Most of us work hard during the week to maintain or lose weight, however, we often undo all our efforts during weekends and vacations, leaving us feeling like we’re back at square one. If this is a familiar story to you, listen closely because I’m giving you the mindset tools and strategic shifts you can start implementing right now, so you never undo your hard work ever again.
Whether you have every minute of your summer planned out, or you’re playing the whole vacation by ear, relaxing and creating pleasure is an essential goal. Before we even reach the beach, set foot in Disneyworld, or get to the family reunion, we have a set of thoughts about how we’re going to spend our time off. We want pleasure, connection, and relaxation, but are we trying to achieve it in the right way?
Tune in this week as I walk you through your current mindset around vacations, the three reasons so many of us overeat during our time off, and the powerful pivots that you can start making right now to still achieve plentiful pleasure, connection, and relaxation while honoring your weight goals at the same time.
Priyanka: [00:00:00] Hey, I'm Dr. Priyanka Venugopal and you're listening to Weight Loss for Unstoppable Moms Episode Lucky 13: The Vacation Weight Gain.
This episode is all about losing and gaining weight on vacations, weekends, and holidays. Most of us work during the week to maintain or lose weight, but often undo the work over weekends and vacations. This episode is going to share some mindset tools, and strategies that you can start implementing right now so you stop undoing the work that you're doing during the week.
If you want to reach your ideal weight and create lightness for your body, you need to have simplicity, joy, and strategic decisions infused into your life. I'm a physician turned life and weight loss coach for ambitious working moms. I've lost over 60 pounds without counting points, calories or crazy exercise plans. Most importantly, I feel calm and light on the scale and did my life. There's some delicious magic when you learn this work and the skills I'm going to [00:01:00] be teaching you.
Let's get to it.
Welcome back, Unstoppable friends. I am recording this episode on the very last day of school for my kids, so it felt like the perfect time to talk about vacations. Summer vacations and holidays and weekend barbecues.
Now my summer plans are totally up in the air. There are some things that we like to plan in advance for sure, but I would say for most of our vacations and trips, my husband and I have been fairly spontaneous, especially before the kids. We'd see a few days off and last minute, just on a whim, we'd pack up and go. Now, this is not really even me, because as you all know, I'm a planner. I love to look at the calendar a year in advance and to color code my life, looking at all the long weekends and the vacations and basically calendar in the fun.
So the spontaneity thing it's, I would say, an influence of my husband. If I had to describe my husband [00:02:00] and I, I would say that we are the opposite of each other in every single way. And I used to think of this as a problem in certain situations, but I've really gotten to see how being opposites is actually exactly what we both need. And somehow we manage to come together on the same page for things that really deeply matter to both of us. Anyways, his vacation spontaneity has totally rubbed off on me and this summer, our vacation plants are totally up in the air.
We have a couple of tentative plants up in the air and I noticed myself worrying, little worry brain coming up... like I wanna plan things-- and he's like, "listen, we always figure it out."
This is, this is how our summer's going so far. Nothing really planned, but kind of something's planned. How about you? What are you all the summer? Do you guys have things planned?
Whether you have your whole entire summer and every weekend calendared out, or you're playing the whole entire vacation by ear, vacation and eating and enjoying and [00:03:00] relaxing and creating pleasure is a central part of how we think many of us think about our summer vacations. And so much of our summers, weekends and vacations are centered around food.
This episode is going to take you through the vacation mindset that you have right now. And then we'll talk about the powerful pivots that you can make right now to still have relaxation, connection and pleasure in plentiful while honoring your dream goals at the same time.
So let's just start with talking about your current vacation mindset. Just think about this: even before you step into the car or on that long plane ride or the sailboat... before you ever even step onto the beach, visit Disney world, or enter that new and interesting city... before you ever get to the family of reunion or start your girl's weekend getaway.
You have a set of thoughts around your time off.
Just the idea of vacation brings these thoughts up for you. We want [00:04:00] to maximize pleasure, connection and relaxation. I might refer to pleasure connection and relaxation in this episode as PCR, only because all three words is quite a mouthful.
We have so many thoughts when it comes to thinking about our time off.
I can't wait for vacation.
I finally get to relax.
This is the time to really have fun and connect with my family.
Oh, this is my break from work.
It's been such a busy year month.
Our family deserves a break.
This vacation is going to be it.
