During the summer months, weekend getaways and/or a weeklong vacation or two become the norm. After a snowy winter, few things are more enjoyable than escaping to an oceanfront bungalow for some rest, relaxation, and one-too-many margaritas. 

Unfortunately, that relaxed feeling quickly fades once you return to your home and notice that your jeans are a bit tighter than you’d like. This is when post-vacation guilt usually begins to set in. Regardless of where you are in your health and fitness journey, it’s likely that you have experienced this feeling at one point or another.

Navigating post-vacation guilt can be tricky. The first inclination is usually to begin restricting food intake and to ramp up the cardio. Instead of punishing yourself for enjoying your vacation, here are a few simple things you can do get back on track after a weekend (or week) away: 

Avoid the Scale

When on vacation, it’s common to eat foods that you don’t normally eat and to take full advantage of every happy hour. Alcohol and foods that are higher in sodium and carbohydrates cause the body to retain water. If your vacation required air travel, this will result in even more bloating and water retention. 

The weight that you are at the day that you return from vacation is not your true weight. It is not all newly stored body fat. Most of that extra weight, that “jiggly” feeling, is water weight. In order to shed water weight as quickly as possible, you need to hydrate yourself. Drink more water than you normally do and eat foods with a high water content.

Try “Swapping” Instead of Restricting

Instead of returning home and feeling like you need to punish yourself for simply enjoying your vacation, change the narrative. Most of us return home and immediately restrict. We restrict our carbohydrates. We cut sugar. We ban alcohol. Give swapping a try instead. Swap out starchy sides for vegetables for a few days. Swap your usual nightly dessert for a piece of dark chocolate. Swap a beer for a glass of wine.   

Swapping gives you the ability to reset the body after a week of indulgence without banning full food groups. You are still able to enjoy a drink with friends or silence that sweet tooth without feeling guilty for doing so. 

Take Advantage of NEAT

Cardio is great for helping rid the body of excess water weight and excess fat. However, forcing extra cardio every day after vacation isn’t always feasible or enjoyable. Fortunately, there are other ways to remain active without being glued to a treadmill. 

Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) is the energy that we use to do everything outside of exercising, sleeping, or eating. By working to increase NEAT, you can burn more calories daily. Taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking farther away, and doing some extra chores around the house can all increase your total daily calorie burn. 

Remember the Science Behind Weight Gain

If you simply can’t avoid the scale immediately following your trip, remember that one pound of fat is 3,500 calories. This means that if it takes 2,000 calories to maintain your weight, you will need to eat 5,500 calories in one day to gain one pound of fat. For most, that is a rather difficult thing to do. If the scale says that you gained five pounds following an extended weekend, it’s highly unlikely that you consumed an additional 17,500 calories over a three-day period. Most, if not all, of that is water weight and inflammation.

There’s no need to beat yourself up after a vacation. The water weight will lessen and any body fat gained can be lost by simply returning to your pre-vacation routine, increasing NEAT, hydrating properly, and loading up on some farm-fresh vegetables. 

Besides, regardless of what the scale says, the memories made with loved ones will always be worth it.