Vacations are a much-needed, well-deserved break from life at work and home. And while it might feel like a time to treat yourself, the free-spirited high can come crashing down when you realize your R&R is taking a major toll on your waistline. Giving your diet and exercise routine a break when you go bon voyage can mean that you’re in for some serious fitness setbacks. While it might come at no surprise that vacation days can cause weight gain, it’s not just the alcohol that’s doing it.
Between skipped workouts, lazy days by the pool, and extra-indulgent restaurant meals, there are plenty of vacation mistakes that are wrecking your body goals. So, read up on these worst vacation habits so you can come home feeling fit and not fat.
Your Hotel Lacks Ameneties
While complimentary WiFi and a flat-screen TV are nice, we’re talking about the amenities that will help you avoid vacation weight gain and maintain your body goals. Picking a hotel that has a fridge in your room will make it easier for you to stock up on healthy snacks like Greek yogurt, veggies, hummus, cheese, and fruit. No fridge? You can still load up on non-perishables like granola bars, beef jerky, popcorn, and nuts. Just as important as getting a room with a kitchen (and a view) is choosing a hotel that has a gym. While running outside or doing an ab routine in your hotel room will suffice, it’s easier to stick to your daily routine with a gym—plus, having one won’t give you another excuse to not work out.
You Picked the Wrong Kind of Vacation
Certain kinds of vacations—like road trips—make it harder than others to maintain a healthy diet or workout routine. While a road trip is a great opportunity to tour the country, the essence of the vacation is sitting stationary in a car all day. Besides lacking time for exercise, sitting in a car all day is a little boring, and when you’re bored, you lose your ability to make smart food choices. According to a study in the Journal of Health Psychology, you become an “emotional eater” who can not only make the wrong food choices, but you can also eat more of those fattening foods than you normally would.
You Stay at an All-Inclusive Resort
Whether you’re on a cruise or staying at an all-inclusive resort, these vacation packages typically include all-you-can-eat and all-you-can-drink options, which give you unlimited access to some unhealthy choices that can lead to weight gain. The biggest mistakes people make at all-inclusive resorts are eating more often, eating multiple helpings, and eating dessert at every meal, because hey, it’s free! If you want to make sure you can still fit into your skinny jeans by the end of the week, stick to three main meals a day, and incorporate a couple healthy snacks in between meals—and no, a strawberry daiquiri doesn’t count.
You Eat Airplane and Airport Meals
We’ve all been there: you’ve been up all night packing for your trip, and the thought of packing food for your 7 a.m. flight doesn’t even cross your mind. When this happens, you’re stuck eating airport and airplane food all day. Unfortunately for you, the average traveler consumes 3,400 calories between takeoff and landing, Oxford University Professor Charles Spence told news.com.au. And some snack boxes pack a higher caloric punch. It gets worse: Because the change in pressure at altitude numbs one-third of your taste buds, and food has to be prepared 10 hours before it’s eaten, those dishes are most likely packed with flavor enhancers and sodium-laden, belly-widening preservatives.
You Travel With the Wrong People
Surrounding yourself with good people isn’t just beneficial for your sanity, it can also help keep you healthy on vacations! Your friends are so influential in your life that, according to research from the New England Journal of Medicine, when a friend becomes obese, it ups your chance of obesity by up to 57 percent. If your travel buddies are planning on just sunbathing at the beach all day, you’re most likely going to do the same. Travel with friends who share your flat-belly lifestyle habits, whether it be going to the gym or staying in one night to cook a meal, or choosing exciting activities.
You Don’t Stay Hydrated
You bring your reusable water bottle with you everywhere, but you don’t bring it on vacation? Drinking water is a cornerstone of eating clean, and yet many of us forget to do it—even when we’re surrounded by oceans and pools! Whether you spend the day touring, hiking, or lounging by the pool, if you’re in the sun or being active, your body is steadily becoming dehydrated. That’s because your body has to work hard to stay cool and because you’re losing fluids and salts through sweating. When you’re dehydrated, you’re more likely to confuse thirst as hunger, leading you to overeat.
