The Golden Gate Bridge, Bikes, and Bacon Grilled Cheese

Recently I found myself on the Golden Gate Bridge, crying, overwhelmed with emotion. Good emotion. So many feelings... excitement, elation, happiness, and being proud of myself. For many years I didn’t fully live life. I didn’t engage in situations that challenged me. I found my safety in controlling my surroundings and living in a box I had put myself in. Flying to San Francisco and biking across the Golden Gate was such a huge moment for me. As I rode onto the bridge, wind in my hair, sun on my face, my husband by my side, I had a joy inside of me that for years I didn’t think was possible. Losing weight opened up my life in ways I could not comprehend. It’s not just the pounds, it’s the baggage, the self-doubt, and the insecurities that come with it that really weigh you down.

When I was at boot camp, Chris Powell and I sat down and had a conversation about things I wanted to do when I lost weight. How would life be different, other than just the number on the scale? Chris asked me to make a list of five things I wanted to do that I had not been doing because of my weight. One of those things was to take more active vacations. For years vacations in the Johnson home consisted of driving to the beach (I was scared of flying), and sitting with our toes in the sand for days on end. No activity other than to walk into the ocean occasionally to cool off. Let me lie on the beach and soak up the sun. No effort involved.

Now that I am healthy and much more active, finding vacations that allow for fun activities are high on my to do list. So far this year, I have been to LA (biked in Santa Monica and hiked) and Canada (walked the beautiful river in Saskatoon), Denver (hiked Red Rocks, again!), and hiked around Mr. Rushmore. Recently Scott and I spent a week exploring San Francisco and fell in love with the area. I am excited to tell you about the highlights, how we stayed active, and our favorite meals. I managed to eat pretty much anything I wanted, and lost two pounds while we were there! Win/Win! Whether you fly to a city far away, or just spend a weekend getting to know your own city. There are always new things to see and do, and ways to stay active and healthy. I want to share with you my top tips for balancing fun, fitness and food on your next vacation.

Lombard Street

1- Explore the Area. On foot! Get out there and get to know the area you are visiting. San Francisco is beautiful and extra hilly. Most days we drove into town, parked the car and just hit the city on foot. One day we walked 13 miles! From Coit Tower, Lombard Street, Chinatown, Little Italy, North Beach, or the Farmer’s Market at One Ferry Plaza, there was no shortage of places to walk, sites to see, and hills to climb. Lombard Street is a 27% incline! Whatever city or area you go to, you’ll get a much better feel for it by walking, thriving off the energy of the people, and enjoying the fresh air.

Muir Woods

2- Enjoy Mother Nature. No matter if you’re in the mountains of Colorado, Central Park in New York City, at the beach, or crossing the Golden Gate to hit up Muir Woods, there is likely somewhere to unwind, slow down, and just enjoy God’s green earth. We hiked down to the shore at Land’s End and we spent a morning marveling at the Redwoods at Muir Woods State Park. Seeing the Redwoods and Sequoias was the perfect quiet time we needed after the hustle and bustle of the city.

Biking Across The Golden Gate Bridge

3- Make an Effort to Get Moving. Some days you just need to find a way to get moving. Staying active doesn’t always have to mean just walking around the city. We rented bikes and biked across the Golden Gate Bridge. It was the absolute highlight of our trip. Having always been afraid of bridges, that moment was big for me. I didn’t ride a bike for about 15 years, just because of my weight. Making the 16-mile round trip through the city, across the bridge and back was huge for me. I wanted to shout, and jump for joy! In LA this Spring, my daughter and I rented bikes and rode from Santa Monica to Venice Beach and back. Get online, do a little research and find something fun to do on your next trip.

Breakfast At Kitchen Story

4- Enjoy the local flavors. You can’t go to San Francisco and not get chowder in a bread bowl. We got a bowl at a stand at Fisherman’s Wharf and ate it on the street. We also had some amazing fish tacos in Sausalito. We went to one “fancy” dinner and had seafood overlooking the bay at Cliff House. Being in an area that has such great seafood allowed us to enjoy fresh, local food. We tend to stay away from chain restaurants and try to find smaller, local restaurants and bakeries. You can always find that amazing little gem of a restaurant and have the most amazing meal of your trip. We did just that at Kitchen Story in San Francisco. We had THE BEST breakfast. Which compelled us to go back for lunch one day, and dinner. By going local you get the best and freshest flavors.

Off The Grid

5- Share the Love. Scott and shared many meals and snacks. Believe me, there were some major indulgences. I’m talking to you Bacon Grilled Cheese! When it’s ooey, gooey, and totally rich, a few bites is enough to feel satisfied. We went “Off The Grid” at Ft. Mason, where there are local food trucks. We shared one sandwich. We also shared an incredible BLT (do you see a theme here?) for lunch at Kitchen Story, and a calzone outside in Little Italy. There were times we went for it, and had a full meal to ourselves. But by sharing some meals and snacks, we cut our calories in half.

Farmer's Market Pork Sandwich

6- Don’t let it become a free for all. Find the balance of enjoying some wonderful indulgences, but not overdoing it. Yes, we had the most amazing bacon, a pork sandwich from a vendor at the Farmer’s Market, and made to order Nitrogen ice cream. The ice cream was from Smitten, aptly named, as I was completely smitten with it. They use all organic local milk and cream. So wonderful! But, we also had grilled fresh seafood, a fruit and granola bowl for breakfast and fresh fruit for snacks. Being on vacation doesn’t mean the calories don’t count. Stay aware of how much you are rewarding yourself. If we had a big lunch, we ate a light dinner or even skipped dinner and had a little late night snack. Or if we knew we were doing a big dinner, we shared lunch and went to dinner with a big appetite.

Following these ideas helped me feel like I had a total break from real life. I didn’t have to get up early and teach my boot camp class, and I didn’t have planned workouts. But, I stayed active, logging at least 6 miles on foot each day. I didn’t follow my normal food plan, nor did I feel guilty for indulging. I totally splurged on some meals (bread pudding for breakfast!) but other meals I scaled it back. I enjoyed myself more than I have on any other trip I have ever been on. (Maybe it was my amazing companion?) And I think being active, enjoying the local vibe, and not stressing about what I was eating allowed me to relax, take it all in and have the time of my life!

What was one of your favorite vacations?  What tips do you have for staying on track while on the road?