When I moved from Denver to San Diego last July (a nerve-wracking yet welcomed transition), one thing I did not anticipate was how the blank slate that comes from living in a completely new place could help me improve my nutrition habits.

Upon arriving in San Diego,  I realized (happily) that in a fresh city with no established routines, I had far fewer triggers (those pesky physical or emotional cues that make me want to eat until I feel sick, like having easy access to my favorite restaurant or making a pan of brownies at my mom’s house) than I had at home.

With this clean slate, I opted to avoid finding new vices. I abandoned the idea of discovering deep dish pizza or smothered burritos comparable to my favorite go-to’s in my home town. I gave up my regular Cold Stone Creamery indulgences. Instead I sought out the closest health food stores (hello Sprouts and Whole Foods) and mapped out the quickest routes to the nearest Chipotle.

Likewise, I embraced my ability to create a new sort of identity for myself and escape my family’s perceptions of me as a chocoholic and bottomless pit for burritos.

Of course, I’m not blaming the delicious food in my home state or my family for my tendencies to overindulge. And I’m not saying that a person needs to remove him or herself from these things to establish healthy habits!

But, being away from these things has made me realize that, for me, admittedly, there is something emotionally comforting about being the one whom my sister can eat raw cookie dough with when we both want to have a fun and relaxing night in. And I take pleasure for being known as the one who always finishes my order at Cafe Mexicali when everyone else has to get a to-go box.

So when my sister came to visit this week, I truly felt my old desire to use food as entertainment and comfort kick in. And after loading up the first day of her visit on a sugary brunch of cinnamon french toast, followed later that day by pizza and fried mozzarella sticks (all foods I don’t typically eat on my own), we both knew the rest of her stay needed to be a bit more health conscious (if for no other reason that to prevent both of us being slowed down by horrible stomach aches)!

Luckily, the next few days of my sister’s visit were much balanced, and even more enjoyable! We managed to incorporate healthy activities while still finding room to indulge, and made it through the week without falling into a sugar coma or gaining 10 pounds.

Below are some of the ways in which we achieved our fun, healthy, and balanced sister staycation, and steps that you, too, can apply to a vacation, staycation, or just making your lifestyle a bit healthier when family or friends are around:

Explore by foot

One night we got coffee and took the stairs at the San Diego Convention Center to scope the view before walking around the harbor. Another night we leashed up Grover and walked to get dinner. Find a walkable part of town and explore on foot.

Cook

After the first day, we had home-made breakfast for the rest of my sister’s stay, and also made spaghetti and baked asparagus one night, which served as a quick left-over meal the next day. Hitting the grocery store and cooking healthy meals together can be fun and a good way to eat healthier and save money.

Choose activities that are active

As we were planning our activities, we looked into taking a pole dancing class, surf lesson, or guided kayak tour. We ended up spending a fun afternoon on the bay doing stand up paddleboarding, as well as hitting the beach with Grover. And, happily, I was able to convince my sister to try Crossfit (my workout of choice but a new experience for her)!

Don’t sweat the indulgences, and don’t beat yourself up

Nothing is worse that missing out on enjoying time with family or friends because you are obsessing over how healthy something is or is not. I had to remind myself several times that my sister’s visit was a time to kick back, and of course I’d be back on my normal routine easily when it was over. Don’t beat yourself up for not eating as healthfully as normal or not being as active as usual. Vacation or staycation is a time to de-stress. Laugh with your loved ones, be a goofball, and savor each moment.

Have you struggled with finding balance while on vacation, or just when family is around? I’d love to hear from you, so leave me a comment below!

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