How to Indulge on Vacation Without Losing Sight of Healthy Habits: Melissa's Bare-Minimum Plan

Hear from Melissa as she shares her five-part plan for keeping indulgences in check while balancing her tried-and-true healthy routines.
Melissa d'Arabian
I love summer vacation, don’t you?

But you know what I don’t love? Getting out of my routine, especially my healthy routines, such as eating well and working out. At home, I know exactly when I will go to the gym, who I will see there (my workout buddies — hi, Heather and Julie!) and what I will eat when I get home. I don’t have to think about it or waste any energy figuring out how to make that all happen; that's one of the great benefits of setting up solid routines to support our life goals.

So what happens when I go on vacation? When I am out of my normal routine, and faced with an unfamiliar environment and a list of to-do’s (albeit fun ones!) that involve not just me but my family, too, I can easily find myself going days or even a couple of weeks without following my normal healthy-eating and workout routines. Sometimes, I actually am quite happy to embrace the indulgence and enjoy a little "time off.” Who wants to go to New York City and not enjoy its amazing restaurants?

For these times, I have created a “bare minimum” plan — things that I can do pretty much no matter where, no matter what — that will keep me at least a little on track while still allowing me to let go of the workout guilt and enjoy time off from the routine. Because vacation should be fun and guilt-free, right?

You ready? This is what I do when I am letting loose, and it's totally doable:

1. Do pushups when I wake up and before bed. I usually do 20 in each set, which takes about 30 seconds, twice a day. I know the rugs of more hotels in America than probably anyone, because I literally hop out of bed and drop down to get my pushups done. I have been known to find a hidden spot in the airport and pop down to do these if I realize I have forgotten. Thirty seconds twice a day is all it takes for my core to get engaged (which helps me keep my core engaged throughout the day) and for the blood to get pumping a bit (which I miss dearly when I don’t do a full workout).

2. Eat some form of raw produce at every meal. Yes, I may want to indulge in a thick, juicy steak and creamy au gratin potatoes while visiting friends in Texas, but I’ll always start with a salad first. Flaky croissants in France are totally fine, but I include a green smoothie or fruit salad, too. This is my tricky way of including fiber and bulk so that I don’t accidentally eat five croissants (because that could happen, trust me). Every meal has raw produce, even if it means I grab a few celery sticks or an overpriced fruit cup somewhere while on the go.

3. Eat protein at every meal and snack. I’ll happily have a crepe at the mother-in-law’s house for a snack, but I make sure to include at least a little bit of protein, such as almond butter, cubed chicken or an egg. (This is one of the reasons I carry unsalted almonds with me wherever I go.)  The protein keeps me full enough that I don’t need to load up on empty calories because I’m ravenous. Sugary treats remain an indulgence, not my primary mode of filling up.

4. Drink extra water. The more I indulge in rich food, the more water I drink. It’s an incredibly healthy habit, it’s cheap and it doesn’t stop me from eating great meals or from enjoying a break from the gym. So I figure, if I’m going to drop two healthy habits for a day or for a week, I’ll increase a healthy habit that doesn’t stop me from eating great meals. And my nonscientific opinion is that the extra water flushes out whatever makes me feel lethargic and heavy, which is how I tend to feel when I overindulge on vacation.

5. Get extra sleep. I’m already removing energizing exercise and my normal nutritious menu, so I am very careful about making sure that I don’t also tax my body with being overtired. Besides, who doesn’t like an excuse to sleep in a little or take a short nap while on vacation? Studies have shown that when we are well-rested, we automatically make better food decisions. So this one is an important one all the time, but especially when I am indulging in good eats: I get sleep.

And that’s it. The bare-minimum-keep-it-afloat vacation plan. Pushups, produce, protein, water and sleep.

Speaking of great meals out of town, I’m now wondering just where should I eat tonight: Bobby Flay’s Gato or Amanda Freitag’s Empire Diner? (Good thing I’ve already had my water.)

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