I’m definitely an advocate for having a flexible and enjoyable approach to eating on any given week. But recently I considered whether it’s good to relax your eating on holidays… or not.
Once upon a time I would’ve said yes – DEFINITELY – relax your eating and enjoy your holiday. It’s only a couple of weeks!
But on MY recent holiday, I changed my mind.
Here’s what happened, and why I made the switch.
I’m Pretty Healthy….A Break is OK…Right?
I’m an achievement-oriented person. And I’m healthy.
Looking back to my 20’s and 30’s, I was cooking in bulk once per week and going to the gym at least 4 days per week.
Back then, it was easy to be consistent because I had the energy, health issues to manage, it made me feel amazing and I had a structured week.
That scheduled, structured life so it was easy to plan and do the same good habits each week.
I’ve been through burnout and moved to the country, and working at home with MUCH more flexibility.
And honestly, I don’t feel like pushing myself or being so strict anymore.
What that means is I have less vigilance around my eating, less drive to exercise, I tend to drink a little more and I’m generally more relaxed around my habits.
Maybe that’s a good thing.
But after this last holiday, I’m rethinking my approach.
My recent holiday of 2 1/2 weeks was really relaxing.
(Here’s me, happy to be dressed up for a night out)
In fact, the last thing I felt like doing was preparing healthy food, cooking or exercising, so I thought – “Melanie, you can relax your eating, it’s ONLY two weeks.”
During our first week, hubby and I ate out a LOT.
At breakfast we typically ordered the kind of food we don’t usually have at home.
My mind said “ooh, French Toast, you will LOVE that!”
It was too sweet, but I’d spent money and didn’t want to waste it, so I ate it all.
Then at lunch, the same thing.
“Yum. Noodle stir fry! Awesome!”
An hour later I had headaches, bloating and an energy slump.
At dinner, we had drinks most nights and sometimes dessert.
And because we didn’t have much to do, ‘drinks time’ got earlier and earlier each day.
“Hey, it’s 4 o’clock. The bar downstairs has happy hour before 5. We’d better hurry or we’ll miss out!”
Of course, you want to soak up the booze with some bar snacks. Like chips, or fried calamari.
Then you order dinner while you’re there, because it’s easy. And you eat too much.
Stuff like this happened nearly every day.
We even shopped for groceries but it was cold and windy, so we couldn’t be bothered to use the hotel barbecue by the pool.
I looked back on that first week and realised how much money we’d spent,and that I was often overfull, bloated, and getting more tired each day.
But more than that, I noticed myself slipping into a comfortable routine of eating too much eating stuff I wouldn’t normally choose – and I was over-indulging in alcohol.
Even though it didn’t make me feel very well, it felt way too easy to stay in this routine.
Then, because I wasn’t feeling good, I was looking for convenient eating.
Have you ever been caught in a circular reference like that?
It made me question my feelings about whether it’s good to relax your eating on holiday.
In the second week of our holidays, I figured I’d experiment a little to see what would happen.
We had a few alcohol free nights.
- To make this easier, we had soda water at home, drank plain water at the cafe, or just went to bed early.
Plain water overlooking a Coolum Beach sunset. Refreshing!
We made our own healthy dinners and ate until comfortable, instead of overfull.
- To make this easier, we bought pre-packaged salads and simple-to-prepare healthy foods.
We made lunch in the motel room using the real food we’d bought.
- to make this easier, we used some healthy packaged foods that required little prep or cooking.
Almost immediately, I noticed a boost in my energy.
The bloating was gone, and I felt better, happier, and more in control of my health.
It’s Not Just Me
Several of my clients have gained weight after their holidays…..even after being so successful on the Downsize Me Program and maintaining a lower weight for more than 3 years.
In most cases, one or two simple shifts in eating and drinking over a holiday period or vacation away has ‘let the vampires in.’
They go back to foods that don’t suit their bodies, convenience eating, or drinking too much, and haven’t really noticed how many ‘little’ things have crept back in and added up.
You Have Options
What I discovered these last few weeks is this:
- it’s easy to start a new habit while on holiday because you want to be flexible and free of rules
- if you relax your eating holidays and it can throw you off track, even if you’re usually consistent
- it’s incredibly easy to take those new habits home with you and keep doing them.
The good news is, you have some options.
Option 1 is to keep doing the new habits with the consequence of declining health.
Option 2 is to put in the extra effort to get back on track and refocus.
Option 3 is to stay mindful of your choices while on holiday.
I found Option 3 was the best for me. Going too far backward and having to get back on track afterwards was too much of an effort.
It was easier for me to maintain just enough focus on healthy eating and habits so that I could enjoy myself but stay on track.
What normally happens to your eating over the holidays, and afterwards?
Which option would you rather take?
Let me know in the comments below!
Chief Inspiration Coach
I’m a quirky scientist and a Health and Wellness Coach who helps 35+ women to understand and eat right for their body type.