Ask a Nutritionist: Should I Worry More About What I Eat Before I Go on Holiday, or During my Holiday

If you're feeling like you've left it too late to slim down before jetting off, you might be tempted to turn to the 'holiday diet' – but is it the right thing to do?

Hi Dan. I’ve got a long (long, long, loooooong) overdue holiday coming up. Like a lot of people, I want to be in better shape than I am now when I finally get to the sunshine. Is it more important to think about my diet before I fly, or when I land?David, Manchester

Should we worry about what we eat at all? I’d argue probably not, but a lot of people do get more stressed around their holiday.

We hear about being “beach-body ready” enough that even the thought of showing a bit more skin is enough to make us worry about how we look.

If you are targeting your holiday as a time to get into shape, first ask yourself: why? If it’s more psychological – and when you think about it, you actually eat pretty well – then maybe now isn’t the time to overhaul your diet. The issue with targeting a holiday is that once it comes, there’s nothing to aim for anymore.

It’s why you often see people’s weight yo-yo: they’re focused on the goal rather than the process, on short-term dramatic changes rather than long-term lifestyle tweaks. It's what you often see in people who subject themselves to crash diets.

Holidays are about relaxing and unwinding. This goes for what you eat, too. I think if there is any time of the year to let go of the stresses of eating, it’s on holiday, particularly as there can be so many exciting new foods (or old ones you’ve missed) to try.

The thing about a holiday is it’s a break from routine and there are a lot of things you do when travelling that you don’t do in your normal day-to-day life. This means that trying to keep the same diet going on holiday is even harder, and let’s be honest, even less fun.

If you’ve decided you do want to use your holiday to nudge yourself towards eating more healthily, there’s nothing wrong with that, so long as you give yourself plenty of time. If you can count the number of weeks till your holiday on one hand, you’re rushing. Think about the changes you are going to make. Can you keep them up after your holiday? If the answer is no, then don’t make them. Some changes you could make a couple of months beforehand include:

  • Switching sugary drinks to sugar-free versions (yes even if they’re artificially sweetened)
  • Aim to eat at least two of your five fruit and vegetable a day at dinner
  • Switch out one meat-containing meal a week for lentils, chickpeas or tofu (more on making plant-based food swaps here)

You’ll get more results before a holiday, but really think about why you are worrying and if changing what you eat is a short-term solution to the wrong problem.

As you’ve probably guessed, I’m not a huge fan of using your holiday as a way to change your eating habits, because it rarely works. If you are, don’t let it be your only goal and that will help get you on the right track.

Recommended Reading

  • Ask a Nutritionist: is Crash Dieting for my Wedding a Good Idea?
  • Are Crash Diets a Good Idea?
  • Should Your Diet Change With the Seasons?
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