Parties, Vacations and TravelJul 05, 2023
I don’t know about you, but whenever I followed a certain diet plan or eating-style plan, summertime, with it's Parties, Vacations and Travel, seemed to take on a free-for-all feeling. After all, now that we are adults, don’t we get summer vacation too?
- Some of it had to do with being tired of dieting to fit into summer clothes or a bathing suit.
- Some of it was just that it was easier to control things during the rest of the year (except maybe for that period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s).
- Summer means BBQs and backyard summer get-togethers almost every weekend from Mother’s Day in early May until Labor Day in September.
- There is ice cream, potato salad, hot dogs and hamburgers with chips, fudge, and salt-water taffy. OMG where am I going here?
- Anyway, my summer challenges are just as … well… challenging as yours, believe me.
- Maybe more so because I am, in a way, a public figure because I am a coach and author of two books.
- I have actually had people come up to me as I am lifting a piece of blueberry pie and ice cream into my mouth and say, “I don’t suppose you have THAT in your book, do you?”
- Honestly – I have had people come up to me when I am eating and say things like that.
- Talk about motivation for secret eating… which, by the way, we will get to in another blog post.
- I could break into a lecture about how I teach people not to fear food and how to, instead, learn to honor their hunger and fullness cues, and indeed, I have left room for this blueberry pie and ice cream, thank you very much.
Wherever you are in your journey just remember that:
- “Summertime doesn’t have to be three months of all you can eat – I’ll start again in September” thinking.
- If you have been following along with all the actionable coaching advice I have been giving you throughout these blogs and podcast episodes, you now have an arsenal of ways to keep your eating in check no matter what eating style you have chosen to follow!
This blog on Parties, Vacations and Travel is a reminder of those tools. Each tool is the subject of a podcast episode as well, so be sure to check them all out before the summer is over.
Speaking of travel, here is your roadmap to today's blog:
Protocol Meal Planning
This can be just a loose outline of what you might eat in a day. Let’s say you are going to a BBQ that spans lunch and dinner.
- For breakfast you might go lightly but not so lightly that you are famished by lunch. What foods hold you the best? Have a little of that even if it might normally be a lunch or dinner selection such as a small bowl of tuna fish salad.
- For lunch just jot down a few things that you would like. As a hint, when I am going to a party, and I am bringing a food contribution, I make it something that I will enjoy having. Maybe a gorgeous green salad with nuts, olives and avocado, and I make or bring a nice dressing. I might add to that at least one protein selection – there are always hamburgers and sometimes chicken.
- “If-Then Protocols” and “Advanced Decision Protocols” will be the subject of the next blog post.
The Hunger Scale
- On a scale of 1-10 you can comfortably eat 4 to 6, or even a 3 to 7. This means that you won’t eat until you have some sense of being hungry and you will stop way before you are full. This leaves the playing field open to whatever you might want – fruit, a dessert, another protein and salad selection, etc.
- There are two other hunger scales that you might find useful:
- A -5 to +5 scale (-5=very hungry and 5=very full), where eating -2 to +2 is a comfortable range.
- A visual of a balloon: No air = very hungry and almost ready to burst = very full.
This method works especially well if you are on the road and know you will be stopping at a restaurant to eat.
- Let’s say it is fast food. Good would be a small burger or cheese burger or a grilled chicken sandwich. Order a small fries if you must, but whatever you do, decide in advance that you won’t finish the kids’ meals.
- Better might be to order a salad and cut up a burger without the bun (or a grilled chicken) to put on top. Don’t have the fries!
- Best might be if you anticipated this and brought your own lunch in a cooler. If you go into a real restaurant, of course, this is not possible, but you can certainly find what would be the best items that would not sit heavy in your stomach, and make you pleased that you made good decisions.
- REMEMBER: Don’t let GOOD derail you from moving forward. Just because you had that burger and fries doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t make the next better decisions with the next meal.
KISSing and Dancing
- KISS stands for Keep It Simple Sweetheart. This means that if you are entertaining people and you are anxious about it or stressed out because you also have to clean the house and might even have company staying over, keep your menu and cooking as simple as possible. I am impressed when I go to a BBQ with all sorts of fancy salads, meats and desserts. But boy, am I the happiest when there are burgers, hotdogs, potato salad and a big green salad.
- Dancing means to find the easiest way to stay on plan without measuring and weighing your food, or getting into trouble with slippery slope foods (like that potato salad that I love). Keep it simple with a protein, veggies, fruit and maybe one dessert.
