Home Health and Fitness Vacation Food: Is Eating with Sanity Even Possible?

Vacation Food: Is Eating with Sanity Even Possible?

Fruit cocktail glass at pool - vintage filter effect

By Elizabeth Babcock

Vacations are a grand escape from the home routine, an opportunity for some special diving, and—especially if you’re among the many who book an all-inclusive package—THE FOOD. Oh, the food.

Most people treat vacation as a break from everything including whatever they normally do to take care of themselves, but many end the trip with unwanted weight gain and a nagging sense of regret. Worse, most have trouble getting back on track once they’ve returned home, often remaining out of control with food for weeks or months afterward.

Since regret and physical discomfort are not good vacation mementos, it pays to maintain some semblance of sanity with food while you’re away. The goal is to eat in ways that enhance your experience of the trip without causing unwanted consequences afterward.

Your Focus Going In

First, make your trip about the triprather than about the food. Focus purposefully not only on the diving and other activities you’re planning, but also on the people you’ll meet, the scenery you’ll enjoy, and the experiences you’ll get to have which are so different from those available to you at home. 

Practice thinking of food as an enjoyable background part of the trip rather than anticipating it as a star attraction. It might be great food but it’s still just food. You get to eat all the time. If you practice keeping food in perspective before your trip, it will be easier to do that more successfully once you’ve arrived.

It pays to plan ahead for how you’ll deal with and minimize the most triggering circumstances while you’re awaybecause you’ll be exposed to so many of them for days on end. Your hit rate won’t be perfect, but it will be far better than if you don’t try at all. The pleasure of food is over as soon as you swallow it, while regret drags on for an awfully long time.

Your Strategies Once You Get There

Food sanity is notabout self-deprivation—consider reminding yourself of this periodically. Food sanity is about eating in ways that add to your good times without creating problems you’ll have to live with later. With that in mind, here are some ideas to get you started:

  1. At each meal, try taking less food than you really think you want. When you finish it, take a few moments to assess how you’re feeling before deciding about seconds. If you go back for seconds, again take less than you really think you want. This helps you to slow down and gives your body time to register the “full” signal so that you don’t accidentally overshoot. We tend to finish whatever is in front of us, so it’s important to be careful about what we put there in the first place.
  2. Choose portions based on your likely fuel needs more than on how yummy the food looks and smells. Beware rationalizing, “But I need more calories for diving!” Maybe, but probably not nearly as much as you might hope. When has undereating ever interfered with your diving? Right. And it won’t now, either.
  3. If food has been pre-portioned in oversized servings, feel free to make your own, smaller portion, leaving the rest behind. 
  4. Enjoy special treats enough to have the full experience of your trip, doing your best to back off before it goes too far. If certain foods predictably cause you to lose control, you might have a more relaxing time if you avoid them altogether. No-holds-barred food fests seem fun inthe moment, but few people are happy about them after the fact.
  5. Spend most of your time in food-free areas, and make sure your room is one of them. It’s impossible to keep your mind off of food when it’s around you all the time.
  6. Whenever you eat, try pacing your eating based on the slowest, calmest person you can see. It will help you to slow down, eat more mindfully, and enjoy your food more. 
  7. Consider that all of the enjoyment of any food is available in each bite. Maximizing your enjoyment is about paying full attention to each bite, not cramming in as many bites as you can stand.
  8. Pause occasionally during the trip to check whether you’re eating in a way that helps you have the best possible vacation, or whether you’re just going after the most possiblefood. 
  9. Finally, pay attention to how you end up feeling each day after you’ve managed to keep your focus with food to at least some degree. You’ll know you’re making the right calls and missing nothing of value if you feel calm and at peace—maybe even relieved—rather than frustrated, stressed, or disappointed. 


Elizabeth Babcock, LCSW has been a certified diver since 2000. She is a psychotherapist and community educator who has written extensively on topics of interest to anyone seeking to maximize their health and overall enjoyment of life, though her primary specialty is the treatment of overeating. She recently published “Why We Overeat and How to Stop,” (available at Amazon.com), a new approach to overeating which empowers readers to end the cycle of yo-yo dieting once and for all. She resides in southwestern Pennsylvania where she spends as much time as possible outdoors, preferably on, in, or near water. She can be reached through www.elizabethbabcock.com and on Facebook.