So here it is, one of the biggest struggles for anyone attempting to lose weight, gain muscle or achieve any body re-composition based goal.
A social life!
In no way, shape or form do I believe you should give this up. Why? Because you only live once…. “Yolo!” (Sorry, had to do it…)
Should you find a dietary approach that works to accomplish your goals? Absolutely and I believe you should stick to it religiously if that’s what is needed to accomplish your goals.
Happiness is overall the most important factor in life, in my personal opinion. Most people have a set body or strength goal they are striving for because it will make them happy. To accomplish this goal and achieve this happiness, nutrition is most definitely needed.
But lets face it, you can only go so long carrying tuba wears of chicken and broccoli around and skipping out on drinking with your friends before you either break and binge eat/drink yourself 10lbs heavier. Or until you snap and turn into a crazy person who nobody wants to hangout with anyway, which will therefore take away the opportunity to have a social life.
So how can we accomplish a social life, while maintaining or achieving our physique or body composition goals?
Simple, Flexible Dieting.
This approach I will be talking about today is simply for a vacation or temporary time period, not to be your overall long-term diet. That doesn’t mean I don’t believe your diet cant be flexible, its just not what I will be describing in todays article.
What I will be talking about today is what I like to refer to as a “Dietary Break”.
This is where you take a weekend to a week off from your diet, do not binge, maintain your weight and enjoy yourself all at the same time.
So for the sake of this article and the amazing trip I am currently on my way too (literally… I am on the plane flying to Hawaii as I type this), I will be the example.
I will be going to Kauai, HI for 6 full days and I will be using a flexible dieting approach to take a nearly week long dietary break from my typical strict macro approach.
In my current situation (which wont always be the case while on vacation) I will be staying in a condo with a kitchen and there is a grocery store near by.
So the first goal of my trip:
Cook 75% of my meals
This will save me from binging, cheating to often and over-eating at any restaurant. Kirsten and I will be going to the store to pick up groceries first thing when we arrive on the island (really nice having a girlfriend who wants to eat clean like my crazy ass while on vacation).
We will pretty much stalk up on the same types of foods we currently eat, this way we can ensure a high protein, high fiber diet with lots of micronutrient dense foods.
But we both know that we will, without a doubt, be dining out quite a bit on this trip. So there are rules to flexible dieting that we will be following, as listed below.
- Lean Protein, at a high quantity at each meal. This is important for many reasons and is the number one rule for a reason as well. This will ensure we are maintaining lean muscle tissue, will keep our insulin at a healthy level, will help avoid any insulin resistance, and protein has been shown to keep our bodies satisfied/full at a lower calorie limit.
- High Fiber Meals as often as possible. This is also HUGE for traveling. Fiber will help us stay full longer and help us digest properly as well. This will ensure that we are eating less or over-eating less often and will also make sure we don’t get stomach problems while on the road. On top of that, high fiber foods are typically whole and nutrient dense as well.
- Frequent Small Meals throughout the day. I am huge on this, even when I am home. Now I could write pages on this just on the fact that so many studies coming out say, “It doesn’t matter”. Which is true, scientifically. You can lose the exact same amount of weight on 3 meals as you can on 6 meals a day. But 6 smaller meals per day will keep you fuller and more satisfied throughout the course of your day… Studies to prove this? Nope, just opinion and experience with clients. So take it or leave it. It also has been shown that larger meals can stretch the stomach lining overtime, allowing us to eat more without getting full. So if you make a habit of eating frequent smaller meals, your stomach may not be as stretched out and you will get full quicker resulting in less over-eating or binging.
- Moderate Fat Intake, at each meal. Fat is an extremely important nutrient to have in your diet and I believe at the least it should be 20% of calories and upwards to 35%. BUT fat can rack up your calories easily and quickly, so eat a small-moderate amount per meal. Stay away from nuts because they are too easy to over-eat. Best option is oil with your salad, fish for the natural animal fats, or if ordering a dish the small amount of nuts/avocado that may come along with it.
