Your vacation is right around the corner, and it couldn't come sooner. Sun, freedom from work, and an umbrella drink (or two) are just what you need. "Vacation is a time to unwind, relax, and practice self-care," says Marissa Vicario, an Institute for Integrative Nutrition certified health coach and author of Your Holistically Hot Transformation.
In fact, vacation can be good for weight loss. In a study by researchers at Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research, those who lost 10 pounds in 6 months had two things in common: They slept 6 to 8 hours a night and they learned to reduce their stress. And when you're away from home, relaxation is priority Number 1. Plus, you usually end up moving more on vacation (walking on the beach counts), which can help you burn off 136 calories an hour—more if you're walking on the sand. (Psst...We have 5 Essential Tips for Running On the Beach.)
So then why do so many of us end up worrying about coming home 10 pounds heavier? To be fair, it's easy to overdo it. We drink twice as much on vacation, according to a recent study in Physiology & Behavior, and those extra calories can add up (but only to 0.7 pounds, that same study reported).
If this has you concerned, stressing out may only make it worse, Vicario says. "High cortisol levels resulting from stress are one of the top reasons women have a hard time losing weight. So whether you're stressing about work or worried about gaining weight, you're doing your body a disservice and counteracting the positive effects a vacation can have."
Instead, simply don't go overboard (dessert every night? You know better) and follow these outside-of-the-box tips to come home chill, happy, and worry-free about your weight.
Go on a fitness retreat
Your yogi friend isn't the only one going on a retreat to Nepal. Trips like this are considered "wellness tourism," and this industry is projected to grow by 9 percent annually through 2017, almost 50 percent faster than overall global tourism, according to Global Wellness Institute report.
These trips not only make working out part of your vacation, they're also a great chance to meet other fitness and travel fanatics from all over and explore new places without going solo, says Amanda Butler, NASM, CPT, and instructor at Fhitting Room in New York City. (Here's How to Plan Your Healthiest Vacation Ever.) "My fitness retreats are all about working hard and playing hard. We work out twice a day and also do fun activities such as biking, kayaking, and hiking. Then we enjoy a glass or two of wine at night. Because if you work out on a regular basis, it won't destroy you to have a cocktail or two." (Check out her upcoming trips to California wine country and Costa Rica.)
"The items on the menus at local establishments will often be more health-conscious since they're cooking with fresh, seasonal ingredients," Vicario says. And if you want dessert one or two nights? "Balance that out by having plenty of water and lots of fresh vegetables with dinner," she recommends.
Set yourself up for healthy days
"Getting up and getting in your workout first thing in the morning will not only rev up your metabolism for the rest of the day," Butler says, "it will also give you the energy and mindset to make healthier choices throughout the rest of the day."
Don't waste calories on bad airport food
"I always, always, always bring food with me when I travel: kale salad, apple slices, baked sweet potato, hard boiled eggs," says Robyn Youkilis, founder of Your Healthiest You Health Coach Practice and author of Go With Your Gut. "Yes, you can find some of these things in the airport, but if you are anything like me, you won't pick them over the other options in a rush. Plus, you'll set yourself up mentally to choose healthier options the whole trip."
Find new ways to sweat
A workout doesn't need to be spin class or bootcamp; take advantage of your surroundings and try new ways to exercise, Vicario suggests. "Go for a walk or a jog on the beach (the sand is great for added intensity and toning your legs and glutes), rent bikes, hike, swim in the ocean, play some tennis, or take a yoga class if you can."
Remember: It's just one week
"Relax," Youkilis says. "It's what you do most of the time—every morning, every day at 4 p.m., every weekend—that has the biggest impact on your health and your waistlines, not the things you do on one weekend or on a one-week vacation." So stop stressing and savor that pina colada!