Thursday, May 20, 2010

Healthier habits lead to happier vacations?

Okay, this may seem an odd sentiment from the blogger who was urging you to buy potato chips for the coupons on the bags yesterday (see blog below). But recently I've come to the conclusion that overeating can really undermine a vacation. As can not being active enough.

This comes from a person, admittedly, who has had her weight battles (I recently lost 25 pounds on Weight Watchers). From them, I know that I feel much more alert, more energetic and downright happier when I get in a daily workout, and when I eat just enough to feel satisfied (as opposed to feeling full). Why is it then that I, and so many others, throw these good habits out the window when somewhere new? Why on vacation do I eat until I feel like I may explode and skip activities that would boost my heart rate (and energy level)? Is this one of the reasons I sometimes come back from vacation feeling like I need another vacation to recover?

I'm starting to think so. So this vacation, I'm going to try some new strategies:

  1. I'm going to seek out activities every day--biking, hiking, kayaking, maybe even rock climbing--that will allow me to see parts of the destination I wouldn't have otherwise while still getting a workout in.
  2. I'm going to try all the new foods I want, but I'm going to chew them more slowly and make an effort NOT to clean my plate. Recent metabolism studies have shown that people who eat  slowly release a larger dose of the hormone that makes us feel full. By increasing the time it took them to ingest their meals from 5 minutes to 30, research subjects ate a significantly smaller amount of food, yet still felt satisfied after their meals. Sounds good to me!
  3. I'm going to bring along some healthy snacks. There's something about travel that brings out primordial "hunter/gatherer" impulses. I know that when I'm on the road, I constantly worry about being hungry, something I never do at home, and grab food when I see it, even when my body tells me I'm full. To allay these irrational fears, my backpack is going to be a movable farmer's market, filled with colorful, fresh snacks I can nosh on without overdoing it. We'll see if I can tempt my daughters, too, with all the fruits and veggies I'll be carrying. 
  4. I'm going to try and change my vacation mindset. Too often I justify my overindulgence by reminding myself that I'm on vacation. But is gorging myself and not moving really that much of a treat? It usually doesn't feel like it a half-hour after I've done the damage. So, I'm going to remind myself that being in a new place and away from the cares of my everyday life is the real treat.  Or at least that's the strategy now (am worried this last one may not work).
I'll report back after the vacation to let you all know how these strategies worked. Hopefully I'll discover a few new ones while on the road.

(Photo by Ernst Moeksis)

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