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5 Ways to Avoid Weight Gain on Vacation

by Helene Haber

Most of us don't expect to lose weight when we’re away on a business or personal trip, although that would certainly be a nice surprise.  What we’re usually hoping for is to come back the same way we left home – no thinner or heavier.

So what will it take?  The most important advice I have for you is to be aware.  Hope is not enough. Before you even leave your front door you need to have a plan so when you encounter those precipitous things that happen en route, you are ready.

Visualize yourself making nutritious choices of things you like. Don’t use the vacation as an excuse to “fill-up at the company’s expense” or to “get my money’s worth because I’ve already paid for my meal plan.”  Eat because it’s enjoyable and satisfying. If you splurge one day, just cut back the next. Develop a mental strategy so that you are ready to vacation with awareness. Picture yourself stepping on the scale the same weight as when you left. That feels wonderful!

Remember that when you wake up at 4:45 a.m. to catch the 7:00 a.m. flight, you stopped (very sleep-deprived) at Starbucks and had the mocha latte and the jumbo blueberry muffin to keep the coffee company. You didn’t forget the pre-boarding snack as you ate the 500 calorie bagel and cream cheese breakfast tray placed before you. It’s 9:30 a.m. and you've already had two breakfasts even before landing.

Once you’re at your destination, a complimentary alcohol punch with chocolate chip cookies awaits you. You’ve had such a trying travel morning -- you feel you deserve some comfort food. A late lunch is served followed by a huge buffet dinner included in your package.

Although day one has not turned into a healthful eating day, the remaining vacation days will be better.  The secret is to forgive yourself and go ahead and vacation with awareness.

That simply means aware of what you’re eating and in what portions you’re eating it.  Use visualization strategies you made while packing for the trip to make nutritious food choices.  Now you can get on with enjoying your vacation.

As you go through the day, you decide what you will eat.  The decision is no one's but yours.  The following five tips will help maintain your role as the decision maker:

Move to lose.  Plan for some form of activity.

When you wake up the next morning take a walk around the hotel or get a walking map from the front desk. There’s nothing as fun as discovering new sites. If you prefer, use the exercise equipment at the hotel.  Make sure to bring along a bottle of water (often the hotel will provide them) and drink water throughout the day. Take walking breaks during the day around the city or resort and take in the new scenery.  This is good for your body and soul.

  Choose your food. Don’t let the food choose you.

Anticipate potential food challenges.  If you know your company is sponsoring an elaborate dinner or that you’re going out to an amazing restaurant on the island, have a wonderful night out.  Remember to view dinner in context of the entire day’s eating.  To compensate for extra calories at night, eat fruits, vegetables and whole grains during the day.

Do not even consider skipping lunch or breakfast.  Skipping meals only prepares your metabolism to slow down and makes you more inclined to overeat at your next meal.  Eat mindfully and bychoice and you will be able to enjoy that chocolate mousse cake at dinner.

  Size does matter.

You may eat any food you love, just not as much as you’d love. Restaurants do not serve portion size approved by the American Dietetic Association.  Entrees and desserts are often 2-4 times larger than a standard serving. When having desserts you may taste, share or try to leave something on the plate. (This shows the food who’s really in control.)  Fruit and sorbet are refreshing and healthy desserts.

The waiter is there to wait on you.

Although many of us do not want to inconvenience the wait staff, if the truth be told they are there to make our eating experience an enjoyable one.  Don’t fall into the trap of trying to please the waiter by ordering the suggested, fat-laden special of the day.  The waiter may be happier, but chances are you will never see him again and you will live with the consequences.

Here is a list of things to tell the waiter so that your meal is prepared the way you like it:

  • Could you please ask the chef to put the salad dressing on the side?

  • Could you please see if the chef can go extra light on the sauces?

  • I would like to start with the salad (soup) and have the appetizer for my entrée.

  • Can I have my fish baked (poached, grilled, broiled, etc.)?  I would like my vegetables steamed without butter?

  • How is the chicken prepared?

  • Would it possible to have the chicken prepared without the cream, butter or sauce?

Be good to yourself – you’re on vacation.

Treat yourself to that hot rock massage you’ve heard is incredibly relaxing. Sit with a good book at the beach or under a tree.  Even at a business conference, order in room service and watch a movie you haven’t had a chance to see. Take a bath with bath salts. Go to sleep really early.

Enjoy the whole vacation experience.  Be aware of your surroundings, people and yes, the food.  Pamper your body and spirit.  Do this and you’ll come back gaining not weight, but wonderful memories.

--Freelance writer Helene Haber is also a Life Coach, specializing in weight loss. Send her an email at for a complimentary session.