10 Vacation Weight Loss Tips
I just returned from a fabulous holiday. My first actually since pre-COVID. I travelled with my family and friends to Tortola in the British Virgin Islands and stayed at the incredible Villa Ariana (you should really check it out – Amazing!). And now, obviously, I need some vacation weight loss tips.
I can’t tell you how amazing it was to get away, lay in the sun (slathered in sunscreen, of course) and feel sand between my toes. What made this trip even more special was that I celebrated my 50th birthday while we were there. Happy Birthday to Me!
I’m assuming you’re picking up what I’m putting down; you can see where this is headed. This trip was one of complete indulgence. We enjoyed all the amazing food the island had to offer. And even more, we enjoyed all the fabulous cocktails… Pain Killer anyone?
Even though I brought my work out gear and had great intentions of at least walking the hilly terrain, it never actually happened. My actual exercise amounted to the 40 paces between my lounge chair and the beach bar – which after a few Pain Killers can actually be very challenging.
Feeling Bloated and Swollen and Out of Shape
So as you can imagine, I have returned from this trip feeling incredibly refreshed and ridiculously bloated and fat! And instead of berating myself for days on end, I have decided to take swift and immediate action to help me get back on track.
Losing weight has proven to be a struggle for me in my 40’s (Perimenopause, you cruel minx). Safe to assume that getting this weight off (and ideally a little bit more) as a 50 year old is not going to be all that easy. So, I am pulling out all the stops and I am determined to figure this out.
Vacation Weight Loss Tips
I spent all day yesterday combing through the web and I compiled a list of hacks that I can use to lose these extra pounds. Hopefully quickly. But since perimenopause, I will take it slow and steady.
Tip # 1 – Don’t Crash Diet
I know you remember the crash diets of our youth. Those lose weight fast schemes. Simply restrict your calorie intake to the absolute bare minimum. Maybe don’t eat for a day or two. Take out the fat, carbs and sugars. And, Voila! Watch the weight melt away. It’s Magic!
Ha! We’re old enough now to know that this is absolute crap! Crash diets lead to bad cravings and make us completely irritable. Which we’re already feeling because of our perimenopausal hormone swings.
Crash dieting is definitely not the answer for a women in her mid-life, or anyone really (my beautiful nieces, I am talking to you). They are not sustainable and create havoc in our bodies.
The crazy thing is that they still exist. Kid you not! If you google crash diets, you can actually find 5 and even 7-day plans. Day 1 – fruits only. Day 2 – veggies only. Day 3 – fruit and veggies. Day 4 (this one’s my favourite) – bananas and milk (gag!). Day 5 – meat only.
Please stop the insanity and do not try this. Crash diets do not make for sustainable weight loss. Instead, let’s be kind to ourselves and gentle with our bodies. Instead of restricting your food to a water and a couple leafs of lettuce (no one makes friends with salad), try a few of these next tips…
Tip # 2 – Get Hydrated
This one’s an oldie but a goodie. Drink lots and lots of water. Not only does it help to fill you up and feel less hungry, it also helps to reduce belly bloat (I know you got it) and wards off constipation that often comes with travel.
A little fact I came across yesterday: 40% of travellers experience constipation because of changes to their gut bacteria and from sitting too long on the plane. I always thought it was just me.
But back to the water. Water is great because it’s 100% calorie free and can actually help you burn calories. Our bodies expend a little extra energy to heat up the water for digestion. How cool is that?
Water also helps us to eliminate waste. And let’s be honest, we’ve got a lot of extra toxins floating around our liver, kidneys, stomach and intestines. When these toxins build up, we’re left feeling bloated and swollen and oh-so-guilty.
And did you know that water is necessary for burning fat? Without water, our bodies can’t properly metabolize stored fats. The health benefits of water are endless. So suck it back, drink it up, and get yourself hydrated.
Tip # 3 – Add Apple Cider Vinegar to your Water
This is one of my favourite hacks that I learned from the Glucose Goddess, Jessie Inchauspé, in her book Glucose Revolution. She’s all about flattening glucose spikes to help reduce cravings, increase our energy, improve our metabolic health and avoid developing insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes.
It’s a really easy and inexpensive way to support your body. Adding one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to your water before a meal can be a game changer. It helps to slow down how quickly starch and sugar enter our bloodstream, reducing that post meal crash. It also helps to reduce the amount of insulin in our bodies and this can help us to burn more fat.
The best part is that it tastes great! Honestly. Everyone (with the exception of my 16 year old son) that I’ve recommended this to, is surprised by how great it actually tastes. I love adding it to sparkling water in the afternoons or evenings. It’s an amazing substitute for the diet coke I gave up a few years ago.
