Fat to Fit to First Level: The Grand Prix Test of Traveling with Family

Enter at A, try not to stress.

Summertime means riding time! For many folks, it also means vacation time! And for some, it means family time – vacays, reunions, the whole nine yards.

Since I run my own business and run my own farm, summertime is usually a combination of law work, farm work, and riding/lunging whenever I can fit that in and it’s not a bazillion degrees. (Welcome to summertime in the South, y’all.)

Kaliwohi on the lunge. Note his overstrike is developing well as his hindquarters start to muscle up. (Hard to take photos and ride, hence the lunge pic!) Photo by Esther Roberts

This past week, however, I did something I’ve not done since I was a very young child.

I took a vacation with my family.

As in, mom, sister, niece and her two adorable princesses, and a galpal of the fam. This troupe, sans Esther, has vacationed together for years. They’ve always invited me, so it’s not like I’m unwelcome; all these wonderful wonder women are just a powerful dynamic for me to deal with on a 24/7 basis. I love my family, don’t get me wrong. But we’re a whole herd of alpha mares, down to the youngest princess, age six.

This year, however, I decided I should invest some time with humans of similar DNA. If I have learned anything so far in 2018, it’s that life can throw curve balls, and tomorrow is not promised, so carpe diem, y’all.

However. For this INFJ, privacy and time alone are not optional; they are fundamental to how I function. Solitude and peace and quiet are absolutely vital for me to live without undue stress. Raise your hand if you find time with family stressful. Um, yeah, meeee, toooo.

And, as I’ve been oh-so-candid about before, stress is my primary trigger for overeating in a big way. Big. Huge.

So. What to do? How do I spend time with people I care about, who also drive me nuts sometimes, without going off the rails with food?

PLAN. I made a plan. A dressage test for coping, if you will.

Enter at A, Collected Trot. I joined my family at the beach after they’d been there for a few days. This limited the 24/7 stimuli I find so challenging to deal with to four days instead of eight. (Hallelujah for cheap one-way tickets in the summertime!) It also limited the number of nights I slept on a sofa-bed in the living room while sharing a bathroom with two other women. As I said, 24/7 stimuli. #Overwhelm

Halt. Salute. My sister very kindly stopped by a market en route from the airport to the ocean, so her weight-losing sister could buy things that were healthy and make my taste buds happy.

Exhibit A. Breakfast every morning included lots of fresh fruit, almond butter, and a few gluten-free animal crackers. Photo by Esther Roberts

Working trot. Every morning, I got up with the sun, grabbed a beach towel, and headed to the ocean for some sunrise yoga. All. By. My. Self. After some quiet time on the make-shift mat, I just sat with the bigness of the ocean for another half-hour and enjoyed the solitude.

Exhibit B. My niece surprised me with this photo she took of me from the balcony of the condo we were staying in. So thoughtful of her to snap a pic – and to be up that early! Photo by Maggie Hedge

Extended canter. This quiet start to each morning gave me the calmness of spirit so, back up in the room, I could merrily make breakfast for a princess or two while their mom (my niece) got some much needed rest.

Collected canter. Once eeeeeeveryone was ready, we all headed to the beach for the day. In a total haunches out move, I rented an extra umbrella, so nobody (read: ME) would feel too crowded.

Passage: Each day was then a lazy-but-non-stop-haze of chatting, napping (the ocean rocks me to sleep every time – woo hoo!), reading, and snacking (carrots, apples, and hummus for me, thankyouverymuch).

Collected walk:  I made sure I came back to the room before everyone else each afternoon, so I’d have time for a leisurely shower and a little quiet time. I then ate a reasonable supper alone in the room, well before 6 p.m. each evening, so I wouldn’t be overly tempted by the corn casserole and other delicious-but-oh-so-calorie-laden foods for which my chef-of-a-sister is famous.

The Big Finish – Extended trot (for.ever.) Straight Down Centerline: I rode home with my sister and my mother: ten hours, in a van (back seat: bonus points for difficulty), with the woman who knows exactly every.single.button.to.push.


I love my mother, but I’m never quite good enough for her passive-aggressive expectations of “perfect.”

Example (one of many) from this trip:

Mom: “Esther, have you ever thought about putting VO5 on your hair to make it shinier?”

[What she means:  “I think your hair is dull. Why can’t you look more like fill-in-the-blank-friend’s daughter and less like a windblown hayseed all the time?”]

Esther: “No, mom; all I’ve ever used on my hair is shampoo and conditioner; no coloring, no lemon juice, no VO5, no nothing. Nada.”

[What I’m thinking: “OMG, Mom! I’m losing weight, getting in shape, lawyering solo, paying my bills, training a wild horse, writing successfully, playing piano for church, and I have seven college degrees!!! WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT FROM ME?!”  Perfect hair. *sigh* I haven’t the foggiest notion what VO5 is anyways. Probably some chemical concoction that’s tested on innocent bunny rabbits. Not. My. Lane. So there.]

Mom: silence and The Look.


Exhibit C. Gettin’ my beach hair on. Photo by Maggie Hedge

I had some headphones, used them, and periodically helped my sister navigate through construction zones and traffic, so nobody lost their temper, although I think we were all glad to get to our respective homes. Alpha mares, remember?

Amazingly, friends, aside from a stumble into the halt (in the form of a grilled cheese and ice cream for lunch on the road – hey, it was vacation, after all, right?) I managed that trip with no major food disasters. And, viewed in context, I had a lovely time.

Exhibit D. A gorgeous rainbow over the ocean. Photo by Esther Roberts

What this trip taught me is I am not, in fact, on a “diet” – as in, subject to the whims of locale and various social stressors. Rather, I am truly making substantial changes in my lifestyle that are sustainable, even on vacation, and not just any vacation, a family vacation.

Now where’s my blue ribbon?

Join me on this journey on Facebook: Fat to Fit at Horse Nation (page and group), and my blog www.appalachianchic.com.


Go Riding!

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