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Lessons learned while vacation shopping after weight loss

One of those really fun things about being in my 30s is that I can no longer binge eat pizza or drink three nights a week without paying for it with a spare tire around my hips. I look at old photos of my first ever trip to Mexico at 23 years old and rue the day I did minimal work for abs (but still complained about my body anyway).

I’ve always been a pretty active person, but in the way that I did the least amount of work possible to still maintain my weight. It’s not like that anymore. 

When Mom got sick, there was no time for working out or walking (it was dead winter) or eating healthy, because I was always flying by the seat of my pants. I craved comfort foods and fast food.

So I gained a load of weight and found myself at my heaviest ever in life: 170 lbs.

It’s not a huge number but it was a big gain for someone who should be more along the lines of 140-150lbs. 

Fast forward about six months later and I had completed a full season of boot camp and two 5-kilometre runs — both things I never thought I’d do. I had dropped 15 lbs in the process. But, oh man, did I ever put the work in to accomplish it.

Shopping became fun again, and my weight loss coincided with my trip to Southeast Asia. I had to buy all new swimwear and summery clothes.

At that time, the Avalon Mall reached out to me to talk about working together on an ongoing partnership. I’m not normally a mall person – and if I do go shopping, it’s mid-week, early in the day, when it’s not crowded. Plus I don’t have a car, so it’s easier to do most of my shopping online. 

But that was exactly what the Avalon Mall was trying to promote: a one-stop-shop option for people like me who can’t easily navigate the city without a vehicle. I asked for a $500 gift card to do my vacation shopping, and they agreed.

First of all: Oh. My. God.

I have NEVER EXPERIENCED guilt-free shopping. It was the MOST FUN EVER. 

(I highly encourage anyone to treat themselves at least once in their lives to a $500 shopping spree with money saved especially for that occasion. Treat yourself, feel good about yourself, and DON’T WORRY ABOUT THE BILLS FOR ONCE.) 


Here are some things I learned while vacation shopping after weight loss.

1. You need to really consider your destination (obviously)

Here’s a mistake I made: I completely forgot that the temples and religious sites I’d be visiting in Asia require long pants and covered shoulders. I had bought a casual mustard-yellow shirt from Rio, thankfully, and a pair of black slacks I wore on the airplane. That really came in handy during my time sweating profusely at Angkor Wat.

What a month of sobriety did for me

Not shown in this photo: the sweat dripping out of every pore in my body. 

What I SHOULD have bought: a loose shawl to drape over my shoulders, and a long flowy skirt. Trust me on that one.

2. Don’t buy high-end stuff you won’t wear

I was really tempted to run into the Sunglasses Hut and purchase a $200 pair of Ray-Bans. Instead, I bought two cute pairs in Eclipse for about $15 a piece — which I am grateful for because I promptly lost both pairs while houseboating down the Mekong River. (I’ve lost FIVE PAIRS since then. I’m not joking.)

My shopping goal mostly included nice sundresses, a few bathing suits, shorts, tank-tops, and a pair of nice walking shoes. I did splurge on a stunning green dress from Suzy Shier:

How do people take photos of themselves when they’re travelling solo?

I wore it one time, at an unbelievably beautiful hotel on Ko Lanta in Thailand. The rest of the time I bummed around in jean shorts and tank-tops. Southeast Asia was sweltering, and the last thing I wanted was to be wearing my finest garbs while sitting in a dirty boat with the sun beating down on me. 

There are a ton of shops at the Avalon Mall where you can get these basics. I did most of my shopping at Urban Planet, which might be overrun by teenyboppers, but goddamn those teenyboppers have good taste.

This was pretty much what I wore each day

3. One-piece bathing suits are the greatest thing ever

I’m still coming to terms with my weight loss, and my stomach is one problem area for me (in my mind, but it’s never as bad as it seems).

I’ve only ever worn bikinis, but I decided to spring for a one-piece at La Vie en Rose. 

I felt SO GOOD IN IT. 

It hid all of my “problem areas” and put the full focus on my top half (re: boobies). The only thing I didn’t love about it was that I couldn’t tan my stomach. #FirstWorldProblems

Living the dream

But I obviously bought a bikini from Suzy Shier too, because how can you not take a classic Ko Phi Phi shot?

4. Buy something to keep your money safe

I was the only person on my entire G Adventures tour that didn’t wear a fanny pack (“bum bag,” for you British folks). I’m not a fan, plus I was carrying my camera (another thing that the rest of my tour group completely ditched).