Can you get a sense for what this vacation mindset creates for you at an emotional level?
The thing is this kind of vacation mindset comes from trying to solve for a lack of pleasure, connection and relaxation in your day to day life. Now it might be true that in your day to day life, because you haven't truly been aware of your thoughts and beliefs around your work and time that you might feel a lack [00:05:00] of pleasure, connection and relaxation day to day.
We're spending most of our days and weeks really focused. We're making millions of little decisions to say yes and no to things. And honestly, those full tanks on Monday morning might feel depleted by Friday evening. This is normal. It's even normal that your willpower reserves are lower in the evenings and on weekends because you've been using it all day and all week.
But what we're talking about here on this podcast and threaded throughout every episode is that we want to learn how to make decisions and follow through without needing to lean so much on willpower.
It's why mindset is such an important piece. So when your vacation mindset is focusing on trying to solve for your lack of pleasure yesterday, naturally, it makes a lot of sense that you try to store and hoard pleasure today and tomorrow.
So these set of thoughts that you have around your vacation or your time off is your [00:06:00] starting point... and they sound so good, right?
So true. I know it's me too. Up until this episode, you've likely used snacks and treats and maybe alcohol as your fastest vehicle to create PCR. But listen, you've also gone on those trips, sat on the most luxurious beach or been in a new city chips and wine in hand, not feeling pleasure, connected or relaxed.
I still remember sitting on a beach years and years ago, looking at beautiful blue water, my toes in the white sand stewing about something my husband had said. I can't even remember what it was. I was thinking about my inbox at work and worrying about how I would be going back to real life in just a few days. Literally sitting on the beach, stewing and worrying, thinking that maybe if I add an extra margarita and French fries, then I'll be able to relax.
Of course, I've repeated this most of my vacations, day after day, focusing on the snacks, the treats and the [00:07:00] margaritas to be my fast vehicle to create pleasure, connection and relaxation. Only to come back at the end of the week, Monday morning, feeling heavier and then wondering, Ugh, I just came back from vacation, why am I feeling this fatigue? I need a vacation from my vacation.
And to make that feeling worse, I had gained weight over the vacation that I had to work now to lose. And even worse than that is the twinge of regret I would experience thinking back on some of the decisions I had made.
Right? Come on, I think we've all done this. But just the fact that we can be on that luxurious beach or visiting the most beautiful city and still be stewing in annoyance or worry or stress just proves that vacation itself doesn't create your pleasure, connection and relaxation.
Your vacation is just the pretty scenery that you prefer.
Let me repeat that again. Your vacation is just your scenery and your [00:08:00] thoughts are what's creating your experience of it. Your vacation cannot actually solve for yesterday's lack of pleasure, connection and relaxation, but we're so used to thinking about yesterday's lack of pleasure and tomorrow's work stresses that we stay completely out of touch with our present.
And because we're so out of touch with our present, we end up overeating, over drinking and over consuming.
Let me pivot to the second problem that we have. Think about how much of your vacations, weekends, and holidays revolve around food. I'm sharing from my personal experience, but we would wake up on vacation and the very first question would be "what are we doing for breakfast?"
And then after enjoying the breakfast buffet, we'd wonder: "so what are we doing for lunch?" And then "what are our dinner plans?"
I mean, we would've just finished breakfast and we're already thinking and planning the next meal. And here's the thing, you know, those places that have breakfast included? I'm laughing because I can think back on so many vacations where [00:09:00] breakfast was included, and you know, you're thinking gotta make the most of it.
You want to make the most of it.
Who knows what we're gonna find next?
Who knows when we're gonna get to lunch next?
And so you try to store food by overeating. Now, this is not just you, this is the norm and likely how you might have even been raised. I mean, I think that there's so many times that I've told my kids because I've had a thought, "I don't know when we're gonna get to lunch, store up, make sure you eat your breakfast."
And so what this does is it keeps the focal point of our days and our weekends and our vacations centered around food. And this is normal, any break from our typical working life has become seriously food focused. And when the focus is always and often on the food, the snacks and the treats, guess what your brain is not doing.
She's not learning to focus on the other things that would also create pleasure, connection and relaxation. I know for me, and this is decades old, I would even say this [00:10:00] might be a generational pattern that has existed in my family forever is to focus on meals.
Right, when breakfast is done to wonder what lunch is going to.