- Don’t overcomplicate things. You can easily learn to face your vacations, meals and parties without the anxiety and complications.
Working through Urges and Cravings
- We don’t usually get into trouble because of what is on our plate. The trouble comes from the triggers we might face during summer activities:
- Are we overwhelmed with too much exposure to friends and family?
- Are we overwhelmed by too many food choices that we normally don’t have in our day?
- Is our sugar demon brought back to life because of the foods we are eating on vacations and at parties such as chips, French fries, ice cream cake, potato salad, blueberry pie, hotdog and hamburger rolls and whatever else causes a rush of glucose in our body?
- Are we in the car much too long and find our decision-making muscles are fatigued and those French fries we have been craving all of a sudden magically appear in front of us?
- In situations like these, want you to put your hand over your heart and tell yourself that you will be okay and that an urge is only a thought, and it will pass.
- I want you to pause and breathe, ground yourself and bring yourself back to your next best decision.
Watch the food you decide to eat. Remember, you can be dealing with triggers, urges, cravings and emotions, but don’t forget it’s also about the food and what certain foods can derail your efforts.
- Try to make choices that cut out as many simple carbohydrates as possible.
- Simple carbs would be anything processed like potato chips; anything that is sugary as well as excessive fruits and juices; and anything that is a baked good.
- At least during a normal day with regular activities, you have a slight chance of getting these sugars out of your system because of your activities, but if you are in a car a lot of the day or facing a lot of meals out, at least give yourself a running start at eating healthy during the trip.
Goals, Habits and Systems
- Set up small, achievable goals. For example, one could be: I am not going to eat off my kid’s plate when we stop for fast food.
- The system for this could be that
- about 20 minutes before you get to the rest stop you drink 24 ounces of water (unless your bladder is already bursting),
- you go to the ladies room as soon as you get to the restaurant and, in addition to peeing, you sit for a minute, with your hand over your heart.
- Take deep breaths and remind yourself of this goal.
- When you get back to the table you make your order and eat it slowly, holding the food or the fork with your non-dominant hand, putting down the food between bites and chew.
- Don’t take another bite until you swallow.
- When the kids have eaten as much as they are going to eat, throw out everything left on the table.
- DO IT.
- The habits that make this system work are habits that you have been practicing and doing at home:
- Before eating you take some deep breaths and center yourself
- You chew your food carefully before you swallow
- You eat with your non-dominant hand
- You put your food down between bites
This is having small wins with those goals and habits, by moving along with very tiny incremental changes.
- One of the steps that you might want to take toward your goal is to drink more water and fewer soft drinks or coffee drinks. That’s easy enough. Just make sure you have water with you and sip it throughout the day, and when you go to the restaurant don’t automatically order a soft drink. Order iced water instead.
- Another step might be to get in more movement. Another easy one, even with a car trip. Every time you stop for something, whether a meal or gas, make sure you get out of the car, stretch and walk around whatever building it is, if feasible. You may not want to stop too often if you have kids in the car, but if it is just adults traveling, set a timer to stop every 60-90 minutes and again, get out of the car, stretch, and walk around the car a few times if it is safe to do so.
Mindfulness Practices and Advance Decisions
- Overwhelm can be positive or negative. Almost anything may cause a person to become overwhelmed. Summer travels, vacations and parties can cause either to come up.
- You could be so happy to be going on vacation or a party. Think of it being bubbly, but your bubbles runneth over.
- You could be anxious or have too much on your plate for this same vacation or party. This usually causes emotional discomfort and extra stress, especially if things start piling up.
- Positive or negative, overwhelm can be a trigger, either sending you into urge territory, or just general confusion about your next best decisions to make.
- This is where mindfulness comes in.
- Some of the best practices are:
- Just find something either in the situation or just generally in the day you can be grateful for. You can say, “I’m so grateful to be spending the day with family,” or “I’m so grateful I am taking some time to get away from work and an ordinary day.”
- Slow down. If you are facing food, do your slow down practices that we talked in the above example about staying away from your kid’s leftovers. Eat with your non-dominant hand, chew slowly, swallow, breathe, let yourself settle down. Add to it, closing your eyes for a minute and taking a few deep breaths.
- Have a “Calgon Take Me Away” moment. Those of you who are old enough to remember that commercial, know that it means that you have to take just a few minutes out of the chaos just for yourself. Take deep breaths and maybe think of nothing, or see a storyboard in your mind’s eye about how the situation will play out using your next-best advanced decisions, or take your mind out of the situation and go back to gratitude or think about something pleasant.
