I spent last weekend doing a bunch of things I LOVE: traveling, meeting great new people, going on fun outdoor adventures, eating lots of amazing food and drinking a lot of wine. And while I really do adore all of these things, they’re also extremely draining for my introverted, just-getting-over-burnout self.
When I take vacations, I do my best to skip most of my normal routines and just go with the flow. I think we all need that break, even those of us that really rely on those routines to stay productive and healthy. If for no other reason, taking some time off from healthy habits reinforces why we like and need them so much in the first place! I LOVED this trip and wouldn’t change a thing about it, but I’m definitely feeling a little bit less than my best right after getting home. I’ve got the sodium bloat, I’m dehydrated, sluggish, and mentally fatigued.
And like most people, I still find it difficult to get back to “normal.” Continuing to subsist on restaurant food and laying around sounds prettttttty good right now. Training mostly sounds like a chore. Even the idea of sitting down to write and work with clients is a little daunting, despite the fact that I love doing both of those things!
I’m forcing myself out of that cycle as I type – I have work to do that I actually WANT to do, and need to be physically and mentally prepared to do the best I can. I’m not being kind to my body by continuing to eat things that, while delicious, don’t make me feel and perform my best. Here’s the process I use to get back to feeling my absolute best after a time of over-indulgence:
Pre-Plan a Recovery Day
If it is at all possible, plan for one day (or even just a morning) between your vacation and going back to work for recovery. It stings a little to think that you left whatever amazing destination a little earlier than you absolutely had to, but you’ll thank yourself later.
I feel like this is one of those “there are two types of people” ideas, but in my experience, unpacking as soon as possible makes a big difference. I want to get back to my normal routine effortlessly; if my clothes are still in a pile in a suitcase and I can’t find my shampoo, daily life is going to feel like a chore. Make it easier by putting everything back where it belongs as soon as you get home. Bonus: do your laundry immediately too.
This is an all-day affair, but start as soon as you wake up. The goal today is to drink MORE water than you do on a “good” day. For me, I typically drink about 3 liters of water per day, so when I’m doing a soft reset, I shoot for 4-5 liters. I also add a little sea salt and lemon to my water do replenish minerals and electrolytes. It also makes all that water go down a little easier.
Your body I mean. There’s something so satisfying about taking a hot shower when you need a reset. And if I do have a whole day off, I go for broke here. Full body exfoliation, shave EVERYTHING, hair mask, face mask, lots and lots of moisturizing. I want to feel brand new.
Put on your favorite “real” clothes and get all the way ready
I’ve found it helpful to take an extra minute to get dressed on these days. It’s tempting to stay in pajamas, but the goal today is to get back to feeling productive, so we’re going to treat it like a normal day off work. That means putting on an outfit you love and spending a little bit of time on hair/makeup/whatever you’re into. Make the effort for yourself.
Eat: when you feel hungry, and as much nutritionally dense food as you want
This might be the trickiest part. In the past, I’ve oscillated between two extremes when it comes to eating after going a little too hard on the booze and tortilla chips: continuing on the convenience food train OR forcing a prolonged fast. Neither of these options are healthy or helpful.
Continuing to eat only foods that are tasty but low in nutrients keeps me from feeling my best (digestion is off, skin is angry, don’t have much energy), and the longer I put off eating better, the harder it will be to go back. That’s why cheat days sometimes turn into cheat weeks and months. The first decision to say, “No, I choose oatmeal over french toast right now” is the hardest, but if you make the promise to yourself to follow through, you’ll find that each subsequent decision requires less effort. Eating a healthy lunch makes sense after eating a healthy breakfast. You’ve been doing good things for yourself all day, so may as well go with a filling and healthy dinner too!
And while the fasting option works well for some people, it’s always been detrimental to me in the long run. While I won’t force myself to eat breakfast right away, as soon as I notice I’m hungry, I make something without judgement. When I used to use fasting as a tool to “be good and get back on track,” it usually led to later binges, and not on the wholesome food I focus on now. I’d be right back in the family-sized bag of chips going to town, and the soft reset process would continue into the next day. Thats not what we’re going for.
The key to this way of thinking about “getting back on track” with your eating is this: eat AS MUCH NUTRIENT-DENSE FOOD AS YOU WANT. It may seem like a lot, but thats okay! It’s one day, and we’re trying to get used to eating the amount of food your body really needs, and the types of foods your body really needs. If you try to stop yourself short, you’re just going to deal with all-day hunger, making it way harder to say no to getting take-out again.
In short: eat foods that make your body sing, and as much of them as you want. Every good decision makes the next one even easier, and before you know it, you’ll be back to your normal way of eating.
Get a sweat on
Make yourself do some kind of exercise. It doesn’t have to be a full-on training session. It can be 10 minutes of HIIT in your living room or a hot yoga class you’ve always wanted to try but never could. Anything to get back into the HABIT of training. I like to take my favorite pre-workout and do shoulder-focused bodybuildling day (live for the pump). The specifics don’t really matter, the goal is to do something that feels good after.
Get prepared for the days to come
This part is a little less fun: you get to be your own parent. You’ve already done a great job of taking care of your most basic needs – hydration, nutrition, movement, hygiene. Now you have the space to focus on the bigger picture.
My number one priority when I get back from a vacation is grocery shopping and meal prep. It’s already an uphill battle to get back to eating nutritious food, so I do everything I can do make that easier. I’ll take the extra time to look through my fridge and pantry and see what I need long-term. I’ll also incentivize myself by planning on making a fancier meal that first night (since I’ll be stocking up on groceries anyway).
Number two priority? Checking out my bank account and credit card statement. Traveling and spending more money than usual can put you at risk of credit card fraud, so stay on top of it while your purchases are fresh!
Number three, and its own section:
Go to bed at your normal time
And do the your normal nighttime routine to go along with it. Get set up to head back to real life the next day by getting as much sleep as you want and need. Give yourself the opportunity to wake up fresh and ready to take on the next day (and get back to your productive life).