Time off is something we all long for. Whether it’s an all-out vacation, a holiday or just a regular weekend, time off from the day-to-day grind is critical to help us reset our minds and bodies. And, for many of us, the arrival of summer thankfully means an abundance of time off. If you’re trying to lose weight and be more active, though, time off actually can work against you. The lack of routine and structure can create challenges on days when you may not be getting up as early, going to bed as early and eating meals at your normal times. Plus, on these relaxing days, you may also be tempted to be relaxed with your dieting and exercising. Still, with the right approach, you can maintain those good habits that help you reach your healthy lifestyle goals.
Blount Memorial registered dietitian Chelsi Cardoso says the trick is to plan. “Many people find staying active and eating right on weekends, holidays and vacations to be quite difficult,” she said. “Weekends, for instance, often are a time to catch up on household chores or run errands that we couldn’t get done during the week. Others may sleep in on Saturday and Sunday and skip breakfast. Either way, this can have a detrimental effect on your goals. The best way to combat this is to plan ahead. For instance, if your weekend plan includes a day of shopping and running errands, pack a healthy lunch to take with you so you avoid the temptation of grabbing fast food on the go. You also can be thinking of some healthier options you can have at a restaurant if you do decide to dine out. If your friends invite you to dinner, plan to eat only half of what you order, then bring the other half home,” she explained. “As for sleeping in and skipping breakfast, it tends to lead to eating too much later in the day to compensate. If you want to sleep later, try to eat something light, such as a piece of fruit or toast, whenever you do get up. This at least will get you feeling less hungry when it comes time to have lunch,” she added.
Cardoso says once you have a basic plan in mind, you can tailor that to fit holidays and vacations, as well. “With vacations, especially, you want to really think through your meals,” Cardoso said. “Will you dine out every meal, or will you keep some items in the kitchen or hotel to offset some meals? How you answer this will help you plan how you’re going to manage and plan. Whatever you choose, keep track of what you’re eating and drinking. Allow yourself the freedom to let go a little, but with the goal of maintaining your current weight. If you can cook some low-calorie options during your vacation, that can be helpful, or you can go to restaurants with the mindset of choosing the healthiest options available,” she explained. “You don’t want to be too disciplined – it’s your vacation, after all – but you also don’t want to come back from your time off feeling guilty or defeated because you broke all your healthy habits,” she added.
Planning can help you maintain your exercise regimen, as well, but Cardoso says to take advantage of some different exercise options if you can. “Rather than stressing about finding a place right next to a gym so you can keep up your Monday through Friday workout plan, look for ways to stay active that involve your vacation surroundings. For instance, if you’re going to the coast, enjoy a long evening stroll along the beach, or maybe a bike ride or hike. Walk more if you’re planning sightseeing trips. This concept is helpful even on weekends when you’re just out running errands. Try parking further away from stores and restaurants to get a few more steps in each day,” she said. “Time off is important, but with a little preparation, we can relax and still maintain our healthy living goals,” she added.