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Throwback: Fighting Vacation Bloat

Updated: Mar 8, 2020

With the help of a 25 year old JLH and the magic of the ol' Wayback Machine, for my first blog posts, I am re-posting a couple of my actual first blog posts, ever. The following post was published on September 27, 2011 on the website I made when I first started competing. Enjoy!


Actual footage of me hiding my bloated face on the last day of vacation

To preface, I want to start by telling you all a little bit about why I wanted to want to write this specific blog in the first place. Last year, I took the first real beach vacation I've ever taken in my life. At this time, I hadn't joined the world of fitness competitions yet and was still relying on ridiculous tactics (like fasting) for weight loss and to look skinny. And I did look pretty skinny on that first day in Mexico! But it was heavily dependent on my restrictive diet. It didn't even take one day.  

Chips and salsa galore (my favorite) and all the margaritas and pina coladas I could get my hands on. Needless to say, when I woke up to day two, I already felt like a beached whale. I had taken several videos throughout the trip and when I watch them back, I can't help but cringe by the time the last video plays. It doesn't even look like me. I probably gained at least 10 pounds of water weight in those 6 days.

I've heard variations of the above story retold by countless others. No one wants to feel like they're stuffed the whole time, but no one wants to feel like they're being deprived on their vacation either. So there's got to be a happy medium somewhere, right? Well of course there is! But before I go over my techniques, let me cover a few details first.

As with anything else body-related, everyone is different. In order to have realistic expectations, you have to really know your body (or at least be partially aware) when it comes to how it reacts to certain foods. The most consistent way to compare it in females is by hip shape. I've noticed that women like me who have narrow hips tend to gain water weight and bloat quickly, but can drop it just as quick. Women with wider hips and more of an hourglass figure may gain the same amount of bloat BUT their hip structure allows for them to carry it better, aesthetically. However, it may be more difficult for them to drop it after. So, knowing how your body reacts can help you define your goals. Personally, with a competition two months after returning from my most recent vacation this year, my goal was to return home only having 3-4 days of work to return to pre-vacation status and to not feel gross during my visit. Here is how I did it!


This is a big one for me. I am not a big drinker, but when I do drink, I bloat at the drop of a hat. This isn't something I was willing to give up for vacation though, so about 80% of the bloat I did get was from that. But to enjoy your alcohol without going overboard:

  • Reduce the sugary frozen drinks. You don't have to take them out completely, but instead of grabbing one every time, you could grab a couple shots instead! That's right, I am, in fact, suggesting that you take shots. SALUD!

  • Watch them when they make your drinks. I asked for a vodka cranberry and after they made the drink, they added cranberry SYRUP! What?! That completely defeats the purpose of getting a liquor/juice only drink!

  • I love salt on my margaritas. But for vacation, cut that out completely. Sugar rims are OK but not on every drink.

  • Although I adore them, JUST SAY NO to bloody marys! I don't care how hungover you think you are! NO!  That has got to be the saltiest, most bloat-inducing drink out there!  (Which is probably why I love them)

  • If the resort doesn't keep grapefruit juice on hand, bring some of your own to mix liquor into. It's a great mixer that doesn't have added sugars or carbonation. You also get the added benefit of it being a fat burner. Just make sure it's real grapefruit juice and not it's sugary substitute.


Drink LOTS of it! Always have a water bottle on hand and try to drink water in between each alcoholic drink. I also made it a point to drink about 30 oz of water before bed each night. The better you are about this, the better you will be able to flush the bloaters out. The resort I was at this year had a ton of coconut producing palms and we were able to snag a few of them. Fresh coconut water is much more delicious than it's packaged counterpart and as most of you know, coconut water is extremely hydrating. In fact, I even came up with the most delicious drink using the fresh young coconut water! I call it, "JLH's Coconuts."

JLH's Coconuts In a tall glass, muddle mint and a lime slice, add ice. Pour in 1.5oz gin or coconut rum (gin for a fresher taste, coconut rum for a sweeter taste) Fill the rest of the glass 4/5 of the way with fresh young coconut water Top off your glass with a splash of something sparkly, like club soda or tonic Now, go coconuts!


That's ok if your aim for vacation is to sit around and do pretty much nothing. And you can do that most of the time, but in order to actually feel good on your vacation, you have got to find a way to sweat or work out every day. This trip, I wanted to spend a lot of time doing a whole bunch of nothing but the resort I was at also had incredible snorkeling right off the beach. I snorkled for at least an hour a day and it was a great cardio workout. I also spent a lot of time walking the huge resort. Forego the elevator and short shuttles in favor of your feet! If anything, seek out a sauna or take a beach run in the morning. But you've GOT to find a way to work those toxins out of your body, daily.


Oddly enough, although most people would think that this is this biggest deal, it's really not. There are a few select kinds of food to avoid, or to only eat small portions of, but keep in mind that for a short time span like this, your biggest problem is water weight and not fat.

The foods that will make you bloat the fastest are the salty/spicy foods.

I avoided chips and salsa (argh!), dishes in pre-made sauces, sliced lunch meats, and pickled items. Be careful, many aromatic veggies like onions or bell peppers will come to them pickled before they are sautéed. Some foods, I went out of my way to eat, though! I made sure, at every meal to have some raw fruits and veggies. On the veggies, I'd pour over some olive oil and vinegar. It's important to still get those good fats in. When you are indulging in a dessert or something that you normally wouldn't eat much of, try to take smaller bites and focus on savoring each bite instead of inhaling it without thought. Drink a glass of water before each meal and resolve to never leave water on the table. After each meal, my vacation mate and I would look at each other and say "down it!" Also, don't let them fool you with their "fresh fruit juices." They are loaded with sugar. Not that sugar is going to kill it for you, but believe me, you will be having enough in your alcoholic drinks.


Avoid sunburn at all costs! We all know sunburn is bad for your skin but when you do get burned, your body sends water to your skin as well as increases blood flow to your skin in an attempt to heal itself. So basically, sunburn = puffy, inflamed skin. This was my kiss of death because on the last full day of my vacation last year, I got a decent burn on my face and neck. The video I took the next morning had me looking so bloated that I can't even stand to watch it now.

Additionally, you will notice that your ankles and toes will get tingly and sore. A couple times a day, take the time to prop up your feet above the level of your heart (and your hands too if you can). This will let the blood flow back out of your extremities, avoiding the "cankle." That shouldn't be too hard though, considering that putting your feet up is what most people want to do on vacation anyway!

I hope this helps some of you on your next vacation! Remember, the goal is to have a tight ass at the beach... not be the tight-ass who is too self-righteous about your pristine eating habits that you can't even have fun. You can have fun and feel good about yourself at the same time! Following these guidelines as much as you can will help you do exactly that!

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