School is out and it is summertime. I was at my son’s college graduation this past weekend. The plane was full and filled with kids of all ages. The sun was out and the ice cream stores were open. For those of us who have special diets or health goals we are trying to reach, summertime can be as challenging as the period from Halloween to New Year’s Eve.
How we eat, move, sleep, and practice mindfulness during the summer can be extra challenging. Here are a couple of tips and reflections for staying the course. As with anything we want to navigate successfully, knowing where we want to go, creating a plan, and having a plan B are key.
Activities and Movement
We were just in Maine and we had perfect weather the day we had rented bikes and the two days we were traveling. The other two days we had planned a kayak trip and a beach and town walk. Those two days were wet and windy. Our plan B was two small museums and a very muddy hike one day. The other day we did a little exploring of the food scene in another town, got picnic food, did online workouts in our hotel room and hotel gym, had our picnic on the balcony, read books, and then enjoyed the hot tub in the rain. Not what we had planned, but both days were relaxing and restoring, which was what we had in mind for the trip. And we got to visit two amazing museums and a beautiful state park, which turned out to be trip highlights. Making time for movement always helps my mood and there are a million different ways to do it. Sometimes I start the day with a couple of sun salutations and it makes all the difference.
I often find good sleep hard to get on vacation. Strange beds, temperature changes, air conditioning, traveling over time zones, going to bed late and waking up early, big dinners, and the temptation for more alcohol at dinner all add up to less actual and poorer quality sleep for me. I have to be really good about not getting on my phone or watching TV at night because those make the problem worse.
My sleep suffers when I drink alcohol at night so I make a plan each day. If I am tired or I have not gotten a good night’s sleep the night before, I pass on the drinks. I used to be self-conscious about it, but I realized that no one cares and what was important to me is taking care of myself so I can enjoy the next day’s activities.
When I travel I take some extra sleep support (herbal) with me just in case I need it. I also use a mediation app if I am having trouble falling asleep or wake up in the middle of the night. Making sure to get bright lights in your eyes in the morning and staying away from caffeine too late in the day are important too.
Kids out of school, heat, crowds, irregular schedules, swimsuits, FOMO of everyone else’s idyllic summers (thanks social media) … these all can take us out of ourselves and cause stress. I am a big fan of starting each day with a mindfulness practice. Lately, I have been going out on the deck first thing in the morning to meditate outside. It really helps set the tone for the day. I also like to spend a few minutes doing a body scan or listening to a mediation app at night as I am falling asleep.
Don’t have a dedicated time to meditate, you can bring mindfulness into every single activity you do all day — when you breathe, eat, shower, move, drive, cook, create … If you don’t have a regular mindfulness practice, consider gifting yourself one this summer. It really is a gift that makes everything else better from the beauty around you to the taste of the food in your mouth, not to mention your mood, health, and wellness.
BBQs, parties, restaurant meals, airport snacks, destination treats, crazy schedules, baseball games, not wanting to turn on the oven because it is too hot to cook, and late days at the beach and outside can make eating over the summer challenging for many of us (at least for me). A lot of my clients have been reaching out and asking for help navigating what to eat, social events, and wanting to partake in special seasonal treats over the last few weeks. Here are some of the things I tell them.
Remember, know what fuels you, know what your goals are, make a plan, and have a backup plan. Can you remake a recipe in a way that works for you? On a gluten-free dairy-free diet to help reduce inflammation, joint pain, digestive distress, or headaches check out this dairy-free chocolate “ice cream”? At a restaurant and really wanting to taste the housemade peach pie but you are trying to balance your blood sugar? Order one for the table. Put a few spoonfuls on your plate, and eat it slowly and mindfully. Enjoy every bite and when you have had enough, honor that feeling.
Scope out restaurant menus before you get hungry. Ask questions, and special order if you need to. I find that if I ask nicely, I can always find something that works. Maybe it is ordering two appetizers instead of a main course or ordering my own dish when everyone else is sharing at the table. I know that when I take care of myself at the table, I feel better later on.
Picnics and pot lucks can allow you to bring things you know you can eat and share with everyone else. When I am traveling, I love picnics. I like to hit the local farmer’s markets and specialty food stores and pick out fresh local foods. On our rainy day inside picnic in Maine, we bought some super fresh veggies (radishes, arugula, cucumber), two kinds of local goat and sheep cheese, seed crackers I had never seen before, nuts, quinoa salad, kale salad, and a host of other fun items. We actually picnicked on our bounty for several days adding a little bit each day from each new town. We enjoyed every bite without the temptation to overeat or the feeling of missing out.
Going to someone’s house or party? Offer to bring something you can eat or plan to have a snack before you go so you are not too hungry. Talk with your host or hostess about the menu and offer to bring something or offer to be the planner or organizer. We co-hosted a graduation party for my son over the weekend. Someone ordered the chairs and tables, someone else organized the decorations, a third person ordered the main course, and I ordered the salads and dessert. That way I knew there would be something that would work for me.
Make sure to eat to balance your blood sugar. Start your meal with some protein, add in some vegetables (a lot of vegetables), and in a couple of servings of fat (dressing, oil for cooking, nuts, and seeds, cheese …), and then a reasonable portion of starchy grains, vegetables, or fruit. If you want to indulge in a dessert, your body will better be able to handle the added sugar with a good meal already in your stomach. Pack healthy snacks and drink enough water sometimes which is hard to do during the summer, but we often get cravings for snacks when we are really just dehydrated.
Thinking about how to navigate the summer and your health and wellness goals? It is always good to take a minute or two each day and think about what is important to you, what your values and long-term goals are, and then assess if your everyday habits are helping support those values and goals, if not, make some changes.
Reach out if I can help. My goal is to support my clients while they make changes in a doable, long-term way. Book an exploratory call (for new clients) or a follow-up visit (for existing clients) at book an appointment so we can dive deeper together.