Months of preparation went into my vaca-ready body… then Vegas happened.
Here’s what I learned.
You’ve heard all about the preparation: the months of clean eating (+ tequila for full disclosure), intense workouts, and shopping for clothes that I wasn’t expecting to fit into after we returned from the city of excess. There were a couple of surprises throughout my experience – some that I was SHOCKED about – and now that we’re back, I’ve learned a lot that may help you as well.
Vacation Day #1: Airports, airplanes, and absolutely no food that matched what we were eating before
Hungry. We packed some snacks, albeit nowhere near enough, and we were stuck purchasing way over-priced almonds, beef jerky, and dried fruit. We got on the plane hungry. We landed hungry. In case you do not know this about me, it’s been said that I slightly resemble the devil when my hunger reaches unsafe levels (who me?!?). And of course, once we landed food was not the priority…tequila was! When we finally made it to dinner several hours later, I decided to take my first dabble in naughty food; since at that point, we were only in Vegas for a matter of hours, I chose something from the menu that wouldn’t destroy my stomach, so I veered clear of anything with gluten, or large amounts of dairy. Lucky for me, the insanely over-priced restaurant we were at offered corn tacos – perfect! Until they arrived and I realized they had cheese and some elicit cream over the shrimp tacos. Now remember, I was wayyy past the point of hunger and no tiny sprinkle cheese was stopping me from attacking that Mexican goodness! The next morning, I woke up and felt… FINE!
Preparation is seriously important. If I had thought ahead realistically, I would have packed several snacks for the plane ride, including a homemade salad that we could eat while traveling. And out of all that time on the plane, it would have easily taken 10 minutes to find an appropriate restaurant for the way we wanted to eat (which would have avoided the cheese and cream surprise).
Vacation Day #2: Reality strikes in the form of gluten-free pancakes
I am feeling FLY people! I ate tacos with cheese and cream and NOTHING bad happened! It’s a miracle! And now that I have some pep in my step, the breakfast ideas are endless! It’s as good a day as any to get some super yummy, exceedingly sugary pancakes (still gluten free – the gluten pain comes later). These pancakes arrive at our table and if it was possible to grow old with very perishable food…I would not have returned with Paul 🙂 The first bite was, to put it simply, orgasmic. I was in the clouds of powdered sugar and syrup and nothing was slowing me down! The second bite: significantly less yummy. I really started to notice just how sweet the meal was; this is the first day that I had even one single granule of sugar. To say it was sweetness overload is an understatement. The third bite: no longer delicious. The yumminess diminished severely and I did the unthinkable: I put down the fork. That is, until I picked it back up and just kept right on eating because it was in front of me. After eating meat and veggies for so long, I forgot about the density of carb-filled foods. It didn’t take long for me to feel full, but it only took two hours for me to become really hungry again. Here’s the catch: my stomach hurt. Have you ever felt nauseous and hungry at the same time? No bueno. It ended up taking several hours for my stomach to feel better and to feel brave enough to tackle another meal…a smarter meal this time.
And so, we find ourselves jamming to country tunes, drinking very large margaritas, and viewing a menu of complete deliciousness. Luckily, Paul decided on the food this time and we ended up with a fairly well-balanced meal: brisket, jambalaya, and okay, maybe some sweet potato fries. Overall, not bad!
Vacation Day #3: Devil donuts
I know we always say that sugar is the enemy, but here is a real-life situation that proves that sugar really is evil: the day before, I experienced a semi-painful stomachache from the pancake situation. It lasted for hours. And somehow, even that didn’t prevent me from ordering fully-gluten donuts! Here’s the thing people: sugar begets sugar. It is addictive as hell!! Just one meal of sugary goodness had me hooked and I was more than happy to ignore yesterday’s stomachache if it meant that I could have those 4 mini donuts covered in cinnamon sugar! I did, at least, learn a little bit from my experience the day before and we ordered a big ‘ole order of homemade corned beef hash as well. These perfect little donuts arrive and I’m in love. I eat one donut and the world is a happy place. I get halfway through donut #2, and the world becomes much less happy. My body did not do well handling this alien ingredient: gluten. My demise was quick and long-lived. For the next SEVERAL hours, I was in pain. I ATE ONE AND A HALF MINI DONUTS AND I WAS IN PAIN! Now I’m pissed. I worked hard to become “vacation-ready” but that doesn’t mean that I don’t want to eat some pain-free yummy food – WTF?!
Gluten is not my friend. In all honesty, dairy isn’t much of a friend either, but I can put up with a little stomachache if it means that I can have cheese once in a while.
