The Weight is Over, Part 12 – Lister’s List: Stay on Track During Vacation

Today I speak with Matthew Lister, my health and fitness coach/guru/kindly drill sergeant/motivator/trainer from Align Private Training.

I’m worried because I have a vacation planned with some friends that includes a round-trip train trip, and two nights in a hotel. I’ll be gone almost a week. I am terrified to derail my success during this one trip. So far I’ve lost 15 pounds and 15 inches, and I don’t want to undo all my progress.

Woman walking the tracks. No, this is not Doni, but she could look like this in a few months.

Woman walking the tracks. No, this is not Doni, but she could look like this in a few months.

Q: Hi, Matthew. I have a few urgent questions for you. I’ll be leaving for a short vacation soon. That means I’ll be away from my home. I must leave behind my refrigerator and all my special foods that are crucial to my fairly restrictive “nutrition budget” that you’ve so carefully designed for me. Most of all, I’ll be away from my workouts with you for four whole days. Frankly, I’m scared! What if I blow it? What if I fall jump off my newly embraced healthy nutrition wagon?

A:  Ha ha ha! No worries! We’ve got this! Whether you realize it or not, you’ve been preparing for this the whole time you’ve been working with me.

matthew and doni wall sits

Those self-guided workout days at Align have prepared you to work hard without me there all the time. We will lay out a simple nutrition plan to hold you over ’til you get back, and we’ll make sure you can have a little fun, too! All work and no play makes for a dull Doni! 😉

Q: You’re right. I didn’t realize I was preparing for this moment. So I’m encouraged. And I like the part about having a little fun, too. God knows I don’t want to be dull.

Matthew, I completely trust you, but I do have a few concerns. First, do you have any general advice for not just me, but all your clients when we travel and want to stay on our healthy nutrition and fitness programs?

A: Most of my advice for clients is really customized to their personalities and the circumstances of their trip. But the big key is to shift away from any carbohydrate restriction while you’re gone, and shift to a more calorie-restriction plan (think Weight Watchers instead of Atkins).

This allows for more flexibility, fun, and maybe even a bit of the bubbly! Just a bit … not that much. Put that down. 😉

Q: You caught me. I put the wine glass down. But that’s helpful to think of my travel eating plan in terms of calories on this trip, rather than carb restrictions.  I’d like some specifics for someone like me, knowing what you do about my fairly limited nutrition plan? I’ll be eating out the whole time, but of course can bring some things along.

A: OK girlie, here’s the plan. We have to control what we can and forget the rest.

Stressing over “Eating Perfectly” is:
1) going to suck the joy from your trip; which is unacceptable.
2) is going to make you resent your food budget.
3) and isn’t going to work anyway, so you will go off the rails (excuse the bad pun) and cheat anyway!

Here’s what we CAN control:
1) Breakfast- Some carbs and protein. Think oatmeal and hard-boiled eggs. Or a fruit bowl and a protein shake. Whatever is handy.
2) Morning snack and afternoon snack – Do an Atkins shake at both to control the calorie load on the overall plan, keep your blood sugar stabilized, and keep your metabolism raging. NO MISSED MEALS. You will be tempted to skip meals so you can eat more at dinner. It doesn’t actually work like that. You eat less and your metabolism goes into starvation mode. Then you dump sugar and fat calories down and your body stores it for the perceived winter right around your hips. Not desirable.
3)  Lunch and Dinner – Protein and veggies. You will be eating out for these meals, almost without fail. Regardless of where you are you can always get a steak and veggies. ANYWHERE!

Steak dinner with veggies is fine. Ignore the potatoes.

Steak dinner with veggies is fine. Pay no attention to those potato wedges.

While some carbs would be great, I don’t want you sitting and looking at the menu for 10 minutes wondering if they cook the rice with the wrong oils. LOL. Don’t over think it. Enjoy yourself.

