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Five tips to burn vacation weight gain

Carrying a few extra pounds after your fabulous summer holiday? No problem, we’ve got a few ideas on how to get you back in shape

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I just got back from three weeks of vacation, and I have some work to do. I exercised a great deal while away, but my diet went completely off the rails. Get a bunch of family and friends together who like to cook and like to drink, mix in the awesome weather and beautiful scenery of the B.C. coast, and the calories just seem to ingest themselves. Before you know it, that bathing suit starts to feel a little snug.

This happens to me every year, so now I plan for it. I make an effort to mitigate the weight gain by keeping up my running and spending lots of time in a sea kayak. However, if you’re scarfing high-calorie food and chugging booze like the apocalypse is imminent, then you simply can’t do enough exercise to keep ahead of the weight gain — the pounds creep on.

Now it’s time for me to make those pounds creep back off.

It’s just a few pounds…why worry?
Well, part of it is vanity, which can be a powerful motivator for fitness. Sure, I’m still in the normal BMI range and this slightly higher weight makes no difference now to my overall health, but I want those pounds gone just the same.

More importantly, what happens if you always adopt this attitude? If you gain a couple of pounds on every vacation, and never burn them off, over the years they will add up. A lot.

So here is what you have to do.

1. Detox
I’m not a fan of cleansing supplements, or any type of dietary detox product. What I’m talking about here is going on the wagon. Booze will pile on the calories as well as decrease your eating inhibitions (meaning you make poor dietary choices when drinking), and also make it harder to perform on the exercise front.

Sure, you may be bummed about going back to the grind after a nice vacation, but don’t compensate for this with alcohol. If you were tying one on during vacation, then it’s time to give your liver a break. By itself, taking three to four weeks off from drinking alcohol is going to do a lot to shed those unwanted pounds.

2. Eat in
When I think of the amount of calories in restaurant food, the first word that comes to mind is “obscene.” “Hideous” comes second.

Restaurants want repeat business, and they get this by making their food taste extra good. They make it taste extra good by piling on lots of sugar, fat and salt. Not only does this amp up the calories to the aforementioned obscene levels, but it tastes so awesome that you lose control and overeat. This is bad.

To drop the vacation pounds, you have to come to terms with the fact that the holiday is actually over and get back into the habit of regular grocery shopping for healthy ingredients to make nutritious, calorie-restricted meals.

3. Get back into the exercise routine
According to some of the conversations I’ve had, I’m a bit of a vacation rebel in that I don’t exercise any less while on holiday. Most of the people I know really savour their gluteus-maximus time while taking a break from the job.

If this is you, then it’s time to get back to the sweaty socks and labouring lungs.

You may need to ease your way back in if you’ve totally slacked off. Either that, or just take the consequences. I didn’t lift any weights for three weeks and just went back to the iron — I will admit to being sore, but I’ll live. So will you.

Also, try to find ways to fit in some extra activity. This can be as simple as deciding to pack a lunch (remember the rule about not eating out — skip those lunch meetings) and taking a walk at noon with a colleague while eating something healthy.

4. Go to bed hungry
Hungry, not starving.

I believe that right before bed is the only time it’s ever okay to be hungry. You need to keep your appetite “satisfied,” not “full,” throughout the day in order to provide energy. This strategy also keeps you from losing control of your appetite later on in the evening and engaging in “night-eating syndrome.”

If you stay properly fuelled throughout the day, eat a moderate dinner, and then stop eating after that — therefore not taking in a bunch of additional calories before bed — then the pounds will really fall off.

Again, before bed is really the only time it’s okay to be hungry, because overnight your appetite resets and you start off with a clean slate of eating a good breakfast the next morning. Just don’t be so hungry that it affects your sleep or that you need to get up and eat in the middle of the night.

5. And finally…
Don’t be in a rush. Vacation is over and the bathing suit is packed away, so don’t fret if it takes a couple of months to get the scale back to where you want it to be. Slow and steady wins the weight-loss race.

James S. Fell, MBA, is a certified strength and conditioning specialist in Calgary, AB. He writes the column “In-Your-Face Fitness” for the Los Angeles Times and consults with clients on strategic planning for fitness and health. Get a free metabolism report at Body For Wife. Email James at james@bodyforwife.com.