Are you familiar with the phrase “Do as I say, not as I do?” Well, that is the lesson I’m going to share with you here. Let me tell you a story of how a nutritionist & wellness coach breaks all the rules and fails to follow her own advice while on vacation. Picture it: Hawaii. Blue ocean and blue skies, black rock beaches and tan bodies all around. People are coasting down the road on cruiser bikes, jogging in sun and snorkeling in the reefs. It’s paradise, right? How could anything go wrong with this scene?
Welcome to a behind the scenes version of my story as I take a dream vacation to Hawaii and unwittingly go against the very advice I recommend daily to others and make myself miserable. So grab a chair and enjoy the laughs!
Lessons #1: Don’t Set Unrealistic Goals and #2: Plan Ahead Appropriately
I was so excited for my first trip to Hawaii that I didn’t thoroughly think through my packing list. I shoved several tops, some shorts and a couple of pairs of shoes & a bathing suit into the carry on and was ready to roll. I was ready to explore the island on the first day there. I turned on the GPS app on my phone to track the miles. My goal was to walk at least 5 miles a day. I had on my fancy (yet comfortable) sandals and went out the door. I followed the road downtown, then turned east and started to climb up a hill. Things were heating up and I decided to take off my shoes, since I was in Hawaii and why not? Then as I came to hotter pavement, put the sandals back on and…maybe you can see where this is going… trotted down the big hill, trying to not twist my ankles. It was getting sweaty and I’d been going for a couple of miles now. There was quite a bit of friction in the soles, but it was hot out. Well, by the time I had come back to the hotel, the damage was done. Quarter sized deep blisters in my heels and pads of my feet had developed and I could barely walk barefoot on the carpet. I was so upset as I thought about the rest of my vacation. I’d be cooped up in the room- how could I even walk to get dinner? I switched to my other pair of shoes (sketchers that were a size too small)- why did I pack those? Talk about not aligning with your goals. I wanted to walk five miles a day but destroyed my feet the first day and had to suffer with uncomfortable footwear the rest of the trip.
Lesson #2: Follow Your Regular Eating Habits When on Vacation
People must look at me like I have 2 heads when I say this line. Even though it seems like a good guideline before the trip, when you arrive the brain is now going: “Yeah, like I’m going to be avoiding all that good buffet food when I ‘m dining at the resort hotel. Have you seen the spread down there!!??” So for me a typical weekday breakfast is a couple boiled eggs, maybe some avocado or salsa for flavor. My breakfast at the hotel: 7-8 strips of bacon, 1-2 sausage links, scrambled eggs with salsa, some papaya & pineapple (hey it’s fruit) and some miso soup (’cause it’s my chance to round out the rest of my generous breakfast with some veggies). Oh, and some tea, for good measure. Can you say Holy Sodium?! And can you believe I ate it all (on more than one occasion?) So it was a lot of calories for a girl who wasn’t able to walk much, and it was a lot of salt for a person who’s trying to stay hydrated on a tropical island. Buffet food leads to buffet eating syndrome. You think I’m kidding but it’s been researched that the more choices we have and the larger the dished are for serving, the more food items we choose. And, if we serve ourselves, we are 90% more likely to finish our plates than if someone else does the fixing for us. Are your eyes bigger than your stomach? The answer is likely yes, if the food is coming from the buffet.
Lesson #3 Practice Mindful Eating
Mindful eating is one of those habits that takes lots and lots of practice. Unfortunately it’s the American fast pace culture that seems to undo all the practice. So, the idea is to slow down, savor your food with all the senses. Admire the appearance, appreciate the aromas, respect the texture and savor the flavor. Taking in the complete experience can help to make the meal more satisfying and keeps us in touch with our bodily senses. Eating mindfully helps us to realize when we are becoming full and can let us end a meal without needing to clean the plate or seek out that “missing ending” of something sweet. So, let’s go back to another breakfast meal. My husband and I are seated next to a European woman (as evidenced by her drinking straight espresso, but also several foreigners were in town for a world championship sports event). Anyway, she had a large fruit plate and a raisin bagel- and this teeny tiny coffee! Our breakfast plates come (Greek egg scramble with some fruit and black tea). It’s pretty tasty. There were sun-dried tomatoes, olives and some feta, the portion was generous and the fruit fresh. I’m savoring here, appreciating the flavors. And then I’m like, “hey- where’d my breakfast go?” In a matter a minutes I had wolfed down this tasty dish and washed down half of my hot tea. I looked over at our neighbor and she had a few grapes and 1/4 of her bagel and still had coffee left. Wasn’t she hungry? But the real question I should have asked was “Was I hungry?” It was 6:30 am (blame it on the time change) and I’m eating a hero’s breakfast in record time. So where was the fire? I was on vacation in Hawaii and eating in the sand by the ocean! If you can’t slow down and savor your meal when you’re on vacation, then it’s time to re-evaluate your priorities. I had to laugh when I saw the woman get up and leave with half her bagel and fruit plate. Obviously she wasn’t a member of The Clean Plate Club, like I was. But at least she made it through her espresso.