And when lunch is done, what are the kids going to snack on?
And when snack is done, what are we going to do for dinner?
Did we pack enough? Do we have reservations?
It's like this tizzy that goes on and on and on just teaching your brain again and again and again, that there is so much to be focused on around food.
This actually further reinforces the mistruth that food is where your pleasure connection and relaxation comes from. Very simply, it just isn't. Vacation is absolutely is a pleasant scenery that you can maximize your pleasure, connection and relaxation from which we're going to get into. But believing that your vacation or your weekends are going to make up for lost time, or yesterday's lack is going to drive you to over consume. [00:11:00] And teaching your brain that food is the main focus of weekends and vacations teaches your brain that that's the only place to actually get pleasure, connection and relaxation.
Both of these are problems that drive you to overeat.
Let me share with you the third and last piece that I find very commonly drives us to overeat when it comes to vacations and weekends.
And that is Specialness.
Specialness is going to likely get a whole podcast episode on its own at some point, but I wanted to touch on specialness because I think that that's what these moments of time off from our day to day working life feel like.
That special time off.
That special restaurant.
That's special meal, that specially baked cookie.
That one of a kind food, the special location, that special time in your life.
When we have thoughts around specialness and food, we end up giving the food, the snacks and the treats, a [00:12:00] lot of attention and significance... like a lot. And in perfect order without realizing it, you're actually directing your brain.
Your brain's like I'm on it!
Your brain will try to store specialness out of service and love to you. And this comes in the form of overeating. Now, listen, of course your weekends and time off and vacations are special, special time off that you get to have special fun, because you're working hard. This mindset makes a lot of sense. So let's just acknowledge that, thinking about our time off as special makes sense.
So now we've covered the three reasons that you overeat on vacation and on weekends. Your starting vacation mindset, wanting your vacation, the food, the snacks, and the treats to fill a lack of pleasure, connection and relaxation from yesterday.
The second was the intense focus on food, teaching your brain to not think about [00:13:00] other sources of pleasure, connection and relaxation. And then of course the last, the significance and specialness that we give to our time off prompting our brains to store extra.
Here's real talk truth: overeating never creates pleasure, connection or relaxation.
Gaining the weight, that you've been working so hard to lose, doesn't actually create pleasure, connection or relaxation.
And definitely that moment that you come back on Monday morning, feeling heavier does not create pleasure, connection and relaxation.
So just knowing that these are the three main reasons that you overeat on vacation is so valuable. And now, you know, forever. There's never going to be a mystery for why you might come back from a vacation or a weekend feeling heavier physically or mentally.
But what are we going to do about it?
I'm going to be sharing with you the steps that you can start taking today, but I [00:14:00] want to first tell you that just paying attention to these three elements, your starting mindset, how much attention and focus is being placed on food, and the thoughts you have around the specialness of food is going to take you extremely far.
There are probably many common threads just amongst these three categories, but get really specific for you.
-What are your current thoughts around your time off?
-Are you trying to fill for a lack of pleasure, connection and relaxation from yesterday?
-And how much attention and focus are you giving to food and how much specialness are you creating around it?
I'm going to list my five steps first, and then I'm going to dive into each one to get a little bit more detailed.
Step one is to set a measurable intention and make as many decisions as you can make in advance.
Step two is to decide how you want to physically feel every night.
Step three is to stay [00:15:00] present and connected.
Step four is to slow down and savor.
And step five is to let it be imperfect.
Let me start with step one: setting a measurable intention. Remember, your brain is craving direction, so don't wing this. Making a decision will streamline your whole entire vacation. And then you can just get to work in the background, creating your pleasure, connection and relaxation while honoring your simple intention.
This might be as simple as deciding that you're going to maintain your weight over your vacations and weekends. So your measurable intention might be as simple as zero pounds gained over vacation. And to be able to measure your intention while you're learning to stay connected to your hunger and satiety cues, you can bring a travel scale so you can stay connected to the intention that you choose.
Let me speak in just a little more detail around this decisions in advance. This is really pillar number [00:16:00] two, which I discussed in detail in episode six of the podcast, but I want you to think about all of the decisions that you can actually make in advance to give your brain the direction that she wants towards the goals that you have.
Let me just repeat that. I want you to think about decisions in advance as simply giving your brain the direction that she wants towards the goals that you have.
