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Wellness Wednesday: Setting Realistic Limits While on Vacation

Wellness Wednesday: setting realistic limits for staying healthy and happy while on vacation. Tips and tricks to take with you on any trip.

Monique with a muffin

Wellness Wednesday is back! As many of you know, I was on vacation last week. It was blissful, relaxing, and just about everything I needed; except when it wasn’t. Except when there were a million food choices. But especially because it brought up food issues for me. It reminded me of the times where I ate a few too many cookies (I’m talking like 6). The times where I felt overwhelmed by food, the hours where it controlled what I was doing, how I made decisions and my power of choice. Those moments where it consumed every ounce of me. And I hated that feeling more than anything.

Feeling all of those feelings again isn’t pleasant, especially when you’ve struggled with something so powerful. I don’t expect you to relate unless you’ve had an unhealthy relationship with food before.

First things first. I’ll admit I was working out like crazy before my trip. As you may know, I have lost 15 pounds since last year but sometimes still feel uncomfortable with my body. I promised myself before the trip that I wouldn’t eat crazy amounts of food on vacation and most certainly I would work out every single day.

You see what I did there? My thinking was completely flawed. I was basically already self-rejecting my body and the way I look. The decision was already made before I was on the trip: My body did not look good enough and most certainly I would have to work out vigorously and eat less in order to look good in a swimsuit. For me, there was a discrepancy between who I would like to be and who I actually am now. I was splitting myself into good and bad.

Wellness Wednesday: Setting Realistic Limits on Vacation

Thankfully, I caught myself thinking this way. I could see what a self destructing path it was going to be. Black and white thinking was back and angrily staring at me right in the face; it was my enemy. Deep down inside, I knew I would want to eat more than I actually needed. But that it would be okay, even if I felt uncomfortable with it. I told myself that it is vacation and after all, you should be able to relax a little. What I needed to do was set realistic limits for myself. It didn’t need to be all or nothing; instead it could be a little of this and a little of that.

Here’s the thing about realistic limits when it comes to food: There shouldn’t be a deadline to food just because you want immediate change. And example would be to completely eliminate chocolate from your diet, when you current eat it every day. That’s going from all to nothing and will most likely lead to a complete binge. This happened to my Mom for a while. She was in love with chips. She still is. She ate them nearly every day for as long as I remember; it was a necessary thing in her diet since she’s pretty much the healthiest person I know. The problem was that when my Mom ate chips, she went to town. She would eat 3-4 servings of them and end up with a stomach ache; ultimately it was her weakness when it came to food. Therefore she decided that she would eliminate them from her diet. Guess what? It didn’t work. She actually ended up binging on chips more than she was before. Finally she tried tapering back a bit, telling herself she would only have chips 3-4 times a week and she would have the proper serving. I’m happy to report that she’s doing much better with her chip addiction because she was able to set realistic limits for herself.

Plate of Mexican food

The realistic limit for myself was to eat 3 meals a day and allow myself to indulge once a day on vacation. I told myself to try and make healthy choices, but that it would be okay to enjoy dessert and order a few things I haven’t had in quite a while. And I did! I ate dessert nearly every night. I also ordered a cheeseburger with Tony’s encouragement (of course). Gosh, it was seriously the best cheeseburger ever. And the ice cream was everything I could have hoped for.

Here’s an example:

  • I will enjoy a healthy, high-protein breakfast every morning to get my day started right. Even though the pastries might look good, I will stick to eggs and one serving of a grain.
  • I will not eat excessive sugar in the morning.
  • I will feel free to order what sounds good to me on the dinner menu. 
  • I will order something I normally wouldn’t order at a restaurant. For me, this was a cheeseburger. I only eat them twice a year.
  • I will eat dessert if it looks good. I will have one serving and be satisfied. Turns out, this was flexible. One evening Tony and I got a bunch of mini slices of cake and tried a bite of each, then we had ice cream cones. 
  • I will stay active during my trip. I wore my pedometer so that I could monitor my steps.
  • I will try and eat veggies at every meal.
  • I will drink lots of water.

Monique eating an ice cream cone

Did I feel overwhelmed by my not-so-perfect eating decisions during the trip? Yes, of course. Did I teeter on an almost binge eating episode? Yep, definitely. But Tony was there to support me and I happen to know the feeling of a binge; the guilt and how it overpowers every part of you. I didn’t want that feeling to consume my trip, emotions and power. My limitations helped to me keep in check. I would not say no to any foods unless I truly disliked them. I would place fruits and veggies on my plate at nearly almost every meal. I would enjoy dessert and a hearty meal or two. I would eat a salad when I know I didn’t have enough greens during the day. I would simply try this whole balanced food approach.

During the trip, I made sure to stay active by walking frequently, swimming, running on the beach or playing tennis. I didn’t force myself to go to the gym to pound away on the treadmill, but instead indulged myself in activities I truly enjoy. It helped to not have rigid exercise limitations.

collage of food and vacation activities

So yes, I have a weakness for food but I also know that I’m strong, determined, and passionate. I know that there will be days where I struggle; times where I’ll eat even though it’s not for nourishment but more so for pleasure. Above all, I know that there’s more to feast on than just food. I can feast on the beauty of the ocean, the laughter between Tony and I, the passion of tennis. I also feast on the things I know I’m good at; creative, unique abilities, making recipes and sharing my passions.

Over the past year, I’ve really tried to catch my black and white thoughts about body image or weight and re-frame them into something positive. I’m still working on is overcoming perfectionist thinking and am trying to redefine my definition of success when it comes to my career and body. It’s taking me over a year to really acknowledge my strengths and embrace my weaknesses; who knows if I’ll ever be 100% happy with every single part of me, but wasting time thinking about my body is like wasting precious energy. Energy and time that could be invested into something truly worthwhile. Something that makes my soul happy.

The whole point of this is to tell you that if your an emotional eater, vacations may be hard for you. Or really any time not spent in the comfort zone of your own home. Our limits are often too extreme or nonexistent. There never seems to be a place that feels balanced and just right. Sometimes setting limits will mean tolerating uncomfortable cravings for sweet or salty foods, or perhaps it means eating more than you usually would and being more flexible with your diet. Boundaries shouldn’t be too loose or too rigid. Overall, I’ve learned it’s important to feast your soul on other things besides food.

Question: How do you stay healthy during your vacations?

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