Should You Leave the Diet at Home?

When we go on a trip for pleasure, we often convince ourselves that we should not only stick to our diet but also, not partake in the food culture or delicacies of where we’re traveling. We have all the best intentions in the world but normally this line of thinking ends with us feeling like a failure, guilty and/or eating more than we would have if we had gone in with a different game plan. These are all feelings that we know will take away from our trip. We’ll end up looking back on our time away or ourselves in a negative light. We go on vacations to enjoy ourselves, get a break from reality and be present with who we are with and where we are. By putting this enormous pressure on us to adhere we will more than likely put an unnecessary amount of stress on ourselves. Stress that can and will lead to resentment towards the diet and our goals. I think many of us can relate to this and remember going completely off the rails when we’ve finally had enough of all our self-imposed restrictions and expectations. 

Let me explain a few reasons why sticking to the diet we follow at home isn’t the way to stay on track when we’re away from home.

 Depending on where we’re traveling and our accommodations, we may not have the tools or food accessibility that we do at home. If you’re staying in a hotel it’s likely you will not have a full kitchen to use to cook your own meals. It’s also likely you won’t have the time to cook your meals, the ability to bring your meals with you or the foods on your daily go to menu. Trying to find a grocery store, find cold storage to lug your meals around and prepare all your meals is enough to stress anyone out. I’m stressed out just writing about this process!

 Before we even begin thinking about the HOW we should determine our WHY. What are our actual goals? Are we on a deadline? How important is it that we stick to the plan while we’re away? How often do we travel? What does the rest of our year look like? What are the costs and rewards of being more rigid vs. flexible? Once we have answers to these questions, we can determine what our plan looks like. Whether we decide being rigid or flexible is the way to go, we are in no way saying that you should eat like an asshole. By this we mean, turning your trip into a food tour where you go bakery hopping and eating beyond the point of fullness. Now that we got that out of the way we can define what flexible vs. rigid planning looks like.

A flexible plan while away will vary based on where you’re going, why you are going there, who you are with, your food preferences etc. there’s a LOT to consider as it is individual, but the fundamentals remain the same. We need to have SOME structure to follow. A few guidelines we suggest are:

  1.   Try to have a protein source at every meal
  2.   If you know there is a food or meal you want to indulge in, try to be more selective with what you choose to eat around that food or meal.
  3.   If you’re traveling with someone, share!
  4.   Eat until you’re satisfied, not full.
  5.   Don’t make your trip about food. Food should not be center or sole focus of your trip.
  6.   Don’t seek the foods that sound the best tasting all the time. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to indulge. Be selective!
  7.   You do not have to finish everything served to you or that you bought!

If you’re on a time constraint, or if you know that you’re someone that struggles with moderation, being more rigid may be the right choice for you. If you feel being rigid and sticking to your home plan as close as you possibly can is what you have to do, then forget everything I mentioned about planning stressing you out. This may be your saving grace. Find a hotel or rental home that has the tools you need, find the nearest grocery store and figure out a way to travel with your meals. What stresses me out and many others will be what brings your relief.

If you’ve read any of our other blogs you may heard the term NEAT dropped. NEAT stands for Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis so basically any calories we burn doing anything physical outside of the gym. This includes walking around the house, getting up to use the bathroom, washing the dishes, fidgeting… I think you get the idea. When we’re playing tourist we tend to move a LOT more than we do when we’re at home. We don’t know many people that like staying in their hotel over exploring a new city or getting outside. To give you some numbers as a reference, the average American walks 3,000 to 4,000 steps a day, or roughly 1.5 to 2 miles (2.5 – 3.2km for our Metric friends). For someone who weighs 160lb/72.5kg that’s about 110-145 calories per day. When exploring the streets, buildings, POIs or going on hikes we’re likely going to double, triple or quadruple that average or at least double your average if you’re already an active person. That can have us burning an extra 110-440 calories on the low end or 145-580 calories on the high end to that original estimate we shared. If you weigh more or less, that number will change but this at least will give you an idea of your calorie burning potential.

Lastly, a lot of what, when and how we eat is determined by our environment, social interactions, our emotions, food availability/ accessibility and our routine. How many times have you gone to sit down to watch TV and instantly get the craving for a snack? Or have you ever walked by your kitchen not wanting anything but casually glanced at a cupboard or a food that’s on your counter and instantly wanted it? Well, those influences for the most part don’t follow us where we go. What many of us don’t realize is how our eating behaviors aren’t always our conscious choice. This is a good thing because that means when we go away, we’re likely going to consume fewer calories. To add to this, being active on our feet and not having food available to us are hunger suppressants. Our body and mind don’t see food as a necessity when we’re physically and mentally stimulated. This is a BIG benefit for us because if we’re not hungry, we won’t be seeking out food or be eating in excess.

To sum things up, how you handle your nutrition while traveling should be based on what you know about yourself, where you’re going and your goals. It can be stressful going on a trip without a realistic plan but whatever you choose for that plan to look like should truly be dependent on what will allow you to be present and look back on your trip fondly. You’ll be burning more calories, be less food focused, dealing with less hunger, and have less food availability because you’ll be out and about. You may find yourself coming back lighter than when you left so chill out, relax and just don’t eat like an asshole.