How To Survive A Vacation: Diet and Wellness Edition

I know I have been the worst blogger of the century, but I promise to start getting back into the swing of things. Now that summer is over and I am at least back in a routine, it will be easier to make time for this, as well as easier to take back full control over my diet/intake/etc. I realized, despite all your best efforts, when on vacation, it’s not easy to say no all the time. When you’re on your own, and responsible for your own cooking and schedule, you are able to call all the shots about what goes into your food (and your mouth), and how much time you can allot to exercise and/or healthy “feats.” When you’re visiting family, however, it’s everyone’s game (and everyone’s business) what you do and when you do it and how you do it and who you do it with. People will want you to attend parties, appear at dinners, share desserts, and skip the gym in favor of some “QT with the Fam Bam.” And you’ll want to do it too. Because you don’t see these people all the time. Thus, the pressure’s on. You feel a constant conflict between your own daily rules and routines, and those of the people you are meant to be spending time with. At the end of the day, the only thing you CAN DO is make do.

But “making do” can be delicious too. 😉

I had initially hoped my time at home would be an “Art-and-Fitness Retreat” of sorts for me, but when I realized that was unrealistic, I modified my goals a bit and decided that all I really wanted was:

  1. To see people I hadn’t seen in years.
  2. To spend time with those who matter, or those whose company I enjoy most.
  3. To remain at least as fit as I was when the trip began.
  4. NOT to gain weight.

Surprisingly, I was able to fulfill every number satisfactorily. Certainly the two weeks of Slow-Carb Diet consistency, as well as making it a point to still make it out to the gym 2-3 times a week helped; but here are some basic rules I’ve put together for all you vacationers/balikbayans/”returners” out there who are visiting friends and family for a few weeks and are afraid of falling off the wagon completely:

Not all smart choices are boring!

  1. Allow yourself to say yes to things. In fact, say yes to everything in moderation EXCEPT your domino foods.*
  2. Make it a point to work out 2-3 times a week still (even if it’s just a 40-minute long brisk walk; or a 15-minute long kettle bell session; anything is better than nothing).*
  3. Remember that you have options. When you’re in a restaurant, there are always going to be healthier options. If you don’t want to be that person who opts into a salad at your favorite American breakfast place, that’s fine, go for the omelette, or order that Big Breakfast plate you’ve been dying for with the corned beef, and hash brown, and sausages, and toast, AND SO ON. Then, just ask the waiter to substitute the hash brown and toast with vegetables, or even just boiled potatoes if you really can’t sacrifice the starch.*
  4. Make a list of your favorite dishes/restaurants that would otherwise be 100% off limits to you. This checklist is like a coupon list, so all you have to do is refer to it whenever you’re out and about, and TICK THINGS OFF THE LIST ONE BY ONE. ONCE THEY’VE BEEN TICKED OFF DO NOT ATTEMPT TO GIVE THEM EXTRA BOXES.*
  5. If you DO binge like a crazy person some days, just remember some key fat loss rules that SHOULD help you maximize caloric usage instead of storing all those quarter pounders in your triceps or inner thighs: First, if you know you’re about to binge for the day, drink a glass or 2 of ice cold water (500 mL preferably) once you wake*. Second, while having breakfast drink a glass of cold water with plain lemon juice squeezed into it. Third, drink plenty of water throughout the day to help you digest, metabolize, and flush out unwanted toxins as well as fats. And last of all, do some simple exercises before and after meals to make the most of your intake.*
  6. Make a deal with your family – or the friends you’re visiting, that if they are insisting on having frozen custard tonight, they have to be willing to sit down with you tomorrow and try your own favorite gluten free, wheat free, healthy dessert concoction. It’s a trade off. You may be visiting them, but you are also their guest. Life is a two-way street, baby. They should understand that.*
  7. Just remember: the vacation is not a countdown to the end of the world. When it’s over, you will still have a stomach and will still be able to eat food. So there’s no reason to be greedy and rake every edible thing you see into your mouth in those few weeks. Enjoy the food, don’t hoard it.

If the above rules don’t work for you, then I don’t know what else to do with you! If you’re really unable to control yourself on vacations, I suppose the only solution would be for you to just go all out and do whatever the hell you want, and then hope the reset won’t be too painful when you get back home.

If any of you have other rules or advice on how to stay healthy over vacations without sacrificing the fun of the experience, drop me some comments! Would love to hear them!



