Nov. 3. 2017
Written By:
McKel (Hill) Kooienga
McKel Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

McKel Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

Founder of Nutrition Stripped® and the Mindful Nutrition Method™

Post-bodyboarding in the ocean!

Food is one of many pleasures on vacation, but so is rest, and straying from your routine. Where do health and wellness fit on this spectrum of “vacation mode”?

One of the most frequent panic points my clients have is surrounding vacation, travel, and how to stay on track after all the hard work they’ve done in making changes to their lifestyle. First things first, you can enjoy a vacation while staying healthy, I promise. Maintaining your health routine while on vacation isn’t just about food, eating out, picking the best options; it’s about de-stressing, having fun, exploring, soaking up nature, and spending quality time with loved ones or solo.

A few weeks ago I took some much needed time off work, off my phone, social media, the inbox, and all things that were starting to feel a bit like obligation versus coming from a place of joy. As I’m writing this, it’s been a week or so back at the office, and I feel completely reset and inspired to share some tips that keep my mind, body, and spirit happy and healthy while on vacation. I want to move past the conversation of food for a minute and focus on something else that nourishes us: our general wellbeing and mental/emotional/spiritual happiness that comes along with a good vacation.

Statistically, taking vacation is good for you. This article points out that people who take vacations see greater success at work, and more happiness at work and home and this article backs up four science-based reasons why we all need to take that OOO time.

Convinced yet? Great!  Here are a couple of my personal tips to explore:

Release “shoulds” from conversations with yourself.

These are just a few statements I’ve worked clients through releasing. And I get it, because I’ve told myself similar statements. I challenge you to ask yourself what are the “shoulds” you tell yourself when you’re prepping for, or are on vacation? How can you give yourself a lot more love and little more wiggle room to enjoy? Keep in mind and stay present about the foundation that you’ve built throughout each move and decision.

  • “I should still wake up at 6 am to hit the gym” | alternative action: “I’m going to sleep in and get some movement after I wake up, and during the day exploring the city, walking, etc.” Do what feels good!
  • “I should have the same breakfast, lunch, and dinner or as close as I possibly can” | alternative action: “I’m going to chose nutrient-dense options, but not deprive myself of things I truly enjoy. I’ll check in with myself about my hunger, how I’m feeling, and how I truly want to feel afterward.”
  • “I should just focus on family time rather than me time on vacation” | alternative action: “I’m going to show up for myself, even if that’s a 5-minute meditation first thing in the morning, so I can enjoy my family/company as much as I can!”
  • “I should have everything planned out to really enjoy myself” | alternative action: “I’m going to have a few things in mind that I want to do, but also take a step back and go with the flow to allow for new adventures and unexpected memories to be made.”

Find your go-to health-focused spots. 

This is a given. If you can find some comfort in knowing you have a couple go-to places that you can grab nutrient-dense foods, make that your spot to check in daily! While at the beach, we found this little health food shop that was about a 10-minute walk from where we stayed and we filled up on juice, smoothies, salads, and veggie sides to bring back to the beach. This is just one example of how to still stick to your foundation while still being flexible and choosing options that make you feel good. Drink lots of water, eating veggies (fiber!), healthy fats, fresh fruit, and protein, always make me feel good! You’ll be out of your normal routine, so prioritize getting anything that can help you stay on track, whether that’s in terms of your digestion, energy and rest, or simply staying hydrated.

Here are a couple resources for keeping your digestion healthy while traveling here and while you’re flying.

Indulge and be okay with it.

I indulge all the time! In the context of my day/week/life, it’s a small percentage compared to what I call my normal. For the sake of content, I’ll use the word indulge, but I very rarely give my indulgences the credit of labeling them rather just say I’m living – and enjoying it. So, what does this look like for me on vacation? Well, it looked like the best french fries ordered via room service after a day filled with swimming and laughter with family, it looked like more deep breathing throughout my day and feeling calm, it looked like staying up late while having deep, philosophical conversations with my boyfriend, it looked like having champagne while soaking up the sun, then swimming in the ocean (I had a float, and I was a lifeguard for four years and I swim weekly- safety is key!), it looked like sleeping in a couple extra hours outside my norm, it looked like reading a book every day, and so on. You’ll see, indulgences don’t have to be food related, they’re just things that are outside of your normal — as much as I’m a creature of routine, it’s okay to dip out of it.

When all was said and done, I felt amazing on vacation. Which is exactly what it’s all about.

I want to hear from you, what are some ways you can incorporate this thinking towards your next vacation? Do you have a tool or strategy you like to use that keeps you feeling good? Share below, if not for my own curiosities, share it for the entire community reading this, they may need to hear what you have to say right now!

xx McKel