COLUMN: Feel your best and make fitness progress on vacation

Ascend Fitness founder Tanja Shaw says you can stay in shape and have fun on holiday

“I’m going away and don’t want to undo all the progress I’ve made. Do you have any tips or strategies for ‘sticking with it’ when on vacation?” – Julie B., Chilliwack

Dear Julie,

First of all, kudos to you for thinking ahead and looking for solutions. Well done. A very important step to making a lifestyle change is the desire to do it! I get asked this question a lot- and while there are many tips and strategies for keeping fit on vacation, packing food for long flights, or making healthier restaurant decisions, (I’ve written multiple articles on how to keep in shape on vacation, which I will link to below), the most important thing to work on is the story we tell ourselves, and expectations around our vacations, travel and being out of routine.

For a lot of people, trying to lose weight or get into shape, travelling can be scary. Especially if in the past, vacationing was a time you got off track, overate, over-consumed alcohol, skipped workouts and pledged to ‘get serious’ or commit to ‘clean eating’ when the you’re back. Do you have a pattern of using ‘being out of routine’ to justify every indulgence? What story are you telling yourself? Remember that stories are just that, stories. As Ascend Mind Body Eating Coach Kayla van Egdom says “you are the author of your life, not merely a character”.

Here are some of the more common ‘stories’ we tell ourselves around vacations, and a few ways you can shift your story.

1. I don’t want to feel restricted I want to be free to eat whatever I want. I don’t want to feel like I’m missing out.

The first statement might be true- you don’t want to feel restricted. You want to eat whatever you want. But what ELSE is true? Do you actually feel free when you overindulge, or do you feel weighed down by disappointment? Do you feel free when you overindulge, or do you tend to hide in the shade instead of playing on the beach? And what are you actually missing out on? Dessert? Free drinks? Feeling stuffed? Or confidence? Joy? Vibrant energy? New story to practice: I am free to eat whatever I want. For today though, I want to feel good and I’m going to practice choosing foods that I love AND that make me feel good. I feel much better when I eat well. I am worth it.

2. I can either keep fit and stay healthy or enjoy my vacation. I’m either all on or all off.

Binary thinking stops us from looking for other solutions (similar to any black of white thinking such as ‘I’m either in 100% of totally off track’). Search for a middle ground. On vacation, or on a Tuesday at home, don’t aim for perfection. Perfection doesn’t exist. Look at choices as simply votes for or against the life you want to live and the person you want to be. The election doesn’t need to be won unanimously. Make more choices for the person you want to be and the life you want to live. New story to practice: I am committed to making more better choices more often. I am going to practice all or something.

3. I don’t want to be a nuisance, or let my desire for healthy options make others uncomfortable. (ex. Needing to schedule a workout in your family’s vacation, searching for healthier restaurants, requesting healthier options when out).

I can relate! I used to feel self-conscious for asking for what I wanted at dinner or modifying our vacation plans to accommodate a workout. I felt like others might judge me that others would feel bad about their food choices, or I would make a fuss and annoy the server. I’ve ditched that story and so should you! It IS important though, that you make healthier choices without judging other people’s choices or giving unsolicited advice to others. Focus on relationships, not food.

New story to practice: I deserve to feel my best always, including (and perhaps most importantly) on vacation! My friends and family deserve to have me at my best. I am worth it!

While it may be easier to stick to your plan when you’re at home in your regular routine, you can most certainly make progress toward your goals while on vacation AND enjoy your time away. I want you to feel your best while taking a break from real life. Don’t expect to be perfect. And don’t let one poor choice cascade into a day, weekend, or few weeks of poor choices. The next choice can always be a good one. For our Anytime, Anywhere Keep Fit Vacation Plan (including metabolism building workouts, keep-fit packing list and stay on track strategies, go to

Tanja Shaw is a Certified High Performance Coach, Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, host of the Fit and Vibrant You podcast and founder of Ascend Fitness + Lifestyle. She helps busy men and women lose weight, gain strength and energy, and to love the way they feel again with fitness, nutrition, mindset and lifestyle coaching. Learn more at

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