- This last suggestion will help you ground yourself and get your mind out of the swirling overwhelm.
Home-Base and Course Correcting
- If you are coming home from vacation or from traveling, have something at home ready for your first meal back or plan a stop to get a rotisserie chicken and some salad from the salad bar, or stop at a Mexican restaurant for a few orders of fahitas to throw on top of a salad, which you can also order. Don’t root around the pantry and fridge or freezer to see what there is and so, the heck with it, you get a pizza and just start again “tomorrow.”
- If you are coming home from a party, the same advice as above. It’s even easier because you can have something already prepared at home to be your next best meal. Again – no waiting until the weekend is over.
- You are giving the party? Have a plan for leftovers. I start saving containers (like from cottage cheese or yogurt) and have baggies of all sizes and a roll of aluminum foil. All the leftovers leave the house with the guests, or they go in the trash. The exception might be if I make an official plate of something for a meal, but I am not going into a dozen containers of various leftovers. For sure the desserts do not stay in my house.
- With course correcting, remember the lesson on dividing your day into quadrants. Going to be eating from 1-6? What about the other 18 hours? Have a good breakfast, have your party, plan a light dinner, and don’t eat at night. Same for travel. At the very least you can divide your day with sensible meals and not eat after dinner.
- Doing all of this breaks the cycle of having to start over.
Self-Talk and Affirmations and Forgiving Yourself
These might be most important tools of all in order to get all of the above in motion:
- Nothing good will come from hating yourself. You can’t hate yourself thin. It doesn’t work and it never will.
- Speak kindly to yourself.
- Keep it short and sweet: “Good job! I had water instead of soda.” “Good job! I left two bites behind.” “Good job! I walked away from the desserts.” “Good job! I didn’t eat my kid’s leftover French fries.” “Good job! I didn’t eat last night after dinner!”
- You get the point. These are all small wins that add up to the biggest win of all – and I’m not talking weight loss. I’m talking the win of learning how to talk to yourself in a way that shows love and caring and encouragement.
- Are you mad that no one supports you? Big deal. None of that matters unless you learn to support yourself and have your own back.
- None of that matters until you learn to talk to yourself in a forgiving and loving way.
- Forget all-or-nothing thinking. Take small wins where you have them and congratulate yourself for them.
- Make sure you relisten to Episode 23, especially, to learn more about productive self-talk.
ACTIONABLE COACHING ADVICE
I am going to be a diet-culture renegade and say, it might be a time to put weight loss goals on hold. This is not license to gain a lot of weight and feel miserable physically and emotionally, but it does encourage you to get rid of any guilt and shame of eating a bit off your eating plan.
- This is how you give yourself a little leeway with very few consequences:
- Make your very next best decision. This means don’t eat unless you are hungry and stop when you have had enough. On the hunger scale I gave you, that falls at about -3 to +3.
- And then make your next best decisions about food and drink. Drink more water instead of soda (even sugar-free) and coffee.
- Move a little more. No, it is absolutely true that no amount of exercise can outrun bad eating, but getting up and moving more keeps you out of the kitchen and feeling better about yourself.
- Try to do everything that I suggested above and in earlier episodes:
- Pay attention to how well certain foods hold you.
- Think ahead to what some of your options might be.
- Stick with foods that you know feel good in your body.
- Eat when you are hungry enough – you don’t have to be famished, but don’t eat a full BBQ lunch if you finished breakfast just an hour or two earlier.
- Take one plate and wait before having more.
- No matter how much you have taken, stop when you have had enough – don’t go all the way to full because it will feel worse in about 20 minutes.
Thank you for taking the time to read this blog, Parties, Vacations and Travel. Every topic in this post has a corresponding podcast episode, so I encourage you to listen, especially while you might be out on the road and looking to tune into something interesting and useful. My hope is that all this will help you navigate your journey, especially during the summer months. Don't forget to subscribe to the mailing list (below) so that you don't miss the next one!
Now, let me remind you. If you’ve ever got a question you’d like to ask me or share a topic idea that you would like me to cover in a future blog, don’t be a stranger! I always look forward to hearing from readers like you. You are welcome to email me directly… [email protected].
Learn more about this with my book and course:
Book Conquer Cravings with Keto
Course Keto and Low Carb Success