I recently traveled to New Orleans for the Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans half marathon. The trip was amazing and I was so excited for my first trip where I was reunited with all of my girlfriends from California that I hadn’t seen together in almost three years now (when we relocated to North Carolina). On top of the reunion and good company aspect, I was so excited to enjoy the city of New Orleans. It’s one of my favorite places – we went there for NYE several years ago – and I love the personality of the city. And by personality, let’s not even pretend that food isn’t a huge part of that.
Beignets, jambalaya, po’ boys – the list goes on! I was dreaming about the food on this trip for months before I left. When I looked up things to do around New Orleans, it was really ‘things to eat when in New Orleans’ and where to go. I wanted to check out all the new restaurants, all the local favorites, oh yeah, and run a race. But the problem? That doesn’t really fit into my ‘diet.’
I use diet in quotation marks because I have tried throughout this process to make it a lifestyle change rather than ‘oh, I’m on a diet.’ I haven’t restricted any one food, or done eliminations (aside from coffee but that’s for different reasons), but I’m just tried to manage my portions and eat treats in moderation. I’ve tried to balance the 80/20 rule of 80% good with 20% flexibility. So I decided I would do the same on this trip. I would allow indulgences because this was a vacation. I was going to a different place with unique eats and I didn’t want to regret that I skipped out on something because ‘oh it’s so many calories.’ But at the same time, I didn’t want to beat myself up for it, so I would set myself up for success. So this is what I did:
- I packed healthy snacks. Granola bars, protein shakes, small almond butter packs, my mini portioned sweets in case I needed something sweet but didn’t want to be inundated with bad choices, etc. These turned out to be perfect for hangry moments when we were on walking tours of the city, our swamp tour, etc.
- I packed my meal for the plane. At least for the initial trip there. I just packed a sandwich, banana, and some pre-portioned chips, granolas, etc. This provided me with options for when I was running through the airport and smelling the Popeye’s chicken, or sitting on the plane and they’re passing out sodas and their own chips.
- I purchased water as soon as I arrived. We went and bought a bulk pack of water for our room so that I could take them with me on the go, and so that I could ensure I was keeping up my water intake.
- I packed workout clothes for every day. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to workout every day that I was there, but if I had the clothes for it, I wouldn’t have an excuse not to.
- I ‘scheduled’ workouts. Going into the trip, I figured I would do a short run or power walk through the city each morning. This would give me time to hang out with my girlfriends at the start of the day, and do a personal tour of the city. We were staying right by the French Quarter, so I knew we’d have plenty to see. I didn’t want to set a firm schedule though as I didn’t know our agenda for each day, but I set the expectation in myself, mentally. Then, at the end of each day, I left my friends know my plan for the next morning: ‘I’m going for a run tomorrow, anyone want to join me?’ I had a partner each morning and we adjusted our goal based on everyone’s running ability. But I felt good, and less guilty when I would have my indulgences later on throughout the day.
- When it did come time to eat out, I tried to balance the healthy with the indulgent. I would have the omelet with blackened ham, but I’d add in veggies and switch the eggs with egg whites. Or I’d order the fish with jambalaya, but I’d pick the grilled fish instead of fried, and get a salad first so I would still get my greens and would get the bulk of my full feeling from that. I also would split my meals with friends – we’d find we wanted the same thing and this way we got a taste of both but would split a salad, main dish and side. We were members of the clean plate club but only because we didn’t have overly full plates, but just the right amount of each item. No guilt, but still getting to enjoy the amazing foods of the city.
I was running 13 miles on Sunday! I wanted to treat myself! So I didn’t make the best choices for the whole trip, but I recovered. I tried to be gentle with myself – beating myself up over decisions wasn’t going to help in the long run, so ultimately I knew that regardless, I could get back in control when I came home Monday night. And I would as soon as I got back – no ‘oh I’ll start tomorrow.’ I had a healthy dinner when I returned, and by Tuesday morning, I was back to my usual routine. I was too tired to go to the gym, but I did make myself go for a run once I was up and moving – and I didn’t regret it. I may have been sluggish when I started the day, but getting a workout in made me feel good, refreshed, and ready to tackle the rest of the week. The scale showed that my weight was up from my vacation, but after just a couple of days in my normal routine, I could see it starting to move in the right direction so I was driven to keep going. That also happened to be the week that I hit my 100lb goal, which I never would have imagined as possible having just come back from vacation. But not falling off course and sticking with my meal plan and workout plan as much as possible, helped me to get there.