Has This Ever Happened to You on Vacation...?

Have you ever returned from vacation only to be surprised that when you stepped on the scale or pulled on your jeans that you didn't gain any weight, or perhaps even lost a few pounds? 

Somehow, you didn't come home with a five-pound souvenir around your middle despite exercising less (or not at all) and consuming more food, especially more indulgent fare like buttery croissants and creamy pina coladas.

My client Anne (a lover of fine foods and wines) rarely gains an ounce and often loses pounds, whether she's vacationing in Italy, Hawaii or Oklahoma. Another client sheds weight every summer vacation at her lake house. Yes, she moves her usually desk-bound body a lot more canoeing, hiking and such, but she also consumes a lot more burgers, berry pie and beer. 

This phenomenon has been true for me, too. Years ago, despite sampling numerous Japanese treats and enjoying our share of sake, both my boyfriend and I were startled by how baggy our pants had become by the end of our long trip.

What gives?

It's called the power of pleasure.

The Metabolic Power of Pleasure
Most likely, your vacations rank high on the pleasure meter. When you experience pleasure, your body is in parasympathetic nervous system dominance. Known as the relaxation response, this is the optimal state for metabolism and digestion. 

When you're not chilling on a beach or wandering around Paris, most likely you, like most of us, are living in sympathetic nervous system dominance. Life's daily challenges, from traffic jams and email overload to bosses and bills, keep your body stuck in the stress response (a.k.a. fight or flight mode).

Chronic, low-level stress creates a hormonal imbalance that, among other things, increases cortisol and insulin production, two fat-storing hormones. It also reduces your thyroid and growth hormones, which play a role in energy production and muscle building.

So, there you have it. 

Just one more reason to plan your next vacation, today!