One rule rules vacation

It’s been awhile since I last posted, so now comes a bit of catching up.

After the last day of the school year and before the Memorial Day weekend, I took time off of work (and blogging) to spend some time with my teenager. We made the 1½-hour drive to visit my parents (a.k.a. Grandma and Grandpa) at their home in the Northeast Georgia mountains where we found plenty of spectacular scenery to lure us outside, onto shady trails through old-growth forests, past blooming Mountain Laurel and Rhododendron, high above waterfalls, across creeks via suspension bridges, and more. Welcome to beautiful Tallulah Gorge State Park. And, welcome to summertime in the south.

Whether a road-trip to a nearby destination, a low-key visit with friends or relatives, sight-seeing in a great city, or romantic escape to some far-away and exotic paradise, the break in routine that travel provides is refreshing, invigorating, and beneficial to health on many levels.

But, vacation poses a serious challenge to a person’s weight-loss efforts, does it not? No question, one of the most enjoyable aspects of travel is the opportunity to try novel and unfamiliar food, sample regional specialties, and feast on delicacies unavailable at home. Exciting for sure, but not exactly a diet-friendly proposition.

Here’s how I handle the dilemma: I temporarily abandon my diet rules — all except for one, that is — to savor everything a destination has to offer. I say yes to the culinary pleasures travel affords, because saying no almost always backfires (see On Rituals and Traveling). I’ve come to understand that the opportunity to partake of a particular thing, by way of place and time, may never come again. And the moment of refusal, for all of its good intentions and all the right reasons, turns inevitably into one of regret, spoiling the memory of what was otherwise a cherished and unforgettable experience.

My downtime in Appalachia last week involved such southern fare as fried chicken, biscuits, collards cooked in meat, not to mention the pot liquor. But it wasn’t all deep-fried or made with pork fatback. There was also local farm produce fresh from roadside stand to Grandma’s table.

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Grandma’s table – Yellow & red tomatoes with vinaigrette, half runner beans, pan-sauteed lemon-pepper chicken tenders

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Grandma’s salad – vinaigrette perfection!

The only rule that I continued to observe throughout the week was portion control. I had everything I wanted, just not too much of it. With each meal, I made sure to stop eating before I got very full.

It just takes self-awareness, that’s all, starting from the time you sit down at the table. You eat your meal slowly and pay attention to your body’s signals. It may take a little practice if you’re not used to doing it, but eventually you learn to recognize the point when satiety is reached. Then, you put down your fork, and you’re done. You take a deep breath and smile. You feel satisfied. Grateful even. You feel nourished.

I did not weigh in for the entire week. Not sure what I’d find after I got home and stepped on the scales again, I was relieved to see this:

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Four days later, post holiday weekend filled with the sweet aroma of traditional hickory-smoked barbecue, accompanied by corn on the cob, potato salad, and ice tea, this:

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My one rule rules!

Cheers to summertime and to vacation. Give yourself wholehearted consent, ahead of time, to enjoy all the sensory pleasures of travel, or any special occasion. Say yes. Just, not too much.

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