You Get Too Much Sun
Yes, sunburn can lead to potentially lethal melanoma, but it also has an adverse effect on your waistline. When you turn into a lobster on your first day of vacation, you’re likely to be out of commission for a few days. What happens when you can’t expose yourself to the sun? You guessed it—you sit around in the cool air conditioning or under an umbrella. And good luck getting those tight-fitting leggings on over that burn. Wave good-bye to working out!
You ‘Forget’ to Pack Gym Clothes
You found room to fit in seven different options for that one night you were planning to go out (along with shoes and the proper jewelry), but couldn’t squeeze in shorts, a t-shirt, and sneakers? If you don’t vacation with the tools to work out, you’re most likely not going to work out. To add to the damage being done: According to a Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise study, muscular detraining can occur in as little as two weeks of inactivity.
You Bring Work With You
Your job is already making you fat, you don’t need to bring it on vacation with you. To keep up or get ahead, many people feel the need to continue to work on days off. In fact, a survey conducted for car rental company Alamo indicated that 53 percent of millennials say they pressure themselves to work on vacation, and another study by Glassdoor shows that 66 percent of employees admitted to conducting some work on a recent vacation. Not only does this prevent you from being able to relax fully and destress—which means your cortisol levels will continue to trigger hunger and fat storage—but it’s a huge time suck, leaving you less time to be with your family and enjoy your free time and planned activities.
You Go on a ‘See Food’ Diet
Whether it be endless buffets or trying a bunch of new, foreign dishes, vacations often revolve around food. It’s certainly tempting to try everything and never reject the food that is offered to you. But just because it’s in front of your face (or free), doesn’t mean you have to try everything. It might be a little taste here and there, but those calories can add up over the course of the day. It’s fine to give in to indulgences—in fact, it can help you lose weight—but you have to choose them wisely and plan accordingly.
You Only Drink Sugary Cocktails
A frozen margarita, pina colada, or strawberry daiquiri can add hundreds of calories and over 50 grams of sugar (the daily limit, according to the FDA) to your daily diet. Bad for your health, and your waistline. Sarah-Jane Bedwell, RD, LDN explains, “When simple sugar is consumed in excess, the sugar molecules combine with proteins in the body and form compounds that can damage the skin’s collagen. This, in turn, has an aging effect.” Drinks on the rocks are typically lower in calories than frozen blends, or you can go for a glass of wine, like celebrity trainer and author of Eat This, Not That! for Abs Mark Langowski. Wine is packed with antioxidants and can actually help you burn belly fat.
And You Drink at Every Meal
Bottomless mimosas at breakfast, pina coladas by the pool, sangria at sunset, and martinis at midnight. A big part of vacations is kicking back and enjoying a few libations—yes, you not only deserve it, but there are some surprising, healthy benefits of alcohol. But you don’t want to be boozing from start-to-finish at every meal. Not only are you consuming empty calories, but the alcohol will dehydrate your body, leading to fatigue and mistaking thirst for hunger. The best way to tackle vacation is by making a plan for when you’re going to drink alcoholic beverages and how many you will consume, and be sure to continue to drink water between alcoholic beverages.
You Don’t Make Time to Work Out
One of the biggest reasons we choose to avoid working out on vacation? No time. Trying to squeeze in gym time when you have a packed vacation schedule can seem impossible. Plus, if you want to work out in the middle of the day, you either feel like you’re interrupting other people’s schedules or you feel left out if they’re doing a fun activity. Make time to work out in the morning. Not only are morning exercisers most likely to stick with their fitness routine on the road, but this is also a way not to disrupt your travel buddies’ schedules. Taking a walk before breakfast is an easy way to make time while on vacation.
You Stay Up Late
Travel is already taxing on the body, but losing sleep is even more so. Typically, one of three things happens when you stay up late: You will either lose sleep if you try to maintain your sleep schedule, you end up sleeping in and missing your workout window, or you wind up so fatigued during the day that you won’t have the energy to work out. Even worse, the later you stay up, the greater chance there is of you making poor decisions when it comes to ordering another drink or getting the late night munchies. Getting an adequate amount of sleep—around 7-8 hours a night—will help you feel rested, energized, and it can help keep your immune system strong so you can stay healthy on your trip.
