My husband and I recently returned from a two week trip to Italy to celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary and the fact that we both just turned 40. It was truly the trip of a lifetime and we were so blessed to have had this experience.
Our goals for this vacation were to relax and unwind, but also be active and explore parts of the world that were unknown to us. We also wanted to get some stamps on our passport and travel outside of the US. So we settled on a little conglomerate of towns in Southern Italy on the Northern coast of the Salerno Gulf known as the Amalfi Coast. We also love experimenting with different cuisines and knew the food and wine in Italy would be exceptional.
I know that many of us struggle when it comes to “how to eat” on vacation. We want to enjoy ourselves and not feel rigid or deprived, but at the same time, we don’t want to go completely off the rails.
I can relate to this feeling with first hand experience. I recall many times when I’ve gone completely off the rails with my food on vacation. After all, a holiday is a time to take a break from life at home. It’s a time to treat yourself to meals and experiences to which you would otherwise not. And we are only here for a limited time, so we want to take full advantage of the experience.
BUT believe me when I tell you that this can be done without binge eating; without going off the rails; without feeling bloated when you come home; and without feeling deprived.
Here are the strategies I used on vacation that allowed me to completely enjoy two weeks in Italy and still comfortably fit into the clothes I left in.
1. I went in with a plan. I knew I wanted to stay active on this trip, and be cognizant of my portions. I am also running a weight loss challenge with my clients right now, so I definitely wanted to lead by example.
2. I used sightseeing as my exercise. There wasn’t really much of a need to even hit the gym on this vacation, as we walked a ton. In Capri, we made it a point to walk everywhere. We hiked to the top of Mt. Solero, even though most tourists take a chair lift up the mountain. In Positano, we hiked the path of the Gods, and instead of taking a bus to the path, we walked there from town, including the 900 steps up to the start of the path!
3. I tracked my activity. I don’t normally track my activity too closely on my apple watch at home because I know my normal workout routine, activity levels and eating habits work for me. But being completely off my routine, it was reassuring to track my miles, steps and calories burned. One day I looked down at my watch and realized we had walked 10 miles! I didn’t use this to justify eating a gigantic meal, but instead felt proud of the fact that we had walked so much and that my shorts were even feeling a little looser!
4. I was mindful at buffets. For a good portion of the trip we were staying in places that had breakfast buffets. In the past, buffets were a real trigger for overeating for me, but I told myself I could try anything I wanted, as long as I honored my body and stopped eating when I was satisfied – not stuffed. The breakfast buffets in Italy were incredible. The Italians are big on their pastries and even cakes at breakfast. I would typically scoop some eggs on my plate for protein and a bit of fruit or salad. Then I’d pick out a few cakes or pastries that looked tasty. I’d have small bites of everything and maybe a couple more bites of the ones that I liked the most. I was not afraid to leave food on my plate!
5. We split our food. Georg and I like to try a lot of different things, so we’d order a starter a pasta, a main course and a dessert, but share everything. I also stopped eating when I felt like the food just wasn’t pleasurable anymore. Have you ever noticed that the first few bites of food are always the best? On our last night, we ordered some fried calamari that was absolutely incredible. I had no problem leaving the last few bites on the plate because I noticed that the more I ate, the less I was enjoying it.
6. I ate slowly. I really made sure to slow down and savor each and every bite. This is definitely a big part of European culture, so it was easy to do. When you do this, you not only enjoy your bites more, but you end up eating less because you become full (or your date eats a little more!)
7. If I didn’t love it, I didn’t eat it. I know we were raised to be in the clean plate club, but that club has a lot of overweight members with Diabetes, Heart Disease and other health conditions. If you don’t like something, don’t eat it, just to eat it. Calories add up, so don’t waste them on food you don’t enjoy when you’re on vacation. I give you permission to leave food on your plate!
I am feeling pretty good coming back from this vacation. I may be a few pounds heavier than when I started – I’m honestly not sure because I’m typing this from the airplane on the way home right now! But the key is, by staying active and being mindful of my eating, I’m returning home feeling good about myself and good in my clothes. Any weight I may have gained should come off fairly quickly just by returning to my normal routine at home.
I hope these strategies are helpful to you the next time you go on vacation. As always, hit reply with any questions or to set up a time to talk.