.