What a Health Blogger Eats on Vacation
When it comes to social media, I believe that most influencer accounts lack a level of honesty that is necessary to provide real impact. Especially in the world of health blogging, I know that it can feel overwhelming or even unappealing to watch someone like me eat well and hit the gym with consistency if you’re just trying to keep your head above water. You might scroll through your feed and assume that every meal I eat is perfectly balanced, expertly prepared with the cleanest ingredients, and consumed with thoughtfulness. In fact, you may have clicked on this post because you want me to tell you the perfect way to be when you travel; how to trek across the globe while limiting weight gain, bloating, and a sugar-coma.
Spoiler alert: I’m not going to tell you that.
I believe that you can eat a healthy diet while you travel. It’s a truth that I know from experience, but today, I’m going to present you with an alternative perspective, one that you might find a little bit surprising if you’ve built your opinion of me from the standpoint that “healthy people” are unicorns who don’t give in to indulgent behavior.
When you see me post on Instagram, you see the things I cook, consume, and do on a daily basis. I eat a majority paleo/Whole30/plant-based diet, and I work out 6-7 times per week. It isn’t unusual for me to go long stretches without consuming alcohol and refined sugar of any kind. Often when I go on trips for work or play, I adhere closely to this lifestyle because it’s one that I love and wholeheartedly believe in. Yes, there are more treats and drinks sprinkled in, but they are in moderation, covered by a healthy dose of gym dates and green veggies. After all, I am of the mindset that food is medicine, and it is crucial that we take care of our bodies in order to be our strongest selves. I feel and perform my best when living this way.
Today, I’m writing this post from the Cancún airport, where my belly is full of french fries and M&Ms from our last-minute snacks before we board. This vacation is the first real trip we’ve taken in 3.5 years that hasn’t been centered around work, family, or someone’s wedding, outside of a few ski weekends here and there. My focus going into this trip was nothing beyond relaxation and quality time. Ross and I spent the week at an all-inclusive resort with our best friends, and we’ve talked for years about how much we would love to do this trip together, since the group of us is a little bit food obsessed.
My health and fitness on this trip looked nothing like my normal routine. It looked like two 30-minute workouts in the last week with a lot of laying down on beach chairs in between. It looked like big breakfasts followed by boozy lunches with mimosas that were mostly champagne. At dinner, we bounced from restaurant to restaurant until we were stuffed with appetizers and berry sorbet, and then we’d fall asleep early, wake up, and repeat. In case you’re wondering, there is absolutely no way I can spin that diet into something remotely healthy. I also wouldn’t change a single thing, least of all the food I put into my body during the past week. While that might be the opposite lifestyle of what I preach on a daily basis, it’s not at all contradictory to what I believe about health as a whole.
The words “food freedom” are prevalent in the wellness world, and that phrase implies a mindset of balance, one where we strive to prioritize our health in a way that is both nutritious and sustainable. The tricky thing about food freedom is that you have to know yourself really well to know what is actual freedom and what is an excuse to mistreat your body, break your goals, and chalk it up as “balance” to give yourself a free pass. It’s a process, and I want to be brutally honest with you in this post so that you understand my message.
I don’t believe that every trip requires this level of splurging, but when I’m in vacation mode, it is more important to me to care for my emotional health than my physical health. I’m less concerned with my overly full belly and more in tune with my needs that get neglected on a regular basis.
My mentality to “eat whatever I want” on vacation might be different than yours because my usual priorities of healthy and fitness might be different than yours. So if I don’t want a treat because I’m full, satisfied, or disinterested, I pass. Rest doesn’t come from saying yes to everything; it comes from saying yes to the right things. So, if the only reason to say no to something I genuinely want on a vacation is because I’m worried about how my stomach will look in a bikini, I tune that out. I spent far too many yes moments in my youth hiding behind my no’s, just to discover that restrictiveness in the name of health is, in fact, not healthy at all.
You see, I have taken a vast amount of trips in the past decade, and I have rarely (read: basically never) missed an opportunity to exercise. That’s mostly because I love working out and running around new areas to see the sights, but at one point, it was because I was too terrified to not exercise. I spent years stressing about all the “bad food” I would consume while traveling and created plans in my head of exactly how to work it off when I returned. I know I’m not alone in this struggle, but far too many people don’t talk about it, and omission has an isolating effect.
People tell me all the time that I am the most self-disciplined person they know, and they (usually) mean it as a compliment. But I am all too familiar with the dark sides of self-control, and those are what I’ve tried to spend the last few years undoing. While I write you this post to give you my truth, I also know that it’s going to hit home the most with people who think like me.
If you struggle with self-control, especially in the areas of food and fitness, then I don’t hesitate to tell you that your food freedom is going to include the word no a lot more than is comfortable. If it doesn’t, you’re not living in food freedom; you’re probably saying yes to everything all the time and justifying it. No is unnatural to you, which is why you need to practice saying it like the muscle it is. But if you’re like me, and control is your co-pilot, then saying a very liberating yes to vacation, rest, and a world without a rulebook is exactly the medicine your soul needs.
Freedom is living in tune with both what you need and what you want and discerning which one your season is calling for. If you compare yourself to people like me, who seem to make the “right” health choices all the time, I hope this post provides perspective and a prompt to think about what freedom looks like in your own life. If you’re someone like me, I pray that it gives you grace to say the right yesses without the guilt that too easily follows. I hope that you can get to a place where food isn’t a stressor but a joy and vacation isn’t something you need to undo.