Why You Don’t Need a Post-Vacation Detox or Diet
I feel very fortunate to share that I just got back from a freakin’ awesome vacation last week – spent two weeks in Europe. Ate all the food and drank all the wine – the photo on this post is the most amazing cheesecake I’ve ever eaten in San Sebastian, Spain (visit my IG page to see some photos of more delicious-ness). Food was absolutely one of the best parts of the trip.
Now, back to reality. If I was still entrenched in a diet/disordered eating mindset like I was many years ago, “reality” would also mean food deprivation. Diet culture (and still unfortunately the greater part of our societal messages currently) tells us that if we go be “bad” on vacations, then we must come home and be “good.” I used to have this mindset and so did/do many of my clients.
But I’m here to tell you that after a fun trip, you DO NOT need to detox, diet, cleanse, restrict, etc.
Our bodies are amazing and they have a built-in detoxing system. I encourage you to let your body do its job. Three main organs – liver, colon and kidneys – exist to neutralize toxins every day.
Food deprivation causes inflammation. Under-eating is a form of physiological stress, and increases cortisol levels (our stress hormone), which creates inflammation – the precursor to several chronic diseases.
Cleanses, food restriction and detoxes create stress. Not eating enough revs up our sympathetic nervous system, which puts us into a chronic state of fight-or-flight (AKA an anxious mess). As mentioned above, our cortisol levels are increased. Plus, restriction/dieting takes a lot of brain space and energy – why would we want to add MORE stress than we already have by returning back to our regular life routines??
The metabolism takes a hit. The lack of food and essential nutrients from restriction will send the body into a calorie (or energy) – deficit or starvation state. This causes the body to slow down the calorie-burn process in an attempt to conserve energy.
Energy, mood and focus decrease. Cleanses and detoxes, or any restriction of food, leads to decreased focus, bitchy-ness and low energy (plus headaches and dizziness) – not what we want when we are trying to get back into the swing of things at home and work (or ever).
Here’s what I suggest doing instead:
Get back on a regular sleep schedule. In my opinion, sleep is the most important basic need when it comes to mental and physical health. Work on your sleep hygiene (practices before bed to improve sleep quality/quantity) by doing things like eliminating screens an hour before bed, practicing breathing, meditation and/or gentle yoga exercises, journaling 5 gratitudes for the day and/or drinking herbal tea.
Get re-connected to your body. It’s normal on vacation to get thrown out of routines that keep us more aligned with our bodies’ messages (I barely practiced yoga or meditation on my trip and typically practice everyday at home). That was one of my main focuses when I returned, because I knew it would benefit all aspects of my life as I get back into my grind. So, upon returning home, return back to any practices that help you re-connect (some great ways are meditation, body scans, breathing practices, yoga, being in nature).
Eat regular, balanced meals and snacks, and listen to your body’s hunger/fullness cues. In a nourished state, you’ll feel much better — mentally and physically – as you transition back into your life, than you would in food deprivation. Aim to include all macronutrients (carbs, fat, protein) plus fruits and veggies. I personally operate best when eating 3 meals and 2-3 snacks per day. Also, if you are in a place where you are in touch with your hunger/fullness cues, use this time to re-connect to them (if necessary) and let them guide timing and amounts of eating.
Hydrate. Our fluid needs are personal but most of us need around 8 to 10 cups per day – use this time to make your hydration a priority. If you struggle (like I used to!) with going to the bathroom on vacations, this will help you get regular upon your return home!
Move your body joyfully. As much as I needed a break from routine, it felt great to go out on the trail near my home and go for a walk/run! Plus, it helps take the edge off anxiety associated with returning back to “real life.” If you are in a medically capable place to exercise regularly, use post-vacation time to re-commit to or commit to moving your body regularly in a way that you enjoy.
Thanks for reading guys! If you are struggling with your relationship to food, body and self, please visit my Nutrition Counseling page — I’d love to work with you.
In true health,