You’re back home after a much-needed vacation feeling rested and recovered. But your diet is completely derailed. Unfortunately, the deadly duo of your toes in the sand and a cold one in your hand is the kill-switch that causes many of us to throw our diets by the wayside.
According to a study done by the University of Georgia’s College of Family and Consumer Sciences, Americans gain an average of one pound during their one to three week-long vacations—and that weight sticks around even after six weeks of being home. A mere pound may not seem like much, but one to two pounds are typically gained over an entire year. The good news is there are easy ways to ditch the fresh flab and revitalize your neglected diet.
Take a shower when you get home. Unpack your bags. Set your A.M. alarm. Have a cup of tea before bed. Set yourself up to be able to do whatever it is you normally do every day. This way, you’ll be able to shift yourself—and your body—back into fit mode.
You might be wiped, but unpacking your bags upon your return will ensure you have clean clothes for the week ahead, will clear your mind and the stress you may have later in the week about the extra load you’ll have to do (on top of the work your boss just sprung on you), and it’s a good way to remind yourself you’re no longer on vacation. Once that’s done, make a point to get to bed at the same time you normally would before work. Studies have found that those who keep the same sleep-wake cycles are more rested and less apt to have their diets undermined by exhaustion-induced munchies.
2. Go grocery shopping
If you’ve been away for more than a couple days, you likely don’t have much left in your fridge upon getting home. Rather than the easy solution of just picking up the phone to order take-out, muster up the willpower to go grocery shopping. Having fresh, healthy items in your fridge for the first few days home will ensure you stick to your diet, rather than continue on the indulgent path you led while away.
Your first meal back doesn’t have to be anything crazy—just stick to your favorite go-to busy weeknight meal. We’re fans of herb-and-lemon marinated chicken breasts with a side of roasted veggies. Every ingredient can be thrown on a sheet pan and baked for a quick meal and even quicker cleanup.
3. Prioritize produce
Your days of beers and buffets are over. Ensuring healthy items are the most convenient foods in your fridge when you get home will make it even easier to get back on track by encouraging you to make healthy choices.
Keep pre-cut veggies with hummus in the front of your fridge, put a bowl of fresh fruit on your counter, and hide treats like cookies, candy, and chips on a high shelf and behind healthy foods so they are out of sight and out of mind.
4. Don’t reach for the remote
When you get home after a long trip, it’s natural to want to relax (even though we hope you got enough of that on your vacay!). But just because you’re tired from traveling doesn’t mean your first instinct should be to click on the TV and get settled for a long binge-watch—especially if you’re feeling hungry. A University of Houston study found that the more TV people watched in a setting, the worse their food choices became. So even though you think it might be the best way to decompress after a busy weekend, a couple hours of your favorite show could set you back even more calories on top of an already indulgent weekend.
If you’re definitely going to watch a show when you get home, keep it to a 30-minute limit.
5. Nix added sugar
Downing pina coladas and crème brûlée on vacation only adds fuel to the weight-inducing inflammation fire. That’s because table sugar—which is made up of equal parts glucose and fructose—boosts inflammation in two ways. Glucose, when eaten in excess (even during a single sitting of daiquiris on the dock), can increase levels of pro-inflammatory messengers called cytokines. Concurrently, fructose is the sugar molecule which most easily creates advanced glycation end-products (AGEs) in the blood. AGEs occur when fructose causes proteins to haphazardly glom together, creating cellular junk that your body tries to dispose of by increasing defensive receptors and more inflammation markers. While it may be challenging, nixing the sweet stuff when you’re back at home is a great way to shed those unwelcomed belly jiggles.
Eliminating added sugars and foods made with white flour can help you get back on the weight-loss bandwagon because it’ll stop stoking your inflammation fire encourage you to eat healthier foods—many of which actually decrease inflammation. A simple swap is subbing out high-glycemic foods (which spike and crash blood sugar) for low GI alternatives, like whole grains and foods with healthy fats, protein, and fibers. A study in the actually found that a low-GI diet reduced levels of the inflammatory biomarker C-reactive protein.
