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Think back to the last time you got home from a vacation. Whether you were relaxing on the beach for the weekend or attending a family Disney World bonanza, the last part is the same: you drag your suitcase to your door, put the key in the lock, and step back into normal life. At that exact moment, how did you feel? Were you refreshed, recharged, and feeling awesome in your body? Or did you feel like you need a post-vacation vacation? (We have that saying for a reason.)

When we are away from home, it is all too easy to let basic self-care habits – ones that usually feel automatic or routine – go “on holiday” as well.  As a result, you return from your trip with some unwanted souvenirs:  a few extra pounds, de-conditioned muscles, and a feeling of exhaustion.

The good news: there are ways to avoid the post-vacay blahs. Next time you hit the road, try out these strategies to keep your health behaviors on-site, even when you are off-site.


  • Take a cue from Yogi Bear and think about your picnic basket, especially on the days that you are traveling to and from your destination. Ready-to-eat oatmeal or cereal, protein bars, string cheese, packets of tuna or salmon, and pita pockets can be packed in your suitcase and then supplemented with milk, yogurt, and produce that is available in most convenience stores and airport concession stores. These items can serve as the basis for healthy, controlled meals while you are in transit, and they will allow you to avoid succumbing to the less healthful fare that will tempt you while you wait or ride.
  • If you can’t stand the thought of traveling to a new place and not partaking in the local cuisine, limit yourself to one “treat” item per day.  You don’t need to deprive yourself, but you will feel better about indulging if you make a thoughtful choice about how to spend those extra calories, and you will still keep your foundation of healthful eating intact.
  • Since you’ll likely have some extra time on your hands (you’re on vacation, right?), take the opportunity to practice mindful eating. Eating mindfully means slowing down, lowering your utensils between bites, chewing your food thoroughly, and resisting the urge to multi-task during a meal. In our hectic lives, we often don’t take the time to savor our meals and reap the maximum degree of satisfaction that they offer. With mindful eating, we often can tune into our experience more closely and make healthful decisions about what and how much to eat. Vacations are an excellent chance to practice this skill.


  • While there is nothing wrong with taking a hiatus from your normal spinning class or running regimen, you will feel better during and after your trip if you remain active and resist the urge to completely veg out. You might utilize a pedometer or activity tracker (like a FitBit, Polar Loop, or FuelBand) to keep you honest about how much you are moving through your day. Being mindful about taking stairs rather than elevators, parking further away in parking lots, and limiting periods of extended sitting all go a long way.
  • Check out the fitness scene in your new temporary hometown. Go Recess is an excellent resource for locating fitness studios with classes open to the public, so that you can try out a single-class pass at a new spot – either to try out a novel athletic adventure, or to continue feeding your Zumba obsession.


  • It can be tempting to want to burn the midnight oil when we are on vacation in a new and exciting setting, but ensuring that you still catch sufficient zzz’s is critical. If you fail to get adequate rest for days on end, you will be paying back your sleep debt long after you get home. Ensure that you have a quiet, comfortable, and cool sleeping environment, and try to keep your nightly hours of sleep consistent with what you’re used to.
  • Take the opportunity to disconnect from the technologies that keep us constantly on-call and stressed out in our daily routines. Keep phone calls minimal, and be bold enough to disappear from your social media networks during your time away. You may find a certain freedom when you distance yourself from the information overload to which you are accustomed, and the experience may lead you to re-think how much time you are spending in front of your screens on a regular basis.

Give one or more of these strategies a shot on your next vacation, and you just might find that you return in better health than when you departed! 

What do you do to stay healthy while you’re traveling? Share your tips with the CGH community below! 


Dr. Katie Rickel is a licensed clinical psychologist specializing in weight management and health behavior modification. Dr. Rickel graduated summa cum laude from Duke University with a BS in Psychology. She earned her MS and her PhD in Clinical Psychology from the Department of Clinical and Health Psychology at the University of Florida. Following this, Dr. Rickel completed a clinical internship in Health Psychology – specializing in obesity – at Duke University Medical Center where she was trained in the management of chronic pain, behavioral weight loss and surgical interventions for obesity. Dr. Rickel’s research has been presented at numerous professional conferences and has been published in scientific journals among other publications. Dr. Rickel serves as a Licensed Clinical Psychologist at Wellspring at Structure House, a residential weight loss facility in Durham, North Carolina, where she provides clinical services and develops novel program enhancements. Most recently, she created a specialized program to treat binge eating disorder as well as a behavioral pain management program. She also developed a series of courses to educate and coach family members of overweight and obese individuals. In addition, Dr. Rickel strives to reach those individuals who cannot attend Structure House’s residential program in person. To that end, she has written a self-guided weight management workbook, Structured for Life ®: 28 Day Weight Loss Action Plan, and has assisted in the creation of an online version of the Structure House treatment program. In her spare time, Dr. Rickel is passionate about fitness and enjoys challenging herself in the areas of weight lifting, indoor cycling and yoga. read more about