Lesson #4 Don’t Drink Your Calories
When in Rome… okay so it’s Hawaii, it’s vacation, it’s an evening in the lounge by the sea. The bar is the place to be and the drinks are so creative. And apparently we are staying at the home of the “Original Mai Tai.” But then, it seemed like every restaurant served a special drink of some sort with Pure Hawaiian Pineapple Juice or Local Rum or some other reason to try one of the 27 Mai Tai flavors. Anyway, how could I deny my chance to indulge a little? After all it’s vacation and it’s Hawaii. And there are pink umbrellas. The first Mai Tai was absolutely delightful! The presentation was perfect and I got my money’s worth (it was strong.) So to give some context, I’m more of a 1 glass of wine a week or less kind of person. I don’t have much tolerance for liquor and don’t enjoy the after effects too much (grogginess, upset stomach, moodiness.) So having a drink or 2 a few nights in a row is definitely out of my comfort zone. The final verdict? After just 2 drinks (of the strong variety) I had indigestion after my meal, I worsened my blisters on my feet because I wore sandals to dinner and didn’t notice the pain until the alcohol wore off, had a splitting headache in the morning and was rather cranky and crabby most of the day for a person on vacation. I forgot to mention the empty calories. I think those could have been better spent on some chocolate torte, for sure. Sure they were tasty, but I probably didn’t need to have 2. I probably could have shared one and been just as pleased. Or I could enjoyed something more my speed, like a white wine or spritzer. This lesson also goes back to #3- stick to your normal routine. It’s what works the best in most cases, and you can still enjoy a great vacation.
Lesson #5: If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try Again.
It’s true that it sometimes takes us a few hard knocks to get lessons like these into our heads. Would you laugh if I told you that the day my blisters felt better, I went for a 5 mile walk (in sneakers) and got them sore all over again? Then the following evening, I wore a Dr. Scholl’s donut over the blister (seemed like magic) and that was the night I wore the sandals to dinner and walked over a mile afterwards, you know, because somehow my mind my sandals were suitable magic walking slippers.
I waited two nights until I tried another Mai Tai. But this time, it was at a different bar, so likely it wasn’t so strong. Wrong! It was stronger- or maybe it was the fact that dinner hadn’t come yet, so it had a greater effect. Yup, still felt yucky after, still groggy in the morning and moody for half the day.
I had the buffet breakfast again. But I ate it slower (that must count for something!) I swear I was thirsty for days and went for 4 mile walk without any water on hand. (Swallowed a little ocean water that day, too.) I think I’m ready for a salt detox now. At least I probably sweat out some of it.
You Might Lose (the Goal), But Don’t Lose the Lesson
Yeah, I thought I could “handle” going on vacation and maintain my healthy habits, but I was surprised by what really happened. It might take a change in circumstances, or environment or even the idea of “going on vacation” to distract us from our everyday habits, even if we’ve been practicing them for a long time. It’s always a good idea to have a Plan B and Plan C, but when we are caught up in the moment (under the spell, I like to call it) it’s hard to think logically. Another saying comes to mind “When you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” It’s a little harsh, but definitely rang true for me this time. But another perspective you can take is to telescope out…look over the scheme of the past year. Ask yourself, how would I have handled this situation a year ago? You are probably a lot further along your journey than you realize. After you have time to reflect, and you go back to “everyday life” hopefully you can get back to your regular healthy habits like an old, comfy pair of jeans. Once those habits are ingrained, they’re the old friends you miss when you’ve been apart from each other for too long.
What are your stories? When was the last time you were caught off guard and “fell off the wagon” of your healthy habits? What was your Lessons Learned?
Can you relate? If you’re laughing and know someone who will appreciate this story, please share!