The Glucose Goddess has a ton of other interesting hacks to help easily curb your glucose spikes. And she’s easy to find on Instagram.
Tip # 4 – Eat Whole Foods and Avoid Processed Food and Take Out
Avoiding processed and sugary foods should be easy. After eating restaurant food for a whole week, the thought of another heaping plate of saucy, salty food is enough to turn my stomach. I am actually excited about good quality healthy foods; flavourful, lightly seasoned protein and veggies. For real.
Making sure we’re eating whole foods rich in protein, fibre, and fat is one of the best ways to regulate hormones and prevent cravings. Let’s be honest, after a week of gluttony, our hormones and cravings are going to be out of control.
Instead of grabbing take out (even the healthy stuff) or eating a protein bar, try finding some time to prepare your snacks and meals. And include all the macro-nutrients:
The building blocks of life that help our bodies repair cells and make new ones. Experts recommend no less than 25 percent of your daily calories come from lean protein.
Found mainly in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes – is probably best known for its ability to prevent or relieve constipation. But foods containing fibre can also help us to feel full and lower our blood glucose spikes.
Make sure to include healthy fats in your meals, like those found in fish, nuts, olives, avocados, coconuts and olive oil.
Tip # 5 – Time Restricted Eating
You may also know this as intermittent fasting. It’s a way of eating that focuses on the length of your eating window vs the amount of calories you consume. A lot of women do a 16/8 window – 16 hours of fasting, (usually overnight, and an eight hours to eat.
If you find this too hard, you can start off slower and do a 12/12 model. Finish eating dinner at 7pm and then don’t eat again until breakfast at 7am. It’s easier than you think.
This simple tool gives our digestive system a break from the daily grind. Remember our ancestors often went days and even weeks in between meals. It can also help us become more metabolically flexible, which is good for our heart health, weight and inflammation.
Plus, sleep experts say you should finish eating 2-3 hours before bed anyway. This way your body has finished digesting and you won’t have any overnight glucose dips or peaks, which can affect cortisol levels and cause you to wake up. Your body can also focus on its overnight job of removing toxins, repairing cells and recharging the body and brain to get you ready for tomorrow.
Tip # 6 – Do a portion control check
Let’s be honest, on holiday we eat way more than we do at home. It’s not just that we say yes to the decadent creamy sauce because we’re in France or allow ourselves the indulgence of dessert because, well, when in Rome. The portion sizes at most restaurants (unless you’re eating exclusively at Michelin Star restaurants) are usually larger than what we serve ourselves at home.
And our home-prepared portion sizes may already be too large. Want to hear something crazy? We inherited this incredible set of china from my husband’s great-grandmother. So from the early 1900s. The size of the dinner plates are the same as the bread plates that came with my wedding china in 2002.
Over the years, our portion sizes have grown out of control. In the 60’s the average size of:
- a bagel had a 3” diameter, today it’s 6”
- a muffin was 1.5 oz, today it’s 4 oz
- a hamburger was 4 oz, today it’s 12oz
People were more active and ate smaller portions. Does anyone else find this alarming?
So take some time now while you’re motivated to feel better, to consider the amount of food you are consuming at each meal. Try to cut down your portion size a little each day over the week. I guarantee that if you do it slowly, you won’t notice the reduction and will actually feel better.
Tip # 7 – Chew Your Food
I know you’ve said this to your four year old a million times, and now you need to take your own advice. Experts say that we should chew each bite of food 20-30 times before swallowing. It should be basically mush or the consistency of baby food.
This seems like a lot of time and effort. Have I no idea how busy you are? I do. I promise. But a wise woman once told me, “Your stomach doesn’t have teeth.” And there’s a lot of truth to that.
When we don’t properly chew our food before swallowing, the food takes way longer to digest and may even pass undigested from stomach to intestines. This causes bad bacteria to grow in our intestines which can cause bloating, cramps and constipation. It also stops us from absorbing nutrients, vitamins and minerals.
Let’s be honest, just because I know all this, doesn’t mean I follow the rules all the time. Mindful eating isn’t always easy. But for the next few weeks, I’m really going to try to chew slowly and really masticate (love that word!) my food. Hopefully as I eat slowly it will become a habit.
Tip # 8 – Cut Out the Sugar and Alcohol
This one is always the worst, so I buried it near the end. But it’s true. No matter how much I enjoy that glass of wine or small bowl of dark chocolate chips and Swedish berry mix, it’s just plain bad for so many reasons.
We kind of covered this above. Sugar causes our blood sugar to spike and leads to a release of insulin. When we’re producing insulin, we can’t lose weight. It’s as simple as that.
I know how important (and rare) a good night’s sleep is for you. And unfortunately both sugar and alcohol interfere with our sleep.
