Sunday, July 8, 2012

Losing Weight on Vacation

Our intended two week vacation turned into a much shorter round than anticipated, and we ended up being gone a total of 7 days. I was actually pleased to be returning earlier than we'd thought because I knew it would allow me to get back in to my routine of working out multiple times a day and eating better. Oh, the eating! Why does everyone seem to want to feed us on vacation? Every stop we make seems to include a meal, and rarely does it include options that offer anything remotely low in calories.

What I cannot seem to figure out is that every time I go on vacation, I lose weight. It's perplexing to say the least because on most vacations, I don't work out (or, it's extremely limited), and I'm eating high sodium, high calorie items for most meals, and very seldom getting the water intake that I need, yet somehow, weight comes off. This has happened for years, regardless of how well I was eating before leaving on a trip. I've tried to factor in that there is usually a bit of walking around to touristy sorts of locations, but surely it's not burning as many calories as intense cardio/weight workouts?

If we go on the premise that in order to lose 1 pound an individual must restrict/burn 3,500 calories, I would have had to have burned 7,000 extra calories in the 7 days away in order to drop the two pounds I lost. I have to admit that I was not great about logging calories while on vacation simply because I have no idea what is in many of the foods, how they are cooked, how much oil, etc is being used, but I can take a good guess that calories are definitely more than I would normally eat, and most certainly consist of foods that I consider to be once-in-a-great-while type of items. When I punch in my guesses for the foods and their preparation, this is how calories show:

Day 1: 2,199 calories
Day 2: 2,891 calories
Day 3: 2,044 calories
Day 4: 1,773 calories
Day 5: 1,742 calories
Day 6: 2,134 calories
Day 7: 2,204 calories
Total for week: 14,987
Average daily: 2,141

I should mention that we did specifically set out to work out a few times while we were gone. On Monday, Wednesday and Friday (days 2, 4, 6), we did a 30-40 minute circuit work out to attempt to counter act some of the food madness that was taking place. Although the calories consumed don't seem that outrageous considering I ate very few meals in a controlled environment, it's still more than I would consume normally when I am working out daily...about 400 calories more on average a day. This may not seem like much, but considering the drop in working out, it is significant. I also felt incredibly bloated upon return, so despite the fact that I lost weight, I was not feeling tops about myself.

Trying to determine why I lost at all, leaves me scratching my head. First of all, I did, oh, about 1/8 of the normal work outs I would get in during a typical week (not even including riding my bike). I did attempt to make some reasonable choices much of the time, but even when choosing a gardenburger over some meat alternative (which I would normally do anyway since I'm not a cow-eater), I still ate french fries, potato chips, or onion rings with it, only adding to the fat/calories.

I do have theories though as to how/why this happened.
1) This is all a fluke. The fact that it is only a 1 week time period makes it difficult to say certainly what happens during this short time away. Perhaps if I continued to eat like this, I would ultimately end up gaining.
2) My body really does need more calories in order to lose weight - even more than what I thought initially. I was working out far less than normal and eating more, yet somehow I dropped 2 lbs (for the record, this loss was not just restricted to me, as Sam also dropped 1.5 lbs).
3) I'm burning more calories than I think on vacation. The fact that while on vacation we tend to walk around and see things more than we would at home could be helping to keep the extra calories from adding up to extra pounds.
4) Like many other times when I seem to randomly drop pounds, there is some mysterious combination of activity and food taking place.
5) Lacking the normal stresses of everyday life, my body finally relaxes and just does what it needs to do. I wasn't focused on or stressed about what or when I was going to eat, it just happened organically.

My problem with this being a complete fluke is that it happens every time we go on vacation. I joke about it when we're getting ready to leave by stating that I'm excited to go because I know I will eat poorly and lose weight. While it is a joke, it does happen every...single... time. Insanity, I know. I also don't think I'm burning more calories while on vacation because while we do walk around to see things, it is leisurely and typically isn't all day long. This leaves three options, but while I do think it's all quite mysterious, I don't actually believe that there is something magical or mysterious happening - I just don't happen to understand what it is that's going on.

Now down to two options (I need more calories, and vacation gets rid of excess stress), I actually think it's a combination of these two remaining theories. One of the things that benefits me while on vacation is that I'm not a snacker, so every time others want to stop and get a nibble of something, I decline (not because I think I'm being holier than anyone else, but I genuinely am not a snacker and never have been). This is potentially eliminating several unnecessary calories. In addition, if I am offered dessert, I take it politely, but I eat just a few bites. I also try not to eat unless I'm genuinely hungry. Sometimes, this means skipping a meal (which I would normally recommend against), but because I know I'm consuming more than normal, it seems like a bad idea to eat when I'm not hungry. I also don't think about or obsess over what I'm eating. If I can make a smarter choice, I will (because I want this to be a life change, not a temporary change), but I also don't want to deprive myself of something I'd like to try because I don't know how many calories are in it. I have been there and done that in the past and it doesn't help. Ultimately, I will give in and it will be far worse than just having a single meal or a few bites of something "bad."

Although I still don't seem to completely understand what takes place during vacation that causes weight loss, I am going to accept it and get back to the normal routine because even though I was fortunate to not come home to a weight gain, I very much missed my regular workouts and feeling good.

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