Should I Count Calories On Vacation?


After working over 8 years onboard cruise ships as an exercise physiologist, where the last thing on people’s minds is to diet or exercise, I know one or two things about how to stay fit while on vacation.

Should I count calories on vacation?

You shouldn’t count calories on vacation because your holiday time is to relax, rejuvenate and recharge your batteries. Any dietary rules like counting calories during your holiday can not only add more stress but also prevent you from having fun and enjoying yourself.

Seriously.

But having fun doesn’t mean you must eat everything, just because it’s there. It means you need to be mindful and prioritize what is most important for you, right now.

Let me share with you some thoughts I’ve learned from my mistakes, from my clients, and give you some ninja tips on how to stay fit on holidays.

I will also highlight that holidays don’t guarantee weight gain. Some people can actually lose weight. More on that later.

Is It Okay To Cheat On Your Diet On Vacation?

If you’re anticipating some time off when you can kick off the shoes, sip on cocktails by the pool, read a book, explore new places, taste new cuisines, or just doing nothing at all, dieting is probably the last thing on your mind.

Is it okay to cheat on your diet on vacation?

It is ok to cheat on your diet on your vacation because vacation time is to enjoy the moment, collect memories, and don’t worry about some artificial rules. The more you let loose and lower the bar, the more fun you will get. Dieting or counting calories can strip off fun and lead to regret.

The last thing you want is the regret that you haven’t done something.

In 2018 I went backpacking solo around south-east Asia for 5 months.

I started by hoping on the 2-weeks cruise around Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. After the cruise, I went to China, India, Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand.

From the surface, it seems like culinary heaven, especially if like me, you love food. But here’s the caveat. At this time I was experimenting with a “plant-based” diet.

And being in all those places I somehow disregarded the fact that I’m here to have fun, and I was prioritizing my “plant-based” lifestyle.

Big mistake.

Because of those arbitrary rules that “I’m a vegan and I don’t eat meat” I’ve missed out on the amazing opportunities to try local food, sample the authentic cuisine, and enjoy my time so much better.

Instead, I was this weird guy who is always conscious about what to eat and where to eat.

I felt like an idiot.

So when you’re on your holidays lower your guard and enjoy the moment.

Do Calories Count On Vacation?

Vacation is a fun time. You are going on vacation to create memories, not to count calories. People rarely remember what they eat on vacation. But they always remember how they felt.

You’re going on vacation to feel good. This can be around the dinner table, at the bar, at the beach, or wherever you’re going.

But what about if you just started to change your diet and you really don’t want to “waste” all the effort that you worked so hard for?

Do calories count on vacation?

Calories do count on vacation because any excess amount of food will be stored as body fat. However, when you’re on vacation, prioritizing your calories, and worrying about things you cannot have, over quality time, will result in disappointment and regret.

So counting calories, worrying about food, and being strict with yourself can shave off those fun moments. Not only it will feel weird but you can influence others around you with your rules and expectations.

And with all the worries, stresses, and additional rules they put on themselves, they literally forget to have fun and miss out on the very first reason why they are there.

I see this mainly with people who are just getting started with counting calories and want to lower their weight.

After dieting for a couple of months there is this moment where holidays are coming.

Let me tell you a story.

Couple years ago one of my clients told me that he lost 7 pounds after 2 weeks all-inclusive in Cabo.

I chocked.

Because I wasn’t expecting that kind of a news. Usually when people go on holiday they do the opposite.

They gain weight. 

Many people trying to plug-in their lifestyle to fit their new weight loss goals. And they believe they must turn their life upside down, just to stay on track.

To the point where they’ll sacrifice their holiday. And turn down any pleasures and treats that come with it.

Which is a mistake.

Because holidays are not about weight loss. They are about having fun, relieving stress, and recharging your batteries.

Whether that’s sampling new cuisine, staying up late, or having cocktails all day long. In other words, it’s about being a human and enjoying your time.

Thats exactly why you’re there.

Should You Diet On Holiday?

So, first of all, I totally understand that everyone is different. And like for some people going on holiday means going all out with booze and late-night parties. Others prefer to spend quality time in peace.

So should you diet on holiday?

You should diet on holiday only if you believe that this will make you feel better and make you feel conscious about your results. Some people prefer dieting while on holiday because it gives them a sense of control. Other life to let loose and enjoy every moment, despite their weight loss goals.

If someone is in the middle of a weight loss program, then they can get super cautious about the holiday.

They may feel guilty about eating more, trying different foods, or with the calories.

They check their hotel in advance to find out what sort of a menu will be there. They check gym availability and ask their trainer for any tips on how to stay motivated during holidays.

Or they even ask for any tips on how to stay away from all-you-can-eat buffets.

Because they don’t want to mess up that.

Which I understand. But here’s the thing.

Vacation time is there for you to enjoy. And it’s hard to have fun when you’re depriving yourself of all things that you like.

Which not only will complicate your weight loss process. But it also will affect the quality of your life.

And if you’ve got this rare opportunity once or twice a year where you can get away.

Here’s my tip for you.

The same tip I gave my client allowed him to lose weight instead of gaining it.

When you go on your break don’t just try to have fun.

Chase it!

Meaning to actively seek it out.

Because that’s why you’re there for. That can be in form of:

  • Meeting new people
  • Going on tours and hiking
  • Relaxing time in the spa
  • Trying a local cooking class

Whatever sparks your interest.

You want to be active, curious, and learning new stuff. 

They’re all feel-good activities that flow your veins with serotonin and dopamine.

And the more you let it go. And more you pursue in being out and about. The less stress you’ll get.

And guess what? The better your results.

Conclusion

Counting calories on vacation won’t make big difference in your weight but can prevent you from having fun and really restore your energy during your holidays. Vacation is not a time to count calories or to track your food. Is to spend quality time with people around you.

On the other side, if you believe that dieting while being on holiday will give you peace of mind because you don’t want to waste any of the hard work you did, that’s fine.

But before you plan your next trip, make sure to check out my guide on how to stop counting calories, and still lose weight. In there you can learn a lot of cool tricks that can change your relationship with food once for all.

Michal Sieroslawski

Michal is an exercise physiologist (MSc), nutrition coach, Ashtanga teacher, and fitness blogger. He shares his successes and failures to help busy men and women squash down 20, 50, or even 100 pounds of fat without leaving their home.

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