a watercolor style digital image of a smiling man on vacation enjoying a variety of treats in a car

Vacation-Proofing Your Heart Health: Balance and Moderation

Heart Health Needn’t Take a Holiday Just Because You’re On One…

By Lewis C. Howe

If you’re like me, maintaining a regimen of a heart healthy diet, combined with regular exercise and stress reduction techniques, can become a matter of routine with practice and repetition.

But what about those times when we are living outside of our normal routines, and away from the daily monotony of work and workouts? How do we avoid backsliding during those periods when it’s most tempting to slack off and cut loose?

I experienced this a couple of weeks ago when it was time for a long-awaited (and to my mind well-earned) vacation, nine days on the road visiting my son at college in a distant state, along with a side visit to my two best friends from my own college days (when dinosaurs roamed the earth).

In past years, this would have led to an uninterrupted barrage of late night diner food and deep fried memories. However, now that I live with my hypertension diagnosis, I have learned to follow the path of moderation, and to turn away from some of my more egregious dining habits.

Embracing Southern Delights in Moderation

That is not to say that I consumed nothing but kale and cauliflower during my time away from home. After all, this was a tour of the American South, replete with all the temptations nature and the fryolator can provide.

But I was able to temper my intemperance, while still enjoying my visit with my first born. When we went to the barbecue restaurant, for example, I ordered the catfish sandwich with lettuce and tomato, and passed on the ribs and fried chicken. Moreover, I perused the dessert menu, but elected ultimately not to partake.

Balancing Nostalgia and Health: My Dining Choices Revisited

Similarly, while reminiscing over old times with my college pals during a side trip to New Jersey, dinner was a corned beef sandwich on rye with pickles and slaw, rather than French fries with gravy like in my undergraduate years. By  limiting the “bad stuff” I was able to come home only 4 pounds heavier, and once I settled back in to “work mode” the following week the weight quickly came back off. Likewise, my blood pressure has remained relatively constant, the first number still too high but the second number in the 80-83 range.

donuts on display in a bakery
Source: Instagram @omg.donuts.bakery

Indulging Responsibly: A Sweet Vacation Treat

One concession I made on my vacation,  however, was to break my ban on donuts, for just a day. In Charlotte, NC there is an appropriately named bakery called OMG Donuts, and I succumbed to the temptation of a single Boston Crème, because I knew that the regrets I would carry home with me would far outweigh the damage of a single magnificent confection.

Now back in Boston, I find it easier to resist donuts, ribs and fried everything knowing that I’m able to partake in moderation on those rare occasions when I find myself celebrating the joys of my life—my sons and my friends. By swearing off these foods in my “regular life,” I tell myself that I will have more years left to enjoy them when my working years are complete.

About the author:

Lewis Howe is the Community Partnerships Co-Ordinator for the Heart of a Giant Foundation. He welcomes your ideas, suggestions and expressions of support to help him in his fight against high blood pressure. You can reach him at lewishowe1@gmail.com.

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