- Eat Nutrient Dense Foods. This is simply needed for the necessary micronutrients that come a long with it. People go on vacation and eat junk the entire time and not only do they most likely gain some weight, but their body is unhealthy from the process because they are missing specific nutrients that are needed for overall health.
- Monitor Carbs Closely. This doesn’t mean I wont be eating carbs, it means I will be watching and planning. If I know I will be going to a dinner that I will have some bread or drinks at, my days meals will be low carb and the carbs they will contain will be high fiber fruits and vegetables. Bread will be eaten on just about every vacation, but remember that they don’t have a great insulin response, they can rack up calories quick and need to be eaten in smaller amounts to avoid excess fat gain. If I can get a hold of a baked sweet potato with nothing but Mrs. Dash sprinkled on it at dinner… I’ll be getting it! But most likely the carbohydrate options will be sourdough bread with butter to start your table with or pasta covered in sauces.
- Whole Fruits. This is directly related to the rule above, but still wanted to point out that this will be my main source of carbs and there are a few rules to go along with it. This will mean whole natural fruit with the skin. Why? Because first of all fruit is high fiber, especially with the skin still attached. Secondly because your other options are stripped of the importance that fruits may have. Canned fruit has tons of added sugars and is refined/processed, which can remove nutrients and add a ton of bad calories to the mix. The delicious dried fruit you can also buy, well that is drained of all the water. And when the water is taken, so are the fiber and the bulk of the fruit. Therefore you wont get the adequate fiber, like we discussed above, and you also wont have the bulk of the fruit that fills you up! So you’re much more likely to overeat it. On top of it all, majority of dried fruit is “candied” A.K.A. covered in sugar.
- Drinking. Will you be drinking on your vacation or dietary break? Most likely and to be honest, I recommend you too! This will give you a REAL break from your diet and let you live a bit. If you’ve been dieting pretty well for a while now, this step should be easy. Don’t over drink shitty and sugary alcohol (if you’ve been dieting you’ll get drunk quick, so should be easy). My recommendation is to lower your calories and carbs the days you drink to ensure yourself not spilling over your overall caloric intake, to stick with clear hard alcohol beverages with zero calories chasers/mixers, and to make sure to stay away from the drunken munchies! Nobody ever eats oats with strawberries while drunk… they eat pizza or street tacos.
- Exercise. If you’re in a hotel it’s easier than most other situations, but if you have the opportunity to exercise… do it! This will make your flexible dieting much more effective and to maintain your weight a lot easier. In my situation, its sand sprints and body weight training in the sun!
- Last but not least, Do Not Over-Eat! This is the last rule but may very well be the most important rule… or just the hardest rule to accomplish. It is very important to avoid over-eating, as this is how people gain fat/weight while traveling. There are many treats and decadents while you are traveling and the key is to taste them, eat in moderation and to plan around them when you know they are coming. But if you follow all the steps I have explained above and always remember that food is truly just fuel, you can avoid this and be successful in your diet.
Now remember, these rules above are for maintaining your current weight and body composition. This is not a diet I am prescribing you to lose more weight or get better results. This is simply for me to help YOU achieve your goal of NOT gaining weight while enjoying yourself while on a vacation.
As for me, I am going to enjoy every single bit of this Hawaiian trip by eating well while following the guidelines above.
Will I have a couple cheat meals? Of course!
Will I partake in some drinking? I don’t even need to answer this, you should already know!
But I will come back home to my typical diet. This may be more important than anything and if you aren’t 100% successful on a clean flexible vacation diet, don’t give up or let it all continue to be bad! Get right back to your normal diet and earn the physique you desire!
Best part of it all is not regretting any food you ate or weight you’ve gained, because you enjoyed yourself and maintained your weight while traveling.
Happiness can be achieved regardless of your situation; you just need to know how to find it.
A wise man once told me, “The obstacle is the way”.
In other words, don’t take detours or try to find ways around what’s in front of you… it’s there for a reason and will only make you grow stronger.