Bouncing Back from My Vacation Weight Gain
Hey guys. It’s been about three months since I decided to get serious with losing weight, and I have less than two months (and eight pounds) to go until my 40th birthday.
I’m getting close to reaching my goal of losing 20 pounds. You can read my previous post as a reminder, but my weight loss program is fairly simple.
- I’m trying to stick to 1,200 daily calories, which is what my nutritionist recommended for me. I’m tracking calories using the MyFitnessPal smartphone app.
- I’m staying away from the obvious offenders, like soda and sweets. I have almost lost my craving for them. If I want a coke, I get a LaCroix sparkling water instead.
- I’m exercising at least three days a week, usually more. My Fitbit tracker is helping me stay accountable. I mostly take long walks around the neighborhood in the evenings.
- I’m doing strength training once a week with a trainer at our onsite gym at work. Eventually I’ll bump this up to at least twice a week.
Progress and setbacks
April was a stressful month – my mom was in the hospital, I had changes with childcare, and I had to-do lists a mile long. And stress usually sends me to the refrigerator. But I practiced willpower.
I went to St. Thomas with my husband in April. A much-needed adults-only vacation! I took off my Fitbit to swim in the cool, turquoise waters of the Caribbean, and I didn’t put it back on for days. I ate buttery seafood and drank sweet rum drinks, as one does when vacationing on an island. It was bliss.
And I gained four pounds in five days. Oops.
Bouncing back from vacation gain
Now that we’re easing into vacation season, I thought I’d share my tips for not losing focus entirely while you’re on vacation, and for getting on track again when you’re back home.
- Don’t think of it as a cheat week. My nutritionist, Diana, cautions not to think of vacation as a “cheat week.” She says, “You are working on creating a healthy lifestyle that will help you reach and maintain the weight you want – you are not on a temporary, quick fix diet. Enjoy yourself, but don’t forget about variety, moderation, and balance.”
- Be active just for the enjoyment of it. I didn’t step foot in the resort’s fitness center on vacation, but I took long walks on the beach, took the stairs instead of the elevator, and swam in the sea. I did that for the enjoyment of it, not because I was tracking the steps.
- Don’t let a little gain make you give up entirely. I’ll admit that I was bummed when I stepped on the scale back home and saw my gain. I accused the scale of being an evil little liar. I let myself be sad for two seconds. But then I decided that I couldn’t let myself (or you guys) down, so I’d get back in the swing of tracking and counting.
- The scale does lie. Diana is too nice to call the scale an evil little liar, but she does say, “A four pound gain in one week is almost impossible to be related to fat alone. There might be a few pounds of fat, but likely most is related to hydration, which may have been impacted in changes in diet (especially salt and sugar intake). Also consider the changes in weather conditions, your activity level, and conditions on the airplane (dry air, not moving, etc.). Chances are if you weigh yourself a few days later, you will be closer to where you were before vacation.”
- Focus on the positive and how far you’ve come. I had a session with Kerry, our onsite gym manager and my personal trainer, the day I came back to work from vacation. Kerry wanted to do “assessments” since we were at the 12 week mark. I told her, “Fine, but I gained a million pounds on vacation.” I’m glad she made me do it – even with the four pound gain, I still had lost 12 pounds, 7.5 inches, 3 percent body fat, a dress size, and my BMI came down two points. That’s all in 12 weeks, just making simple changes. If I can do it, you can too.
- Set a new goal for yourself. Maybe your goal had been to look good in a bathing suit while you were on vacation, and you worked hard to get to that point. Now that you’re back from the beach, you put the swimsuit in your closet and reached for the chips. Nope. Make yourself a new goal, so that you have something to look forward to, and to work hard for.
I’ve been back from vacation for more than two weeks, and I’m down two pounds. I am just now starting to feel back on track. It takes a while. I’ll have a few more vacations this summer, and I am hoping to use what I’ve learned to prevent gain then.
It’s all in the numbers, or is it?
I’ve learned from Kerry, and from my own experiences, that you have to look at the bigger picture of your weight loss journey and keep it all in perspective.
Weight loss is something that will ebb and flow over the course of a lifetime. There will be vacations, pregnancies, illnesses, and seasons of life when you are just too tired or stressed to even think about trying to lose weight. But then you’ll have that something that motivates you to get back at it again.
What I’ve learned most in the past three months is that there really is no magic workout routine or quick-fix diet that will give you results. It’s all about the calories. And discipline.
As my colleague Anne (who is beautiful and trim and used to do fitness competitions) says, weight loss is mostly math. “If you’re going over the target amount of calories, you’re consuming more than you’re burning, and you won’t lose the extra pounds. You have to have less calories in than out, consistently.”
I was an English major in college – I’m a word person, a writer, and I can barely do basic math. So the thought of weight loss being all about math both scared me, and yet made perfect sense.
But if weight loss is math, as Anne suggests, where does emotion fit into it?
When I went back to work after my daughter Phoebe was born, I was tired and overwhelmed and I would sneak chocolate chip cookie dough from the fridge by the spoonful. It tasted amazing, but it was a temporary “Okay, things feel better now,” and then the pounds crept on.
I could be wrong about this, but I think the key to weight loss is taking the emotion out of eating, and thinking of it all as a math equation. I know that nothing in life is usually that simple, but maybe it is.
A note about assessments
Kerry says, “You can only improve what you measure.”
She recommends doing measurements at the start of your journey and throughout (typically every 12 weeks) until you reach your goal. She says, “The scale alone can cause excitement or frustration, but when paired with measuring inches, body fat, strength and cardio, it gives you knowledge – it helps you answer the question, ‘are your actions making the positive changes you want’?”
I’m so glad that I have the “before” measurements from back in January. I can’t wait to share the results with you all in June.