Why You Shouldn't Start A Diet Right After Vacation

Fixing a date to start a diet can be hard. If you have a string of weddings to attend this month, you might think it's wise to postpone it till the next month rolls around. You don't want to have to say no to every piece of wedding cake offered to you. Who does that? Or if you have a vacation planned, you might tell yourself you should leave your diet for right after. 

But turns out that leaving the diet for after vacation might cause you to overeat while you're on holiday. According to a 2002 study published in the Journal of Psychopathology and Clinical Science, the anticipation of food restriction in the future can cause some people to over-indulge on all their favorite treats before they start restricting their diet. 

It's called the "last supper effect" or "last supper syndrome". Registered dietician Beth Rosen wrote in Food & Nutrition, "Many dieters are caught in this vicious cycle — known as the 'Last Supper Syndrome' – led by a fear of restriction, guilt, and failure. When you know that you are about to put yourself into a state of famine, how could you possibly not feast? This knowledge drives you to eat as if you will never be able to eat these beloved foods again." This brings us to the all-important questions of when and how you should move toward a healthier diet.   

It might not be so important when you start the diet but how you start it

Certified personal trainer Daniel Masters thinks the best time to start a diet is today, but the how matters too, per Master Fitness. There's no need to completely cut out everything you like to eat. "Every time you cut something out completely and go 'cold Turkey' you're putting a lot of strain on your body," Masters explained. 

Whether you plan to start dieting before, during, or after vacation, restrictive dieting is not the best way, added Beth Rosen (via Food & Nutrition). "Remove the rules ... end restrictive eating, stomp out food stigmas and rid your life of diets, cleanses, jump starts, quick fixes ... start eating mindfully," she shared.  

According to Masters, "By starting today with your new diet it means you can start small. There's no need to have one last splurge over the weekend. You can cut out one or two bad things from your diet today (or reduce them significantly)." Dial back, eat mindfully, and listen to your hunger cues. Setting realistic and attainable goals, formulating a healthy eating plan, and adding exercise into the picture can also help, per WebMD. Registered dietician nutritionist Ricci-Lee Hotz added that working with a dietician might be beneficial too, especially when it comes to uncovering common challenges you face in remaining consistent with your diet (via LinkedIn). So does this mean you can eat whatever you want on holiday?

How to eat while on vacation (with or without a diet coming up)

A vacation is a time to unwind so there's no point stressing yourself out by counting calories, per registered dietician, Roxana Ehsani (via HUM Nutrition). "Try to eat as normally as possible before vacation and have balanced meals. If you know you are going to be eating out a lot while on vacation, maybe you make a point to eat more and cook more at home in the weeks leading up to your vacation," she explained. 

When your holiday actually begins, start your day right. The first meal of the day should include protein, fiber, fruits, and vegetables. Getting enough protein in the morning will also keep you full for longer. This means there's less chance of you snacking before your next meal. Planning ahead by scoping out restaurants you'd like to visit and seeing what's on their menu can help too; this way, you can choose a diet that's best for you. "It's good to take a break from your daily routine, but if you stray too far, you may be sorry when you get home. Decide before your vacation where you will indulge, so that you make conscious choices. Eat or drink only what you love, and is special to where you're visiting. Enjoy small portions," offered registered dietitian, Elizabeth Ward (per Sharon Palmer). 

A vacation is also a good excuse to get some movement in. Try walking to your next sightseeing spot. Pack healthy snacks and plenty of water before you set off.