Avoid Vacation Weight Gain: 5 Steps to a Happy & Healthy Vacation

If you’re going to avoid vacation weight gain, there are a few things to keep in mind. Most people view a diet as an On or Off affair, and often, when it comes to vacations, off comes out ahead. Diets don’t work. Fortunately, you’re not on a diet. This is about taking back the power that belongs to you when you manage your weight for life

When you manage your weight:


  1. You discover and build strategies, skills, and tools to use in the variety of circumstances that make up your real life.
  2. You stay in control of your weight no matter what the circumstances
  3. You live life as if you’re already at your desired weight.

On vacation, people are often afraid because they don’t want to undo all their hard work, don’t want to separate from themselves, but believe that it will be hard or the temptations too great. But in reality, most people don’t actually gain weight on vacation. They’re generally more relaxed, more active, and if abroad, people typically don’t eat the way we do.

It’s natural to be apprehensive. This is your body and mind telling you to pay attention, reminding you that you’re vulnerable. Even under perfect circumstances, there are forces in all shapes and sizes dedicated and determined to pull you off course.

This is why you need a goal and a plan. It sounds simplistic but a vacation can throw you into complex and unfamiliar territory, or even into someplace you already know but haven’t felt in control in the past. Doesn’t it make sense to plan ahead so you enjoy yourself while giving yourself the best care, too?

What does this look like in real life?

Follow these 5 Steps and enjoy yourself while maintaining your weight, your health and your sense of humor.


  1. Set a goal – What do you want to weigh when you come back (or a few days after)? Do you want to continue to lose weight? How much? Will you be happy if your weight stays the same? Is it ok if you gain a couple of pounds? You decide what will work best for you. It’s nice to know what you want so you can move on to step 2.
  2. Make a plan – Work backwards. What would have to happen for you to reach your goal. Think about what you’ll run into, what you’ll need, and how you might handle specific situations. You have so many skills. You’ll be fine. Think things through.
  3. Self Monitor, especially for vacations over a week. This means either weighing yourself every couple of days or so, or, if no scale is available, then try on a piece of clothing that just fits every couple of days to make sure it’s not getting tighter. The reason for this is twofold. One, of course, is to notice if your weight is going up significantly so you can adjust if needed. Information allows you to indulge without going overboard. The other reason is more subtle but so much more powerful. How many times have you come home from vacation and been afraid to step on a scale? The most common thing I hear is “I must have gained 10 pounds!” Almost without exception, weight gain is 2 pounds, or maybe 3, often less. By being unwilling or afraid to weigh in, you’ve gone through your vacation time thinking you’ll be struck down for every indulgence, and missed the opportunity to enjoy those choices, knowing you’re just fine. Trust yourself. You can take care of yourself. You know what you need.
  4. Practice structured under-eating. Eat carefully before and after your vacation so you can indulge some with confidence. When eating out, consider choosing either a drink, an appetizer or sharing a dessert, rather than all 3.
  5. Remember, food is nourishment and fuel, but it’s also connection, celebration, ritual and pleasure. Divide the trip into the meals that are a special part of your experience and those you eat just because it’s time. Then take charge of the easy meals, ones not central to your experience.

The following skills are especially useful while you’re away from your routine. Always remember that you can be happy and healthy. Use your skills and creativity to adjust your routines to honor your health and well being.


  1. Basic principles – eating a serving of protein (3-5 ounces for most people) every 2-3 hours helps you stay ahead of your hunger and crowds out lesser quality calories. Sugary and starchy foods tend to make you feel hungry and are designed to make you eat more. Protein helps balance this out so you can make healthy choices, decide what you want to indulge in, enjoy it, and not get thrown off track.
  2. Environmental control is a powerful tool. Have the healthy foods handy and the unhealthy out of your environment, as much as possible. It doesn’t pay to be hard on yourself for succumbing to the temptations, but it is useful to limit your exposure as much as reasonably possible. While you may not be fully in control of your environment, there are many things you can do to get the most from this skill.
  3. Support is a powerful and often overlooked strategy and skill. So many people think that they should not bother others, that they should be able to handle it themselves. Yet, most people leave gatherings and think “why did I eat all of that?” The person who suggests adding a healthier alternative or leaving out one that is over the top is often thanked by someone who did not feel comfortable asking for this themselves. It often works just to tell your host or hostess what you’re up to and what you’d like to include (or leave out). Mostly people are glad to help out, but don’t know how to do it. Another strategy is to have a buddy. Even if you can’t control or influence the way things are, you can team up with one person and agree to support each other.
  4. Getting into correction is just another skill. This is the most important skill of all. No one goes through life eating the same way everyday. Whether you’ve indulged intentionally or just gone off the rails, just roll your eyes, brush yourself off and get back to your routine. The program that works is the one you get back to and get back to again.

Remember to party like a person who weighs what you want to weigh.


Special times require special skills:

  • Family visits present special challenges
  • Cruises
  • Reverting to childhood and the old ways
  • Family stress
  • And the opportunity to indulge in old favorites and long standing routines.


Most of the skills mentioned in this article apply. For me, being prepared mentally and physically seems to be the most helpful. When I imagine a great vacation full of love and relaxed laughter, I usually get blindsided. When I recognize there will be fulfilling parts along with the challenges, I’m likely to have a much better time and definitely take better care of myself.


These additional ideas and activities help, too.

  • Take a walk. Remember to include time for yourself or with a favorite friend or relative. It helps not to be swept up in the general activities.
  • Be gentle with yourself.


“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.”


Cruises present a particular kind of challenge and they seem to be more popular every year. At the same time, they present an opportunity to care for yourself and have a great time, too. For some reason, they have become associated with massive, constant supplies of food. How do you prepare for that? Here are some suggestions that have helped many people who, like you, want to maintain a sense of control and good health: If there are 2 seatings, ask for the early seating (this is from several cruise goers and it does seem to make a difference). Stay on track with regular protein, even having a small snack before a meal. Choose the meals that are special to indulge in and eat modestly during the other meals.


Walk a lot, laugh a lot, relax a lot. Look for more ways to be happy and healthy.


You can be Happy and Healthy,

Dr. Gail Alschuler

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