We have officially reached vacation season. Many vacationers are undergoing crash diets and exercise programs to shape up for the beach or a visit overseas. However, few think about methods to keep the weight off and stay healthy once they arrive at their destination.
Before setting off on a trip, everyone has an ideal and individualized vacation experience in mind. Some enjoy journeys with cultural expansion and physical demand or some simply want a vacation to reset the clock. Regardless of the goal or reason for vacationing, the benefits of travel can be massive. However, far too often, we return less refreshed, less healthy, and more exhausted than when we left. I have personally encountered this one too many times and follow these simple rules to maximize my travel experiences.
1. Increase Your Background Exercise
On your trip, you may not have the required time or facilities (or the desire) to schedule dedicated workout time at a gym. However, increasing your baseline activity levels could actually add more workout time to your day than your body would normally get from an hour in the gym on a typical work day.
2. Reset Your Circadian Rhythm
One of the biggest stresses on the body resulting in severe fatigue is the time change with travel. When your body thinks it should be getting ready for bed and your brain starts creating melatonin to make you sleepy, yet you are actually getting ready to start the day in your temporary home, it can be quite taxing on the body.
One way to minimize this stress on the body is to help acclimate it to the new sleep-wake cycle. When you are waking, expose your eyes to sunlight or even a blue light if you have access to one. When it is dark and nearing bedtime, limit the amount of blue light that your eyes are exposed to as blue light stops the brain’s natural production of melatonin, the chemical that helps to prepare you for sleep.1,2 This would include avoiding television at night and in the hotel room.
Oftentimes, vacationing with a group that stays up late leaves one returning home afterwards feeling less well-rested than when they left and in need of another vacation…
3. Stay on track with your diet
Vacationing is all about taking in the local culture, which often involves the local cuisine. Too often people use this as an excuse to watch as their diet derails and suddenly includes foods that do not even provide them significant pleasure. Instead, these foods leave them feeling guilty and still in search of that satisfaction. As I discussed in my article about my trip to Italy, use the local cuisine to add elements to your normally consumed healthy foods, as these are changes you could add to your own cooking armamentarium.
Lastly, healthy food options at the airport are minimal at best and are nowhere to be found on the plane. Airplane food hardly resembles actual food, and may be worse than those foods at the center aisle of the grocery store. Instead of succumbing to the abysmal airport and airplane food, prepare ahead of time by bringing healthy snack options from home such as dry roasted almonds or grass-fed beef jerky to curb your hunger on a long travel day.
4. Pick your travel companions wisely
They often say that you are the combination of your five closest friends. Vacationing is no different — your trip will be a combination of the group you are vacationing with. Vacations are an excellent time to refresh, recharge, and melt stress away while experiencing other cultures and adding to your memory bank of experiences. If you decide to travel with a group that does not share similar views when it comes to health, diet, and activity, you may find it difficult to enjoy your time without deviating significantly from the ideals of the group.
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1. Wetterberg L. Melatonin in humans physiological and clinical studies. J Neural Transm Suppl. 1978;(13):289-310. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/381589.
2. Lewy AJ, Wehr TA, Goodwin FK, Newsome DA, Markey SP. Light suppresses melatonin secretion in humans. Science (80- ). 1980;210(4475):1267-1269. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7434030.
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