To summarize: Control your breakfasts and snacks. Eat protein and veggies while out at lunch and dinner. Simple is the key to success, girl.

Q: You had me at oatmeal for breakfast. [Sigh] I miss oatmeal. Thanks for the reminder to not miss meals, so I’d “get” to eat more for dinner, because that is exactly what I would have been inclined to do.  And how did you know that all the extra weight settles on my hips in preparation for winter?

You’ve been so generous with letting me stray a bit, so I hate to ask this question for fear of being greedy, but is any deliberate “cheating” allowed? And if I do, how much damage would it do?

A:  Most definitely! We want to create a food budget, just like you create for your household budget. You don’t always spend less than you make, but you can’t make a lifestyle of it. Plan for a 33/66 split. Be “good” and stay on program for 33 percent of your dinners. Then, for 66 percent of your dinners have some fun and enjoy an amazing glass of red wine. Don’t go overboard. Savor the flavors. Enjoy yourself. Relax and not worry about a thing. Life is good.

Q: Life is good. And I’m feeling better about my trip. But wow. If anything, I would have thought you’d insist I be “good” 66 percent of the time at dinner; not the other way around. I won’t argue with you (in case you change your mind).

A: The damage will be so minimal that it will take less than 2-3 days to be completely recovered from the trip, and you will be back to the races toward the goal.

Q: I’m sort of glad I didn’t know your “damage” philosophy two months ago when I started, and I think I’ll do my best to forget it after this vacation. I don’t want to go crazy with the 33/66 idea.

Now, What about workouts? I don’t want to return to you completely undone from all the progress we’ve made. I know the hotel will have a gym, but I’ll bet it doesn’t (thank God) have Satan’s bicycle (the air bike), or ropes or any of your other instruments of torture (exercise).

A: Ha ha ha. Good call. It is supposed to be a vacation, after all. 😉 What we need to do is to first hit the basic movers and stabilizers. Second, keep your posture tuned up, because while traveling you tend to sit more than usual. That is a recipe for pain.

Here are some alternate routines for conditioning and warm-up:
1) Warm Up:- Lying Gluteal Contractions – 6 minutes / Lying Block Squeeze – 3 minutes / Cats & Dogs – 30 reps
2) Conditioning Circuit: Wall sit – 60 seconds/Plank – 60 seconds/ Sit-Stands – 50 / Crunches 50. (Do 5 rounds of that circuit.)
3) Postural Cool Down: Bilateral Hamstring Stretch – 4 min

That should take about 25 minutes total and will be a full-body butt-kicker, with a posture warm-up and cool-down. It will keep your back healthy and your hips getting smaller. 😉

Fortunately hotel rooms have walls and floors, so there's no excuse to not exercise.

Fortunately hotel rooms have walls and floors, so there’s no excuse to not exercise.

Q: Geez, those things sound a lot like what I do at Align. I’m sure my friends will get a kick out of the workout show. Anything else I should know?

A: Err on the side of having fun. You work so hard in your job, taking care of people, and now taking care of yourself. Take this time to pamper yourself a little and not worry about doing everything perfectly.

You can’t do enough damage that I can’t undo in 4-5 days once you’re back with me. Besides, this reprieve is going to do wonders for your mindset. Your discipline-muscles need rest, just like they need to be worked. 😉

Have an amazing time and I will be waiting here for you when you return. I can’t wait to hear how things went. Cheers!

Thanks so much, Matthew. I’ll do my best and will make you proud. Who knows, I could even lose weight while on vacation. That would be cool.

Readers, what are you secrets to diet and fitness success when you’re away from home?

Click here to see Doni’s previous Weight is Over column.

Doni Chamberlain

Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded A News Cafe in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. Chamberlain holds a Bachelor's Degree in journalism from CSU, Chico. She's an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She's been featured and quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, The Washington Post, L.A. Times, Slate, Bloomberg News and on CNN, KQED and KPFA. She lives in Redding, California.

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