6. Make sure to hydrate
Boozing on vacay and flying home from the trip both cause dehydration, which can increase hunger and cause poor circulation. In turn, you’ll likely feel bloated and really sleepy. Add a calendar reminder or set an alarm every few hours to remind yourself to hydrate. Aim to consume half of your body weight in ounces throughout the course of the day. You’ll likely feel rehydrated after a few days of this regimen.
The easiest way to hydrate is by drinking a cup of water upon waking. New research from the showed that people who increased their water by a mere cup a day ate up to 205 fewer calories and 200 fewer milligrams of sodium daily. Sipping on an extra 8 ounces in the A.M. will also boost your energy and help your body flush out salt and leftovers that are lingering in your colon.
7. Resume—and amp up—your exercise routine
Getting back into exercise will be a huge help in shedding those pesky post-vacation pounds. Many of us “forget” to pack our sneakers and gym clothes when we go on vacation, leaving us few options when it comes to maintaining our fitness routine. According to experts, taking a week off won’t cause you to lose all your strength and endurance, but this break will cut down 50 percent of the improvements you made in the weeks prior. Be sure to head back to the gym, and begin with higher intensity workouts than you may have been doing to activate new muscles and ramp up the calorie burn.
“The most effective workouts are high intensity and combine a bit of cardio and weight training,” explains Kaufman. Check out classes like cardio-boxing or boot camps, which are typically held at local gyms but can also be found in online videos. Just remember, while no amount of fitness will undo a bad diet on its own, when you get back into a weekly exercise routine and make a point of incorporating in some extra-intense drills, you’ll be fueling your diet-centric weight-loss efforts. Adding new high-intensity exercises often in your exercise routine is also a critical step in ensuring you don’t regain lost weight.
8. Catch up on sleep
Whether it’s because you never seem to sleep well unless you’re in your own bed or because you’re totally wiped from all the sun you’ve gotten over the past few days, you may return home from your trip feeling both exhausted and a little softer around the middle. Why? When we’re sleepy, the production of leptin (the hormone that tells us we’re full) decreases, which can lead to overeating and weight gain. Not cool. To help the weight back come off, be sure to fit in between six and eight hours of sleep per night once you’re back home.
If you’ve got your goals set on getting back to your more slender self, cut your nightly Netflix session short an hour before bed—it’ll minimize your exposure to melatonin-disrupting blue light and remove stimulation which keeps your brain awake. Master your bedtime routine with our exclusive guide to 30 Things to Do 30 Minutes Before Bed to Lose Weight.
9. Boost your immune system
Travel is immensely taxing on your body—even just the sitting in a car for hours part. That’s because coordinating schedules, packing and leaving home, all cause stress along with the need to constantly be alert. Lounging in the sun all day, working up a sweat hiking around town and losing sleep all cause your body’s energy stores to become depleted and your immune system is put in jeopardy. To compensate for a lack of cold-fighting-power, try to emphasize fruits, veggies, and meat-replacing legumes at each meal to boost your immune system, while staying away from calorie-dense items, ultra-processed foods, and animal products. This will help you maximize fiber intake and detoxification.
Medicating with vitamins from whole foods is much better than meds when it comes to rebooting a compromised immune system. And blueberries are one of your best options: researchers from Oregon State University recently took a look at over 400 compounds for their ability to boost the immune system. The standout? A compound called pterostilbene, which is found in abundance in the little blue fruits.
10. Take a break from the buzz
Your vacation was likely full of stimulants, so give your body a break. That means cutting out caffeine: coffee, tea and obviously soda.
Herbal teas, like Rooibos, are great caffeine-free options. Not only is it free of stimulants, this tea from the red bush tea may actually help calm you down. Due to its high concentration of flavonoids—and, in particular, a stress-fighting compound called aspalathin—drinking rooibos may help reduce stress hormones that trigger hunger and fat storage.