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The Food and Travel Dilemma

The Food and Travel Dilemma

Traveling with an eating disorder packs a triple whammy for the already beleaguered spirit in desperate need of true rest and relaxation. We refer to this as the food and travel Dilemma.

We are often reluctant to speak up and ask for certain foods and certain quantities, or even to ask for food at all if no one else is eating, when visiting friends or relatives because we feel we would be drawing attention to our weight and our relationship with food, an area of our lives around which we already feel quite conspicuous and self-conscious. 

So we end up eating things that trigger bad body thoughts and self-judgement, and/or eating at times when we’re not at all hungry because that is when the meal is being served and we don’t want to stand out by not eating. Honoring ourselves and our needs is a challenge in these situations, but it is possible to travel and feel in control of our food choices rather than the other way around.

Here’s a snippet of an article series I wrote about Travelling with and Eating Disorder.  Have a read and get some understanding and tools for how to stay grounded and feel good about food and about your body while on vacay and when you return.

Traveling with an eating disorder packs a triple whammy for the already beleaguered spirit in desperate need of true rest and relaxation. Whether you struggle with dieting, overeating, purging or a general dissatisfaction with your physical form that prevents you from settling peacefully into the moment, a vacation can be a stress-filled experience that makes you want to just stay at home instead with the covers pulled high.

In this 3-part article, I will not deal with the obvious stress of the obligatory attempts at dieting in anticipation of any vacation that requires the baring of any skin above the elbow or knee. That is a topic for another day. Instead, I will address the 3 key ways in which traveling can challenge the tenuous grip most disordered eaters have on their relationship with food and weight: limitations/abundance of choice; change in routine; and the emotional impact of traveling. As I explore each of these confounding circumstances I will provide you with some suggestions on how to approach them in the most simple and life-enhancing way so you can relax and enjoy your well-earned vacation.

First let’s explore the physical constraints of choice and their impact, depending on where you’re traveling and where you’re staying. Many vacation destinations (all-inclusive resorts and cruise ships for example) have an abundance of choice that does include, if you commit to looking for them, choices that are healthy: foods low in processed and refined flours and sugars and trans fats.  But these types of resorts, for the disordered eater, are typically disasters waiting to happen. The abundance of foods and the temptation of fattening desserts and entrées will lead even the most healthy and natural of eaters (those who eat when they’re hungry and stop when they’re full and choose life-enhancing foods overall) to tune out to the natural rhythms of their body and overeat at most meals. The natural eater will often return home from one of these vacations with a few extra pounds but they won’t carry a lot of energy and guilt about that. They will simply return to their normal routines of eating when hungry, stopping when full, exercise in moderation, and find themselves back at their natural weight within a few weeks. No muss, no fuss.

On the other side of the equation we find the individual who has an uneasy relationship with food, doesn’t trust themselves to eat naturally, and has no confidence in their ability to return to a natural weight. They will be devastated by a few extra pounds and will become convinced they’re doomed to fall down the slippery slope back into uncontrolled weight gain again. For this person, these all-inclusive / buffet-style holidays become not about fun and play, sightseeing and rest and relaxation, but about food and what they will or won’t allow themselves to have, plus the guilt, shame and Drill Sgt.-self-loathing that follows the consumption of any “forbidden” food.

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