And your goals are not just weight loss goals, or weight and maintenance goals. Your goals on vacation and on the weekend might be to have a lot of fun and pleasure.
So imagine that you could zoom out and allow there to be space for both. When you make decisions in advance that you fall in love with, you are sparing yourself from in the moment, decision fatigue, and you won't need to rely on fading or low reserves of willpower in the negotiating battle that usually happens in your head on vacation.
For some people, decisions in advance might be really specific. Maybe you map out every single [00:17:00] restaurant and every single meal and beverage in advance. Try it! See how that feels for you and whether that works for you. Do you like to have that level of detail?
A different level of decision making could be just to have a general idea. Maybe you don't know every single, specific restaurant, but you know, the general cuisines and types of foods you'll be eating. You can still make decisions in advance. You can decide what types of foods you plan to eat. You can decide what types of foods you plan to not eat. You can decide how many beverages you're going to be having in a given night or over the course of the week.
You can always make a decision to pay attention to your body and decide in advance. How hungry do you want to feel and how satiated do you want to feel after every meal?
Even something simple, like actually deciding how hungry you want to be and how satiated you want to feel might seem like a almost silly, nonsensical decision to make in advance, but you would be surprised how when your brain is operating in [00:18:00] autopilot and it's being infiltrated by the three obstacles that we were talking about earlier in this episode, come up for you-- you will just blow right past your actual satiety cues, if you haven't decided in advance.
So give yourself this gift of deciding how hungry you want to be and how satiated she did you want to feel after the times that you do eat.
Another thing I want to add here is you can decide if there are actually any special foods or drinks that you do want to try. Maybe you generally don't eat flour and sugar in your day to day, but maybe there's something special that you want to have at a specific event or on vacation. Just decide in advance how much, how often, and if you zoomed out of your vacation and the weekend, and you look at all of these decisions, how does it line up with that intention of weight maintenance or weight loss?
What I think is so beautiful and brilliant about making decisions in advance is you're making them from your prefrontal cortex, that adult part of your brain that has [00:19:00] your best interest at heart... that wants for you to have pleasure, but also for you to honor your goals and your body. When you make decisions from this place, truly your giving yourself a great gift.
And then all you have to do when you come to your vacations and your weekends is to follow through.
These decisions will play into the next point, which I'm going to talk about, which is deciding in advance, how you want to feel.
The second step was deciding how you want your body to feel at the end of every day.
I love to feel comfortable and light on vacation and really always.
I think that sometimes we just take for granted that that's what we want to feel, but our brains need to be directed on this. Remember that you have these old patterns and mindset working against you. So really give your brain the gift of giving her some direction. Decide in advance how do you actually want to physically feel at the end of every day?
I know for me after many months and years of [00:20:00] experimentation, exactly what level of comfort and light I like to feel for my body. You get to decide what that feeling is for you.
Step three is to stay present and connected. Release your lack of pleasure, connection and relaxation from yesterday, release it completely. And release your thoughts about work, your pending inbox, your worries about tomorrow and just stay connected and present in this moment.
This is going to take some practice, particularly if your brain is used to thinking about yesterday and worrying about tomorrow, staying present in the moment may be challenging. Your mind might wander to yesterday and tomorrow and that is perfectly okay.
Just notice it and then bring it right back to this moment again.
Are you with your kids, your friends, your family.
Are you in a new city or on a luxurious beach?
Are you alone?
Bringing it back to this moment in time allows you to create natural and easy [00:21:00] connection in this moment. Think about all of the other senses that you have, besides just your taste buds. Connecting with your mind, connecting with sites and smells, the culture, the view, the people, your gut... taking in pleasure and connecting with all of your senses in this moment is what allows your brain to start to learn that there's other ways of creating pleasure, connection and relaxation beyond just your taste buds.
It de- emphasizes the focus and the specialness on just the food. This is teaching and training your brain to take in pleasure and create connection from so many other inputs.
The next step is to slow down and savor the experience. This is kind of an extension of staying in the moment, but I want you to think about what it would really feel like to slow down and actually savor every moment.
Imagine that you are eating at your [00:22:00] favorite meal at that very special restaurant with that very special food.
Slow down and savor every single bite.
Slow down and savor the conversations you're having.
Slow down and savor the sites and the smells.
And most importantly, slow down and savor how you are feeling.