*Domino foods are those foods that you love so much they cause a chain reaction of over-eating. For example, my domino foods are dark chocolate, Multigrain Cheerios, and certain kinds of gourmet cheese (including Brie, Manchego, Provolone, and Mozzarella). Stay away from those foods on normal days, even on vacation, and then just have them on cheat days. Cheat days should still exist even when you’re on vacation. Make sure that 6 days of the week you are being as good as you possibly can given the circumstances, then on the 7th day give it a rest and go all out. Have all the ice cream, sugar, chocolate, et al you want.

*In fact, Timothy Ferris (of the Four Hour Body) suggests that you shouldn’t even be working out more than 2-3 times a week. His suggestion is that you do 2 or 3 high intensity work outs a week to maximize fat loss, and then you eat healthily and properly the rest of the time. Since the latter does not apply to most vacation situations though, my suggestion is that you do still try going the extra mile. If you really can’t, then a few good work outs for maximum calorie burn and fat burn include: air squats, wall presses, planks, and kettlebell swings. For specific descriptions and photos of each exercise, leave me a comment and I can show you. Otherwise, there are fantastic YouTube videos of them, and a simple Google Image search should yield helpful results too.

*A couple of my aunts, while I was home, were following this elimination diet called the CLEAN DIET. It’s pretty stringent and what they would do at restaurants was always have the white rice in their order changed to brown rice; and request the waiter to grill their meats instead of fry them. I didn’t think the latter was even possible, but apparently it is! And a lot of restaurants (even ones that aren’t swanky) are willing to do it for you! (Just remember to ask nicely – haha)

*Over my trip, I knew that I wanted Dairy Queen, my grandmother’s famous pastries (chocolate cake, banana cream pie, and mango tart), homemade pizza, authentic Italian pizza, and Mary Grace ensaymada and hot chocolate. Thus, I made it a point to go and get each and every one of those things, and enjoy them while they were in front of me. Then, I checked them off the list, satisfied that I had gone out, sought out the best/most specific version of that particular craving, and then had it.

*Taking ice cold water when you wake up immediately kickstarts your metabolism. My suggestion is that you do it daily, even not on binge days. It’s good for you. The lemon after is great too, but I’ve already talked about that in previous posts so won’t go into detail anymore. Just remember those 2 things (+ having a lean protein with your breakfast), though, and you’re set.

*Okay, so I’m about to reference Timothy Ferris again…I am so sorry in advance, but the Four Hour Body is like a wellness Bible. It seriously covers everything you could’ve ever wanted from a fitness book. So here we are again. According to the Four Hour Body, when on cheat day, one of the best ways to make sure you don’t get completely fat and bloated from your binge, is to do small “GLUT-4” exercises before and after a meal. These exercises include 60-120 seconds of air squats, and 60-120 seconds of wall presses. He even goes so far as using a resistance band and doing another exercise with that, but in my experience, I’ve found that the air squats and wall presses alone make a huge difference. You obviously can’t work out at the table, though, so be ready to excuse yourself after ordering, and after paying, to make your way over to the nearest bathroom, lock yourself in, and perform the exercises there. I know that sounds ridiculous, and most people are going to say, you are crazy and obsessed. Nobody does that. But trust me, just try it, it works. You don’t feel as disgusting after a meal, AND you can feel your body’s metabolism kick itself up.

*I constantly made deals with my family and they worked! I ended up making Slow-Carb Dark Chocolate and Black Bean Brownies, as well as Wheat-Free Gluten-Free lemon squares, among other things. So do it! It’s actually fun! And most of the dishes were a surprising hit!

Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad (Dressing on the side)

Chelsea, Serendra, Fort Bonifacio: Global City

Baked Garlic Prawns

Makansutra, Manila Ocean Park

Puree of Pumpkin Soup

Chelsea, Serendra, Fort Bonifacio: Global City

2 thoughts on “How To Survive A Vacation: Diet and Wellness Edition

  1. I admit I was definitely NO HELP with your diet while home… You didn’t do badly at all, Lex. You allowed yourself to enjoy but remained disciplined in your good food choices. These are all great tips. LOVE THE PICS too! Everything looks so good – making me hungry AGAIN 🙂

  2. Pingback: How To Survive A Vacation: Diet and Wellness Edition « Travel Mom

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