I recently vacationed in Florida. Most people think of vacation time as a time for breaking the rules… eating whatever you want, staying up late, sleeping in and just having fun. In the past, I would’ve bought munchies for the road trip and gotten a large cola at McDonald’s right before leaving town. Most of my meals would’ve been at restaurants with ice cream cones in between. However, this vacation was different. I purposely chose to eat healthful meals the majority of the time and walking remained a priority.
I drove to Florida with my Aunt Melvena, and we stayed with our cousin Marilyn. Marilyn lives in The Villages which consists of lots of loops (in place of streets) and several roundabouts (in place of traffic lights). Experiencing the loops and roundabouts, I began thinking of them in terms of focusing on health while vacationing.
Instead of straight streets with sharp corners, or even dead ends, different sections of The Villages consist of loops that contain gentle curves. Whether it’s going on vacation, dealing with a stressful situation, or attending a social gathering, eating should be viewed as loops. I need to stay on course as much as possible and not let events cause me to make a sharp turn.
Most of our meals were enjoyed at Marilyn’s home. Marilyn is super healthy and is accustomed to eating healthful meals. We discussed ideals for meals and made sure that there weren’t any tempting foods in the house. For breakfast, we usually had cereal with fresh blueberries or strawberries. Once in awhile we added a few raw cashews, which I had never tried before.
Lunch typically was a large salad with all sorts of vegetables and beans. We usually had cold chicken or a hardboiled egg for added protein. I tried a variety of beans and thought that most of them tasted pretty good.
For dinner, we ate out a couple of times. Melvena and I stopped at restaurants while traveling to and from Florida as well. It was encouraging to discover that many restaurant menus have a “health conscious” section. I was able to enjoy fish and chicken without wondering how many calories I was consuming. One night I opted for pasta, but was very satisfied eating a portion of it rather than the whole thing.
As a special splurge, we went to a frozen yogurt shop twice. There was a wide variety of choices and several were low calorie or no sugar yogurts. This was a wonderful alternative to an ice cream shop!
Although I did enjoy some foods that I’m typically staying away from, for once I felt as though I was in control of my eating rather than my eating controlling me. I wasn’t fixated on food, but rather viewed eating as part of the day’s routine.
The roundabouts were very frustrating to me. I’m used to stopping at a traffic light and signaling if I need to go left or right. With the roundabouts, you yield to the traffic that’s already in the circle and then as you enter you need to quickly figure out where you want to exit so that you can be sure to be in the correct lane. More than once, I took the wrong exit – and one time I even went around the roundabout twice!
But isn’t focusing on health similar to roundabouts? When you have a plan or goal in place and you’re strategically following that plan, you understand how to stay on course or when to yield. However, if you allow yourself to veer away from the plan, it can become frustrating and sometimes difficult to get back on track, such as taking a wrong exit on the roundabout.
My 100th Mile!!
The highlight of my Florida trip was having the opportunity to meet Coach Brian Darrow, his wife Raffi, and their two daughters, Wendy and Alice. Coach Brian planned a four mile scenic walk down waterfront Coffee Pot Blvd. in St. Petersburg, in celebration of walking my 100th mile since he started coaching me. We also met up with my cousin Linda and her husband Bill, and Jodie, a friend of the Darrows.
The first mile was very enjoyable and it was the 100th mile in my health journey. There was a nice breeze since we were walking right next to the water. We enjoyed watching the herons and turtles. Above us was a jet air show and we were being serenaded by the buzz of Indy cars from the Honda Grand Prix. At the completion of the second mile, I was beginning to feel the heat. Keep in mind, that I’ve been walking in 30 degree weather in upstate New York. The temperature in Florida was in the 80’s.
During the third mile I was getting very warm and the heat was zapping my energy. I knew that I could complete the third mile, but was concerned about walking the fourth mile. This was my first four mile walk and I wasn’t used to the heat.
Everyone was good natured about the fourth mile. Anytime I spotted the tiniest bit of shade, I announced “Shade Break” and cooled off for a few seconds. Between the temperature and the high humidity, I found it difficult to take deep breaths. At times my mind wondered if I could actually complete the walk, but I refused to give in to the doubts. If Coach Brian believed I was capable of walking four miles, then I needed to believe it as well.
I did complete the four miles! We then went to Evo’s, a healthy fast food restaurant, to continue our celebration. Wow! I wish we had an Evo’s in New York! When Raffi said we were going for fries and milkshakes after the walk, I thought she was kidding. But Evo’s really has organic, low sugar milkshakes and air baked french fries. My real fruit berry smoothie and baked chicken tenders were wonderful! By the time we finished eating and wrapped up our chatting, I finally felt cooled off and actually felt human again. It was the toughest walk I’ve yet to experience.
Friends back home and on Facebook were super supportive during my 100th walk celebration. When I checked Facebook that night, I saw pictures that people posted while they walked along with me “virtually”, doing 4 miles at the same time in their town! They even had signs to encourage me.
Two weekends later, Coach Brian had me walk four miles here in New York. The temperature was in the 30s and I did fine. There was no need to stop, and the four miles were accomplished in a much shorter amount of time. It also helped that my friend Michele walked with me.
The trip to Florida taught me that it’s possible to be health conscious while vacationing. With some planning and open discussions regarding meals, eating healthy the majority of the time wasn’t difficult to do. Keeping up with my morning walking routine was fairly easy as well. Even though I didn’t know my exact mileage, I knew that I was getting my walks in. I enjoyed walking the loops and even had a duck join me for a portion of one of the walks!
Based on this experience, I know that making healthy choices will be a part of my future vacations. In fact, as I continue to increase my walking and losing weight, I hope to be able to incorporate some physical activities in future vacations that I’ve been too heavy to attempt. I still want to be able to free fall, fly in a hot air balloon, ride a water jet and hike a trail.
In the words of Jesse Owens:
“We all have dreams. But in order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline and effort.”