“I need another vacation to recover from this vacation!” Does that sound familiar? Or how about, “I’m on vacation, so I’m going to indulge, then diet after I get home”?

Dr. Felix VacationWhat’s the point of going on vacation: to harm – or to restore – yourself? Is it possible to make wellness fun? I decided to put my own advice to the test when I went away on my last vacation, having just finished the first draft of my next book, Licensed to Thrive: How to Eat to Build Health and Live Well.

While I don’t have a typical sweet tooth, I had come to enjoy coffee and pastry as “rocket fuel” to support my writing. Combine that habit with too much sitting while writing, flying to teach most weekends, and recovering from two consecutive ankle sprains – I had gained 7 or 8 pounds. Vacation is the best time to shake up unhealthful habits because the usual stress pattern is left behind.

The report card: I had not gained a single pound, despite eating my fill and trying all kinds of local dishes and desserts. I shrank my nascent pot belly by one belt notch. Returning to work on Monday was not affected by any jet lag.

How did I manage it? Just put my own advice into practice while on vacation — no magic needed, nor will control. Here are just a few of the research points from Licensed to Thrive, which informed my strategy (and as you read through this list, notice how many times sugar, diabetes, inflammation, and infections are mentioned):

  • A high sugar diet leads to chronic inflammation that usually ends badly, notes Dr. Richard P. Jacoby in his book Sugar Crush. Think diabetic ulcers requiring foot or leg amputation. Blindness. Heart Disease. Stroke. Needle sticks. Drug side effects…

  • “Consuming too much added sugar and refined carbohydrates is linked with elevated inflammation in the body as well as insulin resistance and weight gain.” writes Dr. Mary Jane Brown in Does Sugar Cause Inflammation in the Body?

  • A high sugar diet ages you prematurely inside and out. How? Sugars combine with proteins and fats in a process called glycation, creating advanced glycation end products, or AGEs. AGEs may play a role in the progression of many degenerative diseases, from diabetes to atherosclerosis to Alzheimer’s.

  • “Most likely there are many causes of coronary heart disease,” writes Dr. Uffe Ravnskov in his brilliant book Ignore the Awkward! “There’s no doubt that smoking, diabetes, and mental stress can provoke a heart attack. What we do not know is the mechanism. How come that different causes may lead to the same disease? We think we know the answer…. Diabetes and smoking for instance are strong risk factors for all kinds of cardiovascular diseases and both are also susceptible to infections.”

Start a New Pattern

The whole point of vacationing is to leave behind the usual – and that includes things like overeating while multitasking and other health-busting habits. It’s not about self-control. It’s about understanding that you’re the owner/operator of your mouth and body. You’re in charge. You can leave the usual behind. Vacation is a great time to leave behind stress-eating.

So I said “no” to all the desserts below while still being able to admire the creativity behind them and the lovely presentation. The break was easier than expected.


Dark Chocolate Almond Bark

After sharing a dinner of lamb shank, sauerkraut, and salad, I opted for a hunk of dark chocolate almond bark instead and savor it over days, completely satisfied.


Lamb Shank

You’re not only WHAT you eat but HOW YOU EAT. Overeating from an organic buffet and loading up on gluten-free desserts and high-fructose drinks can trash your health just as much as devouring junk foods.

Once you swallow that grenade labeled “SAD” (standard American diet), the gut can only react – with inflammation and bloating. The mouth is where you have control. And that’s why I’m writing Licensed to Thrive – to help you take charge of your health and life quality by mouth. It’s not another diet book but an introspective guide for you to figure out how much is “just right” and what to do to wean yourself from your sweet tooth and stress eating.

Licensed to Thrive is written in the Taoist spirit of “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for one meal. Show a man how to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” It’s an invitation to acquire a Holistic Mouth Style so you can enjoy life without paying the price with your health.

Dr. Felix on Vacation

Wellness doesn’t have to take a back seat during vacations. In fact, being on vacation actually makes wellness easier to practice, because our usual stress mode is replaced with new scenery, exotic foods already prepared, and even adventurous possibilities.

Design wellness into your criteria for vacation success. Consider not only the financial cost to your pocketbook, but also the energy and wellness cost you can afford to inflict on your body and self-esteem.

And that gain in my belt notch at the end of my vacation? I’m still enjoying it every day.

What have you done to the garden that was entrusted to you? – Antonio Machado

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