I think that sometimes we forget to slow down and savor when we are actually feeling pleasure, relaxed and connected. It's why we keep wanting more of it. The purpose of this step is to actually teach your brain that you are in fact, getting pleasure, connection and relaxation. And our job now is to just recognize it and savor it.
The last step is to let yourself off the proverbial perfectionism hook. I'm going to be doing a whole episode on avoiding imperfection, but suffice it to say give yourself some grace.
Maybe you don't slow down. Maybe you do focus on the food. Maybe you are focusing on [00:23:00] yesterday's lack and tomorrow's worry.
And maybe you overeat.
Just catch it gently and notice it.
Give yourself permission to let it go in that moment and then give yourself permission to implement these tools at any time. What this does is it allows you to not screw the whole entire vacation.
I have gone on many trips and many vacations, and what I can share with you is these principles, time and time again, always bring me back to really reminding myself that I can create pleasure, connection and relaxation in so many other ways, other than just the food. And I've had to teach and train my brain to do this because there have been years and decades where, as I shared with you, my vacations would center around the food.
It would center around using food as a vehicle to create my pleasure and relaxation, but it left me coming back, feeling heavier in my [00:24:00] mind and in my body and worse yet it would undo all of the work that I had been doing over the week.
Having an intention gives your brain the direction that she's craving.
Having measurable inputs, like bringing a travel scale, gives your brain data.
Staying present and connected in this moment, frees you from yesterday's lack.
Slowing down and savoring every moment, every bite, every connection and every conversation is how you amplify pleasure.
And of course, allowing our humanness, letting yourself off the proverbial perfection hook is what's going to really allow you to stay the course and not throw the whole entire vacation over one overeaten meal.
Here's the other thing I wanna share about this last piece about allowing for imperfection.
I think that when we lean on perfect plans and perfect vacations and perfect kids and perfect relationships, we start to put a [00:25:00] lot of pressure on external circumstances to create a sense of control and a feeling of goodness for us.
But there are so many things that are not actually in our control.
Our kids might grumble. We might get into an argument with our partners. Maybe the travel plans don't go exactly according to plan.
Maybe flights get delayed and you hit traffic and the hotel doesn't have the exact room that you wanted.... or your food comes out cold.
I mean, I could keep going on and on around all of the circumstances in a given vacation or weekend, that could be "imperfect."
But if we allow and just know that things will be imperfect sometimes, and it's not a problem, we can release ourselves of some pressure. The beauty of implementing these principles of having direction, giving yourself an intention with measurable data and staying present in the moment, slowing down and savoring all of those moments [00:26:00] is how you get to come back on Monday morning, having fulfilled your deepest desire while also having experienced pleasure, connection and relaxation.
Go play and practice this, let it feel fun and not so serious. And remember that it is in fact, a practice. You may not get it the first time or the second time or the third time.
And so then you try again a fourth time.
Practice on your weekends, at that special neighborhood barbecue, your kids' birthday, the girls' weekend getaway, that family vacation.
Set an intention, stay present and connected on all of your senses, deemphasize the focus on just the food, slow down and savor your relationships, your surroundings, and every bite of delicious food you eat and let yourself off the hook if it isn't perfect.
I have never, ever regretted implementing these principles. Coming back from a weekend or a [00:27:00] vacation, feeling comfortable in my body... that's powerful.
The thing is that we are not static beings. We're capable of creating shifts and never gaining a pound on vacation, if that's what we choose.
But to allow ourselves to shift into that, to go on vacation and never gain a pound, doesn't start by doing more or doing less. It starts first by shifting your thinking. So you can see that the effect that your current vacation mindset might have.
How do you want to think and feel about your vacations and your time off that would drive you to slow down and savor and connect?
I'm going to leave you to ponder that question and then get to practicing its implementation.
If you're loving these weekly podcast episodes, you'll love getting a daily dose of Unstoppable over on Instagram. You can find me over on Instagram @theunstoppablemombrain.
[00:28:00] And if you didn't catch the golden goose egg from last week's episode, go take a listen to episode 12. You can still grab your coach letter, right to your inbox at theunstoppablemombrain.com/letter.
I hope you enjoy today's episode and I'll see you next week. Bye.
Thanks for listening to Weight Loss for Unstoppable Moms. It's been an honor spending this time with you and your brilliant brain. If you want more information or resources from the show, visit theunstoppablemombrain.com.