• End your vacation the same size you started

    Still a little summer left in the year...

    A reader asks:

    "Words of wisdom needed. I’m headed to [exciting destination] next week. So much great food! Special! Delicious! Free (sometimes)! My overeating voice will tell me it’s sad! to miss out. I’ve been doing great at home, eating well and reasonably and losing weight. I’m aiming for the middle way and scoping out great salad places as well as the classic carb-butter fests. What strategies can you share?"

    For all of you who still have vacation plans this year, here are a few things to think about: 

    0. You're an adult so you get to choose anything. Do so within your structure (regular meals, or What and When), so that you have a balance of structure and freedom. That's how you reinforce the habit of adult decision-making around food - so much more useful than looking to an outside authority like a diet author.

    On holiday, everything is disrupted. That's why we lose things in our hotel room. That's why we sometimes feel like we need a vacation after our vacation - we went thinking we were going to get a nervous system reset, and we didn't, because we had to think about EVERYTHING! That can be exhausting.

    And what do bingey overeaters do when their cognitive load is too great? Exactly. We start eating too much, eating chaotically, eating crap and we tax our overloaded brains even more.

    So have something to hang onto. Make your choices, but plug them into a structure you're already hanging onto.

    1. Free food costs ya big, if it's low quality and high calorie. If FREE = GOOD is one of your unquestioned rules, that's an excellent association to demolish. Think about some free things that are total crap, like another religion's subway literature. Come up with five counterexamples to reinforce the idea that FREE = NOT SO GOOD.

    2. If a dish is truly special - and test that up against your own benchmarks - and you're really going to enjoy it, do so without guilt. Please set benchmarks for your big categories. So one of mine is breakfast pasty. When I come face-to-face with a breakfast pastry, I ask myself, Does this look as good as the homemade croissants you can get on Sunday mornings at The Kitchen in Boulder? That are the size of a Dungeness crab? No? Then let's move on, and make some croissants chez nous.

    3. If in retrospect it wasn't that special or you didn't really enjoy it, make note. If you realize while you're eating that's it's not special after all, push it away. Be picky. You don't have to be picky at every meal - although don't let me stop you if that seems good - but you do want to be picky if you're on holiday in a special place where you're on a mission to eat that place's special things.

    3a. Important note! Research has shown that people who have a special mission for their vacation have more fun. It's like a treasure hunt. I had the best time you can in imagine in Lisbon looking for an oil can for a friend, who'd made this special request. Not an easy mission! And in the end I found the oil can in the most unexpected place. I am sure I would have had equal fun looking for the perfect lemon tart.

    4. If it's a take-it-or-leave-it thing for you, leave it, every time. Make space for something better. Trust that better thing will be there.

    5. Keep in mind this simple formula: 3:1. That's how many days of conservative, careful eating it takes to make up for a day of liberal eating. And I'm not talking about a Thanksgiving-style feast day - just a more indulgent day, the kind you know you can't have regularly without gaining weight and feeling low and slow. 

    I don't have the science on this one. My ratio may be a little off. But we've all noticed it. It's easier to STAY up than to fall down and get up. So, as Gretchen Rubin writes,* try to avoid stumbles, or doing anything you haven't calculated the risk and reward for.

    One last thing: While you're in a vacation frame of mind is the best time to start thinking about your next vacation. Maybe pick something out before you go home. It's always good to have things to look forward to.

    And HAVE FUN.


    * In Better Than Before; highly recommended.

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