Holidays are a time when we all want to indulge. But vacation weight gain isn’t on anyone’s bucket list. So, here are 8 simple strategies for how to avoid weight gain on vacation without compromising on a fun trip away.
Skye Gilkeson | Updated April 2023
How to Avoid Weight Gain on Vacation
1. Set Healthy Habits Before Your Holiday
Do the hard work before your holiday. Don’t promise yourself you’ll punish yourself with an unrealistic vacation weight loss plan after you return home. By that stage, you may have fallen so far off the wagon you’ll be rolling (literally) down an Interlaken mountain.
So, exercise and choose to eat healthily consistently in the lead-up to your holiday so there is less chance you’ll fall out of routine during your journey.
It takes a few weeks to set a new habit, so give yourself ample time to form those new habits or exercise in the morning, be aware of your portions, and macros tracking (if you want some more knowledge about your eating habits) for as least a month before you go away to set you on the right path.
2. Plan a Fun ‘Fitcation’ with Healthy Activities
Most popular tourist destinations these days offer plenty of healthy activities or ways to stay fit. Even in the most remote places, we have been found doing bodyweight workouts at local parks, sprinting up sets of stairs, and working out in playgrounds. There are so many easy and fun ways to stay active, it’s just a matter of using what you have nearby.
Hire a bike, choose a walk or hike to do each morning, or opt for an even more adventurous way to stay active while on holiday. We love booking bike tours, ziplining adventure days, and even climbing tours while travelling. That way, we do something active while seeing the sights.
3. Exercise First Thing in the Morning
If you form the habit of going for a morning walk, run, or ride to get your morning coffee as a part of your holiday routine, it will stick.
If you promise yourself you will go out to train in the afternoon after days worth of tourist activity, you may let yourself down consistently.
Holidays are a time when we want to make fewer plans and let the adventure take us, which is also part of the fun. However, this often means we don’t stick to a rigid schedule, and afternoon plans are rarely upheld. So, get your workout done first thing in the morning to make sure you tick it off the list.
Morning workouts are also a wonderful way to see the local sights (without any of the tourists flooding the streets), say good morning to locals, try all the early-morning coffee spots, take photos free of extra people, and set your intention for the day. It’s one of our favourite healthy travel habits.
4. Avoid Drinking Your Calories
One of the easiest ways to spark weight gain on vacation is to start drinking calorie-rich drinks. From cocktails to milkshakes and store-bought juices, drinking additional calories is such a simple thing to do and something we take for granted when looking back on the cause of holiday weight gain.
Also, make sure you drink plenty of water to keep you hydrated, give your digestive system a boost, and help beat travel bloat, especially if you are doing long-haul flights or travelling in high-summer.
A Mai Tai may have water in it but just for the record, that doesn’t count. Aim for two litres of water a day. You will undoubtedly need more though given the amount of sugar and salt and preservatives that are in a lot of food you may eat when you’re on the road.
5. Practice Portion Control
While trying new cuisines is one of the most fun parts of travel, try to leave room to try the next treat. Most of the things we tend to eat on holidays can be quite calorie-dense and also served in large portions.
A really easy way to avoid weight gain on vacation is to watch your portions. If you are choosing less-healthy options order from the sides or starter menu or ask for a half-portion.
Tapas is the easiest way to do this (thank you, Spain). But, the beauty of the sides menu is also that the dishes are often simple, with only a few ingredients (which makes them much easier to identify).
6. Choose to Eat Healthy While on Holidays
Believe it or not, it is actually possible to lose weight while on vacation. It’s all about choosing to have a healthy holiday and knowing how to eat healthy foods on holiday. Losing weight really is as simple as maintaining a small caloric deficit over time.
So, if you are choosing healthy food options while on vacation, this will be made much easier. It also means you’ll stay fuller for longer and not feel like you’re missing out during your time away from home.
Breakfast is the easiest meal to streamline as a healthy option. Ditch the big hotel buffet and instead order simple poached eggs with toast, fruit, or oatmeal and add the toppings yourself. These are super easy options to track.
When you’re eating out at restaurants during the day, don’t forget about grilled fresh seafood, meat, and local vegetables. Simple, individual ingredients are much more easily measured and managed (if you are tracking your calories). And even if you aren’t tracking your macronutrients, you’ll find simple protein and vegetables are a combination that will keep you full for longer and is likely to contain the least hidden calories.
Dishes like casseroles, pasta dishes, bakes, pies, pizzas, and the like are all more difficult to guess the ingredients of and are usually very heavy in fats, sugars, or carbohydrates.
So, if you are trying to avoid gaining weight while on vacation or even to lose weight while on holiday, these should be avoided or at least reduced to a minimum.
There are fresh food markets and organic stores all around the world. Eating from the local growers’ market is not only a great way to try their home-grown fare, it’s usually much cheaper.
You can also practice the local lingo and ask growers where and how the food is grown. If you’re lucky, they may even give you a few new tips on how to cook them, local style back at your accommodation.
7. Carry Healthy Travel Snacks
Carrying healthy snacks is the simplest way to avoid buying overpriced, overprocessed foods while on holiday. It is also a great way to save money while travelling.
Buying directly from the local markets, health food store, or supermarkets will save you time, money, and calories that can be easily spent at a tourist attraction kiosk.
The easiest health travel snacks are; raw nuts, protein balls, yogurt pouches, healthy muesli bars, and full pieces of fruit. These are also easy options to track if you are monitoring your holiday calories too, thanks to the nutrition panels on the back.
8. Have a Post-Holiday Plan in Place
Most of us drink a little more alcohol than we normally would on holidays. When you’re back home, go alcohol-free for a while. Your body will thank you for it.
Re-establish your healthy routine as soon as possible so you don’t bring your bad holiday habits home. Choose simple, healthy foods like organic veggies, meats, and fish. Pre-book your trainer or your gym classes so you’re locked into your fitness routine, once again. Pre-planning is the easiest way to avoid weight gain after vacation as well as those dreaded post-holiday blues.
If you have managed to put on weight on vacation, don’t panic. Vacation weight gain is common and it’s not the end of the world. Losing vacation weight is the same as losing weight at any other time. The most sustainable weight loss strategy is to start a small caloric deficit for a short period of time (seek expert advice to do this like Libby Wescombe).
Then, book your next holiday so you have a great new goal to work towards. Be kind to yourself and take your time.
Skye is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Fit Traveller.
She is a journalist, writer, photographer, intrepid traveller and a former personal trainer with a passion for helping others reach optimal health.
As a TV journalist and producer, Skye has worked for household names such as 60 Minutes, Sunrise, TODAY and Nine News. She has also written for Women’s Health, Fodor’s Travel and Yahoo7 Travel, among many others.
Equally comfortable in a 5-star resort or hiking a far-off mountain, Skye loves the unexpected and enriching life experiences that each trip brings and can often be found in a backstreet chatting to locals with her camera in hand.
Skye is based in Sydney, working to master the balance between motherhood and her appetite for adventure.
Read more about Skye’s story here.