Vacation Day #4: Me + Ben & Jerry’s = Love
It had to happen. We live close to Lugia’s and every time I passed it prior to leaving, I committed to eating ice cream. And because I made a commitment to myself, I wasn’t letting ANYTHING stand in my way! Since I had cheese and cream as part of my tacos the first night, I knew my stomach could handle at least a little dairy, but two scoops of regular ice cream seemed excessive and dangerous; so, I got a big scoop of dairy-free ice cream and a big scoop of regular dairy-filled ice cream for good measure! Again, the sugar overload was intense. But dreamy. Similar to the pancakes, however, the yumminess factor diminished quickly…not that that stopped me from finishing every last morsel of cookie dough goodness! Afterwards, my stomach was okay but I was a little grossed out: Why did I force myself to finish all of it? Now don’t get me wrong: I am an eating champ. I can put down some serious food for me size and I don’t often feel even a morsel of guilt because of it. But forcing myself to finish food that was supposed to be enjoyable? That’s just stupid.
Next time, I’ll start with a single scoop. From our hotel room, we had about 4 ice cream shops within a quarter of a mile; if I got through that first scoop and still wanted more, I could have easily got some! But after purchasing two scoops, I wasn’t going to let it go to waste!
Post-Vacation Day #1: Healthy food please!
This is the part that I was expecting – AT ALL!
Like some of you know firsthand, it’s easy to have a black and white mindset when it comes to healthy eating: if I’m eating ONLY healthy foods, I’m doing it right; if I’m eating ANY unhealthy foods, I’m doing it wrong. This is a scary mindset to become trapped in, and the absolutes do not allow room for improvement; you’re either winning, or you suck. Now it’s time for a confession: I knew that there was a chance that post-vacation I would be stuck within that mentality: months of clean eating, a few days of guilt-free vacation-eating, but then what? I assumed that I would want cheeseburgers and pizza and cheesecake after consuming so much sugar, and I was preparing myself for the patience I would need to go easy on myself when those cravings strike. But that didn’t happen! Instead, I was craving healthy, high-quality, home-cooked meals. I wanted REAL food that wasn’t dressed up to be extra delicious and to void any of the health-benefits of the food in its natural form. And once I ate a normal pre-vacation meal, I felt GREAT! My body was still way off balance after so many nights of staying up late, drinking margaritas, and eating food that my body was not prepared for, but I could tell that the normal, high-quality meal was helping me. And just like my sugar experience, after eating one normal meal, I wanted another!
Now don’t get me wrong: I often wake up on Sunday mornings talking about French toast and pizza. My negative food experiences don’t cause cravings to magically disappear, but they do provide hard evidence to consider when deciding if that craving is something that I truly want. I am pretty confident that gluten-free pasta and garlic bread are in my future, and I’m okay with that. Especially now that I’ve learned how much better my body and brain work after eating high-quality food, I can be much more responsible in timing the not-so-healthy meals. My biggest lesson in this whole nutrition puzzle is to listen to both my body and my brain. If my brain tells me that I want something yummy and my body feels good and balanced, it’s a go! If my brain tells me that I want apple pie, however, and my stomach and head already feel slightly off, it’s not a great idea.
It’s important to remember that the food you eat plays a large role in how you think and feel. If you are constantly forcing yourself to commit to a certain way of eating, then going back on that commitment, you are not building a trusting food-relationship with yourself. That’s also a clue that the commitments you’re trying to make may not be the most effective path. If you find yourself in this position, ask yourself: Are you trying to comply to unrealistic guidelines and expectations? If so, return to our Summer Shred work and focus on ONE part of your diet that you want to improve. Really focus on that one specific thing and you will succeed.
Building a healthy relationship with food is a constant work in progress for most of us. As our lifestyles or even our moods change, our relationship with the food we eat changes as well. This is a process that requires patience from YOU!
I love you all, but you people are not patient with yourselves
Especially with nutrition. I can confidently say that I did not make any food mistakes while on vacation because I actually learned useful stuff through even the painful experiences. If you’re having trouble getting your mind and body on the same page, or if you need a little guidance in choosing a habit that will give you the biggest bang for your buck, I’m here for you! I hate to break it you guys, but you will probably need nutrition help at one point or another – I know this because I have and will again need nutrition help. If our relationship with food was void of all emotions, we’d likely all walk around in bikinis and speedos all day long. But understanding that eating can be emotional is a first step in improving that relationship; it becomes more about observing and learning than about forcing yourself to live up to unrealistic expectations that make it easy to fall short.
Remember, food is your friend