Making healthy choices during the summer can be a challenge. I get it – it just feels "right" to indulge while relaxing at the cottage or sitting on a patio. But it is possible to enjoy your summer and maintain a healthy lifestyle; it just takes mindfulness and advance planning.
First, analyze where you are most likely to veer off track.
Do you stop exercising any time your routine changes? Are you a social eater, or do you snack when you are alone? Do you use unhealthy food as an instant energy boost when you are tired or bored on road trips?
Tailor your game plan to your individual needs; prepare for your trigger situations in advance.
If you indulge while travelling when you're unprepared and tend to grab something (anything!)
Don't let yourself fall into the trap of "having to" buy unhealthy snacks.
Research healthier restaurants en route, or, better yet, pack a cooler full of nutritious snacks.
For longer road trips, locate in advance the grocery stores you will pass. Stop and buy fresh fruit, vegetables and prepared deli food. Or purchase fresh fruit and vegetables from roadside stands. Always have a water bottle so you don't get dehydrated, and use that water to wash any produce.
If you tend to snack when bored
Download an audio book or podcasts to keep you entertained.
If you are a social eater
Live by my "love it" rule. Don't deprive yourself – life is worth living – but don't mindlessly eat. Treat yourself to a reasonable portion of something that you love. Pick one treat. Don't have chips, beer and wings. If you love beer, have one with a healthier meal. If you don't love beer but you love wings, drink a low-calorie alcoholic beverage or water and indulge in a few wings.
Stay hydrated. That way you won't mistake dehydration for hunger.
If you are attending an event at someone's home, offer to bring something. That way you have at least one healthy option.
Before going to a restaurant, preview the menu online and decide what you will eat. On arrival, don't look at a menu. Order your predetermined choice.
Place your cutlery down between bites so that your brain has time to register that you are full.
If you tend to slouch on vacation
Don't let a change to your routine be an excuse not to exercise. You don't need a gym to get a good workout; you can move and be active anywhere!
To fit in cardio while travelling, try fartlek intervals. Warm up for 10 minutes, then pick a random landmark to sprint towards. If you are swimming, sprint for a certain number of strokes. Once you hit your landmark or your stroke count, slow down and recover. Repeat for 10 to 30 minutes. Finish with a cool-down and then stretch.
Or explore your vacation destination on foot or on a bike. Use the pedometer on your phone, or buy a tracking device and aim to get 10,000 steps per day.
Fit in strength training. Most hotels have a gym, but if yours doesn't, or if you're staying with family, pack a resistance band. Train in your bedroom. Bands are light, inexpensive, highly portable and offer a full body workout. Try attaching the band to the bedpost to do standing rows, or standing on it to do biceps curls. If you don't like the band, use your body weight to do squats, lunges, push-ups, planks and V holds.
The main take-away is that it is always possible to make healthier choices; it just takes mindfulness and some advance planning. If you make a choice you are not proud of, don't feel guilty. Instead, use it as learning experience so you can make a more informed choice next time. Also, remember that just because you make one indulgent choice doesn't mean you have to indulge constantly. Try to keep in mind that your future self will be happier – and have fewer bad habits to break after vacation – if you follow the "love it" rule and remember that moderation is key.
Health Advisor contributors share their knowledge in fields ranging from fitness to psychology, pediatrics to aging.