Jun 13

Healthy Eating While on Vacation

weight lossPast articles on our website have addressed the problem of healthy eating during holidays. The good news was that most people overestimate the average amount of weight gained in the holiday season; the bad news is that this weight gain is typically not reversed in the months following the holidays. Instead, it accumulates, and these small weight gains begin to add up to obesity.

The same applies to eating during vacations.  A 2016 study at the University of Georgia found that the average adult gained just under one pound when on vacation. This is very close to the average weight gain experienced during holiday seasons, a little more than a pound. There is a temptation to dismiss these weight gains as “just vacation” or “only a pound or two”, but this is a mistake.

In both cases, the weight gain is typically not reversed in the months following. Researchers believe that this accumulation of small weight gains is responsible for the “creeping obesity” that contributes to health problems later on.

Unless a person carefully weighs themselves before and after holidays and vacations, they are unlikely to notice the small gain. Gaining two pounds a year, every year for decades is enough to make most people obese. This creeping obesity eventually leads to serious problems, so eating sensibly during vacations and holidays seems more important than at first thought. “Just a pound” adds up to a lot of trouble.

Two important sources of vacation weight gain are eating in restaurants, especially fast food restaurants, and increased alcohol consumption.  The effects of fast food are well known and the study quoted above found that the average participant doubled their alcohol consumption while on vacation. So, the first way to maintain healthy eating habits while on vacation is to avoid overindulgence in restaurant meals and to drink no more alcohol than you usually would.

The road to a healthy-eating vacation should start at home, before leaving. First, weigh yourself carefully on the day before departing. If your ‘return weight’ is higher than your ‘departure weight’, you will at least be aware of the gain and can take steps to avoid the “creeping obesity” described above.

If you have a good idea of the places you will be dining, you might want to look ahead via the internet to get some idea of the menu choices. Many restaurants and resorts provide online menus that include nutritional information. Having some idea of what will be available on the lighter side will help you to make better decisions when the time comes.

If you are going on a family vacation, especially by automobile, you are bound to pass dozens, if not hundreds, of fast food outlets. If possible, pass them up in favor of sit down restaurants where healthier choices are likely to be available. When your situation or schedule makes it impossible to avoid fast food, at least be familiar with the healthiest choices available. A McDonald’s breakfast might be a Deluxe Breakfast (large size) containing 1150 calories or a Fruit and Maple Oatmeal that has 290. All of the fast food chains have online menus that reveal the calorie, fat, sodium and other nutrient content of items on their menu. If you can find a grilled chicken sandwich instead of a double cheeseburger, make the healthier choice.

binge eating disorderHere are some points to think about before leaving.

  • On a family vacation, especially if traveling by car, it is realistic to pack some healthy snacks. Think ahead and do so. This can save you a stop in a convenience store or fast food outlet. Even airlines now allow you to take along a banana or an apple.
  • Resist the temptation to “splurge” every vacation day on a high-calorie meal. For most of the year, dining out is regarded as a special treat, letting down our normal inhibitions about diet and alcohol consumption. While on vacation, all or most meals are taken in restaurants, so it becomes more important to order sensibly.
  • Split a restaurant meal. There is a trend in the restaurant business to provide good value by serving oversized portions. The amount you eat can be as important as what you eat, so consider splitting an entrée or ask for a half portion.
  • Remember that alcohol adds up. A pint of beer or a sugary cocktail contains 200 or more calories. If you consume two per day during a 10-day vacation, you have added more than a pound. If you are staying in a hotel that provides an in-room mini bar, put the key in a drawer and leave it there.
  • Stay active. Vacations provide time and opportunity to engage in more physical activity than is normally available. Sightsee by walking if possible or engage in the amenities that involve physical activity. If you have a Fitbit or another activity monitor, take it with you, by all means.
  • If you are staying at a resort that features a buffet, fill up on the salad and vegetable choices. This is good advice anytime but especially on vacation. Make an effort to get the normal, healthy five servings of vegetables or fruits each day.
  • If the situation allows, find a farmer’s market or food store near your destination. Buy some vegetables, fruits and relatively healthy snacks like popcorn.

A vacation should be a time to relax and unwind, but not to forget completely about healthy eating or exercise habits. Do not fall into the trap of thinking that a 1- or 2-pound weight gain is of no consequence. Over the years, this adds up to obesity and serious medical problems.

These suggestions are good advice for all people. If you are one of those who feel that you need assistance in accomplishing your safe weight-loss goals, please know that help is available. Bariatric clinics and centers like the Florida Hospital Center for Obesity Medicine and Surgery can offer professional counseling and help. In some cases, a weight-loss surgery procedure like the gastric sleeve or the gastric bypass may be indicated. Laparoscopic surgery techniques have made weight-loss surgery practical for many people.

Our office offers help with diet and lifestyle choices including practical measures like those mentioned above. The staff includes a bariatric case coordinator, a bariatric physician assistant and a bariatric office manager who handles insurance and other clerical details. Please call (386) 231-3530 to make an appointment at one of our offices in Daytona, New Smyrna or Palm Coast, all part of the Florida Hospital network.

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