A Soul-Searching, Pound-Shedding Vacation

A Soul-Searching, Pound-Shedding Vacation

From Chicken Soup for the Dieter's Soul

A Soul-Searching, Pound-Shedding Vacation

The person who removes a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.

Author Unknown

I was cruising 3,000 feet in the air, over the burnt sunset-hued Grand Canyon, tucked comfortably in a window seat (albeit economy) when it hit me—I was heading to Los Cabos, Mexico, for a once-in-a-lifetime splurge of a vacation, and I was not the tiniest bit excited. Instead of palm trees, lazy morning breakfasts and endless ocean images clouding my thoughts, I was thinking about one and only one thing—the way my out-of-shape, overweight body would look in a swimsuit that had been bought four months ago for what I wrongly assumed would be a leaner, healthier me.

As it turns out, the vacation planning that was supposed to spur my weight-loss regimen did just the opposite. I saved extra spending money by skipping my weekly yoga classes. I cut back on exercising to work overtime in preparation for a week off of work, and last-minute packing stress had led to massive overeating in the three days beforehand. The bottom line: my bikini was one size smaller than the normal me and I was likely one size larger.

It didn’t take long for my fiancé to realize that a tear had slid down my cheek. He looked at me in astonishment, obviously wondering what on earth could be wrong—we had been waiting and planning for this day for months.

He must have gathered the words “swimsuit,” “me” and “body” from my nondescript mumbles, because his response was a simple (but genuine), “I was wondering where all that ice cream went!” Then he continued with a more thoughtful approach.

“Well, let’s use this vacation to do something about it. No excuses,” his voice was helpful, but a stern undertone told me that my weight- and eating-related issues were wearing him thin (ironically enough).

I thought for a moment. Spend my vacation trying to get back on track? My vacation? This was supposed to be a break from the everyday monotony of diet, work and exercise. But wait, I suppose that I hadn’t kept up on that at home either.

I decided then and there that my new motto would be “no excuses.” If there was one thing that was simply inescapable, it was the importance of healthy living. Despite my weakness for sugary treats and carbohydrate-laden snacks, I knew that what I wanted most was a healthy body. I grabbed a pen and notepad and got to work on the flight—not a minute more would be wasted. I jotted down my goals (both realistic and dream ones), the ways that I would achieve them, the sacrifices that I would make and the excuses that I would not.

Four hours and ten notepad-scribbled pages later, I had a plan. A good, solid plan. And then I did something that in all of my dieting obstacles I’d never done . . . I handed the notebook to my fiancé and asked him to help hold me accountable. The fact that I was allowing him into this issue that shook my insecurities to the core was a huge step—for myself and our relationship. Not only did he promise to give it his utmost attention, he appreciated the opportunity to contribute to my livelihood in such a way. We spent the rest of the plane ride brainstorming healthy eating and fitness ideas. By the time flight #0292 had landed, I felt I had a new lease on life. Los Cabos was welcoming a new, updated me.

Mornings were started with fresh, low-fat breakfasts, snacks were healthy and light. We ate early evening dinners, accompanied by an occasional glass of celebratory wine. Finding a local yoga class was as easy as asking the concierge, and we filled our afternoons with side trips that provided good workouts in disguise—kayaking, swimming, long walks and bike rentals.

By the trip’s end I had lost five pounds, but more importantly, I felt good. It was easy to slip into my swimsuit when I knew that I’d spent the day working for the good of my body.

My initial tears of frustration had triggered something inside of me, and I’d no longer wait for a vacation to change myself for the better. As a protection plan for our own well-being, we booked our hotel for another week on the exact same dates the following year. This time around there would be no excuses and no reason to spoil the excitement of our romantic, adventurous rendezvous. Because when it comes right down to it, a body needs healthy fuel, physical work and determination, whether you’re at home in suburban Chicago or on the emerald and turquoise waters of Los Cabos, happily baking in the sun—in a perfectly fitted bikini, of course.

Jessica Blaire

7 Hints for Navigating Your Local Supermarket

First, the good news: you finally made a commitment to eating healthily. And the bad news? Those old temptations haven’t gone anywhere. How in the world can you make grocery shopping a kinder, gentler experience for your waistline? As someone who recently reached her own personal weight-loss goal, here are my tips for surviving and thriving while doing food shopping.

Try incorporating even just a few of these tips and pretty soon the grocery store will be your friend again, and not your weight-loss foe. Happy, healthy shopping!

Know where you’re going. Focus your efforts in these areas: dairy, produce, deli/meat and frozen food. Choose low-fat options when possible, and avoid preprepared foods, which tend to be fried or laden with extra salt and/or heavy sauces. Stock up on fruits and veggies, and go for the pre-packaged varieties if it will help you get your daily allotment.

Proceed to other aisles with caution. Don’t go up and down each and every one. Just hit the ones you need. Or to put it another way, if cookies call your name, steer clear of them.

Size matters. Can you just eat one? If not, that megasized container may spell disaster for your waistline no matter how much money you might save. If you can’t trust yourself to control portions, let someone else do the work for you. Many supermarket items come in single-serving packages to make portion control simpler. Just remember to only eat one portion at a sitting—not the whole box.

Just say no . . . to samples. Mindless eating inevitably leads to weight gain. How many of those mini-corn dogs did you have anyway? Was it three or was it four? And what exactly was in those things anyway? If you’re committed to watching your calories, then just pass up those freebies. This leads us to the cardinal rule. . . .

Don’t shop when you’re hungry. I would also stretch this rule to say don’t go food shopping when you’re stressed or upset either. I’m no Pollyanna, so I know that isn’t always possible. If you think you might be feeling munchy, have something to eat before you leave home or keep a healthy snack available to tide you over. Don’t rely on food to soothe you either. Plan another way to “reward” yourself, whether it’s a bubble bath, a walk or just listening to your favorite music. Maybe those cookies or chips will temporarily make you feel better, but how will you feel when your clothes are tight once again?

Go fishing for condiments. Being virtuous and eating healthy is hard, not to mention sometimes boring. So load up on healthy dips. Three great choices are salsa, hummus and bean dip. My personal favorite is adding fat-free whipped topping to fruit, especially berries. If you want a little heat, try adding salsa, hot sauce, horseradish and specialty mustards to your food. Don’t forget that lower-fat sour cream, salad dressings and yogurts can all be the starting points for some fabulous dips. Go a step further and make spices your friend. From mild to wild, they make foods from veggies to breads to meats more fun.

Don’t pull the “trigger.” In my family, carbs are our trigger foods—bread, potatoes, pasta, we love ’em all. Decide whether you just have to give them up totally or if you can benefit by small changes. For example, if you love french fries, you could decide that you will only have them as a special treat, or maybe you can substitute healthier versions, such as baked ones from the frozen food section, or make your own using sweet potatoes. If that doesn’t work, try avoiding the trigger food for two weeks. You could pretend that your grocery store is all out of them and the next shipment won’t arrive until then. After fourteen days, reassess. You might surprise yourself and find you’ve lost the craving for it completely.

Tricia Finch

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