What a Nutrition Coach Eats on Vacation
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Having fun on vacation and losing weight can seem like opposite objectives that are impossible to balance.
(Spoiler alert: They aren’t.)
When we went to D.C. for 3 days, I wanted to fully enjoy all the different foods and treats the area has to offer. But I’m also in a season of weight loss and didn’t want to blow up the progress I’ve made so far.
This blog shows you where I succeeded — and failed — and how you can learn from both.
When my nutrition coaching clients go on vacation and don’t want to come home 5-10 pounds heavier than when they left, I give them 3 options for how to handle it:
1. Fully, but Intentionally, Indulge
This means simply being aware of what they eat, making healthier choices if/when possible without feeling like they’re missing out, but planning to eat more than normal.
They know going into it that they won’t lose weight during their trip, but they can easily maintain their weight and still participate in all the food and fun.
This is a better option than going on a total free-for-all where you overindulge, gain weight back that you’ve already lost, and don’t really get any extra enjoyment out of your vacation compared to if you were just slightly more mindful about your decisions.
2. Choose Your Indulgences
This is where you stick to your “must-haves.” It could be wine, pizza, ice cream… pick 1 or 2 of your favorites and enjoy them without guilt.
The rest of the time you stay on point as much as possible. This option may slow your progress just a little, but you can still actually lose some weight if it’s important for you to see continued progress.
3. Stay on Track
If it’s not a vacation where you particularly care about the available food options, you COULD try to stay on track with your weight loss plan. Obviously you won’t be at home with all the resources you normally have available to you, but it’s possible if you plan ahead.
Most of the time this isn’t a realistic option, but it’s there if it ever does make sense.
Out of the above 3 options, I decided to go with something in between 1 and 2.
As a family, we love food. A huge part of travel for us is trying new foods and local restaurants. I didn’t want to miss out on that, but I also feel confident in making top notch choices between indulgences to have a good overall balance throughout the day.
Ultimately, my goal was to maintain my weight over the long weekend. Here’s how it went…
I had a normal, nutritious breakfast before we left the house with lots of protein and veggies.
I didn’t want to wait until we got into D.C. to eat lunch because I knew I’d be starving and would be more likely to overeat later, so I bought a turkey sandwich at the airport to have on the plane.
For dinner we went to a spot called Union Market where there are a bunch of local vendors so we all got to pick whatever we wanted. I chose an Italian place with fresh-made pasta and ate until I was full (but not stuffed).
It was soooooo good.
We all shared gelato at another local spot for dessert. Sharing is a good way to get just enough to satisfy the sweet tooth without overdoing it. Somehow, without even knowing my plan, the kids were more than happy to devour most of the ice cream.
One of the ways I planned to limit my indulgences was by having a few groceries delivered to our hotel late on Day 1. So on day 2 we had breakfast AND lunch at the hotel.
The grocery items I picked were Greek yogurts, bananas, boiled eggs, lunch meat, cheese, bread, baby carrots, mini cucumbers, sugar snap peas, and a case of water. In other words, mostly protein and veggies, since that’s typically what you don’t get enough of when eating out.
In the afternoon we needed a snack, so my 6 year old and I shared a delicious chicken gyro from a food truck.
Then I had my first real deep-dish pizza experience for dinner and enjoyed a beer to go with it. After 2 days in a row of walking 20k steps, it was just what the doctor ordered.
For dessert, we found a delicious cookie place. We all shared 8 different cookies, which were pretty large. I tried all of them, but then only had about 1 cookies worth because I only ate pieces of the ones I liked best. The rest tasted fine, but part of my plan was to NOT nibble on any mediocre treats.
At this point we were on the last of our groceries. I was determined to stick to my plan, but that was a mistake because I ended up eating too sparingly for breakfast and lunch.
By the time we got to dinner, which was an unbelievably good Ethiopian restaurant (another first for me), I was starving. Crazy hungry. Level 10.
When the food got to our table I had no control. I couldn’t eat slowly, I didn’t try to stop at 80% full… I stuffed myself until I was miserable.
After that, everyone wanted dessert one last time before we left. I was already so full that I really shouldn’t have had anything, but I ate it because I didn’t want to miss out.
This is a perfect example of how indulging isn’t always worth it. I would have been MORE content if I had sat that one out (although the blackberry cobbler was delicious).
I’m just glad the whole trip wasn’t like that or I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy all the walking and sightseeing we did every day.
Did I Gain Weight?
I mentioned my goal was to maintain my weight. But there’s something super important to understand about what to expect with that…
When you go from eating for weight loss to eating NOT for weight loss (or even for just slightly slower weight loss), your weight WILL go up a bit — especially on a vacation. The change in routine, the added foods, and even the travel will cause you to gain some water weight.
That’s not bad and is NOT the same thing as gaining back any fat that you’ve lost.
With that in mind, weight “maintenance” should, more realistically, be looked at as a 3(ish) pound window. For me personally, I was hoping my weight wouldn’t fluctuate upward more than 1-2 pounds.
Even after partaking in multiple filling, indulgent meals and desserts over the course of 3 days, I accomplished that goal.
My weight will settle back down those 1-2 pounds within a few days and will continue to drop after that. My vacation didn’t affect my weight loss goals at all, which means I was able to enjoy myself without missing out on anything AND without experiencing any food guilt.
Finding that type of balance — even just in normal, everyday life — is totally possible for you, too.
✅ You CAN lose belly fat without giving up pizza.
✅ You CAN fit into your clothes again even if you want to enjoy a glass of wine at night.
✅ You CAN have more energy to keep up with your kids, and you don’t have work out every day to do it.
You just need a plan that’s built around real-life in the first place (e.g. vacations, busy seasons, hauling kids around to all their activities, etc.).
To show you just how realistic our approach can be, we recently launched our 10 Day Kickstart to Weight Loss. <— Start there.
I eat all kinds of delicious foods/treats on vacation, but do my best to stick with some of the same healthy habits I work on with clients, such as (but not limited to):
• Prioritizing lean protein and veggies when possible.
• Not devouring any mediocre indulgences.
• Sharing treats.
• Eating enough to not feel starved (and losing control).
• Eating slowly.
• Eating until satisfied (not stuffed).
It’s possible to fully enjoy vacation (and life in general) WITHOUT destroying any progress with weight loss. You just need a plan that’s built around real-life in the first place. Our 10 Day Kickstart to Weight Loss is a good place to start.