A glass of wine might help relax you and get you to sleep faster, but it’s almost guaranteed to wake you up in the night and make it really hard for you to get back to sleep. It also inhibits our REM sleep, the time we dream, and more importantly, the time our brain processes new learnings and stores memories.
Sugar is even worse when it comes to sleep because it can prevent our bodies from producing melatonin (the sleepy hormone). This means that even if we’re feeling beyond exhausted, we might not be able to fall asleep.
AVOID FAKE SWEETENERS
In the 70’s and 80’s, artificial sweeteners hit the mass market by storm. Saccharin and Aspartame became the answer to women who were having trouble curbing their sugar cravings while dieting.
For years, we consumed these substances believing Big Food that they were the answer to our prayers. Unfortunately, over time, we have learned that these substances are actually really bad for us. It is believed that they can cause cancers, stroke, heart disease and dementia.
Today we have tons of natural sweeteners, like Stevia, Erythritol, Xylitol and Monk Fruit, that don’t have these same side effects. However, studies are beginning to show that these may not be the answer to our dieting dreams.
Although they provide that blast of sweetness we’re craving, they don’t follow through with the calories are bodies are expecting from the sweet flavour and may actually cause us to feel hungrier and crave more sugar.
ALCOHOL BAD FOR PERIMENOPAUSE
As a side note, alcohol isn’t great for women in perimenopause and menopause. Currently, there’s not enough research to explain why and how, but anecdotally, women say that alcohol makes symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, and depression worse. I know it’s hard to avoid it, but it’s a good idea to cut down on how much you’re drinking.
Instead, when the sugar cravings arise, try snacking on berries. They are lower in sugar than many fruits, have a lot of fiber and are full of antioxidants. Or if you’re going hard core and cutting out fruit for a week or two as well, try snacking on nuts or coconut nut flakes instead. You’d be surprised how sweet they taste once you’ve stopped eating sugar.
Tip # 9 – Move Your Body
Whatever your preferred physical activity – yoga, HITT, running, weights or walking – get back to it. Moving your body is helpful in burning some extra calories and bringing your digestive system back to life. It can also help to reduce cortisol levels, which are affected by stress which is bad for our blood glucose.
Building muscle using weights can also help to keep our metabolism firing. And, bonus! When we contract our muscles they absorb more glucose and this improves our insulin sensitivity. This helps to promote weight loss. For all my perimenopausal and menopausal ladies out there… we need to focus on strength training over cardio.
When we hit 30, we begin losing roughly 1% of our muscle mass each year. To reverse this and fight weight gain (muscle burns more calories than fat), add weight training to your exercise routine. You’ll need to work your major muscle groups – legs, arms, core, and butt – using some sort of resistance (this includes body weight) until they are fatigued.
Tip # 10 – Get Lots of Sleep
Unless you’ve been to a relaxing spa this past week, you’ve probably messed up your sleep routine. Going to bed later than usual. Maybe sleeping in (if your four year old didn’t travel with you). The reality is that your schedule was disrupted, and it’s important to get back on track as quickly as possible.
Getting lots of good quality sleep is an important part of losing weight. This might seem crazy, but it’s true.
When we don’t get enough sleep, it affects hormones, like cortisol, which may cause us to crave sugary foods and carbs. Why? Because sugary foods and carbs make us feel good. They activate our dopamine receptors and we feel like we’re getting a reward which reduces our stress.
Also, when we’re tired, we have less impulse control and so we’re more likely to over eat or make unhealthy choices. And when we’re sleep deprived, our body’s metabolic rate decreases, meaning we burn fewer calories.
Trouble is, getting a good night’s sleep may be easier said than done. We’ve already talked about how consuming sugar and alcohol can impact our sleep. And you now know that eating too close to bedtime can also disrupt your sleep. And we perimenopausal women already suffer regularly from poor sleep. Just do your best and try to get 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night.
Be Kind to Yourself
You’re back from vacation. You’ve got a lovely glow and a skip to your step. Hang on to all those good chill vacation vibes as long as you can.
You don’t need an intense low calorie diet or to be at the gym 24-7. You’ll only make yourself (and everyone close to you) miserable. Healthy weight loss doesn’t have to be hard or stressful. And it should definitely be a lot less stressful than getting through the mountain of emails sitting in your inbox.
When trying to lose the extra pounds you gain on your vacation, don’t sweat it. Instead focus on good eating habits: eat healthy foods, drink lots of water and watch your portion sizes. Make sure to move your body to help get rid of toxins, get your metabolism pumping and burn some calories. And get caught up on your sleep. You’re going to need it to make up for all the work you missed while sipping Pain Killers on the beach.