“Isn't it amazing how much stuff we get done the day before vacation?” -Zig Ziglar
It’s vacation and hurricane season all in one. At least in the northern hemisphere.
Last year, I read an article by Walter Isaacson about Walker Percy, author of “The Moviegoer” which I read and loved years and years ago, and his (Percy’s) personal theory of hurricanes.
A personal theory of hurricanes? Nothing to do with high and low pressure streams, categories 1-5 on the Saffir-Simpson scale?
No, it's personal.
I'm all ears.
Walker Percy thought that we (humans) feel better in a hurricane than we do in general. Why? Because the everydayness of life is just that: everyday, ordinary. The every day mires us in a “malaise” he said and his characters in all of his novels were always trying to find a way out of this malaise.
A hurricane was a temporary way out of the malaise, he thought. It leads to a heightened state of a life being “charged up with value”. Folks just didn't feel good because they'd do uncharacteristically nice things for their neighbors during a storm, they felt better in general as the storm was bearing down on them.
“Part of the answer is that when a hurricane is about to hit, we no longer feel uncertain about our role in the world. Everyone is focused, connected, engaged. We know what we’re supposed to do, and we do it”.- Walter Isaacson
And, the quote from Zig Ziglar about how much stuff we get done the day before a vacation is relevant too. When we are focused, we accomplish things.
The 11th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina is approaching but why am I using it in this post?
Since I'm lashed to the post of trying to think of new ways to think about an old problem, weight management—this article on Hurricanes and tying them to vacations as well,s was made to order.
Like so many seemingly non-related things, I think Percy is right about everydayness and malaise in general and, in a specific way, the I-feel-best-in-a-hurricane theory applies to the “losing” phase of a diet plan as well.
When I was focused on all the tools and my goal–and dutifully tracking on a daily basis, measuring out portions, attending weekly meetings, and counting the daily points–it did make me feel connected and engaged over a 11 month period of time. For me, to be focused over that period of time, on one thing? Rare. I usually have the attention of a mayfly.
The weight maintenance stage is the exact opposite. Calm winds. Tropical, balmy. Loosey Goosey. Think of the reggae song, “Don't Worry. Be Happy.”
CNN is not covering weight maintenance, I can tell you that. What? Take a photo of a beach without a correspondent bent over in hurricane force winds, or, at least, without a shark fin in it?
No breaking news here.
The malaise of having to keep doing sensible stuff day after day, week after week, year after year sets in quite soon after reaching a lifetime goal.
One could make a case that this lack of “charged value” and lack of focus that the weigh loss stage and the immediate aftermath can bring, is the precise reason 90% of folks regain their lost pounds + any others that want to come along.
This is one of the reasons I still try to attend weekly WW meetings. Not for the accountability as much as the reminder: these are my people. I belong here regardless of what the scale says and if people think I don’t need to worry anymore. I know I have to acknowledge this issue on a regular basis in order to deal with it.
My goal is to try and keep the focus on the every day without having to move the lawn furniture.
Storms may pass and the sun does indeed come out tomorrow–but, guess what?
Those pounds are still there circling the parking lot.
If losing weight is similar to The Hurricane Diet, then the challenges of Weight Maintenance are more like what I call the “Vacation Diet”.
The intense focus of The Hurricane diet is gone. You’ve lost the weight. You took however long you took and you did it. You tracked, you weighed portions, you exercised, you eliminated trigger foods or at the very least, as I did, moved them to the garage, where I’d have to deliberately go outside to get them.
You are wearing the size of clothes you imagined you would wear. Your lab tests indicate you are healthier. Your are walking miles in a day instead of a week. You know you have done a very good thing for your future. Ok. You won the gold medal, if you will.
What happens to medal winners after the high of the games wear off? Their training focus begins to weaken. If they have another Olympics on their mind, perhaps they use that to stay focused. But, someone who has lost a significant amount of weight? No, we don’t find the thought of regaining the weight and relosing it motivating.
I thought, I did it. Put a checkmark next to that “To Do” item. I am healthier. I have done for my future what I was not able to do for my past. And, yes, I deserve something. But, what? To not have this problem, I bet was in the back of my mind, even though I knew it was a lifetime issue not going away.
The dynamics are very similar to what I call the Vacation Diet: you leave “regular” life behind, for a week, two weeks, the rules of daily living don’t apply and you feel you deserve to treat yourself: if everyone is having ice cream after dinner, clam rolls for lunch, drinks with umbrellas, you think..I deserve it, this time only comes once a year, time is not measured in the regular chunks of time. The boundaries disappear and we say when we get back from vacation, we’ll resume our healthy habits.
The problem is for someone maintaining a significant weight loss, your mind never arrives back home from vacation.
You still feel you deserve stuff, you can manage it “later” when regular life resumes.
Experts will discuss whether these are addictive behaviors or a predictable pattern of those with the disease of obesity…but, for me, neither explanation really helps me.. nor do the neuroscientists who suggest it is our own, newly lean body, signaling you need to eat more…the causes may be under examination but the practical results are in.
Most of us regain the weight so if I want to be one who does not, I have to figure out how to manage what I call the Vacation Diet: in other words, how do I not gain weight on vacation?
Google that question and you’ll see there are many opinions. One article by an exercise physiologist, nutritionist, and personal trainer in LA suggests four areas to consider:
Travel with an activity monitor, indulge but indulge wisely, go easy on the alcohol, and unplug from technology.
PS. I don’t think he means you should walk to the ice-cream store instead of driving.
I don’t drink so #3, go easy on the alcohol is easy for me, but unplugging from technology? He suggest that the artificial light from our devices “plays havoc with our brain and triggers stress, which increases the hormone cortisol, which, in turn, causes us to gain weight.”
He suggests reading old fashioned print books! I prefer those anyway but my creativity is entwined with technology and that is 365 days a year.
So, if I’m “on vacation” 52 weeks a year, unplugging from technology is a monster challenge. MONSTER.
I’m also going to research more about that “artificial light” he suggests causes us to gain weight. I had heard the light from our screens can cause insomnia. But, weight gain?
O, brudder. I’ll report back when I know more.
So, there are three concrete suggestions trying to answer “How to Not Gain Weight During Vacation”. Exercise more. Indulge wisely. Go easy on alcohol. Unplug from technology.
I have my own 5th suggestion. Wherever you are on vacation, see if there is a WW meeting and go to it. When you have this problem 52 weeks a year, being with a community who knows the challenges can help you do 1-4 suggestions with a bit more ease.
On the flip side of knowing full well that this is a 365 day problem, I do temper this knowledge with a quote from Maya Angelou:
“Every person needs to take one day away. A day in which one consciously separates the past from the future. Jobs, family, employers, and friends can exist one day without any one of us, and if our egos permit us to confess, they could exist eternally in our absence. Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for. Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us.”
― Maya Angelou, Wouldn't Take Nothing for My Journey Now
When you have lifetime weight issues you have cares which will not ever withdraw from you but, on some days, we simply need to withdraw from them and enjoy the disconnect.
Just don’t do two days in a row of disconnecting because that leads to three, four…and pretty soon the cliché: “No one needs a vacation more than someone who has just had one.”
Bon vacances wherever you are.