I am always interested (or perhaps baffled and impressed!) by how well most people do with their weight when they are away on holiday. I should clarify this statement by excluding holidays on cruise ships and all-inclusive resorts!

Usually I hear how ‘much’ people ate at the main meals, or how many carbohydrates they allowed themselves, yet weight loss still occurred.

My suspicions as to the mechanism of this unexpected weight loss are multi-fold. We forget how much less stress there is on holiday compared to home, with work load and family demands. The impact of low-grade cortisol elevations certainly impacts insulin and results in weight gain.

Generally, people are also sleeping better when they are away from thinking about work. Along with that, there are far fewer snacks. After walking all day, after supper, it’s rare that we will sit in a hotel room and snack on ice cream or potato chips. The food also is much less processed, and generally of high quality and without excess portions.

The daily movement and long walks as we tour about a city or visit museums plays a big role.

Yet, as soon as we return home, stress returns and unfortunately the old habit of coming home and turning on the TV in the evening time is reinstated, which is usually associated with snacking.

The thought I am left with is how do I mimic these healthy vacation habits? We need good sleep, no evening snacks, less stress, more movement. Most of these good habits come down to mindfulness; that is, being aware of what habits are good for our health. This is not rocket science, yet we continue with behaviors which negatively affect our health.

Start with the evening time. We don’t need snacks after dinner. There is no hunger there, just the ‘desire’ to eat. Sleep is so important, and we must must must break the habit of working or reading on smart phones or tablets and delaying turning off the lights. Turn off the lights and listen to an audio book or TED talk, anything to decrease the exposure to unnatural light.

Movement is a conscious decision. Try not to make excuses at lunch or in the evening about being ‘too tired’ or ‘too busy’. Just move. Do something. A short walk, a few push-ups or squats. Something. We are meant to move. If one looks at the science, you would be amazed at the benefits of exercise—no pill has ever, or likely will ever, out do the benefits to the brain for cognition and lessening of the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease than exercise.

All of us should be working towards zero night time snacks, and working to achieve longer, good quality sleep.

This is a start. Retain the habits you had when travelling. Stress, I admit, is less easily dealt with, but can be improved with sleep and regular movement.

Keep on trying to change negative health behaviors. You can do it. Never stop trying!

Dr. Doug