Or You Sleep Away Most of the Morning
Yes, your vacation may give you time to catch up on sleep, but sleeping in every day of your trip is one of the worst vacation habits for your waistline. According to a Northwestern University study, sleeping those extra hours can make it difficult to get rid of belly fat: people who woke up around 10:45 a.m. consumed 248 more calories a day, half as many fruits and vegetables and twice the amount fast food than those who set their alarm earlier. Besides gaining belly flab, you’re also more likely to miss a workout if you sleep in.
You Skip Breakfast
Sure those carb-heavy, hotel continental breakfasts are certainly not very appealing—or healthy—but that doesn’t mean you should skip breakfast entirely. A National Weight Control Registry study based on twenty years of data on dieters who lost more than 30 pounds and kept it off for more than a year shows that 78 percent of dieters ate breakfast every day. There’s no excuse not to get in a well-rounded breakfast on vacation: these healthy breakfast ideas only use five ingredients and take five minutes to make!
You Don’t Snack
Without your fully stocked pantry and kitchen, it will certainly be more difficult for you to snack on anything healthy—or anything at all, for that matter. With tours, shopping, family activities, and travel, it’s easy to forget to pack a snack. When you don’t snack or have healthy snack options, your hunger might lead you to reach for unhealthy options, or it can lead you to overeat at your next meal. The three major ingredients of a perfect snack are protein, fiber, and healthy fats, and all three can be found in abundance in a good trail mix. Mix up your own high-protein snacks from a selection of nuts, seeds, unsweetened dried fruit, and dark chocolate pieces.
You Don’t Share
Vacationing is a time to treat yourself. You worked hard for this time off, and you deserve to enjoy it! We all enjoy not having to cook for ourselves every night, but getting treated like that can lead to overindulging. One way to stave off the extra pounds is to eat smaller portions by sharing your restaurant meals with your family or friends. This way you still can experience all the flavors, but another fork in the mix will help keep fewer calories from being shoveled into your mouth.
You Don’t Keep Your Normal Schedule
Even though vacation is a time to relax, that doesn’t mean your typical daily schedule should fly out the window. Researchers at Brown University have already shown that an erratic sleep schedule can sabotage a healthy diet and workout regimen enough to promote weight gain. Try to maintain as much of your normal nutrition and exercise routine as you can—if you always start your day with oatmeal and a short jog, continue to do that. With all the unknowns in travel, it’s understandable that things might come up one day, and that’s ok. As long as you maintain your commitment to prioritizing healthy foods and exercise, it doesn’t matter so much how you do it as it does that you continue to do it.
You Eat Out for Every Meal
Not only is home the cheapest, healthiest place to eat at, when you cook at home you maintain control of what exactly goes into your food. In restaurants, those ingredients and preparation tactics—like microwaving noodles in a plastic bag—are usually a mystery. Not to mention the fact that the portion sizes are usually much bigger than what is recommended. If you are planning to eat out often, choose upscale restaurants, as they tend to offer much smaller portions than chain restaurants.
And Pick Restaurants at Random
Most people spend a decent amount of time and effort researching and planning their trip, but many drop the ball on where they plan on going out to dinner. When you pick a restaurant just based on a flyer or ease of accessibility, you might be left sitting down to a fried chicken dinner. Not only should you research restaurants and make an eating-out plan ahead of time, but also take a look at the restaurants’ menus online so you can see if they have options that fit into your diet.
You Eat for Hours
Nothing beats sitting down to a sunset dinner and seeing the tabletop candles slowly dwindle down to a wick in their glass jars as the conversation continues to flow through the night. Vacations are a great time to reconnect with a spouse, family, and friends, but make this a priority in places besides a dinner table. When you linger at a dinner table longer, you’re more likely to continue to pick at your food, even after you’ve had your fill.
