To Gain or Not to Gain: That is Vacation

29 06 2011

There is some research that shows an average weight gain of about 2-3lbs during summer vacation. Many participants I have talked to recently have struggled both while on vacation, and in the weeks after. If you allow yourself to get off track while you’re on vacation, it can be difficult to re-motivate and get back into things when you return – therefore, weight gain can be common in the weeks after vacation too, and it hasn’t been uncommon for some participants to regain 5-10lbs in the month after returning from vacation.

This is why it is so important to plan for healthy eating and exercise when you travel. If you can keep up with some of your new habits on vacation you can prevent weight re-gain and make it easier to transition back to the “real world” when you return.
You don’t necessarily need to keep up with things 100% while on vacation – it is vacation after all! It’s ok to splurge a little or try new restaurants, but it will still be important to stay mindful of healthy choices and portion sizes. If you spend all of vacation eating whatever you feel like, those extra calories will catch up to you – especially if you aren’t getting any structured exercise! Even if you walk a lot and stay active, you may still not burn enough calories to prevent the pounds from coming back on. Let’s look at the math to see an example:

Let’s say that while on a 7-day cruise, you allow yourself to enjoy the following “extras” in addition to your normal eating plan:
– two fruity drinks each day for 4 days (460 calories x 4 = 1,840 calories)
– an extra serving of bacon at breakfast 3 days (50 calories x 3 days = 150 calories)
– orange juice at breakfast 3 days (110 calories x 3 days = 330 calories)
– soda with lunch 4 days (140 calories x 4 days = 560 calories)
– a snack from the buffet after lunch 5 days (200 calories x 5 = 1,000 calories)
– extra bread at dinner 4 days (230 calories x 4 = 920 calories)
– dessert after dinner 6 days (350 calories x 6 = 2,100 calories)
Total extra calories for the week = 6,900. This translates into almost 2lbs!

Now let’s examine your exercise habits on the cruise :
Walking at 2.5mph for 120 minutes 5 days (300 calories x 5 = 1500 calories)
Recreational swimming for 30 minutes 4 days (100 calories x 4 = 400 calories)
For the week, you’ve burned 1,900 calories – so you still have an extra 5,000 calories that will cause almost 1.5lbs to come back on!

So you see, even staying active on vacation isn’t always enough to offset the extra calories we usually consume – especially when buffet-style eating is available. Some research has shown that adults will eat between 1,000 and 2,000 calories more at a buffet compared to a sit-down meal! This is why it is so important to keep watching portions, continue a food journal, and maintain some structured exercise. For instance, if you had gone to the fitness center for even 30 minutes (walking at 3.5mph) most days of the cruise (5 days), you would have burned an additional almost 1,000 calories, which would help limit weight gain.

Even more importantly, maintaining these healthy habits to some extent will help you stay in a routine and make it easier to return to the gym when you get home. Vacation is a time for rest and relaxation, but don’t assume you can give up your new lifestyle altogether! If you fail to plan for staying active and eating well, then you can plan to fail! Take a look at our handout on planning  https://healthperformance.files.wordpress.com/2011/02/vacation-and-relapse-prevention2.pdf for vacation to find ideas for staying active and eating well on your next trip.

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2 responses

2 09 2013
Healthy Vacationing–how to avoid packing on the pounds | Roomer Blog

[…] To Gain or Not to Gain: That is Vacation (healthperformance.wordpress.com) […]

19 08 2011
Sandy Hines

Hi, Sandy here from the UK. I do agree that weight gain is an important factor to consider when going on holiday, particularly the type that allows unrestricted eating e.g. the buffet on a cruise or an “all inclusive” holiday. There is no reason to stop exercising, even in moderation when you are on vacation, so thanks for this post and the handout – very encouraging!

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