How not to take a vacation from your diet

By Jan Sheehan
SELF Magazine on
July 2, 2008

Exercise, eating in can help you enjoy your getaway without gaining weight

Vacation can be a great motivator for weight loss — there’s nothing quite like the prospect of spending a week in a swimsuit to get your behind to the gym. But once you reach your destination, temptation rears its ugly head in the form of fruity drinks, rich dinners and days of relaxing by the pool. To find out how to stay healthy and still have fun, we turned to six travel and nutrition gurus who face the same challenges as the rest of us. The difference? They have genius tips for sidestepping diet pitfalls. Use their proven plans to come home feeling even better about your body than when you left.

“I grab quickie meals at grocery stores instead of fast food joints.”
Samantha Brown, of the Travel Channel’s “Passport to Great Weekends”

Her no-gain game plan:
Go off the beaten path. Driving while hungry makes fast food restaurants seem like heaven on the highway. But better options are usually only a few minutes away. “I bypass chain restaurants right off the exits and look for a supermarket, where I can get a healthy meal such as turkey breast on whole wheat from the deli, an apple and lowfat yogurt,” Brown says. Pressed for time? “Food marts at gas stations are getting better — many of them now have prepackaged fruit and veggies.” Pair them with peanut butter for a filling mix of protein, carbs and fat.

Be choosy about your treats. “I travel 25 days at a time to a dozen or more different places and have to be in a bathing suit on-camera,” Brown says. “If I tried every local specialty, I’d never want to go on-air. I pick one thing to splurge on daily, like a buttery croissant at a Paris café, a Belgian chocolate crème brûlée, a po’boy sandwich in New Orleans or a creamy lobster bisque on the coast of Maine.” She eats green salads, soups and small portions for the rest of her meals. Brown’s favorite trick for trimming her intake: Eat the lowest-calorie foods on your plate first so you spoon up fewer high-fat bites.

“I pick my meal based on what I see others eating.”
Carolyn O’Neil, R.D., author of “The Dish on Eating Healthy and Being Fabulous” (Atria Books)

Her road-tested tips:
Spy on servings. “I’m shocked by the amount of food you’re given in restaurants. The portions can be three or four times larger than what I’d eat at home,” O’Neill says. A little restaurant reconnaissance can prevent you from ordering a burger the size of your head. “I look around the room before selecting my meal to check out how large the helpings are, then I know whether to order an appetizer or split the entrée with a friend,” O’Neil says. She also asks the chef to double her veggie side dishes. And as a general rule, avoid all entrées for which finishing earns you a T-shirt, a free meal or a commemorative photo.

Change your vacation brain. Consider your hiatus from work an opportunity to be more active, O’Neil says. “I actually find that I have more time for exercise when I’m traveling because there’s no housework, laundry or long meetings to attend. I have time to do something active every day on vacation, even if it’s only dancing in the disco.” Include one calorie-burning (and fun) activity in your itinerary each day, such as snorkeling, kayaking or even hula classes, and aim for a manageable 30 minutes.

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