You Don’t Use the Kitchen
Many people opt to rent a house equipped with a kitchen for their vacation. The only issue? Most vacationers choose to eat out at restaurants every night, leaving the kitchen pretty clean, but largely unused. Not a great flat-belly habit considering the average restaurant meal clocks in at 1,128 calories, according to a 2013 study by the University of Toronto. When you vacation, make sure to set aside a couple of days to prepare your own simple, healthy, and quick dinners.
You Choose Nothing Over Something
“It’s too hot.” “I’m tired.” “I deserve a break.” There are endless excuses you can come up with on vacation to support your indulgences and stray from your exercise routine. While a packed schedule, a smaller hotel gym, or no gym at all might mean you can’t do your usual hour-long workout, that doesn’t mean you should do nothing instead. Something is always better than nothing, even if it’s just a 20-minute ab and pushup routine in your room or a long walk on the beach.
You Eat Dinner Late
From activities like sightseeing, shopping, playing on the beach, to trying to get everyone ready for dinner in only a single hotel bathroom, to a long cocktail hour, the only time you may be able to fit in dinner on vacation might be very late in the evening—not great for your waistline. When you eat a large meal before bed, your body is working to digest it long into the night. If your body is still worked up, so are you. The later you fall asleep, the less rest you’ll get, and you’ll wake up feeling groggy and more likely to reach for calorie-dense items like these unhealthy breakfast foods.
You Don’t Build Your Vacation Around Activity
Yes, you could travel to the Caribbean islands or go to a spa, but the heart of these trips is lounging, stagnant relaxation. We know that de-stressing is an important aspect of keeping weight off, but another important factor is movement and activity. To ensure that you’re continuing your active lifestyle, plan vacations around fitness. Travel on a yoga retreat, go on a skiing trip, or plan a week-long hike along a mountain trail. You can even pick a 5K race abroad or in a different state so you can take a vacation and give yourself a fitness goal.
You Don’t Plan Activities
So you decided to go on a non-fitness-related vacation. Fine by us! But just because you aren’t on a mountain biking tour or hitting the slopes doesn’t mean your vacation should lack adventure—especially if your hotel doesn’t come equipped with a gym. Go sightrunning, scuba diving, play golf, play basketball, swim, kayak, ride bikes, walk along the beach, go sledding, rock climbing. Planning something for you and your family to do will give everyone a chance to be active, bond over a joint activity and most will allow you to explore the area—lounging poolside won’t.
You Load Up on Free Food
Just because the breakfast bar and lounge snacks are free doesn’t mean you won’t pay for them. According to one survey, 60 percent of travelers admitted to sneaking food from the hotel breakfast bar. If that’s the case, we hope you’re grabbing a piece of fruit instead of processed cereal, cheese danish, or instant oatmeal packet. All these breakfast buffet items are packed with waist-widening, diabetes-inducing, blood-pressure-raising sugar.
You Wear Uncomfortable Shoes
There’s a reason the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts’ motto is “Be Prepared.” Say you’re shopping in town and end up running into a local who tells you about this great landmark a mile down the road. If you threw on a pair of flip-flops when you ran out the door, odds are you’re not going to take his advice and mosey over there spontaneously. Immediately you’ve lost the opportunity to get in an extra two-mile walk. And if you do end up going—and get blisters—you could be out of commission for a day or so. If you’re leaving the hotel to walk around, make sure you’re wearing comfortable shoes.
You Don’t Splurge on Food
Vacations can cost a lot of money, especially when you’re paying for your entire family. But when you choose what to nickel-and-dime, don’t make it your food. While fast food restaurants are conveniently cheap, it’s not worth the additional pounds brought on by burgers and fries. Not only will you save yourself some calories, but you’ll also save some guilt when you spend a little extra on food. According to researchers from Cornell University, restaurant goers who pay more at restaurant buffets think the food is tastier than the same food offered at a lower cost. And those customers who paid for the cheaper buffet were more likely to report they felt guiltier about eating the meal.