Practicing What I Preach, Even on Vacation

I may be on a family vacation in Guatemala, but the blog goes on!

This is the perfect time to share another example of a doctor following their own medical advice, in real-life and real-time.

I believe it’s possible to maintain a healthy lifestyle while still enjoying vacation, and maybe even making it a better vacation!

Yes, geographic and cultural differences can make mealtime choices challenging. Yes, being polite and appreciative of our hosts and their efforts can be challenging. Yes, making time to exercise (and doing so safely) can be challenging. And yes, traveling with two small children is always challenging.

Here are some real-life tips to make things easier. These are small adaptations and arrangements that can be built in or fit in to any vacation.

1. Plan activities in ahead of time. Or, even plan an active vacation, if you can. In our case, we’re visiting family and then traveling together to the coast. On our first day, we took the kids to a beautiful park with lots of fun stuff to do. Our step trackers showed that we walked over five miles! We know that we’ll get even more exercise at the beach. I packed a couple of inexpensive Waboba balls, and we know we’ll be body surfing too.

2. Sneak a little activity in even in days when none is planned. We have no transportation today, so we’re making the most of our downtime. We made sure it was safe first, and then we went for a stroll around the neighborhood. Guatemala is the Land of Eternal Spring, and gorgeous tropical flowers abound. The photo below features the quintessential Bougainvillea vines that crown walls throughout the country.

3. Arrange healthy eating ahead of time. We were lucky as our hosts asked us what we’d like them to stock in their kitchen. It’s fine to make requests within reason. I know that tropical fruits abound here, so asked for lots and lots of seasonal fruits, plus easy-to-find basics like yogurt. If we were on our own, we’d research local grocery stores and restaurants.

4. Bring some healthy travel-friendly foods. We brought crunchy apples and little bananas in our carryons with the plan to finish it all before we arrived (most countries won’t allow fresh produce across the border due to parasite concerns). And we did. The restaurant choices near our departure gate in Atlanta were not ideal. For a late breakfast, it was mostly processed fast-food and greasy spoon-type places where every choice involved something fried, cured, smoked, or swimming in butter. One coffee shop had yogurt parfaits and fruit cups, and I admittedly spent far too much of our travel budget. But these plus our fruit supply is what fueled us.

We also packed sunflower seed butter in our luggage as a healthy protein. And yes, we had to bring along some kid-pleasing favorites like cheddar crackers and pea puffs. Not great, but the better of many bad choices, and hungry kids are grumpy kids, so…

5. Enjoy a special treat.. in moderation. I have a thing: We have to have Pollo Campero at least once when we visit. Pollo Campero is Guatemala’s far superior version of fried chicken. The epitome of unhealthy, but oh so delicious, and exactly what we ordered for a big family dinner last night. But that wasn’t all we had: Our hosts had made a large salad of thinly sliced, marinated carrots, peppers, zucchini tossed with herbs. The combination wasn’t just virtuous, but also worked well (and even better with a lime-garnished Mexican lager alongside).

6. Sleep. This is one of the biggest goals of any vacation, right? Relax. Which means rest. Which means sleep well. They all go together. While small children can make this challenging, a loose schedule helps. Babygirl was up multiple times last night, crying out in real pain: her knees. We still haven’t figured out why exactly, but she seemed to be experiencing splintering Godawful bilateral knee pain. Every adult in the house was roused and rallied to assist. A McGyvered heating pad (homemade out of a sweatsock filled with rice and microwaved for exactly one minute) did the trick. And we were all able to sleep in this morning, because thankfully, we had no plans.

Just a few doable actions to make a vacation more active and healthy!

Photo credit to my mom, as we power-walked for a stretch on our morning family stroll.

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