You’ve been doing well with your weight loss journey but now you’re about to go on holidays.
So what’s the best plan of attack to ensure that you don’t fall off the wagon and undo all the hard work you’ve done throughout the year?
Perhaps you could exercise every day.
Maybe you could cull your portion sizes to offset the extra treats and alcohol you know you’ll consume.
Or maybe you’ll starve yourself completely during the day, so you can eat and drink at night.
All of the above are possible options, and are strategies that a lot of people use to manage their weight over the holidays.
However, if you take the approach above, we’re willing to bet you’ll come back from your holiday stressed, tired and a little resentful.
To make the most of your holiday this year, we recommend cutting yourself some slack and being less rigid in your approach.
The purpose of a holiday
Holidays are something that we all look forward to. A break in the routine, an opportunity to see and do things we don’t normally get to do, and a chance to catch up with family and friends are all hallmarks of a good holiday. However, the main purpose of a holiday is for you to rest and rejuvenate, and reduce your stress levels, not run yourself into the ground.
How many times have you heard people say that they need to ‘go to work to have a holiday’, after they’ve been away? Of course, take the time to do new things, but make sure you plan plenty of down-time if you want to make the most of your holiday.
Because when it comes to weight loss, holidays can be your friend or your enemy.
Where most people go wrong
One of the areas where most people go wrong is they use their holiday as an excuse to completely lose control and binge on junk food, and drink excessive amounts of alcohol. This leads to feelings of guilt, so in order to offset the calorie intake, people begin cutting back on their meal sizes, or starving themselves through the day, so they can indulge at night. Or, they may turn to exercise in an attempt to burn the excess calories they’ve consumed. Before long, the holiday routine has turned into excessive exercise and starvation during the day, and indulging in unhealthy food and alcohol at night.
This is not relaxing, and nor will it help you lose weight and keep it off in the long term.
So how can you enjoy your holidays, and come back feeling refreshed, revived and without the uncomfortable weight gain?
Prioritise sleep and rest
If you want to come back from your holiday in better shape than when you left, prioritise your sleep and your rest. This will go a long way to helping you recover from the busy period leading up to your break. Sleep will also help your body recover from your regular workout routine, and will ensure that when you return from your holidays, you’re feeling energised and ready to get back into your training. This will mean that when you resume your normal training routine, you’ll get more out of your sessions, and you’ll make better progress, than if you didn’t have a break at all.
Poor sleep has also been linked to weight gain and a higher likelihood of obesity in both adults and children. There are several reasons for this, including the fact that lack of sleep increases your appetite and increases the cravings for foods high in calories, fats and carbohydrates. Prioritising sleep in your holidays will help you avoid this craving and make it easier for you to resist those kinds of foods, which seem to be so readily available.
Holidays might be a time to take a break from your regular exercise program, but it shouldn’t be a time to laze about and do nothing. Moving your body will help with holiday weight loss. You don’t have to do strenuous activity — think hiking, bike riding, swimming, skiing, or even just walking, especially if you’re visiting another country and you’re out seeing the sights. All of this activity counts. Moving your body more will also help reduce your stress levels, which can make it difficult to lose weight. Getting daily movement will also improve your mood and help you sleep better at night.
Enjoy your food and drinks
Holidays are never the time for restricting your eating. But they’re also not an excuse to go on all-out binge either.
Instead, use this time to nourish your body with good quality food. After all, how many times do we complain we don’t have time to eat during our normal working week?
Rather than depriving yourself and saying ‘no’ to your favourite foods, practice eating and drinking mindfully. Savour the taste of your food and take note of how it feels in your mouth and really enjoy it. While you don’t need to count calories, it will pay to be calorie-aware. This means knowing which foods are high in calories (including alcohol) and making wise choices, especially if you’re eating out.
If you’re travelling to another country, use this opportunity to try foods from different cultures. You may even come back with some inspiration that will spice up your regular meals! Even if you’re not travelling, you can use your holidays as an opportunity to expand your repertoire of recipes. Search online, or browse through cookbooks and try new dishes or foods you haven’t eaten before. Staying excited about the food you eat is an important part of being able to stick to your plan and lose weight.
When it comes to drinks you need to take care. Once again, be mindful about what you’re drinking and how much you’re having. Cocktails by the pool can be particularly bad for holiday weight loss, as they’re all high in calories. Similarly, soft drinks and juices are high in calories due to their sugar content. The best option is to limit your intake of alcohol and sugary drinks and make water your choice. You can liven it up with fruit slices, herbs and loads of ice.
If you’re mindful about what you’re putting in your mouth, you can enjoy the food, without the guilt.
Plan your holiday
The key to holiday weight loss is to plan your holiday. This doesn’t mean that you have to have a running schedule of everything you’re doing. But it will help to think ahead a little and have a plan of attack.
For example, if you’re going away for a week, give yourself permission to relax during this week. Allow yourself treats and the opportunity to indulge in your favourite foods, but plan for these treats. When you plan them in advance, you won’t feel guilty about eating them, and you’re more likely to watch what you eat the rest of the time.
While it can be tempting to let loose during your holiday and forget about your long-term goals, remember that holidays don’t last forever. Do you want to feel bloated, lethargic and full of regrets when you get back from your holiday? Or do you want to feel energised, relaxed and proud that you didn’t lose sight of the bigger picture? When you set an intention about how you want to feel when you come back from your holidays, it will be easier to stay on track and not sabotage yourself.
Making it a lifestyle
A long-term weight loss plan has to fit in with your lifestyle, including your holidays. If it’s too rigid or involves too many rules, you’ll never stick with it and you’ll either be ‘on track’ or ‘off track’ depending on what is happening in your life. When you learn to ditch the diet mindset you’ll find that you can enjoy all that life has to offer, including holidays, and still lose weight.