I HATE money belts. I think they’re garbage. They’re designed to wear around my middle to protect against theft, but having to pull up your shirt to dig out your cash seems counterproductive to blending in with the crowd, don’t you think?! The same goes for those little wallets you wear around your neck. I don’t think they’re particularly secure. I wore a money belt on my first trip abroad and hated it.

Instead, don’t carry more than you need. Keep the rest in your hotel safety deposit box/hostel locker!

What did I buy? A zippered cross-body purse with a wide strap from Bentley. It was big enough to hold my camera, and the wide strap and zipper still gave me lots of security. 

Candice Walsh at an elephant sanctuary
Will protect against elephants

(One girl on our tour did get mugged, and I’ve been mugged in Hawaii. That’s why I always get World Nomads travel insurance when I’m travelling — they took care of my belongings.)

5. Get Comfortable shoes

Two essential pairs of shoes for Asia: flip-flops and walking shoes (or sneakers). Because Payless is no longer a thing (sad face),  I scooped up some of their closing sale deals, including foldable ballet flats and a laceless pair of Champion walking sneakers.

Spoiler alert: the flats were amazing, but they went mostly unused (sweaty feat syndrome). The sneakers were a godsend. Again, don’t bring your finest, most expensive footwear. They will not do well on dusty roads and beaches.

Sunset over the mountains in Vang Vieng
Sneakers = necessary for all the hiking


$500 is a lot to spend when you’re a frugal shopper like me. I bought a lot of stuff. A LOT.

I managed to fit it all in my Osprey Farpoint 70 pack, but just barely. I should have pared this load down considerably, because the souvenir shopping in Asia? Unreal! I came back with little buddhas and wall prints and paintings and then had to ship my tailor-made clothes and two wall hangings from Vietnam.  

On the other hand, I probably saved myself some cash. I simply couldn’t fit anything else.

Bottom line: figure out what you REALLY NEED. It’s totally okay to splurge on clothes that make you feel fantastic, but I can assure you, overpacking will make your trip considerably less pleasant.

Do you have any tips to add?

Huge thanks to the Avalon Mall for this amazing experience. Rather than spending days picking up items for my trip here and there, I bought everything I needed in just a few hours (including sunscreen with SPF 10000000).

  • July 20 2019

    Still loving that dress – looks so great on you!

    • July 24 2019

      THANK you! I love it too!!

  • July 20 2019

    I’m laughing at the fanny pack VS bum bag comment. We just had our first “fanny pack” trip in the UK and his cousins giggled when we said fanny pack instead of bum bag. Side note, Earl wanted one for years and finally got one (with a slight eye roll from me lol) but honestly it was so convenient. I’m fully converted.

    • July 24 2019

      Hahahahaha. I must admit, they did look convenient. Just not if you’re carrying a camera!

  • July 23 2019

    You look great! I recently lost 15 pounds too, and I can’t believe how incredibly difficult it was – especially the dieting part. Maintaining has been tough too, but I don’t want to go back to being heavy. Shopping after weight loss is such fun! I’m glad you got to experience guilt-free shopping!

    • July 24 2019

      SO hard to keep off! I just spent a week at home with my family and I feel like I’ve gained so much of it back. Ugh!

  • July 28 2019

    First, I must say, You look great and fit. I ‘ve gained 10 pounds of weight in the last 1 year. I guess it gets tougher to lose weight after you cross your 30.

  • August 12 2019

    We women can come up with countless excuses to escape workout and eating junk. Feeling tired, got my periods, just one more bite, ice cream to beat the blues! These are just a few excuses women use to get over their guilty feelings and justify their frequent slip-ups. C’mon, you are way stronger than these excuses. You have achieved so much; you manage everything, you take care of others. Now it is time to take care of yourself. Be strong, take a step forward.

  • November 22 2019

    man, You are one beautiful girl!

  • December 31 2019

    You are soo beautiful and Thanks for sharing the amazing information.

  • February 04 2021
    saki komai

    I love that dress. it fits perfectly on you.

  • February 16 2021

    Freaking love that bathing suit and that dress! I re-read this post because I’m not exactly where I want to be right now weight-wise with the pandemic and working remotely. I’ve been eating healthier and hoping to lose a few pounds before I go shopping for spring and summer.

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