Can a Vacation Help You Lose Weight?

What do you think would happen if your days were filled with BBQ pizza, diet soda, and chocolate chip cookie dough? You don’t need a PhD in nutrition to guess that your jeans would be fitting a little snugger. You wouldn’t think that someone could eat like that on a week-long vacation and actually end up weighing less, do you?

But that’s exactly what happened earlier this June, as my wife and I traveled to the upper part of Michigan for some R and R. I have a simple rule for my personal training clients who go on vacation: have fun. I have to follow that rule myself. So for our week off, we ate a lot of ice cream and did a lot of sitting. The sitting took all forms – on a boat, on a dock – but my activity was limited to playing with the dog and digging for more cookie dough in my ice cream. The only time I broke a sweat was sunbathing.

So with no working out and a garbage diet, I managed to come back from vacation one pound lower then when I left. My wife was half a pound down. Nothing to set the world on fire, but some see the scale go in the opposite direction when they go on vacation. Let’s explore why that it is.

My disclaimer though is that this is not a weight loss protocol. Going on vacation is not the secret to a hard body. It’s not like vsitng Disney and Mickey Mouse will make you do some squats to earn that hug. Consider this what to do before going out of town. As you’ll see, the more you’re on point prior to the vacation, the less you have to worry about gaining weight.

Here’s what I contribute to the weight loss:

  1. Supercompensation: When you workout, you’re actually breaking your body down. It’s not till you eat right and sleep good that the body adapts. In training circles, supercompensation is the rebound from weeks of hard training. Athletes will take a week off after a grueling training schedule, and this allows the body to get stronger. In my case, I had been stressing my body with heavy deadlifts and 200 meter sprints. I was working out 4 days a week along with practicing jiu-jitsu and Muay Thai. This week off allowed my body to supercharge its testosterone levels. Because of that, fat burning may have been elevated.
  2. Omega 3 Fats– Prior to the vacation, I had increased my flaxseed oil. As some may know, Omega-3 fats are essential to a healthy insulin profile. When you have a high level of insulin sensitivity, the body does a better job of storing food where it should go rather than piling everything onto your waistline.
  3. Lack of Cheats- Before going on vacation I limited myself to two cheat meals a week (minus the day of my wedding anniversary). I knew time up north meant being off point, so I stayed on point while I was at home.
  4. Vegetables. While this was a vacation, I still ate somewhat “smart.” Each meal was coupled with a vegetable – so sliders were paired with broccoli. I also ate spinach, tomatoes, and celery in between the junk. Vegetables can provide some fiber, allowing you to feel fuller through the day. So chances are my junk food intake wasn’t as high as my eyes led me to believe.
  5. Sleep – Plain and simple, I was sleeping more. In fact, I didn’t use an alarm clock once while on vacation. I actually woke up one day at 9:30 am – unheard of for a business owner with an infant. Deep, restful sleep helps establish healthy growth hormone (GH) levels. GH helps the body build muscle and burn fat. If you want deep sleep, then go up north. You don’t hear a thing the whole night and it’s pitch black outside.
  6. Low Stress- I didn’t really have anything to do. No deadlines. No traffic jams to suffer through. No family drama. Stress triggers adrenaline, which can then elevate stress hormones and take the body out of a steady fat burning state.

In my opinion, 1-3 are the most responsible, with 4 and 5 being a help too. I don’t think the stress issue was such a factor. Stress does contribute to weight gain, but I think it’s more of a chronic issue for those who have poor stress management issues.

So can a vacation help you lose weight? I think so. As long as you do what’s necessary before you leave.

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