Lisa Delaney is one of the rare souls who know what it’s like to be an “after.” This journalist and author of Secrets of a Former Fat Girl shed 70 pounds—and six dress sizes–and has kept it off for 20 years. She answers your questions here each week.
DEAR FORMER FAT GIRL: I am trying to lose about 50 pounds and have been working out—mostly walking, but some Zumba and weights—for the last 4 months. Not only am I down 20 pounds, but I have really began to appreciate how good I feel when I exercise—and how bad I feel when I don’t. So the idea of going on vacation in a few weeks is really throwing me off. I’m will be totally out of my routine, and I’m afraid I’ll undo all of the progress I’ve made. Help!—Fran
DEAR FRAN: Let’s start with a dose of reality: There’s no way that one week of lounging and indulging will cause you to regain the 20 pounds you lost over the last four months. I’m not the best at math, but that don’t smell right to me. Believe me, I have lived with my share of anxiety—thinking that one piece of cake will lead to the downfall of civilization as I know it, or that missing one workout will cause all the muscles in my body to turn to flab. You have to know that this will not happen, that being healthy is a process of checks and balances over time, in which one day—or one week—will not make or break it.
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That said, I do have some specific advice (as usual) for Former Fat Girls and Future FFGs going on summer getaways in the next few months.
Be realistic about what you’re trying to achieve. So maybe you’ve been on a roll, losing 1 to 2 pounds a week for a while now. GIVE UP THAT GOAL—just for your vacation week. If all you do is maintain the weight you’ve lost (and PLEASE don’t weigh obsessively, if at all, while you’re away), count that as a success.
Look at your vacation in a new way. This is likely the first trip—or at least the longest one—you’ve taken since you started losing. You have a different life, different priorities now, and the way you vacation should reflect that. You’ve discovered that walking—moving—feels GOOD, right? And vacations are all about taking time out to do the things that give you pleasure, right? So look for ways to make your trip more active. Take walks on the beach, if that’s where you’re going, explore city neighborhoods by foot (or even bikes) instead of bus. Go dancing, get in the water (instead of just lounging under an umbrella), play beach volleyball with the kids. Just move.
Give yourself credit. This one has been tough for me. I used to think if I didn’t get my run in, then I was a failure—and that’s no way to feel during your vacation. So you didn’t do Zumba twice during the week—but you did ride bikes a couple of times, or shopped until you dropped a few days while you were away. Just because you’re not on the treadmill or in a health club doesn’t mean you aren’t burning calories. Even just standing instead of sitting in the airport, waiting for your plane, counts.
Be ready for anything—especially to walk. Yes, you want to look hip and stylish when you’re traveling. But make sure the shoes you’re wearing are comfortable enough to move in, whether you’re heading to the airport or out sightseeing or to dinner (because you might want to hoof it back to your hotel—or take a spin on a dance floor somewhere). Looking for the perfect shoes to pack for both function and fashion? Check out our picks here.
Shop the farmers market. Farmers markets have become fantastic destinations for travelers—talk about getting a taste of the local flavor! You’ll likely be able to pick up a healthy lunch featuring regional produce and cuisine, sometimes with a bonus of live music, cooking demonstration and local art exhibitors.
Put any guilt on hold. Being truly healthy doesn’t mean a life of deprivation—or rigid, boot-camp-like structure. Look at this vacation as sort of a fact-finding mission, about figuring out how to travel healthfully, in a way that gives you pleasure NOW, with your new priorities in mind. You will find that some things work, and some don’t—regardless, each experience will help you be more prepared the next time you take off.