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How to Not Gain Weight on Vacation

Vacations are a time for relaxation, exploration, and often associated with a lot of great local food. For those who have been diligently working on their fitness and diet, the thought of a vacation can bring anxiety about undoing weeks or even months of hard work. But vacations don’t have to ruin your progress. They can be a part of your healthy and fit lifestyle while still allowing you to enjoy your time away.

Let me tell you a story:

A good friend of mine meticulously followed her diet and exercise regime for 12 weeks. She was disciplined, dedicated and sticked to her plan to reach her weight loss goals. She made great progress in the gym, felt great and lost 10lbs.

She ended her diet and went on a five-day vacation with her family. During this short trip, she found herself gaining back almost all the weight she had lost.. She felt terrible afterward, believing that all her hard work before the vacation had been ruined. Her story is not uncommon. I want to teach you how you can enjoy your vacation with the right strategies and without sabotaging your fitness goals.

There are 3 phases you should consider when planning a vacation:

before, during and after.

Let me explain what you can do before, during and after a vacation to not gain too much weight.

Achieve your fitness goals now through personalized guidance from your online nutrition and fitness coach. Book a call now!

weight gain on vacation

Before the Vacation

1. Avoid Ending a Fat Loss Diet Right Before Vacation

Ending a fat loss diet right before your vacation can set you up for failure. When we lose weight, especially quickly, our bodies have a tendency to regain the lost fat due to metabolic adaptations and psychological factors, like food focus, increased hunger and higher stress levels. Plan your diet cycles so that you're in a maintenance phase during your vacation. In the best case scenario you end your calorie deficit at least 2 weeks before the vacation and eat your maintenance calories, to reset your hunger hormones. This approach can prevent the metabolic slowdown that often follows a period of dieting and fat loss, which can make you more susceptible to rapid weight gain.

2. Plan Your Accommodations And Where You Are Going To Eat Ahead

Check where you will be staying and the research the available amenities. If staying in a hotel, check if there is a gym nearby or within the hotel. Alternatively, if you're staying in an a rental or an airbnb with with a kitchen, you can plan where you buy your groceries and prepare some of your meals, allowing for better control over what you eat. Also make sure to research local restaurants and make a list of healthier dining options before the vacation. This forethought can save you from impulsive eating and less healthy choices. Keep in mind, that if you're going to eat at a buffet, it's more likely that you will overeat.

3. Consider Your Travel Companions

Are the people you're traveling with supportive of your health and fitness goals? Surrounding yourself with like-minded people, who share the same lifestyle as you, can make a significant difference. If your companions are also health-conscious, it will be easier to stick to your routines and make healthier choices together.

weight gain on vacation

During the Vacation

1. Stick to Your Routines and Habits

While it’s important to relax and enjoy your vacation, maintaining some of your daily routines can help keep you on track. If you usually have a morning walk or a specific breakfast routine, try to keep those habits. These small actions can provide a sense of normalcy and control. Finding the right balance between routine, dicipline and flexibility on vacation is very important and makes it easier to go back to your regular routine after the vacation!

2. Decide on Training or Rest

Vacations can be a good time to give your body a break, especially if you’ve been training intensely. If you're consistent with your training, a full week of rest will be more beneficial than detrimental. However, staying active in some form is beneficial. Whether it’s exploring the city on foot, engaging in water sports, or even a quick workout session, physical activity can help balance out the extra calories from eating more.

When it comes to training, I generally recommend deciding between four options:

  1. Shorter Full Body Workouts: Combine multiple muscle groups within one exercise. Examples include thrusters (squats combined with overhead presses), renegade rows, and using the rowing machine.

  2. Antagonistic Supersets with Compound Moves: Focus on exercises that target opposing muscle groups in a superset. For example, pull-ups and push-ups in a superset, or barbell squats and barbell rows.

  3. Full Week Off from the Gym: Take a complete break from the gym while staying active with other activities. One week off from training might be beneficial for most dedicated people.

  4. Try New Sports: Use the opportunity to try new sports such as hiking, kayaking, bouldering, swimming, or yoga. Different places often offer new options for activities.

holiday activity

3. Stay Active

Incorporate activity into your vacation plans. Walk as much as possible, take the stairs, and engage in physical activities that don’t feel like traditional exercise. Activities like hiking, swimming, or playing beach volleyball can burn calories and be fun.

4. Nutrition Strategies

Eating out is often unavoidable on vacation, but you can still make smart choices. Opt for grilled instead of fried foods, load up on fresh fruits and vegetables, and be mindful of portion sizes. Enjoy local delicacies in moderation and try to balance indulgent meals with lighter ones. Try to stick to your usual meal times and meal frequency and try not to snack too often throughout the day. Staying hydrated is crucial, too, as dehydration can sometimes be mistaken for hunger.

After the Vacation

1. Return to Your Healthy Habits Immediately

Once the vacation is over, get back to your regular routines as soon as possible. Resume your usual eating patterns and workout schedule. This can help mitigate any minor weight gain and get you back on track quickly. If you did gain a bit of weight, don't panic—small fluctuations are normal and can be corrected with consistent effort. If you're worried that you've gained weight, don't weigh yourself for the first week. After this, all the water retention from traveling and foods you're not used to eating will be gone. Don't confuse weight gain with fat gain!

2. Reflect and Learn

Take some time to reflect on your vacation and what worked or didn’t work in terms of maintaining your fitness goals. Use these insights to better prepare for future trips. Each experience provides valuable lessons that can improve your approach next time. If something didn't worked out as you wanted, take it as a learning for next time.

weight gain on vacation

Conclusion: How to Enjoy Your Vacation, Without Gaining Weight

Enjoying a vacation doesn't have to mean sacrificing your fitness progress but also doesn't mean that you can't stick to your healthy habits while still enjoying good and tasty food. By planning ahead, maintaining some routines, making mindful choices, and getting back on track afterwards, you can have a fulfilling vacation without the worry of significant weight gain.

Remember, the goal is to find a balance that allows you to enjoy your time away while staying true to your health and fitness journey. Safe travels!


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Sources Of Information:

  • Dulloo AG, Jacquet J, Montani JP, Schutz Y. Adaptive thermogenesis in human body weight regulation: more of a concept than a measurable entity? Obes Rev. 2012 Jan;13 Suppl 2:105-21. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-789X.2012.01043.x. PMID: 26768234.

  • Dulloo AG, Schutz Y, Montani JP. Regulation of body composition in response to dieting: adaptive thermogenesis and the "rebound effect". Obes Rev. 2015 Feb;16 Suppl 1:75-83. doi: 10.1111/obr.12217. PMID: 28744374.

  • Hall KD, Kahan S. Maintenance of Lost Weight and Long-Term Management of Obesity. Med Clin North Am. 2018 Jan;102(1):183-197. doi: 10.1016/j.mcna.2017.08.012. PMID: 24662697.

  • Rosenbaum M, Leibel RL. Adaptive thermogenesis in humans. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2001 Dec;25(12):1305-13. doi: 10.1038/sj.ijo.0801817. PMID: 11206847.


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