Originally appeared in Sixty and Me.
For women over 50 who struggle with indulgent eating and want to lose weight, the prospect of vacation can bring both excitement and anxiety.
Why do women over 50 feel anxiety about indulgent eating on summer vacations?
Figuring out how to balance having a great time with food and weight goals is even harder if you’ve been victim to a series of All or Nothing Diets for decades (where you either have to “eat perfectly” or “what’s the point?”).
All or Nothing Dieting stops you from trusting yourself around food as it disconnects you from physical and emotional signals related to hunger and fullness, causing you to rely on food as a primary source of pleasure and emotional comfort.
The vacation-food anxiety comes from not trusting yourself to order the salad or say “no” to the second scoop of ice cream due to the impact of All or Nothing Dieting, and knowing there will be many indulgent options available.
Understanding that All or Nothing Dieting is what has caused the dysfunctional relationship with food (not some inherent self-control issue within yourself) is the first step to making more balanced choices on vacation.
Here’s 3 more tips to help women over 50 curb indulgent eating on vacation:
Tip #1: Don’t restrict… restriction is only going to make things worse for women over 50 (and it’s not your fault).
One of the reasons All or Nothing Dieting leads to food obsession and weight gain is because of the forbidden fruit phenomenon.
Research shows that when you place foods on a “bad” list, you will be more preoccupied with thinking about them.
And then, if you eat that food, you’re likely to struggle with self-criticism and guilt because you should have “known better”, when in reality the preoccupation lights up motivation pathways in the brain so you feel more motivated to seek the food out.
The good news is, the best time to learn about what triggers you to eat and how to care for yourself without indulgent eating is after an eating incident.
Grab my Debriefing Worksheet to help you think through an eating incident without self-judgment so you can problem solve for next time.
Many women mistakenly believe if they don’t restrict themselves they will go off the rails with eating (this is an example of All or Nothing thinking because you don’t trust yourself around food).
The best way to prepare for your vacation without restriction, nor unfettered indulgence, is found in Tip #2…
Tip #2: Identify what is important to you ahead of time (and give yourself permission to indulge!)
This is my standard holiday or event advice: think about what indulgences are important to you to enjoy in advance, then give yourself permission to indulge and enjoy the heck out of the experience.
For example, if you’re in Paris, please don’t leave the city without savoring at least one croissant (and I’d be giving myself permission to enjoy at least one a day… but that’s me).
Or if ice cream at the beach brings back nostalgic memories of your childhood, make sure to relish a cone while on your beach vacation.
The secret to success here is the mindfulness required to think about what moments are important to you, and then to be present to the moment of enjoyment.
You will feel emotionally satisfied from your indulgence, so (as long as your physical needs are met) you won’t feel the need to eat more.
Mindful indulgence may not be accessible to everyone:
A note here: for some who are suffering from disordered eating or the effects of trauma whether they be induced by diet or other life events, mindful indulgence may be anxiety producing because you either don’t feel safe with food or food is the thing that makes you feel safe.
In this case, you may need help from a professional before you can heal your relationship with food. You can find out more about how to work with me to eat with joy instead of eating to seek joy here.
Tip #3: Eat regularly, especially protein
It’s easy to skip meals due to a different routine, or believe we should skip meals before an indulgent dinner later.
In reality, skipping meals can increase your stress hormones, anxiety, and cause a much bigger appetite than you may have had otherwise.
Protein foods are a good way to keep your blood sugar stable.
- Protein bars
- Hard boiled eggs
- Low-sugar Greek Yogurt
- Individual servings of tuna (look for pole-caught for lower mercury)
- Peanut butter packets (read ingredients and choose those without sugar)
If you want help to remember these tips next time you’re planning for a vacation (or wondering what happened after an indulgence), download my free worksheet, The #1 Strategy For Women In Midlife And Beyond To Stop Overeating Without Obsessing About Food.